The Resolution Run yesterday was perfection–sunny, crisp, great energy, start of the new year. I ran around the lake in about 23 minutes, and every bit of it was exhilarating. This is the kind of run I don’t get to experience every day, in fact, many runs are consumed by mental noise, pushing through walls, and absorbing growing pains and general discomforts. Sounds, at times, unpleasant, but it all leads to progress. Even in those difficult runs, the long runs that create aches and hunger toward the end, or the short maintenance runs that for some reason are just so hard to accomplish at the end of a tiring day–all of these runs have a moment where the mind is quiet, the legs pump steadily, the breath continues without rising to the level of consciousness, and you reach The Zone. Sometimes it is sustained for a minute, other times a mile–yesterday, it seemed The Zone was embraced by the entirety of the run.
The human body is an incredible machine; the human spirit is tenacious. I write this down as a reminder to myself in the midst of very cold and dark evenings, when training is solitary and sometimes bleak. So much of this practice is mental; it parallels, in some ways, my path into Buddhism. I remember when I first started to incorporate Buddhist practice how appealing it was to sit in the Dharma Hall on a Sunday morning and meditate (where the conditions were ideal), or how my Tara Brach book made everyday solutions sound so simple. The rubber hit the road, however, in my daily life. It is authentically difficult, in the heat of frustration, to pause, reflect, acknowledge, and consciously choose the mindful step. This is work. This is why Buddhism is a practice–because you have to engage daily. Otherwise it is just a nice sounding volume of ideas.
Running is a practice; a way of life. Buddhists walk through life aspiring to open consciousness fully. There is a saying that in any moment, any one of us could be A Buddha. In a much more pared down iteration, when I hit The Zone, I know I am A Runner. I can’t savor that moment unless I practice, and practice involves a range of experiences from fear to exhilaration.