Sure, your sneakers are perfectly broken in, and you haven’t missed a long run yet, but sitting on a zafu cushion may be the missing stop in your journey towards 26.2 miles (or 3.1 or 6.2 miles), says Sakyong Mipham.
Sakyong Mipham (Sakyong is a Tibetan title) isn’t just a runner. He’s the head of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage and its worldwide network of meditation centers. The Tibetan lama outlines the connection between pavement pounding and spiritual seeking in his new book, Running with the Mind of Meditation: Lessons for Training Body and Mind, which hit shelves earlier this month.
“Movement is good for the body and stillness is good for the mind,” the Sakyong explains. And a mind that’s trained in stillness can come in handy when movement gets difficult.
Take, for example, the inevitable “wall” that all runners hit, dread hitting, and talk about hitting. In that moment, says the Sakyong, the runner suddenly comes in contact with his or her own mind in an immediate way.
When you’re faced with doubt or pain, “this is where meditation can benefit the runner,” says the Sakyong. What you say to yourself can be what stops you or keeps you going. “We don’t panic: we regard the question, ‘Can I do this?’ as healthy,” which allows you to answer the question in a more honest way.
So what does your meditation training plan look like? Sakyong Mipham writes that developing a practice starts with sitting still and focusing on your breath. Just like running, frequency will help you get better at this, so do it every day, even if its only for 5 or 10 minutes at a time.
Laurie Shiers, a long-time runner (and c0-founder of a guided runners’ meditation called Meditation on the Run), found that meditation helped her achieve a faster pace, better form, and more. “It’s improved my athletic performance by constantly bringing me back to a deeper state of awareness—of my mind, my body, and my surroundings.”
As you get better at calming your mind, the proverbial wall won’t seem as sturdy as it once was. “Just like working out, as your mind gets stronger, you become more adept at dealing with whatever might arise,” says the Sakyong.
That includes 90-degree race days and chafing shorts. —Lisa Elaine Held