Running trails in the foothills, I started slowly but got tempted to speed up and blasted along at 85% of max heart rate.
I stopped for water, then headed up Wildcat Canyon. It was a lovely day, cloudy and warm. I ran several miles up the shady canyon, then turned around and enjoyed the downhill running.
I was looking for the sweet place in my heart. I slowed further, thinking to recover before the long climb out of the canyon. My running felt labored, and I wasn’t breathing easily.
I turned up Coyote Trail and slowed even more. I sensed that something was subtly “wrong,” as if my heart and lungs were misfiring, like a car with cross-wired spark plugs.
I’ve been rehabbing an injury, running on the treadmill at the gym. The other day, I glanced at the heart monitor and saw that my heartbeat had fallen 5 beats. I realized I’d been looking out the window at the swimming pool in a relaxed way, fully absorbed in watching the water polo team practice. I had forgotten myself, turned off the mind’s chatter, and “fallen into my heart.”
Several days after the run I’m describing, I told Mary Ellen about it. I said, “I’m forever looking for that sweet place where my heart, lungs, and body feel ‘just right.’ That’s always been my reason for running.” I told her how inefficient I feel when I’m running and thinking, and how my body doesn’t want to run fast until my mind and heart feel connected.
At the start of the run, I’d felt a little bit efficient: happy to be in the hills, cheerful and well-rested. My heart felt okay, but it was nothing like what happened later, when there was a complete inner warmth of rightness: no pain in my heart, no jangly feelings, no hard breathing or burning in my lungs.
I told Mary Ellen, “My body has always been the monitor for my heart. My body feels good when my heart is ‘right.’”
When my body’s running right, it’s a sure bet my heart’s in the right place. The kind of running I care about is where my heart is right, never mind how the body is performing. I run not for the body but for the heart. My body runs best when my heart is happy.
I was jogging up Coyote Trail, still feeling inwardly jangly, when I came around a corner and saw a group of Chinese people on the trail ahead. They were talking and laughing, and I felt mildly annoyed. I thought, “Gosh, did you come here to make noise?”
They stood aside courteously to clear a path for me, and as I approached I realized that they were sharing a moment of simple friendship together, and enjoying being out in nature. It touched my heart, and as I drew closer I saw that one of their group was a Down Syndrome child. My heart opened and I sent them silent blessings as I passed.
Emerging from their midst, I felt my heart warm with feelings of love and kindness. It was very pleasant, but what amazed me was what it did for my body. I picked up the pace and ran much faster, feeling a lovely enthusiasm, all hint of discoordination gone. I sped along effortlessly for perhaps a quarter-mile, feeling fully integrated and highly efficient, until those feelings faded and I began breathing hard again. While I was in the feelings of love and kindness, I was able to run with a wonderful unhindered verve and joy, free of mental analyzing and doubts.
I thought, “That’s amazing. It must be the power of love.”
I ran on, going slower, reflecting on how love is a key to blissful running and running with power. It seems I run two ways: from my heart and from my mind. When I’m too much in my head, it disintegrates my running.
I looked ahead and saw two Chinese girls standing by the trail; one was taking pictures while the other watched. Beyond them, an middle-aged Caucasian man was sitting on the railing of a wooden bridge. As I approached, I opened my heart – I wanted to open up and feel that we were all part of the same one Thing. It was not an oozy sentiment, bbut more a sense of quietly being children together in the sandbox of the universe, cheerful and friendly. When I passed, the curious thing happened again – I ran with a deep focus and inner warmth of spirit, with power and joy.