A couple of years ago, I decided to take up distance running in addition to all the other things I do with my time (work, aikido, parenting, and so on). Initially, I started running for the simplest reason: my wife was running. More specifically, she had torn her meniscus, and I cold not understand why she was still trying to run if it caused her pain. So I strapped on a pair of running shoes and headed out, in an effort to experience what she was experiencing, and perhaps understand her mindset better. (And, one major stress fracture later, I do understand–almost too well. But that’s a story for another post…)
I ended up continuing to run because I find running long distances to be very complimentary to aikido. For example, running requires a combination of relaxation without compromising form–a state of being we often seek in our aikido practice. In addition, running long distances has allowed me to better appreciate ki breathing. I am fortunate to live in a part of the country where I can run in very open, natural environments, so I can breathe deeply and fully, knowing the air is relatively clean and pure. There is a great deal I could potentially write about regarding running and aikido–and I hope to do so. But, in this post, I want to focus on something specific: headphones. Or rather, the lack of headphones.
You see, often when I run it is either early in the morning or heading into evening. Rather than head to the gym and log hours on the treadmill (which I am actually fine with), I often will head outside and run the streets of my neighborhood. It didn’t take me long to realize that, if I was going to do this, I had to forego my headphones. There are three primary reasons for this:
- By running without headphones, I can pay better attention to my body. I can build a better awareness of how hard I’m working, or how a given pace feels.
- Without headphones, I am more aware of my surroundings. I appreciate the setting sun, or the view of the mountains.
- Especially at night, people like to drive up behind me as I run and honk, scaring the crap out of me.
That last one–#3–is the reason for this post. There is nothing like having someone drive up behind you when you’re running–on the sidewalk, well away from the street–and honking at you. I don’t know why they do it, but it makes me jump every time. Interestingly, though, I can feel the impact of aikido training at these moments. It’s impossible not to react to the sudden noise, but I know that, thanks to aikido, I revert to calmness much faster. The last few times someone has honked as I ran, I reacted, then immediately fell back into one point and kept running.
I then started to wonder–is it possible not to react at all? In an effort to get to this point, I tried anticipating that any car that was coming up behind me might honk their horn in an effort to startle me. As you can imagine, this was a ridiculous notion–especially when as I am often running on well-traveled streets. I have given up on anticipation, and now am trying to do something different (or at least, different for me). Now, I recognize that any car could honk, but that this is one of a thousand possibilities that could occur. I don’t dismiss any of these possibilities. Rather, I try to let them flow through my mind, like a river.
This might seem counter-productive. After all, in aikido we often value stillness. Yet, a thousand drops of water flow within a river, and a river is not chaotic. It is the river, and each drop of water within it, while potentially distinct, in the end is part of a greater whole.
I know little of meditation. But I have been wondering if, too often, I try to limit my thoughts in order to achieve a sense of calmness. Perhaps, instead, I should treat my every day thoughts much as I do when I run–let the flow through me like a river, and find my calmness in the current.