“Furthermore, when walking, the monk discerns, ‘I am walking.’ When standing, he discerns, ‘I am standing.’ When sitting, he discerns, ‘I am sitting.’ When lying down, he discerns, ‘I am lying down.’ Or however his body is disposed, that is how he discerns it… ” Satipatthana Sutta
Last weekend I ran my first 50K (31 mile) race on trails. I finished only a bit banged up after countless stumbling, trips, toe stubbings and maybe 1/2 a dozen flat out falls (thankfully kinda gracefully).
What I find particularly interesting is what went though my mind over the just over 7 hours I was running. There comes a point in any race where thoughts of life outside the run, future conversations, and assessments of how the run went (or will go) start passing through my mind.
At best on a road race, I can notice my thoughts of the past and thoughts of the future and feel the ever so familiar tug bringing myself back to present.
When on trail however, and for hours longer, such distractions are tougher.
To run on a trail is to run with presence. A momentary distraction of thought or sight can result in a stumble, a trip, or a fall. It is important to know where and be with each foot fall, the balance of all the muscles in the body, and the alert sense of navigating and being aware of the surroundings (if only to avoid getting lost, strategizing hills and uneven trails, and beings around you). Too much concentration on one of these causes imbalance and contraction. Sometimes the amount of attention over time and hours sometimes alone makes one freeze. The solution? Take a deep breath, slow the pace, and keep moving forward.
A friend of mine seeing a post about my achievement asked “How did you do that?”
My reply: “Gingerly and shoring up as much presence in the moment I could muster. If I stumbled, I just gently brought myself back and began again.”
I suppose that is what makes the practice “a practice” eh?