Mindfulness on a Run

Mindfulness is something I’ve been intentionally working on. To be honest, I don’t really understanding the word mindfulness – to me, it’s “being present”. But the word people use to describe this is mindfulness, so I’ll use it.

I started off last year with things going in one direction, but it didn’t take long before I realized I was going the wrong way. When it became clear it was time to stop, reassess and shift direction, the road back to where I came from was right there waiting for me.

It was full steam ahead, doing what I knew and did best – build. Dusting off the manuscript I had laid aside, I commited to finishing what I started.

I realized how I kept giving up my dream to help others accomplish theirs. But, I had commitments, opportunities, and offers. They seemed promising and could be exactly what I needed to help me when it was “my turn.”

But one day, while on a run, I prayed. “God, I’m so tired. I’m fatigued all the time. I can’t focus. I’m losing my drive and desire for excellence. What is happening? What am I doing wrong?”

Then I heard a still small voice in my heart, “I blessed you and the work you were a part of because your heart’s motive was good and I knew you would be a blessing to them, but, I never told you to get involved. Had you asked me, I would have said ‘it’s not my best for you.’”

Wow! I remember exactly where I was in that moment. I stopped running, leaned over resting my hands on my knees, and soaked in what I just heard as tears flowed from my eyes.

I could feel the pressure of the responsibility I felt for those I was supporting lift off of me. I had never noticed how heavy it felt carrying the weight of someone else’s ministry and calling – and I was doing it for a couple people.

What followed was uncomfortable conversations with people I love and admire to tell them that I needed to step away, completely. I even let go of a leadership role I had with a ministry my husband I had founded. That was nerve wrecking because I was the driving force behind everything that we did, but it was set on my heart “let’s see if someone steps up?”

As I laid down one role at a time, the weight got lighter and I was finally able to see what God had for ME. It was huge and it was scary, but the dreaming began. My mind was always going. I would dream, design, and build every day – even in rest days.

Rest days, that didn’t come every weekend, but when they did were sacred, were a much needed element in my life. I always made sure that at least one weekend a month, we had completely off and for rest.

But even still, one day in June I noticed that even after rest, I felt tired. I was fatigued. Exhausted.

I realized that although I was resting my body, I wasn’t resting my mind, heart, and soul. While I was in bed resting my body, I’d be designing, building, creating, and planning for the future. While I thought I was resting, my brain knew I was working.

When we went on vacation I decided to lay everything aside for 2 weeks. I wouldn’t think of the future, worry about it, or even plan for it. If I started to dream, i would remind myself that I’m not there right now, I’m here! I’m present! For 2 weeks, I’m going to be 100% present.

The first few days was hard. My mind wandered a lot and I would get these ideas, but I wouldn’t allow myself to act. After that, it got easier and I found myself not straying from the moment. I was enjoying where I was, what I was doing, without a care of what was to come – even the next day.

It was after that experience of truly being present, even mentally, that I realized I wasn’t truly resting when I thought I was. Because I had felt what it was like to truly rest and be present – be mindful – and I felt the benefits of it, in every way, I knew I needed to incorporate that in my life.

So, fast forward to my 7-mile long run this past weekend. Running with a group isn’t possible in this stage of my life because of my schedule, so I have to run alone. I used to let my mind wander a lot while running because it provided distraction and sometimes the time just flew.

As part of my therapy, running is my leisure time. Being present and mindful during your leisure will help maximize the mental and emotional benefits of this hobby. As my runs get longer, they get harder too – and I’m doing it alone. So, there is no conversation to distract me.

I chose to go on a destination run at a beach where I knew that I’d have places to stop for water if I needed some. This would provide me with scenery and atmosphere that I thoroughly enjoy and brings peace to my soul.

There’s a class I’m taking about identity, so I listened to that for about 30 minutes and made sure that if my mind went off wandering that I’d pull it back by looking around and bringing my attention back to the teaching. After that, I ran in silence. As I ran, I took in the sights, sounds, and scents of ocean life. Hawks and pelicans flew over head. I passed others walking or running. All while I watched and heard the waves crashing – a sound that soothes my soul.

Half way through I headed to the sand and took a few moments to take some deep breathes and be grateful that I live so close to the ocean – and several beaches that I could pick which ones I wanted to enjoy. I even had a chat with someone visiting.

The benefits of being mindful, even on a run are astounding, but physically what I can share is that, when I got home, instead of being exhausted from my run, I was energized and ready for my day.

It’s amazing what happens when we care for our brains as we care (or should care) for our bodies. The brain is what drives us.

So, I encourage you to try this mindfulness thing 😁. Start by taking a few moments a day and intentionally being present. Over time it gets easier and you’ll be able to turn it into a lifestyle. I never thought I’d be able to do it on such a long run, but it wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be. I truly enjoyed my run (as physically hard as it was) and made memories I’ll carry with me.

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