Thursday, January 16, 2014

Focusing on the moment, setting aside distractions

This is Coral Reef  Park, where I run.
It was a brisk morning today in South Florida, with temperatures in the mid-50's (yes, I know how warm that is, compared to other places). So for today's run, I decided to change things up a little bit, to get rid of something that is sort of a crutch: my iPhone. Or more specfically, the music from my iPhone.

When I run, I use the Nike+ app on my iPhone to record time, pace, and location. It's a handy thing. But the app also links up with my iTunes playlists on the phone. Also very handy. However, listening to music--while it may not be a bad thing--is not necessarily a good thing. In keeping with my desire to change the way I run, to find a greater level of harmony in the moment, I decided to put the music away for the day, to see how things go without it.

In the past, I always told myself that I needed to listen to something while I ran, that I would be unable to do it without something to keep my mind off of the actual run. But it occurred to me that perhaps I was selling myself short and--more importantly--perhaps I was missing out on a significant part of the experience.
Embracing the Way, you become embraced;
Breathing gently, you become newborn;
Clearing your mind, you become clear;
Nurturing your children, you become impartial;
Opening your heart, you become accepted;
Accepting the world, you embrace the Way.

Bearing and nurturing,
Creating but not owning,
Giving without demanding,
This is harmony.
--Lao-Tzu, Tào Té Chīng, Chapter 10, 6th century BCE*
As I ran, there was nothing missing at all. Indeed, the lack of something--in this case music--enhanced the experience, added to it. Without the music there was more, substantially more, to take in. Paradoxically, my focus also improved. I ran better, cleaner, with purpose, even as I thought little of my actual strides, moment to moment.

I cannot claim to be any sort of Zen master or spiritual guru, but I can honestly say I was moved by the experience. And afterwards, I couldn't help but wonder how many other such moments eluding me on a daily basis, because of distractions I impose on myself. With this in mind, I'm going to purposefully set aside the music from now on. We'll see how it goes...

*As may be clear to those very familiar with the Tào Té Chīng, the quotes I am using are each not from a single translation, but are from different ones. And that's one of the great beauties of the book (a trait it shares with The Bible, actually, and a number of other classical texts): there is no absolutely authoritative translation. Indeed, there is variety even in the Chinese versions. One can be as moving as the next, can offer a particular turn of the phrase that moves in ways the same passage in a different translation does not.