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Highly intense running meditation

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Highly intense running meditation
Answer
7/23/20 1:57 PM
Let me start by a note of caution. Don't try this stuff if you don't feel up to it physically and psychologically. You should have both meditation and running experience before getting into this. Around halve a year ago I invented my own add-on to meditation practice which I would like to share here. Note that this is neither a stand alone meditation practice, nor would I recommend it to beginners. However, if you have daily meditation routine, judging from my own experience, this can really boost your meditation practice. Also, I will assume that you already have decent running experience. You will be surprised how a little meditative focus can increase your running skill, and especially how running can bring you meditative progress, too.

The main instruction is this: Find the longest uphill slope you can find, and run up there. When you are doing this your body should already be warmed up. So ideally you start the uphill stuff when you are around 15 minutes into your run. The intensity should be such, that you are basically running at maximum for around 10 to 15 minutes. If you cannot find a huge enough slope, try sprinting for around the same time. If you find that you cannot hold you pace try it a little slower next time. Now, the meditation side of things. While running, try focusing on the
breath. Just as in regular meditation, whenever distracting thoughts come up, refocus on the breath. Try not to think about the future or that you wont make it and you have to stop. Be in the here and now and you will be surprised how fast and how long you can run. Now the most important part. If you notice your body feeling contracted anywhere, shift your focus to this region and, while breathing in deeply, try relaxing the contraction.The intense physical strain will make your body and your running movements very tense. Resolving this tension is the central goal of the entire exercise. Feel the tension and watch is resolve while running. When the tension is resolved you may discover that you are not running as fast as you could. In this case run faster.

After a running session, run slowly and calm down while remaining focused. You can also relax the focus and try to be mindful of your environment. When you feel ready you may repeat the whole thing. I do between one and three of these cycles per run. After the workout, if you feel like it, you may find a place to lie down flatly on the floor. Let your attention wander through your body and relax every tension you may find. Then breathe deeply and enjoy the stillness of mind for as long as you like. Again, this technique is very intense physically and psychologically! For me it borught up a lot of psychological stuff. Don't do it if you don't feel up to it! If you think you might hurt yourself,
just stop. There is no shame in that. I will purposefully not relate details of my experience, because I intend this as kind of experiment. I would love to hear from people who tried this a few times. I am super interested in how this may impact other people.

Enjoy the run!

RE: Highly intense running meditation
Answer
7/23/20 2:28 PM as a reply to ultrahumanist.
Interesting. I'm an amateur competitive runner and I often do the equivalent of walking meditation when running, but usually on "long slow distance" training runs. I find that an easy place to maintain a "unity" or "no substantial difference" experience of the world. I have tried using an emptiness view while sprinting and running hills but only as what amounts to a sort of suppression of discomfort. I don't have any sessions with ten or fifteen minutes at maximum effort planned, but I'll play around with relaxing the contraction on my hill run today.

RE: Highly intense running meditation
Answer
7/23/20 11:58 PM as a reply to ultrahumanist.
Thanks for sharing this. I gave it a try. It got very interesting at one point. The relaxing contraction seems to have an effect similar to Bhante Vimalaramsi's Relax Step, which Brian here recently introduced me to (thank Brian!). There is a weirdly cumulative effect going on. I'm going to give it another go when I do a tempo run.

RE: Highly intense running meditation
Answer
7/25/20 10:07 PM as a reply to ultrahumanist.
Tried it on a 5K tempo run. It did seem to be good for speed, but meditatively not a lot was going on. I found that the level of effort made it hard to achieve much continuity of awareness. But it seems we are going to keep the 5K run in the training, so I'll keep playing with it.

RE: Highly intense running meditation
Answer
7/28/20 4:53 AM as a reply to Martin.
I understand that you have the feeling that not much is going on. In my experience the variance of performance between session is much greater for running meditation than for sitting meditation. At this point I don't have sitting sessions any more where my mind is all over the place. However this frequently happens while running. But when I manage to stay focused while running for a few minutes this is much more rewarding than my average meditation session.

The nice thing about the physical strain is that, should you manage to stay focused, the mind will become quite on its own. Thoughts will just stop arising almost completely very rapidly. When this happend to me for the first time I had never experienced an effect that complete while sitting but afterwards it was much easier for me to tune into this place while sitting. (This running session also triggered an A&P...)

The second thing I really "like" about the running sessions is that they tend to bring up emotionally charged material much more often than sitting sessions. The muscle realese is often accompanied by the welling up of strong emotion, often connected with more or less traumatic memories showing up, too. When this happens the physical strain has a wonderful healing effect, almost as if the emotional charge has been converted into physical movement.

As I came up with the technique over time, it might be that my body-mind is just very attuned to the process and therefore I get these kinds of experiences more easily now. Or maybe, though I hope not, this is just an individual feature of my psycho-physiology.