Today, as it was such a beautiful sunny day, I sensed it would be good to go for a run outside, rather than doing my training in the gym. I ran around the lovely St George’s Hill near Weybridge, which is well known for being the estate where Cliff Richard lives. It also has lots of hills and very few flat areas so, although I didn’t see Cliff, I did get a good work-out on my 8k run, which I then followed up with 20 minutes in the gym walking up steep hills on the treadmill.
During the run I was trying to stay out of my head as much as possible (because there was definitely a little voice that, every now and then, wanted to walk rather than run!). The easiest way to do this is to centre your awareness in your Dantien. This an energy centre used in Eastern martial arts and for meditation in Taoism and Buddhism. It is found about an inch below your navel, in the very centre of your body and I see it as an area of energy, often golden coloured, about the size of a small grapefruit. In Asian philosophies, it is said to be our centre of gravity and balance, the centre of our energy and the centre of our power. It is used as a place to rest your mind on or in and, for me, the value is that it helps me stop being in my head, thinking endlessly, and gets me into a place where my thoughts are slower and quieter. When we refer to “being centred,” it is because we have our awareness in this place of energy that gives us that quality.
So, on this run I was keeping my mind there as much as I could and I also experimented to find the very best place for my mind to rest. I tried above it, in it, and below it. I found that keeping my mind resting just on the base of it made my mind the quietest and therefore my running the easiest. With my awareness there I found that my breathing remained deep, which I needed when I was going up East Hill for the second time (which seemed to go on forever), and I was relaxed.
Using this technique is something that you can try anywhere – you don’t have to be running. Just take your awareness down below your navel and sense this point and see how long you can keep your mind there. Your mind will want to come back up into your head – that is fine – but then take it back into the Dantien again and notice how different you feel. When you are feeling nervous about anything, it really helpful to do this as it allows you to distance yourself from that part of your mind that is feeling scared.
I also did some more work with the walking meditation practice that I spoke of in my last blog. I wanted to do this run in a reasonable time so with my awareness on my footfalls I experimented on making each stride I took longer. I started off going for just 1” longer with each stride, especially when the hill was steep and where I could, I made it even longer still. I figured that if each stride covered more ground, it didn’t take much more effort on my part, but would make my running quicker. By doing this, I got round the 8k in the time that I wanted and it didn’t feel hard at all. I actually thought I could have done another 4K lap round the hills. It was interesting to see how just a small change in something so simple, made me much more effective in what I was doing – how could this be applied to other areas of life?
This weekend I will do one final 12 mile walk in the lovely Surrey Hills, starting out from Box Hill near Dorking and from there, it will be just some very gently exercise until I go, as it would not be good to arrive tired before I start!