Taking Anxiety for a Run
With crunched back and tight breath I pull my body out the door and on the street. Which route, which trail, ricochets in my mind. I feel fresh start. Breathe. Being in my body I connect with my sensations of tightness and fear. Thinking, then back to my breath. My breath, stuck in the middle of my back. It rolls my shoulders in. I lift my chin. I see the street. Up ahead is straight up. The first hill is a blessing. I attack it. I want to use it and force air into my lungs, all of them, in my back. Feeling the energy I push myself. It works. I am out of my head, for now. Out of worry, for now. I pump my arms and lift my legs.
More hills. I choose my route. The Alder trail with gradual, steep inclines. Picking up my knees, I cut through what would be panic if I were not here pushing through space. Relaxing. After exerting and applying discipline I am coming back. Back to the crunch, the tight breath, the pumping of my arms.
The next hill is steep. It is smooth earth. I can smell it, the dried soil. I can see dark green in young trees cut back by dogs, walkers, and runners. I notice my mind shifting. It is changing slightly from thinking to noticing. I feel stronger. I feel my chest opening up. This is helping. I start to relax. I step lighter and hear more in the forest. Confidence settles in, in my stride. On leveled trail with a quick clip I don’t have to say the words “I can do it,” I’m feeling it. I’m into it. I feel more “now”, with less worry. Breathing feels circular, firm.
Wandering thoughts catch up with me. I release and come back to the clip in my pace. Fading again I notice the darkness in my mind. Not struggling, I let it rest. Some people I pass seem open to “Hi”. Others I want to respect their space and don’t make eye contact. Lonely but not alone.
Softly the light on the leaves shifts, streaming white spot on dark green leaves. The trail has changed, it is wider and the brush is lower. I head down hill and feel relief. I’ve moved through stiffness and feelings of being stuck. I know my run is ending and there is dread of going back but I feel stronger, straighter, able to take things in and then out.
Activating my mind and body together, I’ve reached a more still mind. Just for a moment, still mind, means everything. Even if for just now.
Kristen Mullen lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two daughters ages 7 and 9. She is a long time student of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. In addition to being a full-time mother she is currently studying for a Masters in Divinity at Maitripa College. Kristen has passion for dharma study and practice. She is a trail runner and loves being outdoors. Writing is a tool she uses to express her experience of combining running and meditation practice.