Sunday, October 27, 2013

Running Wind Horse

English: "The Tibetan LUNG-Horse" (D...
The Tibetan LUNG-Horse

I ended last week's post claiming that I had found my Wind Horse on that cold, rainy half-marathon.  What exactly did that mean? Sakyong Mipham, an esteemed marathoning monk, has applied the five Shambala animal practices of meditation to running, helping the runner achieve full awareness of themselves (tiger), their surroundings (lion), the challenges and adventures they face (garuda), the compassion and altruism their running represents (dragon), and the freedom, peacefulness, and full embodiment possible as these four animals all go to work simultaneously and we let go of attachments, all while remaining fully aware, mindful, and present in the here and now (wind horse). It sounds a little complex, and it might be one of those experiences you need to have on your own.

But the reason I'm so interested in exploring the concept and trying to explain it, is because the experience of Wind Horse is the answer to the questions,"why do you love running so much?" And "how the heck do you enjoy running so many miles?" I've been running for less than a year and half, but this form of movement, these long slow distances, have significantly changed my life and helped me to find a deeper appreciation for places and moments and people. For instance . . .

Sunrise in Kona, Hawaii
Sunrise in Hawaii
During a recent vacation to Hawaii, I benefited from the early morning wake-up leftover from jet lag: I'd rise at 5 am, complete a yoga series on our Lanai listening to the waves, lace-up my running shoes, and then head out into the dawn chorus of birds wearing only my soles and a pair of swim trunks. In his novel, Cannery Row, John Steinbeck coined this time of day as "the hour of the pearl," and it surely shares the qualities of a pearl as a time of magic and beauty, of peacefulness, of being connected to our breath, to the earth beneath our feet, and to the grand cosmos of stars fading as the sun sneaks over volcanic ridges to the east.

Napili Kai Beach
Napili Kai Beach (by dvanvliet)
Usually I'd run for the pearl's full hour on the roads or resort paths that bordered the beaches, staying in sync to the ebb and flow of the tide. Often times I would have the whole sandy expanse to myself, left alone to move my body in its most primal form through the evolving colors of morning. And at the end of the run, all I had to do was toss my shoes and socks in the sand and plunge into that same ebb and flow for a transcendent swim, my solitude accompanied by a few Green Sea Turtles and the wind touching palm trees.

As I'd emerge from the refreshing Pacific waves, the awe and wonder of it all became quite clear.  Sure, there were many other ways to enjoy this dawn, this aquamarine ocean, this sunrise . . . but for me, I find my Wind Horse through the rhythms of running.  And what matters most is that you find yours through your very own stride.

Sea Turtle
Sea Turtle (by dbaist5)
English: Green Sea Turtles, Chelonia mydas bre...
Green Sea Turtle of Hawaii

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