When I say meditation what comes to mind? Yoga? Monks? Probably not Christianity though. For whatever reason meditation conjures up negative ideas and feelings for many people. But Warren Kay is willing to take a deeper look at it in his Running the Sacred Art book.
Kay sees meditation as the next step after prayer or a deeper form of prayer. Wikipedia defines it as “a mental discipline by which one attempts to get beyond the conditioned, “thinking” mind into a deeper state of relaxation or awareness” Kay takes it a step further by including the heart or emotions into your pondering relaxation. He describes it more of a focusing of the mind and heart on God.
We have all gone for a run during a stressful point in time and come back from that run with stress relieved and if we are lucky – a solution to the problem. Kay calls this anonymous meditation. We don’t necessarily intend to dwell on something but we focus on it and find clarity. This is a good component of running and one that many runners identify as a reason for running.
Kay thinks we should take it even further. Anonymous is good, but we occasionally need to take the time to self-reflect and look deeper inside ourselves. On page 79 he differentiates between meditation and religious meditation:
The aim of meditation is to bring enlightenment and harmony to us as human creatures – a harmony of body, mind, and spirit. . . But for all forms of religious meditation, the aim is to allow God’s presence in and with us to become the reality that gives meaning to everything that we do.
Applications of Meditative Running
One way to listen to the inside is by using Seed Mantras. This appears to be the most basic form of mantra and relies mainly on repetitive sounds. This could be deep breathing, sound of crunching leaves or gravel. Other types of mantras are using a special word or phrase to help concentrate your thoughts. This would be like Yoga where you use different mantras with different body positions and motions. The mantra should be short, easy to repeat, and meaningful to you. When I lived in New Jersey and worked with an immigrant’s rights organization I picked up the phrase – “Si se Puede.” (wikipedia) You may be more familiar with the more recent use of the English translation – “Yes we Can.” Either way it was rythmnical and easy to repeat. I didn’t use it a lot but would think about it sometimes while trying to establish a pace.
Meditative running is probably easy for rhythm runners like Ryan Hall, who often talks about worshiping God while running. Here are a few mantras Kay suggests:
- Peace to all
- God will help
- God is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1)
A final form of meditation is using a “divine reading.” This is using a short passage or story to guide your thinking during the run or meditation. It isn’t that you are trying to grasp the actual meaning of the words or story but that you are letting it inform and challenge you.
Obviously Kay suggests that you read something like a passage of Scripture or something from a piece of devotional literature. He also suggests that you can read a work of philosophy or theology. But more simply you can pick a story out of the local newspaper or a magazine, letting its content soak in. Ultimately, he says it doesn’t matter what you read, as long as you do so with a spiritual intent.
To make it work, Kay suggests three steps for meditative running. First choosing a mantra or divine reading to focus on during the run. Actually running, remembering to meditate and enjoy the run. Finally stretching and relaxing when you return. He suggests taking some time to transition back into the normal routine through journaling or some other form of reflection.
I appreciate his reassuring point that if you choose to do meditative runs, don’t be disappointed if occasionally they are dull or boring. This is part of life!
[tags] Warren Kay, Spiritual Art, Meditation, Running [/tags]