Before I was pregnant, sick, and left alone to deal with the collapsed sense of self, I utilized mindfulness and yoga in my everyday life in addition to running. I felt a calm that I never experienced before I went into the hospital in February. I figured how to be one with myself, with the moment- with the universe. I gave myself the best tool kit to keep myself mentally and physically sound, but once things went south, I gave it up.
It’s funny how I always say people can “make time” when they claim that they are too busy to run. Yoga and meditation are two of the most calming and self centering exercises an individual can heal themselves with, but I felt that I was too broken. I can honestly say that God never got me through my awful time, but rather another higher power that help light a fire inside of me. I don’t know who or what was there for me, however, I knew it was something. When I was laying in bed crying, replaying the moment I found out I was pregnant through the minutes before I fell asleep I had surgery and wishing something would come and take me out of this world, I had a small realization.
When I was 19, and trying to get over a rough patch I had a Buddhist Proverb tattooed on my foot. It said “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” I got the quote because I was going through a rough patch, having no idea the future would play out as it did. While laying in bed, I decided to research what this meant and discovered a whole new philosophy. This very philosophy has been something I’ve been transitioning to for a few weeks, and so far it’s changed my life and goals for the woman I aim to be spiritually, as an athlete, a daughter, friend, and young adult.
So this guy, Buddha, had this idea that true inner peace is possible, and that finding peace and happiness within ourselves will then project to others, and eventually the universe. The idea seems laughable, but so does the idea of a single God to others. It wasn’t until I started to meditate again that I began to feel whole again.
They say that meditation creates a gap between stimuli (thoughts) and response. In the gap you have a choice. In the gap there is immense potential rather than habitual reaction. I know I have let my words and immediate reactions to intense emotion dictate my reactions. I can’t help but think about how different my life would be if I wasn’t such an intense person when it comes to emotions and reactions, but meditation helps me eliminate the “what-ifs” and the negative thoughts because they do not aid me in the now.
I credit mindfulness for the strength I found in endurance running. It is not an easy task running 20+ miles without music. It was my goal to find meaning in meditation and mindfulness through running. Suddenly my focus shifted from switching music and pausing to text to zoning in on my breath, cadence, and, most importantly, my surroundings. The trails, clifsides, uneven surfaces, and twisted roots were no longer intimidating, but rather more welcoming than the cluttered roads, filled with people passing by totally unaware of the sonder around them. I find peace in the physical challenge of my activity of choice, but the joy of seeing, smelling- feeling the world in a whole new light. The thoughts and emotions that would come in waves in the months prior to me starting to run again soon vanished, the person who broke me down the most is hardly a memory, the pain I experienced of losing my child, and trying to pick up the pieces suddenly seemed easier- all thanks to focusing on myself in the moment.
My body and my mind are better Athan ever before, and I wish it was easier for others to find this exciting way of combining to vastly different activities into one. Buddhism is not a goofy “religion” but rather a philosophy that doesn’t require a temple, but rather the willingness to be present in the moment. Losing track of ourselves- our individuality and mental health is easy in our seemingly nonstop world. Making time for ourselves- to be one with the moment and our body and soul can do more good for a person than any distance or time spent in a gym.
We don’t have to overwhelm our minds and body with clutter, anxiety, stress, and all of the other emotions and feelings that come from our everyday interactions from work, school, training and so on. We can pause for ourselves, even in moments when most people feel overwhelmed, like in a stressful situation at work or school… Or even focusing on the world around you when your hamstring starts screaming on a long run…
The Dalai Lama said that we should not use Buddhism to become Buddhist but rather use it to become better in our lives at whatever else we are doing. Meditation and focusing on the moment is not something for yoga or an expensive class. It can be established and built on in our daily lives, and ultimately better connect is to our universe as we work on our practice. Knowing I have an effective way to manage my anxiety, stress, sadness, anger, and strengthen my connection to the land and trees I grow close to every run I feel so empowered and excited to see what the future holds. Ultimately, I want to be the best version of myself. I think this is the right direction for the place I am at in life. Buddha said “Just as a snake sheds his skin, we must shed our past over and over again.” No longer am I a victim. I’m a survivor and I will keep pushing forward, training for my marathon and ultra marathon, and hoping that one day I will be able to become a wonderful mother, partner, and reliable friend to others.