I have a pair of problems, that I’m hoping to turn into solutions for one another.
The first is that I hate running on treadmills. I’ve tried all manner of things to distract myself from the fact that I’m running on a treadmill—music, audiobooks, podcasts, TV. Any of these can work, but none of them has worked reliably.
The other is that I’ve found it hard to expand my meditation practice from the modest group practice that happens in tai chi.
A while ago, it occurred to me that these might be solutions for one another: Perhaps, instead of trying to distract myself from my treadmill running, I could pay attention to my treadmill running.
There are a lot of different ideas about what meditation actually is, but my current take on it is that meditation is paying attention to what’s actually happening. Many forms of meditation suggest a finer focus—paying attention to your breathing or to a repeated mantra or to an ordered relaxation of body parts—but I view all these as tools for helping you pay attention to what’s actually happening (rather than thinking or planning or worrying or all the other things that are not meditation).
Today was my first attempt at this, and it went okay. I just ran for 10 minutes, which is not much of a test—I’ve always been able to tolerate 10 minutes on the treadmill; it was just when I tried to push beyond 20 or so that I found it intolerable. But 10 minutes is about as long as I ever meditate, so I thought I’d start there and expand gradually. Also, this was my first run since I hurt my ankle back in late September, so I didn’t want to run further until I verified that my ankle could handle a short run without hurting the next day.
If I can work up to 20 minutes or so, and feel like the time counts as both running and meditation, I’ll be very pleased. If I can do it three times a week (or nearly), I’ll both maintain an adequate fitness base to get back to running quickly in the spring and substantially expand my meditation practice.
Oh, and a side benefit: my attempts to run on the treadmill without paying attention have always seemed a little dangerous. I’ve known several people who’ve had treadmill accidents resulting in broken collarbones and broken teeth. Paying attention felt a lot safer.