I get obsessed over ideas. The obsession often lasts briefly before I move onto the next idea that piques my interest. But, on rare occasions, I come across something that I add to my little toolbox that I carry with me through life. The toolbox has grown heavier, but, with each idea or useful tip that sticks with me, I’ve grown stronger. Strong enough to lug the toolbox with me while traversing this short journey.
I’ve delved deeply into mindfulness. The practical daily exercise that helps me pause before acting, not the New Age, Sedona, Arizona nonsense ripe with the smell of patchouli, summer scarfs, loop earrings and mysticism. The practical exercise of the mind that has the scientific backing of Ivy League scientists with a growing literature of evidence that alludes to real consequence.
This new practice coincides with my new love of running, and the combination has helped me in ways that neither exercise would on their own. Running has provided me a way to express my excess energy, lose weight and gain self-esteem. However, I’ve yet to feel the runners’ high. It has been elusive, and, no matter the distance, I’ve yet to feel the dopamine rush promised by so many online bloggers and magazine articles. Junkies are perpetually chasing that first high while I’m perpetually trying to experience it.
Meditation helps this seemingly Sisyphean task. I recently read Dan Harris’s book “10% Happier.” A fellow nonbeliever inundated with the mental stress of war and modern expectations – the forever feeling of inadequacy and constant worry about the future – Harris is equally averse to the perception of meditation practitioners. He weaves his way through the nonsense of New Age hucksters like Deepak Chopra and other Snake Oil Salesman to discover a practical application for meditation to his daily routine.
Harris’ journey and the writing of neuroscientist Sam Harris – no relation – has helped me focus on the present and acknowledge the thoughts in my head before reacting. I’ve gained a tremendous amount of insight by letting go of the past – it’s already been written – and understanding the future is simply the present that hasn’t yet happened. So, there’s no point in constantly worrying about the future if you don’t take the steps in the ‘now’ to realize that future. There have been so many times I’ve mentioned to my wife how fast the children are growing. It catches me by surprise. I’ve spent so much time in my head that I miss what’s before me. Then later I regret not paying more attention, and my mind spirals into an abyss of negativity.
I have started my own meditation practice. It’s been 14 days strong, and I already have benefited greatly. When I finish a half marathon, and all I feel is the pain in my body, I remind myself of a mantra we used in the Marine Corps ‘Pain is weakness leaving the body.’ I haven’t experienced a runners’ high or at least in the way I had anticipated, and that’s fine. I will keep chasing it, but in the mean time I now have the presence of mind to acknowledge the nod of a fellow runner, realize the beauty of Camelback Mountain as I run toward it and enjoy the exertion that temporarily holds back the flood gates of agitation. I’ll never experience Nirvana, and that’s fine too, but I can always chase it along with that runners’ high. Equipped with meditation and running I’m now able to run away from negativity instead of let it envelop me along with so many others in this modern life.
Here are some apps worth a try:
- Insight Timer
- Yoga Studio –You learn yoga and how to meditate
Here are some books worth a read:
- “10% Happier,” by Dan Harris
- “Waking Up,” by Sam Harris
- “Tools of Titans,” by Tim Ferris – the many contributors speak to the power of meditation
- “Born to Run,” by Christopher McDougall
- “Siddhartha,” by Herman Hesse