Monday, February 25, 2013

Full Moon Mindfulness Walk and Run-February 2013

I left for my full moon mindfulness walk for February 2013 at 5:15 and arrived home at 5:45. I typically go in the evening when it's dark and I can see the full moon, but today there was a blue sky which I needed to see after these many days of gray sky and long hours of darkness. It was also forty three degrees, which is still really cold in my book of temperatures, but is better than the near zero temperatures we've been experiencing. My strategy for winter in Minnesota is to retreat into my warm home and to surrender to the solitude and stillness this season offers us. But I wanted to get outside.

I love nature. Any time we step outside we are in nature. My nature today was walking along a sidewalk in the suburb where I live during the last full moon of winter. There were so many bare trees with their branches exposed like arms and fingers stretching toward the sky, praising the universe, grasping for the sunlight. I too wanted that sunlight. 

I also wanted to run and I knew it would be safer in the light. While I meant my full moon walk to resemble walking meditation in a meditation room (in Japanese Zen kinhin in the zendo), which would imply walking slowly and mindfully, I realized today the activity is about mindfulness and I can run mindfully. Everything can be done mindfully. Everything!

So I ran mindfully. I think this was my best run ever. I was aware of my legs running, my feet landing on the concrete, my arms moving rhythmically with my steady and sure stride, my exercise induced breathing. I ran seven times about a half a mile each time. I'm not a runner; I'm a walker. Just like I'm not a fighter; I'm a lover.

When I was seventeen I was in a car accident that left me temporarily paralyzed and I've never felt my legs have been as strong as a man who hasn't experienced an injury like mine. Add to that having genetically thin legs and I've never thought I've had the strength or endurance to run well.

But that's changing. As I've late, I've been focusing on strength, power, and balance training for my legs at my fitness center, and as a result I have more strength, power, and balance in my legs. That has psychologically benefited me in the same capacity of mind: more strength, power, and balance. Strong legs, strong mind. Or as my friend Dale would jokingly and yet wisely say with enthusiasm, “Big thighs!” He knows because he's got them. I would add “big mind” to his proclamation and create my own zen adage: big thighs, big mind.

Our legs take us through our lives. Walking can be viewed as both a necessity that takes us through life and a metaphor for our journey. Although in the case of paraplegics, quadriplegics, and amputees movement of legs isn't necessary to take them through life and wheels might work better as metaphor. Recent media attention on Olympic athletes with prosthetic legs would also challenge the notion of our “legs”.

Nonetheless, there's a rich literary tradition of walking as both a practical activity and a metaphor. Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales with his medieval pilgrims, Robert Frost's “The Road Less Traveled” with his ambling and never rambling narrator, Henry David Thoreau's contemplative essay Walking, and Peter Jenkin's Walk Across America, Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, and Cheryl Strayed's Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail with their contemporary stories of walking long distances are all books that come to mind that I've read on the topic of walking.

I believe I'm more aware of walking than most people because coupled with my mindfulness practice for almost six months when I was seventeen I couldn't walk. I used a wheelchair. For another year I used crutches and canes. There are days I'm walking and I think, “I'm walking! Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I could have had a different reality. I could have been a paraplegic using a wheelchair or a semi-paraplegic using crutches or canes. While I know I would have made the best of my life and forged ahead confidently in the direction of my dreams, as Thoreau advises, with technological ambulatory assistance, I also know that life is easier when you can walk on your own two legs and feet. You also can do more. Or at least I know I would do more than if I needed a wheelchair or crutches or canes. I've been fully aware of not taking my legs and my ability to walk for granted.

This has recently been made more significant with a sixty-nine year old friend of mine getting one of her hips replaced two summers ago and her other one this spring. Not to mention a knee replaced three years ago and her other one probably this fall. Old age can do that to our bodies. On the other hand, old age doesn't have to do that to our bodies. My fitness center has a lot of senior citizens who are in fantastic health both physically and mentally. I see them running with strength, power, and balance around the track or on treadmills. I can and will do the same now and in my old age.

Quiddity of this mindfulness walk and run: Strong legs, strong mind. Big Thighs! Big Mind!

I didn't see the moon when I took my full moon mindfulness walk and run. But at 7:45, after writing this and making and eating chicken vindaloo, I went to the bathroom, and hoping to see the moon, looked out my bathroom window, and there it was: the February full moon. I actually gasped in awe. I hardly believe I did that. I hardly believe I did so many things in my life. Or that I can do so many things. But there was the full moon, a monthly reminder of my potential—our potential—and of the beauty, awe, and impermanence of life.

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