Buddhism

Minimalist Marathon: How To Be a Tuning Fork

Adding miles each week is a sly proposition. If you could run 12 miles nonstop one week ago, what is another four to six this next week for the long-run day? (A good trainer--see previous post--builds up your momentum and helps you find you groove.) A slow build with cross-training, tempo running, interval running, and weight lifting in between makes the mental game a little more palpable. 

Here is how I have digested, parsed out the distance, which intimidated me in the beginning...

Know six miles by heart.  I have grown to love a six-mile stretch. It’s my map of what each segment of a mile looks like. There are curves and hills to fog any feeling of a straightaway. A straightaway can be daunting because it looks forever in your face and your legs clip at a cadence of approval (or disapproval). Cut the whole distance up into chunks. Chunk it! Only focus on one segment at a time. Knock each one down to know you're one mile closer to the goal.

Inversions: post-run ritual...out with the old blood, force pump the new blood for active recovery. Plus, the vibrations in your legs feel amazing after pounding the pavement for hours. And it just feels good to lay down once you are inside.

Inversions: post-run ritual...out with the old blood, force pump the new blood for active recovery. Plus, the vibrations in your legs feel amazing after pounding the pavement for hours. And it just feels good to lay down once you are inside.

Dive into suffering. The more you try to avoid suffering, mask it with resistance, the more it comes back in various forms and harder then ever. When running, if something aches, I focus on it, shine a light on it in with my mind, and work through it. 

Trust the struggle, the fireball in your legs. Envision a glow ball of light entering through the top of your head into the muscle region screaming and kicking, and let go of the pain...because you are a journey. 

Rule out nothing; engage all senses. The metaphor of the mind-body-spirit paradigm as a tuning fork came from Most Intimate: A Zen Approach by Roshi Pat Enkyo O'Hara. The distinction between self and other blurs the line when in the zone of Zen. And running is Zen if you allow yourself to get there. It takes practice, awareness, and conscious effort. 

The science of running and the meditation of running together can change the shape of your experience. Check out how mind can alter the science of you by these two medical doctors, one from Harvard Medical School and Tufts Medical School, both of whom authored Super Brain. Their book weaves consciousness with hard science.

All of your senses work together to heighten the realm of experience. This is why I no longer run with headphones, as I think they are a distraction of the real purpose of running, as it has become “movement meditation” for me. I let things come and go to my mind with non-attachment. Slip in and slip out go the thoughts. Miles evaporate. Minutes tear down.

Running can make your thoughts disappear, allowing them to slip in and slip out, without "thinking" about them.

Running can make your thoughts disappear, allowing them to slip in and slip out, without "thinking" about them.

 

 

 

 

Minimalist Marathon: How To Select the Training Type

For five months I had fallen into a runner’s nightmarish rabbit hole of marathon training advice thanks to curiosity and a Google search window. The more reading I did, the more confused I felt, the less resilient in my stride.

Marathon training was virgin territory for me. Training plans abounded online and in books as one-size-fits-all approach left me self-diagnosing my abilities. I decided to stop thinking I could figure it out and instead enlisted an expert, but finding the right person became a recipe of variables.

Find a Parallel Energy Source. There were two local trainers that I scouted based on their credentials. I tried out their group exercise classes. First up: Mr. Barky Orders. This particular fellow nicknamed me “Rookie” and liked to scream this moniker across his circuit and spinning classes. His tactics were not motivating to me. I did not need verbal breaking down for the inspirational build up; life’s disappointments and a list of failures got that job done. The work itself should do that, not someone’s mouth.

Find the personal trainer who mirrors the energy you want in your life. Decide if his or her methodology will help you weather the ups and downs of training.

Find the personal trainer who mirrors the energy you want in your life. Decide if his or her methodology will help you weather the ups and downs of training.

The other personal trainer: Mr. Buddha-Nature. Andrew Loscutoff is one even-keeled, humble, calm, congenial fitness expert, with a catalog of exercise science, wellness, and health books lodged in his brain. He will not dispense much unless asked. And if you do ask, then he is direct, clear, and to the point. His spectrum of response is quiet to encouraging to everyone no matter his or her fitness level.

Loscutoff, a former collegiate standout athlete and elite-level mountain bike champion, embodies stillness though he labels himself Type A, as he continues to push himself outside his comfort zone and asks that you do the same for your life. “It's that living life in the comfort zone is disrespecting the gift we've been given. A life truly begins on the outside of comfort,” he said.

