Most people listen to music when they run. The music helps them keep the rhythm, motivates them and, most importantly, distracts them. I used to do it, and, if you run, I assume you listen to music too. Here’s why you should stop and how to make the most out of your musicless runs:
When you listen to music, that becomes your focus for the first few minutes and maybe every time a chorus starts playing. Then it becomes your background noise – a crutch that helps you keep running while you think of more important things, worry, or otherwise become the slave to your mind’s power. And your spiritual development suffers for it.
You also pay less attention to your surroundings as you block outer sounds and recede into your head. Instead of paying attention to the beautiful trees, the sky or the buildings, you worry. And your happiness suffers.
Your body suffers as you stop concentrating on proper form and just hope the pain will pass.
This is obviously a very grim way of putting it, and it’s possible that running with the music on won’t be the cause of your misery and consequent suicide. I do, however, believe that there is much you can gain from even a few runs without your headphones. When you give it a try, make the most out of your run by focusing your attention on your body, form, breathing, environment and creative projects. Here’s a process to get you started:
When you’re beginning your run, whenever you feel tension and periodically throughout your run, pay attention to your whole body from the bottom up.
- Feet. Do your feet make a noise when hitting the ground? If you’re running with proper form, running on asphalt should produce minimal to no sound. How are you positioning your feet? You may be running with your feet pointing outwards or inwards. If you notice yourself doing it, experiment and see whether it is more comfortable to run with them pointing straight ahead.
- Legs. Are you making your strides too short or too long for your legs? Do your legs feel comfortable? Are you lifting your feet too much after they hit the ground? There are many details you could perfect if only you paid attention to how you move your legs and what effects that movement has.
- Belly and chest. Do you have side stitches? Do you breathe shallowly into your chest or deeply into your belly? I have found that side stitches are to the diaphragm like cramps are to other muscles. When you stretch your muscle, you relieve the tension and it stops hurting. You stretch you diaphragm by breathing deep into your belly. And remember, side stitches are a blessing, not a curse.
- Shoulders. Are your shoulders tense or relaxed? Try to relieve any tension you find by relaxing your muscles or lifting them up and letting them fall down multiple times.
- Face. Are you frowning? Is your face and jaw relaxed? Sometimes when we focus, we tense up our faces without even noticing. Pay attention to the muscles in your face and relax them.|| This simple process will enhance your running experience while training your focus and teaching you about your own body. It is also a lot more useful than spending that time worrying about problems you may have or otherwise wasting your energy thinking. Here are some bonus steps: ||
- Mind. When you’re more in touch with your body and have managed to relieve some of the tension you didn’t even know you were accumulating, it is time to ‘focus’ on having a clear mind. Do not think, but let your thoughts pass and focus on the gaps between them. If it helps, focus on the landscape and keep your thoughts simple like “oh, what a nice tree,” or “I love how the wind on my face feels.”
- Creativity. If you’re doing it right, some thoughts are coming up in your mind, but you’re not paying attention to them and they quickly dissipate. Now here’s the catch: eventually, there will come a thought that you will want to think. But wasn’t the point of fall this to stop thinking? Well, yes, if that’s what you want. Another way of using this is to simply ignore thoughts that are neutral to you or make you feel bad, and explore the ones that make you feel good or are about creative projects you are doing. For example, I came up with the idea for this article while running. Instead of dismissing the thought, I explored it. Thus, when I arrived home, I had the layout finished in my head and simply had to type.
Your own meditation
After you’ve experimented with this way of meditation while running, feel free to create your own process tailored to your spiritual goals and personal struggles. Or just keep using the process I described. Either way, hopefully you’ll start seeing your running habit/obsession as a way to own your mind and not just your body.
How are you meditating while running?