Nine days without running. Nine days of sitting on a beach and swimming in the water. Nine days of sitting with my full internal world with nothing else to do but to listen and feel and practice the fine art of watching storms pass. Nine beautiful days of sand and water and sun and my favorite human, my husband.
Like many other people, I have often use running to work through tough emotions and challenging experiences in life. There are times, however, that the experiences create too much excess anxious energy and running feels like the last thing you should be doing. You know, like when you are worried that any additional acceleration of your heart rate or increase of your blood pressure may create a very serious situation that you want to avoid imposing on yourself. I felt like that for the last several weeks, and because I’m training for an ultra, I kept pushing myself anyway (I did skip a short run here or there but for the most part I stuck with my training plan). While I don’t think I did anything wrong or was harmful to myself, I do think that I was using running as a distraction from the difficult task of sitting with the uncomfortable emotions of fear and anger and sadness. I’m a firm believer in sitting through the waves of feeling and being mindful to not let the sticky feelings hide in the deep, dark places of my mind and find this is the way through hard times – full envelopment in these emotions and/or avoidance of them has little to no benefit in the long run.
It has been nearly a decade since I took a non-active vacation and I must say it was a challenge. I was very much in need of sitting so that I could watch my mind work through the sticky stuff but experientially, there was a struggle. It is not that anything is to be resolved, but stopping for a week really helped to uncover what was going on. Of course, there was added guilt over skipping a few short runs (we did plan the vacation around a cycle down week so no big runs were missed) but once I let that go I could just watch the ocean, calm one day and choppy the next, mimic the impermanence of my sticky mind stuff. I could then also begin to cultivate a different perspective around the difficult situation so that it won’t slowly eat at me and hurt me or let me hurt others through my hurt. What a powerful thing sitting with what is, is.
Minds do not know “vacation”, however I’ve noticed that while sitting with the waxing and waning of the mind’s attachments, one can still enjoy and find joy in the day. It is not consuming and does not cast a shadow over a day or a night or even a moment – it is impermanent and moves as quickly as the clouds change shape with the breeze.
I now feel clear and fully rested and ready to push myself harder and longer. Sometimes, stopping is the thing that will help you to keep going.