I hope the end of December has you feeling warm and at peace wherever you are. If it doesn’t, please know that you can always reach out, even if we’ve never met.
A few weeks ago, the subscription meditation app that I use, Waking Up by Sam Harris, became unlocked so it could be used for free by anyone. I thought for a while about whether to share it here or not because I don’t want to push a product or advertise for another endeavor (social good endeavors or local projects are usually my exceptions). However, I started today’s meditation with the thought of a friend and I decided that sharing the app is the right thing to do.
Perhaps you’ve wanted to try meditation but don’t know where to begin. Perhaps you’ve heard of loving-kindness meditation and want to expand on that. Maybe you want to consider meditation for your children or students. Maybe the theory itself is of interest.
Please enjoy your exploration of this app. It’s free until the end of the year. Just click here: share.wakingup.com
I was really frustrated when I left work today. As often when that happens, I came home and threw myself into a run. A fast one. Since moving to a new neighborhood and devising a circuit that I really like I’ve also developed a habit of stopping in a lovely little park about halfway through and sitting for ten minutes of meditation. When I lived by the beach I would often pause to stare at the water and sometimes I try to be intentionally mindful while running but purposely stopping my watch for ten minutes is a new one.
Today it was hard to focus on my breathing, or the sound of the waterfall in the pond, or the birds that make their homes in the trees. But I tried.
One of the things I learned to do through meditation is to recognize the thoughts I’m having and focus on having the thought. Okay, here’s a thought. Now back to the breath. Etc. But one thought in particular stood out sharply today and I kept it in my mind for the rest of my run.
Today I thought about a friend from the first few months of living in Malaysia, and I thought about when I learned in December of last year that he had passed away in July. He was only a few years older than me. His wife, who I had only met twice and did not know well, wrote to me. She reintroduced herself, gave me a bit of background on her husband’s life since I’d last seen them, and apologized for breaking the news. In turn, I contacted the entire group of people we’d worked with and every single person wrote back.
What struck me today was not sadness for my friend who died too soon; rather, it was determination. Determination to remember the model he was for me in terms of doing what he thought was right. I didn’t always agree with his choices but never had to guess where they came from. He was a person who meant what he said and did what he promised. He stood for fairness and justice and was easily the friendliest person I’ve ever known. He knew everyone and everyone knew him; he expected nothing from others except the kindness and respect that he gave everyone.
Sometimes good people die too soon.
Along with his joviality, this friend taught me. I worked with him like I’ve rarely worked with anyone and I hadn’t known that model before. Recently I started working like that again and the vividness of those first memories has never, ever left me.
This friend was also a fighter. When something wasn’t right, he tried to fix it. He stood up when others around him remained seated. He made a fuss when there was a good reason for it and never, ever left doubt about who he was and what he stood for.
Is it strange to say I miss him? We hadn’t spoken in at least two years before I heard from his wife.
Is it strange that as soon as I got home I reached out to a friend I’ve long owed a phone call and to another I’ve been trying to reach?
This is where frustration at work led me: To a friend from a former life who was good and kind and honest. Who loved living and the world around him. Who did what he thought was right. Who stood up and stomped his feet and demanded action.
I remembered important things today. Thank you, my friend.
I love that it makes me feel strong and powerful. I love to feel my body moving, heart beating, lungs working. I love being out in the world and taking in whatever is around me. I love the well-deserved soreness in my legs, the sense of accomplishment, the satisfaction of doing something good for myself. I love feeling that yes, I can do this, and many other things, too.
But I hate running on the days my legs won’t move and lungs scratch and scream. I hate the fatigue that sometimes comes on all too early, leaving me frustrated and disappointed. I hate pushing myself through thick, humid air that leaves me dripping before I’ve really started, or the bitter cold that gets into my throat and leaves me coughing, or the dampness that gets into my chest and leaves me aching.
All of this is running. And all of this is more than running.
This is what is means to experience the moments of our lives, the sensations that wash over us ceaselessly.
I’ve always loved to feel my body moving, working.
I was a very small child in a pink tutu since before I can remember, but I do remember the first time I felt the swooping rhythm that is carving on skis. I don’t remember the first time a yoga teacher guided me into a pose, but the strongest I’ve ever felt was after a year of Bikram once or twice a week, early in the morning. I don’t remember the first time I put on a harness and scrambled up a climbing wall, but the exhilaration of my first outdoor climb just a few weeks ago left me itching to do it again. I don’t remember when I decided that I might like to try running, but I woke this morning excited to lace up my running shoes.
I used to treat running as bigger and better and more important than the other activities I took part in, even if I often enjoyed those more. I used to make running an imperative, something I would do at the expense of a range of other activities. I was around a lot of people who lived and breathed and loved running and I wanted to understand their world.
I didn’t like it much and I didn’t understand.
I still don’t understand.
And that’s why running has changed for me. Running is something I do not because of running itself, but because I like to feel my body move. I like to be out in the world. I like to sit on warm rocks on the beach and it’s quicker to get there if I run. I like the ease and accessibility of running. I like that I can just get up and go.
I’ve learned to do what feels right in the body. Sometimes it’s okay to walk for a few steps to take more time to look around. Sometimes it’s okay to extend or shorten a route. What does the body need right now? Sometimes I stretch my arms out and fly, laugh, and play. Sometimes I play the same songs in my head on repeat and I wonder, why those songs? Why now?
I run because I like to feel, not because I particularly care about running. And it’s easy to mistake those two things, to miss the distinction. There are days when running feels like a chore and it’s become clearer to me that the right thing to do on those days is something else.
There are many ways to feel the body move.
Today I actively practiced a meditation while I ran. In my head, I was going to take the long route to the beach and relax in the shade of a palm tree until the sun got just high enough. When that happens here, the heat isn’t far away and it’s time to go.
But my body had other ideas and I took a shorter route instead, cutting away from the beach. But again my body had other ideas and I extended the run along a path of gardens that I like to look at; I’ve been there before but didn’t think that was in the cards today.
And I took this unplanned path and let the world rush in.
Meditation has taught me that there’s a subtle distinction between letting the world rush in and moving towards the world. Experiencing sensations as they are, as they arise, means stepping outside of the self. It means allowing ourselves to feel things we might not like or understand and certainly do not control. It’s a willingness to be vulnerable and open and afraid and hurt. But it’s also a willingness to feel connection and love and trust and courage.
So I let the world rush in.
And my body moved.
And I felt that, too.
Photos, travels, musings, and ideas on education by someone trying to make the world a better and more peaceful place