For all I blog about being Mindful, I very easily fell back into the Mindless category this evening.
I've recently taken up running, on the treadmill to start, and this week, I switched to running on the local Rotary Trail (a converted railway track that provides kilometers of flat, dirt/gravel road to run, walk or bike on) - perfect for a beginner like me. I started up the run tracking app on my phone, put it away in my pocket - I like to run without any music or distractions, so I can practice being in the moment. So far, so good.
The nice thing about the run that I do is that it has some nice ways to mark the distance as I go. I run 2km one direction, passing a power transformer on my right at the half kilometer mark, a small dirt road that crosses the path at about the 1km mark, and then at exactly the 2km mark, it hits a more well traveled road, where I turn around and run the 2km back. That small dirt road, on the way back marks the 3/4 mark of my run, so I keep a look out for it, and I pick up my pace a bit and finish strong.
I'm running earlier tonight, on a good pace, and hit the 2km mark, so I turn around. Good so far. I run, noting the rain may be starting soon - the clouds are getting darker, the humidity rising. Surprisingly, no bugs, which makes me very happy. And not a single other runner so far - the path is all mine to this point. So I watch for that dirt road, run some more, continue watching, run some more...its not appearing. Strange - I passed it on my way here - I must be mistiming where I am in my run. I'll stay patient and wait for it to appear, keeping a close eye out for it.
Running a bit more, I see something in the distance? The dirt road?. Am I at my 3/4 point already, and ready to being my final stretch? No - it was my finish line, where my car is parked, waiting for me. This throws me off completely - not only did I completely miss the dirt road marker, but I missed my opportunity to up my pace, to finish strong, and this bothers me. Time to reflect on what just happened, so I head to my local coffee shop, where I sit now typing, and contemplate about what I've just learned.
What Mistakes Did I Make?
I paid too much attention to the goals along the way, and not enough to the journey itself
I was so focused on finding my dirt road, that I missed an opportunity I was looking forward to
I failed to listen to my body for when to up my pace, choosing instead to allow artificial markers like the dirt road to be the decider
I failed to just ENJOY my run, choosing instead to focus on markers along the way, making each marker some kind of personal accomplishment
In short, I basically failed to perform almost every basic concept of Mindfulness, at at time when Mindfulness should have been a very simply and satisfying event.
What I Learned
Stop looking for markers along my run, and in my life. Watch what is going on around me right now, enjoy the uniqueness of this moment, for it will be gone soon.
If I focus too much on watching for one sign, one goal, or one accomplishment, I may completely miss it and throw myself into self inflicted chaos or confusion
Run for the sheer enjoyment of the run, not how far or how fast you run.
And lastly - most importantly, continue to practice Mindfulness in everything I do. Make it a natural habit that I just do, as easily as breathing or blinking.
I have a long way to go on my journey to self actualization, but I'm confident I've taken the first few steps on the right path. I may stumble, but I will not stop. - and I will enjoy the run.