One of the most well-known, practiced and popular meditations on the planet is mindfulness of the breathing.
This powerful meditation is used by meditators as a method for stilling and concentrating the mind – bringing the mind into focus from its busy distracted state.
For some practitioners this will be their own meditation. The length of time will vary from a busy officer worker squeezing in 15 minutes to a Buddhist monk in the caves of Sri Lanka spending 8 hours a day simply observing the process of breathing.
In Tibetan Buddhism breathing meditation is used as a preliminary practice to more profound and deeper meditations. A way of bringing the mind into neutral before bringing about an experience of transformation.
The breath is very much related to the mind.
When we are at peace we can see that the breath is calm and we breath deeply, this is clear to see and experience.
When we are angry and stressed the breath is shallow and tight – something it is difficult to breath.
When we are in receipt of bad news or frustrated one of the instinctive reactions is to hold the breath – almost subconsciously we are aware that this will control the mind. Sometimes it does, temporarily.
Its helpful during the day to bring the mind to the attention of the breath even when are eyes are open and we are busy, it can help to pacify and centre the mind.
One practice that we can do is mindfulness of the walking – where we focus on the experience of walking and the breath. We try to keep centered and focused on just this without allowing any thoughts to distract.
Mindful Walking is well know and practiced – one of the many interferences that we can have with this meditation is mind wandering, just like while we are sitting, the mind takes us to another place other than where we are thus we are no longer mindful.
How about Mindful Running?
I run quite a bit and have throughout my life – especially when I was a school. On Sunday I ran 10K and decided to run it fast. Usually when I run, i run quite slowly – the fast bones in my body are not really used very much! However on Sunday I decided to test the body and mind and see how fast I could go and how Iong I could maintain the speed.
We started off very quickly and I decided to follow the fast group settling in quite quickly to the stride – after around 5 minutes of speedy pace my mind was telling me to slow down and/or stop. My answer back – was no. What could I do to maintain this pace – my solution was to focus on the breathing.
When you run at a fast pace then there is nothing really to think about other than running. You are almost forced into a mindful situation. Naturally the attention focuses on the breath and the posture. So I decided to focus on the breathing and allow the concentration and the breath to carry me around the course.
Athletes talk about entering into the zone – a concentrated state where they are single pointedly focused. Once they have been there they want to return to it as it’s a peaceful and elevated state. The worries and concerns of life disappear. For many competitive athletes event their sport can become a worry, their time or the little competitive battles they have on the course around so entering into this zone can be a quite a respite
This zone can be reached in meditation when we are concentrated. Its different but there are similarities.
One of the main issues that a meditator has is the wandering mind and also being to stuck in the head.
The process of running is very grounding – when you run at your full speed with focus then this is a wonderful experience and one that can both centre, concentrate and discipline the mind.
So my breath carried me round at speed – I managed to maintain the speed and focus. When my mind told me to stop or slow down I simple brought it to the sensation of the breath.
I wasn’t interested in keeping up with anyone or chasing after anyone – just go around enjoy each moment and stay concentrated.
I ran across the line – 15 minutes quicker that my previous 10K – for the purpose of this article actual times are not important and a distraction. The subtitle of this article is a little teaser
After I recovered and had a drink I turned to someone next to me and said ‘Hey how did you do?’ , he said ‘44.35’. The conversation came to an abrupt halt.
Running can be so much more than times and position, lycra kit and trainers.
Some are dismissive of sport and see it as meaningless or competitive.
Like anything it depends on your intention.