Made it to a full 5 miles the other night. It was a little cooler so that helped. When I started out I felt tired and actually thought about cutting it short but the longer I ran - and ran through my desire to stop - the more energized I felt. I relaxed as best as I could and paid attention to my legs and hips. I experimented with using relaxation as I ran so that my body felt less strain putting one foot in front of the other and pumping my arms back and forth. Moving my legs forward I relaxed the muscles in my hips and quads as soon as I could while still extending my legs in a reasonably good running stride. I did the same with my arms by relaxing my shoulder and holding my arms as loosely as I could while still maintaining a natural running rhythm. In other words I used as little muscular effort as possible while breathing naturally and deeply. It seemed to make all the difference in the world. I also started with a slower pace.
Cogito, ergo sum
By relaxing I found it was easier to be more aware of what was going on around me. Things that are usually easy to ignore. I tried to not make any internal conversation about what I became aware of. If I smelled a newly mowed lawn, I tried to just experience the smell rather than attach “Oh, that’s the smell of cut grass. I wonder how long ago they cut it? I wonder who cut it., etc.” thoughts to it. It’s a liberating experience to not have thoughts always intruding in to everything.
Descartes said , “I think, therefore I am.” well, what happens when you don’t think? I’m trying to find out.
To paraphrase Buddhism, “Before thought, everything is one. After thought, everything is different.” I think when you have a black dog you know how scattered your thoughts are and how this thinking separates you from everything else. A depressive thought makes you feel different from others to an even deeper level.
Words are limiting and can’t replace the experience but here’s some of the things I became aware of during my run. Try to imagine experiencing them firsthand without thinking.
Smell . . . A weedy, pollen odor coming from the overgrown areas by the path. Sulphur from car exhaust. Charcoal grilled meat that blew in from a restaurant down the road (I could never be a vegetarian). Pine trees were especially fragrant but I think my favorite was the smell of water coming from a business’s sprinkler. It reminded me of the smell before a rain. Very refreshing coming towards the last leg of my run.
Sound . . . cars flying towards me on the street. Semis on the highway miles away. Train whistles in the distance. Birds chirping and calling to one another. A distant plane. Two women talking while waiting for a light to change.
Site . . . The deer and cat tracks permanently embedded in a section of the sidewalk. Too many rabbits to count; some sitting still and others bolting away depending on how close I was. It was like I was a T-Rex and they thought “Don’t move and he won’t see me.” A child’s plastic toy dropped along the way. Two young birds that were blown out of their nest - or perhaps as they were just learning to fly. Several SUVs and trucks with their windows painted with baseball tournament graffiti. And the pale blue Kansas sky.
Touch. . . The feel of the sun heating my face as I ran to the west and later on my neck when I turned back east. Sweat soaking every inch of my body. My wet shirt clinging to me, only my sleeves stayed dry enough to use to wipe the sweat off my brow. The breeze that cooled me when I turned towards home and the sprinkler water that showered me as I ran through its mist. The coolness of the air I breathed.
It seems like such a simple thing, easily ignored - but that’s life and it passes all too quickly. These seemingly unimportant things can enrich our experience if we only slow down and pay attention to them. Think of how much freer and richer each day can be. Less emotion (black dog) and more pure experience.