Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Reason’s to Run

What drives people to run, especially early on a Sunday morning? On the way to my son’s chess competition last Sunday, in the space of about one-mile I saw several different types of runners. First of all I noticed two men on the verge who, I’m guessing had been running, but had slowed almost to a walk and were chatting as they moved along. Next we passed a slightly over weight bloke who seemed to be struggling, sweat pouring off him, and showing a distinct dislike or distress of running. Then further along was a super fit chap, fully toned, fully engaged, calm and running with ease. As we rounded the corner, we were met with more runners: an older rounded gentleman wearing a Meningitis Trust T-shirt; a middle aged woman who was wearing all the correct running attire and a look of determination; two younger ladies on the opposite side of the road who were both looked as if they were having a good old chin wag as they bounced along and finally a lady putting on a heck of a pace as if she were in a race.

By the looks on all of their faces, the clothes they were wearing and the way they were running I started to wonder whether I could make an educated guess as to why they were all out pounding the pavement at this hour. The original guys looked like part of a training group, maybe out to get fit for a football team. The old man in the T-shirt was perhaps in training to raise money for his chosen charity – as reflected on his T-shirt. The middle aged woman maybe for health. The speed runner could have been in training for a competition and the two younger women, well they could have been running to tone up for the summer, but possibly more importantly, just out for the social aspect and to ‘run for fun’. Of them all, the one who stood out the most was the fittest guy, not just because of his toned body (!), but there was something else about him. His whole body looked like he was enjoying it. His head was lifted, his posture was upright and there was a spring in his step. But there was even more than that. His attitude positively shined through and his aura was literally glowing. He was definitely in the zone.

Getting in the zone is well known to top athletes - that point where mind and body merge with seemingly no effort and the body’s endorphins kick in and provide a natural high. For some, this ‘high’ can become additive resulting in the need of a daily fix. For others it’s almost as if running reaches a form of spiritual practice, resulting in feelings akin to a good meditation, even ecstasy. Roger Banister had direct experience of this when breaking the four-minute mile:

“No longer conscious of my movement, I discovered a new unity with nature. I had found a new source of power and beauty, a source I never dreamed existed”.(Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way)

For Roger D. Joslin, this form of experience is no stranger. As he demonstrates in his book, Running The Spiritual Path, running can literally be a way to prayer and God. Yet, every form of physical exertion, from walking to dancing can bring about the same results. Moving spiritual practices bound from the walking meditation of monks, through to the whirling dervish and African trance dancers, even the sexual practices of Tantric Yogis and Occultists!

“When you are physically stimulated - be it sports, exercise, martial arts, dance, or other forms of fitness - pathways to your inner emotional self, as well as to the deep centers of creativity and thought become opened. In this state of mind and body you are more receptive to personal change; you are more willing to accept what you now see as truth, where beforehand, you may have become somewhat defensive and guarded.”
(Jerry Lynch and Chungliang Al Huang)

Each practitioner may differ in his or her belief and method, but ultimately through movement they all bring about a common state within – an altered state of consciousness. They all find their own path into the zone. The only difference is their reason why. It may be to reach God or the Divine, for inspiration or guidance, for healing, to feel good, to achieve a goal or realise an intention.

I wonder where the fit guy goes when he’s in his zone and why? What was his reason to run this morning?

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Should we develop Special Powers?

When you start seriously exploring meditation and do some in-depth reading about it, you’ll often find information about Siddhis (special powers) and how, whilst they can manifest during your practice, they are not the be all and end all of meditation. And I’ll agree with that - there is so much more to meditation. But whilst we are often actively encouraged not to pursue Siddhis or be distracted by them, I believe we should all learn how to use them. After all what are these special abilities there for if not to be used?

Last summer I really needed one of those special powers - the gift of telepathy. My great aunt was dying and what I needed then, more than ever, was the ability to be able to communicate in another way that didn’t require speech, as she could no longer move or talk. To have had the ability to understand her needs through some other means and do what she wanted, whether that be move her legs, or sit her up a bit, or wet her lips, would have meant the world to me then. Instead my mum, her sister and I had to guess what she wanted, and often ended up frustrating her further.

