taoist

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!”