Can one meditate and run at the same time? Does attempting to ‘do’ two activities simultaneously contradict the meaning behind being ‘present’ in the moment? I don’t believe so.
Truthfully, I have had difficulty in developing a practice of the type of mindfulness meditation I have described previously. Even sitting for ten minutes, focused on my in and out-breath, allowing thoughts to flow in and out but returning to the present, is nearly impossible for me. I am checking my watch to see how much time I have left–hardly the state of consciousness that one would hope for.
I know meditation is important–it is a mind-training and something that is woefully lacking not only personally but in the vast majority of my fellow human beings. We are all the ‘victims’ of chaotic thinking/feeling that sweeps over us and seems to drag us down, inhibiting the creative, liberating thinking/feeling we all desire.
Couple this with the difficulty that we usually face in maintaing our physical exercise regimens as well. I run on a treadmill, 3.5 miles in around 30 minutes, three to four times a week. I am happy to continue this distance at this rate. Like most, however, I attempt to distract myself while exercising in order for the time and distance on the displays to advance to my goal. Watching TV, attempting to count in my head, thinking are all such distractions. I try NOT to glance at the distance display which reflects one hundredth of a mile advances. Yet when I do so, I am always disappointed that I have not run further.
But I believe that I have uncovered a secret that will facilitate both meditation [mind-exercise] and running. I decided not to avoid staring at the distance read-out. In fact, what I now do is to stare AT it. I observe the number that is present. Be it 0.001 all the way to 3.50. Each number becomes the only number that I care about, the only ‘place’ in which I desire to inhabit. I know this sounds quite strange. It may even be difficult to imagine what I am doing.
Each number becomes my place of refuge, of peace, of contentment. While I am running, [and by the way, I do not regard this activity as running but rather as meditating] my entire mind is focussed on that one number. I have no goal in mind, no end to achieve. I am not anticipating the next number nor awaiting the completion of the experience. I am present in that one moment while that one number exists. I relax into that number. I do not resist the urge for my mind to wander a bit. I allow it to do so. I can notice when the three digits form an interesting pattern such as 2.34 or 1.01 or 3.33 or 3.21. But I only remain with that number until the next one appears. Then I remain present with that number as well.
What is so fascinating is that the numbers ‘seem’ to fly by. When I don’t try to force or exert my will over these numbers, they ‘seem’ to move quickly from one to the next. It is an extraordinary example of the relativity of time as our minds experience it.
I can even observe for brief moments how pleasantly surprised I am at this experience and then gently return to just watching the numbers. At times I will allow thoughts such as ‘peace’, ‘shalom’, ‘place’, ‘present’,’now’ to arise in my consciousness. I might even encourage them for a few moments and then slip back to just witnessing the numbers. Each time I focus on being with the number on the display, not the number that just passed, or the one that is anticipated.
If I should slip for a moment and anticipate the next number, then time seems to slow precipitously, the number on the display seems not to move for a ‘long time’.
Is this actually meditation? I believe so. The physical exercise component becomes a secondary component. The main beneficiary, I believe, is the mind. I have been doing this for a rather short time–yet I now look forward to the experience rather than find excuses to avoid it. It is too soon to proclaim some kind of ‘breakthrough’, but I will honestly try to assess how this practice develops. Perhaps others will offer their own feedback as well.