Buddha

Being and Doing

 

As I lace up my running shoes, I let out a long, drawn out yawn. I feel tired from the previous week of training. I am about to meet up with my training partner, Anne Shadle. I am secretly hoping she’ll agree to running slow today.

 

I tell Anne my plan to run slow. In her I-can’t-take-you-anywhere-outfit, she says, “let’s start out slow and see how it goes.” Somehow we both know that this means we are running fast, today. Our first mile was 7:10 and before long we were clicking off 6:30 miles.

 

I started babbling about how I am enjoying this uncomfortable pace because sometimes we need to feel uncomfortable, first, in order to feel comfortable, later. Anne nods in agreement (well sort of). After a few minutes she tells me to listen to the sound of my shoes as they land on the dirt path and to feel the cool air as it washes against my face.

I’m about to say, “Anne, why are you blowing smoke up my…” when I’m immediately distracted by flow. Flow is the merging of action (doing) and awareness (being). Flow happens when there is a perfect balance between a challenging, yet attainable, task. It’s the ultimate mind and body relationship (Hummm… Anne has a really good point).

 

Athletes love to do

 

The doing is action-oriented and future-focused. When you have a problem, what do you do? You solve it. About 2 miles into my run my body was screaming at me I’M TIRED! My instinct was to solve what my body was telling me (the doing). I relaxed my arms, and then my face (action-oriented). I thought about the relief that I’d feel when I was done (future-focused). But just as Anne had pointed out, earlier, I wasn’t listening to what underlies the process (the being).

 

Athletes need to be

 

Learning to be engaged in the present moment is a behavior that can be taught. The being means letting go of the past and future and focusing on the now. I started my run focused on wanting to go slow and wanting to feel comfortable, but as the run progressed, Anne challenged me to connect with the present moment. It worked. I felt an immediate sense of joy and relief.

 

How to mesh what we love with what we need

 

Flow is merging the doing with the being. After the run, Anne and I reflected on how it went (What? We’re researchers. Sometimes we can’t help ourselves). Anne tells me that uncomfortableness needs to become our routine — something that we come to expect and embrace each day. Once you start to feel comfortable with uncomfortableness, then you can establish a new level of uncomfortableness. It’s within these new levels that success happens.

 

Imagine layers upon layers. There layers are your goals. The higher the goal the greater the discomfort (y-axis). Also, the time in which a goal is accomplished is unknown (x-axis). The only thing that is know is what each layer is made up of — the building blocks that get you from one layer to the next.



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Now, imagine each level is packed with little blue and red blocks that fit together like a puzzle. They are not stacked on top of each other, nor are they sitting side by side each other. Rather they work together in a system, each drawing upon the other for energy. The blue blocks are the doing where thoughts, actions and feelings take place. And the red blocks are the being where your mindfulness, presence, and consciousness hang out.

 

If you’re like me, then you probably have more than one goal going at a time. The path to accomplishing these goals takes time, patience, perseverance, trust, but most importantly, it takes being and doing. I’ll end with this…

 

“The best way to be is to do” – Lao Tzu, Ancient Chinese philosopher.

 

Thanks for reading

The Tao of the 800m

There’s an old Taoist story about Confucius, a Chinese philosopher and teacher, who witnessed an old man slip and fall into river rapids that led to a dangerous waterfall.  Confucius and his followers rushed downstream to save the old man, despite the likelihood of his survival. To their surprise, they found the old man unharmed, walking along a path, and singing to himself.  Confucius approached the old man and demanded to know his secret, “how does one survive such a fall?” The old man replied, “I go down with the water and come up with the water. I follow it and forget myself. I survive because I don’t struggle against the water.”

The old man learned about the balance of nature in his youth, and he has been practicing it ever since. My blog “finding your stride” is about my journey to find equilibrium.  We can’t expect running to go smoothly all the time and the same things goes for life.  Breaking barriers can’t be forced, instead we have to practice flowing with the river rapids. Here is my take on the Tao of the 800m.

