I first became interested in meditation when reading various sports psychology books in an attempt to get my mind right before and during running races. Then, as a regular listener to the Rich Roll podcasts I began to consider meditation as an option to not only improve my sports performance but to give me a moment to reflect on my path through life.
And so I've been an on again and off again meditator for about six months now. When I started I downloaded an app called Buddhify, plugged into my iPhone and simply went through a guided meditation. I was never hung up on how my body needed to be positioned while attempting to meditate. Often when I started I simply laid down on the floor or adopted a version of the yoga child's pose. I eventually bought a proper meditation cushion to sit on (I've since realized a much cheaper option would have been a dog bed/cushion often sold at my local Costco for half the price I paid for my mediation cushion) but not because I felt the need to fit a uniform meditation pose, but rather I recognized I needed a space in my home where it was quiet and I could start a routine.
I'd like to report that I'm meditating every morning. The plan was to wake each morning, grab a cup of hot water and lemon and sit for a few minutes quietly. Actually that still is the plan, but the routine has been harder to develop than I thought it would. It seems easier to pop out each morning for a 10km run than to sit still for 5 minutes. But on average I've been managing once a week and that's a start I suppose. There have been times when I've meditated several times a week and I do plan on sticking with it, working on it until it forms a regular part of my life. It seems worth the effort as I've felt the benefit already in terms of calmness and my ability to centre myself before races or after challenging days. I mean if it's good enough for the Marines, it's probably good enough for me.
I'll be sure to report back on how it's going and what benefits I'm feeling (if any) but here is what I've learned so far:
- Guided meditation using something like an app or CD is a great way to start (and maybe continue on as part of your practice). The Buddhify app has been very helpful to me, in particular the sections on meditating on pain or illness have been translatable to running. I've been able to adapt those notions into my thought patterns while running to great benefit. I will admit that sometimes a guided meditation is distracting from just sitting with your breathing so I do try and leave it alone and sit quietly on occasion.
- You can meditate in any body position. I've been moving to just sitting on my mat cross legged, but I've also laid on the floor, adopted child's pose or simply sat quietly in a chair (including my car seat while not driving). I feel getting hung up on sitting like Buddha is a bit of a trap.
- Sometimes I really do just blank my mind out and keep my attention on my breathing. It's challenging but it can lead to some very deep sensations of calmness. Other times I'll allow my mind to consider things, such as running mantra's, life goals or I'll think of the people in my life. If I've had a bad day I'll try and adopt a feeling of detachment from it and use meditation to observe my reactions to challenges. It's an interesting way to realize some beginnings of separation between you and your mind. Believe me I'm not there yet, it's a process and I'm not sure the finish line exists.
- It helps to find a space where you can sit quietly without distraction. I started on my living room floor with my family in the room and tried my office as well but it was off a busy hallway in our home. My wife often couldn't resist ducking her head in to tease me while I was getting settled. Eventually I realized that I often woke before my family and a corner of our downstairs family room was the quietest space in our home. So I bought a cushion and made the space inviting in an effort to dedicate an area for meditation. Just like having a home gym, once a spot is claimed for an activity it is often respected as the space it is.
- I have had my best meditation moments while running, not sitting. I can recall one particular day with vivid clarity. It was a misty early morning where it was starting to get light out but not yet sunrise, it wasn't raining but was cool and wet. I was running on a very quiet road ironically by our local jail and had a time where the water drops in the air seemed to solidify, where I felt deep peace and everything slowed down in a Matrix type moment. You might argue this was a runners high, and I've experienced those for sure, but it was also a time when I was absolutely living in the present moment with complete detached clarity. That seems the epitome of meditation.
- Meditation before a race has been very helpful to me to get me focused and relaxed. I often find that a calm state of mind as opposed to getting amped up on the motivational videos and heavy metal music I used to use is actually more likely to promote my competitive goals.