On occasion using the ability of clairsentience I was able to tune into her discomfort and try to interpret the feelings I felt in my body, and that seemed help a little, though I did get it wrong on occasion! I have at least enhanced that skill through the power of meditation, but it fell short of being able to talk ‘head to head’. So to my mind, right now, the advice is wrong. We have forgotten these natural skills and we need to relearn, or remember how to do them through the practice of meditation. After all, we’ll never know when we might really need them!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Procrastination & Inspiration

Having written the last blog post on inspiration, today I’m plagued with procrastination. I have nearly everything in place ready to send off my book proposal to prospective agents. All I have to do is polish up my first sample chapter. Sounds like a simple task, but I wrote it such a long time ago and over that period my book has morphed into something slightly different that I’m not sure what to keep, what to change and what to bin.

Some of it doesn’t even sound like my writing. Have you ever had that? Where you get so far into the zone and the words are streaming in, and then suddenly you look up and it’s as if someone else has been sitting at your keyboard because you can’t possibly have written the words you see before you. They’re so wise, well informed and coherent! Well, I could do with some of that today, but I’m not sure I’m going to find the space for that to happen.

Distraction seems to be the theme of the day – though I suspect its subconsciously driven procrastination. So far, this morning, I got up late (losing myself an hour of quiet child-free time), then I made the excuse of needing to walk the dogs (we’re dog-sitting for friends this week) and killed another hour. Then the kids needed sorting with their learning (they’re home-educated) and the dogs needed feeding. And then, when I finally sat down at my laptop I had to get up again to get the dogs in because the sheep were being moved in the field next door and the phone rang. By this time the kids had finished their quiet learning time and all hell broke loose… and so it goes on. No space for inspiration today.

Part of me is glad for the distractions, as I don’t have time to tackle that first chapter. The other half of me is chastising myself at not getting up earlier and getting it sorted.

Still, in reality the day is young. Maybe this afternoon will bring peace, solitude and a little inspiration…

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Inspiration – where do you find your muse?

I went for a walk yesterday afternoon, chatting to myself as usual, pondering what I could write about for my first blog post. For the first half of my trek I battled with my logical mind trying to find an idea that would be ‘interesting and worthwhile’.

I often walk when I’m stuck for inspiration. And I usually get some at about the same tree along my path. What is it about this tree that starts off the magical process? Is the tree particularly special in that it inspires me? Well, yes I guess it could be. Several trees have been attributed special status in the past for bringing enlightening ideas. Probably the most famous is the Bodhi tree that Buddha was said to have been sitting contemplating under when he was enlightened.

Maybe there are special energies along the track where the tree grows? Equally possible. Again we know from historic records that certain places were considered by our ancestors to have been imbued with a special power. The Pythia in Greece is possibly the best known where, sitting on her three legged stool over a crevice in the ground, the priestess would bring forth inspiration by way of a fume induced trance.

The Native American people know the power of being in nature. They literary go out and sit in the landscape to seek inspiration and guidance when they embark on a Vision Quest. And the Australian aborigines of course have their own walk-about.

But for the cynical of you out there, maybe you could say I had just walked long enough and far enough to empty my chattering monkey mind and in the quiet state that followed I heard my true inner voice. Stories abound of people pushing hard for answer to a problem only to find it comes when they reach a point of exhaustion and decide to walk away. Having stepped away they suddenly find the ideas and answers coming in as if on a ‘stream of consciousness’ and often 'all at once', or 'as a whole'. It's as if they had reached a place in time and space where they became at One and everything flowed. To me that place of inspiration, that point of oneness is always found within us. But sometimes we need an ‘outside’ catalyst to realise that. Something that will help us find that special inner place of oneness where the magic happens. Where we find our muse. Yesterday for me that catalyst was a walk with nature. Where will you find your muse today?