What is the 2-minute barrier?

For a female one of the biggest barriers in the 800m is the 2-minute mark. For a runner to accomplish the 2-minute barrier she’ll need to average just under 60 seconds per lap. Now, let’s put this feat into perspective. Last year, 5 American women ran faster than 2 minutes, and 9 American women clocked in right at the 2-minute mark.

Chasing the 2-minute barrier reminds me of the old man is the story. You go up with the water (good races) and you go down with the water (not-so-good races).

About a month ago I had a not-so-good race (2:07 at the Oregon Relays). Naturally, everyone was asking me what happened. I was even asking myself the same question. I spent the next few hours trying to figure out what went wrong before realizing I was wasting energy.

Two weeks later I raced at the Payton Jordan Invite and ran a season best (2:02).  Good and not-so-good races are a part of chasing the 2-minute barrier. Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing because when you do nothing, and just flow with the river rapids, things always seem to get done.

I am racing at the Oxy High Performance meet in at Occidental college in Los Angeles, tomorrow, May 15th. Please visit the official website for entries, results and live streaming: http://oxyhp.runnerspace.com/

My race strategy this Thursday is to do nothing.

Thank you for reading! I hope this story adds value to your journey of “finding your stride!”

What’s Your Buddha?

 

We all have desires.  We set goals, make commitments, and chase dreams with hope in our eyes and passion in our hearts.  Every journey begins with a possibility – enjoyable yet challenging job, money to live comfortably, healthy children full of love and joy, and time to spend with friends and family.  We don’t think about the suffering and hardships before they happen.  In this way, we are reactive beings.    

 

Three weeks ago I had a tough loss.  I placed last at the US indoor track and field championships.  Leading up to the race my indoor season was full of promise.  I was coming off back-to-back wins.  My training was at its finest.  I could not have predicted what happened next.  When the women in my race started to run faster my body had a different plan. Where was my energy?   

 

It was like preparing for a trip to France.  I googled French cuisine.  I mapped out the best tourist attractions.  I even bought the Rosetta Stone to learn French.  I was prepared for the vacation of my life in France.  But when I got off the plane the pilot informed me that I had landed in Ireland NOT France.

 

We often do not prepare for unintended circumstances (just ask the Government).  Imagine predicting the outcomes before the event takes place and then imagine this prediction as negative.  That’s like saying, “I am going to lose this race before the gun goes off” or “I am going to get a divorce before the wedding vows are said”.  Psychologists refer to this type of “before” thinking as negative self-fulfilling prophecy.  You think about the negative outcome before the event takes place. Then the once untrue belief becomes reality.  Negative self-fulfilling prophecy comes unnaturally.  It is more natural to think about the positive outcomes and then to be reactive when a bump in the road occurs.  I challenge you to embrace our reactive nature for this is your Buddha.  

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Everyone has a Buddha.  Sometimes more than one Buddha at the same time.  A Buddha can be a person, place, thing, or event.  A Buddha can be an external problem or internal conflict.  A Buddha is the opportunity to learn, grow, and reflect.  Ultimately, a Buddha challenges you to be mindful of suffering and hardships and to turn it into compassion, wisdom, and generosity.  A Buddha is when you land in Ireland after you prepared for a vacation in France.  Although Ireland is just as beautiful as France, you have to learn Irish cuisine, visit Ireland’s greatest attractions, and learn a new language.  

 

[check out this award winning documentary on the Buddha]

 

The US Track and Field Championships was my Buddha.  It gave me the chance to be mindful of the disappointment and anger surrounding such an unexpected loss.  It gave me the chance to strengthen my mind and to find joy in yet another loss after months of training and preparation. This was not my first Buddha and this will not be my last.  I love how we are reactive beings because it gives us the chance to find out what or who our Buddhas are.  By finding your Buddha, your mind finds equilibrium. When your mind finds equilibrium, you find joy.  I will share more of my Buddhas as I continue to “find my stride.”  If you are feeling brave, share your Buddha.   

Thanks for reading!