In the last year I have not only started running, but a week later I also started a Spiritual Direction program. For me these two “programs” have carried over to one another and crisscrossed all year! So when I stumbled across the book, Running – the Sacred Art by Warren Kay I felt a stirring within me to do something with it.
In the forward of the book Kristin Armstrong says, “I read someplace that it was possible to enter a state of meditation by monotonous movement. This is my sacred space when I run alone, this is my ritual, this is my sanctuary! I find God here, waiting for me, matching my pace. As my breath gets less jagged and my stride settles into my unique patter of effort, I find inner stillness cradled in outer motion. Through that stillness I have found a great deal of peace. After a lifetime of panting I finally caught my breath.”
As I read this I recognized my journey – just in reverse. This person was saying that they struggled with meditation and eventually found it in her running, whereas I would say I was searching for the “outer motion” that would cradle my inner stillness.
I’ve heard stories for years of runners who pray during their runs. I know someone who told me that was when she did her rosary every day was during her daily run. My husband and I have done some biking in the past and often when I encountered a hill I didn’t think I could get up I would pray the rosary or a mantra of some sort to put my focus someplace other than the seeming insurmountable hill. I learned that praying through those physical challenges, just like praying during any crisis in life, is a wonderful way of surrendering to a power greater than you! So, when I started running I knew that I wanted my mind to be focused on God. Don’t laugh, but in the beginning – those first few runs – my “music” was the Divine Mercy Chaplet – a great mantra to focus on during those first few weeks. I eventually moved on to iHeart Radio and one of their Christian stations. But for me keeping God centered in my run was an important, even necessary, part of running. The days when I get to an easy comfortable stride I feel the presence of God flowing through me to where I feel I like I don’t want to stop! In his book Kay focuses on the spirituality of running – how running is a spiritual practice. In the Introduction Kay identifies three main aspects of spirituality and spiritual health:
- Establishing a right relationship with oneself: Basically what the author wants you to consider here is how do you feel about you? Are you happy with your life, or do you often look for what you don’t have that others do have? Do you see yourself as ‘enough’ or do you more often see yourself as missing something? This is something that I struggle with at times – especially when it comes to being physically active. I’m learning a new mantra when I want to give up because I am too slow or not as fast as others – “I am enough.” It’s often easier to see the areas I am lacking in rather than to be okay with who I am and what I am capable of. “I am enough
- Good relationships with other people: Here the author suggests that we look at our relationships with others and evaluate the quality of those relationships. Do you have relationships based only on what the other can do for you? Look at some of your close relationships – identify the give and take. Part of my Spiritual Direction “homework” is to take time to process some of my conversations and one piece of that process is to determine what gift did I bring to the conversation and which gift did I gain from the conversation. Try this: after you have an encounter with a colleague, a friend or family member, take a moment to consider: what gift did I bring, what gift did I receive?
- Good relationship with God: Throughout this book/this month of July, we will spend time exploring this third aspect of spirituality. For now I want you to start at the basics – who is God to you? Who is Jesus? Who is the Holy Spirit? How do you relate to God? How do you wish to relate to God?
I don’t often journal, but with my running I’ve been considering it more. Kay suggests that we journal as a way to grow as a runner, but also to help us to grow spiritually. By daily journaling we can keep track of any basic information that can help us in our running – what we ate, where we ran, what the weather was like, etc, etc – whatever you feel can be helpful as you look back to see patterns in your behavior. The second benefit to journaling is to jot down your spiritual experience on your run. I don’t know about you but sometimes when I run my brain works through problems or frustrations and it is during my run that I gain insight or a sense of peacefulness. There are times when I am running and something that I haven’t thought about for awhile comes racing to my mind, and as I run I spend time with it and it’s good. Consciously recognizing any of this is helpful. At times things you write into your journal may not be things you are consciously thinking about, and so through journaling you may find the more concrete understanding of what God was revealing to you on your run. Journaling can also be motivation for your next run.
Whether you journal or not, throughout this blog I’ll be adding in some of the journaling questions that the author suggests. I encourage whether you use written format or not that you take some time to reflect and consider the questions. So here is your first: Looking at the three aspects of spiritual health:
- Right relationship with oneself
- Right relationship with others
- Right relationship with God
Name 3 things in each area that you are not happy with that you know can be improved. Then name 3 things in each area that you are very happy with. Consider these lists as you go out to run over the next several weeks. As you allow yourself to run with these positives and negatives begin to listen with your heart as you run!
I’ve been playing around with a “journal” page to help me keep track of things – feel free to check out what I have done or start our own.