We are all familiar with the benefits of regular physical exercise. Physical activity increases our strength, flexibility, stamina, can prevent cancer and heart disease, lower blood pressure, and keep us at a healthy weight. Physical exercise is also a powerful way of reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Many of my clients have benefitted tremendously from taking up regular physical activity, including running.
In the past few decades we are also beginning to become aware of the benefits and importance of exercising the mind. Stress is related to hearth disease, cancer, obesity, and reduced quality of life. Mindfulness meditation is a powerful way to reduce anxiety and stress, and has been linked to improved immune function and increased feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
In his new book Running With the Mind of Meditation Sakyong Mipham discusses the benefits of exercising both mind and body and the powerful benefits mindfulness and running can have on ones life. He explains that exercising mind and body are not actually two separate things, but that they enhance and complement each other. Bringing the mind of meditation to physical exercise can have a powerful transformative effect on ones life. I have witnessed this firsthand with many of my clients!
Throughout the book, Sakyong Mipham uses his personal experiences with running and meditation to illustrate four stages of development of a running meditator. He describes building a base of fitness and stamina through mindfulness, discipline, and precision. By establishing discipline the next stage is experiencing appreciation and delight, because discipline brings with it the freedom to be truly present and enjoy the moment. The next stage is fearlessness and outrageousness, going beyond hope and fear. The final stage is inscrutability and developing unshakable confidence in your own and others’ inherent basic goodness. Thus, the meditating runner goes from increasing his or her own fitness, health, and wellbeing to benefitting others. The book is full of practical tips and exercises and throughout the book the reader is left with a sense that this is completely doable and attainable for anyone who is willing to devote some time and energy to this path. Personally, I am not a runner, but this book inspired me to include a daily twenty minute brisk, mindful walk into my routine. I have noticed that including this walk has already benefitted me in several ways: I experience less stress, am better able to handle adversity, and I have more energy. I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to make positive changes in their lives and in the lives of others.
Here is a guided running meditation by Sakyong Mipham. You can listen to this on your run:
Below is an article the author wrote about his book. Enjoy!
Sakyong Mipham is a senior lama in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He grew up, and was educated, in India, Scotland, the United States, and Canada, and thus has an intimate, personal understanding of both the Western and Eastern cultures and traditions. He is the leader of Shambhala, a worldwide network of meditation centers, and he is a husband and father. Sakyong Mipham is an avid runner, who has completed nine marathons. He is the author of the bestselling Turning the Mind Into an Ally, and Ruling Your World.