A good friend gave me a copy of Haruki Murakami‘s book What I talk about when I talk about running. I have read and enjoyed a few of his novels and short stories and didn’t realise he does a lot of running and is a triathlete – he tries to do at least one marathon race a year. This book is a collection of his reflections about his running, how it affects his life and his writing and what it means to him.
One passage I found particularly interesting from a yoga point of view, was his description of his mental state during an ultra marathon (very long distance). He writes:
“To exaggerate a bit, it was as if by completing this over-sixty mile race I’d stepped into a different place. After my fatigue disappeared somewhere after the forty-seventh mile, my mind went into a blank state you might even call philosophical or religious. Something urged me to become more introspective, and this new found introspection transformed my attitude toward the act of running.” (p.117-118) [his italics]
Might this ‘blank state’ be the same or similar to a meditative state of mind (samadhi) which can be reached during yoga and meditation? The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali says that: “Yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness.” (YS 1:2), and that “A steady, continuous flow of attention directed towards the same point or region is meditation [dhyana].” (YS 3:2) The Hatha Yoga Pradipika says: “This state of unity – when the prana decreases and the mind dissovles – is called samadhi” (HYP 4:5).
For people who find sitting still and focusing on either something or nothing difficult, or for days when you know you just cannot settle, other ways or reaching a meditative state may be appropriate. I have experienced walking meditation practice and found that useful, and although my tentative running is not as far as Murakami’s sessions, I sometimes find one phrase going round and round in my head as I jog, in time with my breath and my steps. Sometimes it can be quite an inane phrase, other times it’s a form of positive mental attitude so that I don’t stop ( e.g. you can do it, you can do it). Maybe a lot of runners are actually practising meditation without realising it?!
For anyone who is interested in running, or who is a writer, or who likes Murakami’s works I would recommend this book.