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Moving Meditation for UltraRunners

I have a trick that I use when I’m running and I want the negative self-talk to go away. I focus on one simple thing: the wind. Not listening to the wind, but the feeling of it. Let me explain further. As you pump and swing your arms while running, focus on the tiny, subtle feeling of the air as it flows through your fingertips. Intrusive thoughts will still enter your mind—thoughts like “I can’t maintain this pace,” “This hurts,” “My life sucks,” or “Why did I eat that pepperoni cheese pizza at mile 57?” Allow your thoughts to come, but then intensely redirect your focus back to the sensation of the wind passing through your fingers.

Your mind is so busy trying to focus on such a small detail that it forgets the negative chatter that’s on a loop in your brain. The mind is only good at focusing on one thing at a time. There are times in a race when you have to focus and bring your attention to the task at hand, such as eating on a routine, pushing on climbs, or taking it easy on descents. However, you also encounter long stretches where there’s nothing specific to focus on, and if you have any pain, it’s going to make itself known.

When I’m engaged in what I call the “moving wind meditation”, and no that’s not passing gas from too much Tailwind. I start to forget the negative chatter. It brings back the silence to my mind. The bad, negative thoughts melt away, and I’m back to just thinking about the wind as it passes through my fingers. This isn’t to say the pain is gone; it’s just not at the forefront of my attention anymore. This may seem silly, but the next time you’re on the run and things aren’t going well, focus on the wind flowing around and through your hands. Concentrate on the wind as it passes through your fingers with each stride. It may not work the first or second time, but if you do it long enough, it can have an impact on your mental state when you need it most. Like I said, there are times to focus, and then there are times to let go. It sounds like a simple act but is more powerful than you might think. It stops you from trying to focus on all the things that are going “right” or “wrong” with your race.

LoL… Her fingers…

Thoughts are temporary, but they need to be acknowledged. Don’t fight them. The more you fight them, the more they want to stay. It’s like if I said, “Whatever you do, don’t think about pink elephants.” The first thing you’ll do is have a pink elephant jump into your mind. You have to embrace what you’re feeling, acknowledge it, or shift your attention elsewhere.

You can’t just do this for a minute or so during your run; try it for a 10- to 15-minute block, focusing on the wind passing over your hands or arms. It can be an effective tool when the negative mental chatter becomes overwhelming in an ultra.

This is adapted from a book by Eckhart Tolle.

Go within. Use the inner body as a starting point for going deeper and taking your attention away from where it’s usually lodged, in the thinking mind.

Eckhart Tolle
Published inmental toughnessstoicismThoughtsTrail RaceUltra

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