Taking Aim…..at Running

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You don’t have to run anywhere to become someone else. You are wonderful just the way you are.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

The angled rays of the late afternoon, winter sun give a diffused glow to the forest as I run past sitka spruce, grand fir and redwood. My footfalls, softened by the thick needle cast of the redwood, pound a gentle rhythm as I speed along the trail. Mud oozes in between my toes as I cross bare spots, wet with the recent rains. I turn off trail number 2 and start my ascent up the steep incline of trial number 3. My breathing changes from in and out through my nose to heavier mouth breathing. I am panting and my increased breathing adds to the sounds all around: the soft tinkling of water flowing, a light wind through the trees, a varied thrush, my footfalls and my breathing. My aim is to get some exercise, feel good (whatever that means; “good” being perhaps the most vague adjective in the English language), and be outside in a beautiful place. What I really want to be doing is just running, aimlessly. By aimless I don’t mean that I am running haphazardly through the forest which would be hazardous; rather I mean without a wish, aim or goal. Just running, like when we were kids.

Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen master, poet and peace activist once wrote:

 It is our tendency in daily life to become goal oriented. We know where we want to go, and we are very focused on getting there. At times, this may be useful, but often we forget to enjoy ourselves along the way. Apranihita is a Sanskrit word meaning “wishlessness” or “aimlessness.” We don’t need to keep running after something, because everything is already here, within. Often we tell ourselves, “Don’t just sit there, do something!”  But when we practice awareness, we discover that the opposite may be more helpful: “Don’t just do something, sit there!” We can train ourselves to stop from time to time throughout the day, to come back to the present and let go of our worries and preoccupations. When our minds and bodies are calm, we can see our situations more clearly and we know better what to do and what not to do.

Maddie calls to me from up the street, “run with me papa!” I hesitate, as any self-respecting adult would. Why would I run, I think, unless perhaps it will get me home quicker. Why would I run for no purpose at all? And geeze what if Maddie trips and falls? She would get hurt for sure and I don’t want to see that happen. All of this is going rapidly through my mind as I hear her beckon to me again, “come on papa, run with me!” Another brief moment of hesitation and then I can resist her joyful request no longer. I run, starting off slowly and with trepidation. It is not cool for an adult to run or dare I skip down the street. Someone might think I am nuts but I do so anywhere. I finally let go of myself and we run, skip, hop and laugh our way down the street. I have nowhere to go and no aim. I am simply running and giggling as I go along. We stop and catch our breath, looking back at Kristin and Juniper. They are a ways back; so with a sparkle of delight in our eyes, we yell to them, “RUN!”

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2 Comments on “Taking Aim…..at Running”

  1. Julie says:

    Such freedom in that run….my knees buckle at the the thought…but it feels great!

    • dhlafever says:

      Ha! For years I told myself that I didn’t like running and that it was going to destroy my knees. And now I really enjoy it but then again I only run in natural sorts of places like the community forest, the dunes and the beach. Delightful!


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