Seek out the kind of person who motivates and inspires you when taking on a long haul, intense goal, like training for a marathon. Our energies matched.

Find the personal trainer who mirrors the energy you want in your life. Decide if his or her methodology will help you weather the ups and downs of training.

Let Your Guard Down. I have been very honest with Loscutoff about my average 10-minute mile abilities and starting later in life to become a marathoner. I want to break that pace each day I get out there to train.

Being truthful about progress is the opening of your inner sanctuary, sometimes a successful and disappointing place at the same time.

Being truthful about progress is the opening of your inner sanctuary, sometimes a successful and disappointing place at the same time.

He knows I am not out to win the race or place in my age group. I surrender and confide daily training outcomes on a log. Surprises to disappointments dot the worksheet. Lying about progress to him or myself will not make the race easier. Sit your ego down, better yet, strap it down and tell it to be silent.

Surrender to the Poetry in Running. Some people are not very good at quiet—being quiet, listening to quiet, acting quiet. I am great at quiet. I could medal in quiet, of all things. Running and training by yourself requires intense self-time. 

Breaking through resistance, head on, leaves you with a different version of yourself on the other side. Running, you may also find, is a physical poem.

Breaking through resistance, head on, leaves you with a different version of yourself on the other side.    

Breaking through resistance, head on, leaves you with a different version of yourself on the other side.

 

When I hit those times of resistance, whatever day of the week I am training, I remember what poet Charles Wright said in a New York Times interview. “Poetry is the dark side of the moon,” he said. “It’s up there, and you can see the front of it. But what it is isn’t what you’re looking at. It’s behind what you’re looking at.”

Going into the endurance of a mental-body-spirit resistance is where I find the motivation to change and thrive. And sometimes I find the answer in a world where words do not live.

The Zen teaching of Master Lin-Chi once said, “There is a self—a true person of no rank—that just flows in and out of the holes in your face.” May your running shoes clip along the pavement and life flow through you in the cadence of go....

new project

There's something in the works....and it begins with two stanzas from a William Stafford poem (which will  be revealed later). Little did I know his words would set the tone for what was to come....

Here I am reading William Stafford's poetry collection with a delicious chai tea latte (with lots of cinnamon). Crack of dawn, perched from my kitchen's barstool. Taking notes, plotting moves, looking through rough cuts and stills....and writing words. Overall, a great way to start a day.....

Here I am reading William Stafford's poetry collection with a delicious chai tea latte (with lots of cinnamon). Crack of dawn, perched from my kitchen's barstool. Taking notes, plotting moves, looking through rough cuts and stills....and writing words. Overall, a great way to start a day.....


Illustration Friday: natural

Call it backlogged with life, art, exercise, and family. Blogging, or sharing, has taken a backseat. While reading my daily dose of NYT, I came across this great op-ed essay. This portion pulled at me:

I also realize that spirituality and making art are not such different practices. Both call upon the animating force of the unseen. As a writer, I can’t really explain it, either, what I do or how; when I work, I may look like someone staring uselessly into space.
— "Is God Just Not That Into Me?", Stacey D’Erasmo, Modern Love section of New York Times

My tall German girlfriend, also a private yoga teacher to the Malibu elite and fabulous, and I used to spend our afternoons talking about Buddhism, Hinduism, mothering, spirituality, and mindfulness, while we ate raw avocados sitting across from each other on park benches and felt the Southern California sun on our faces and exposed arms. When I perform yoga each day I think of her and that warmth. We haven't seen each other in over a year but still write when we get a chance. We're not the social media type--her an ocean gal; me a woodsy gal; we're offline most often.

As I've been spending nearly all my time in the studio working on a larger piece of work, I think this little illustration is appropriate for Illustration Friday. She mediates starting at 3:30 in the morning. I begin drawing at 5 in the morning. Art is my meditation as I drift into a space way beyond myself. Do you have a space like that?

 

Buddhist Mantra of Sternum Bloat . Mixed media on paper. 2014.

Buddhist Mantra of Sternum Bloat. Mixed media on paper. 2014.

absorption of limitless space

The weekend library visit prompts much deliberation each day I devote to reading prose, poetry, philosophy. Here is an excerpt from one book that engages me.   

“One will again suffer, grow old, and die. Thus for Buddhists the final goal should be a supramundane path, one that leads out of cyclical existence altogether and which results in either state of Buddhahood or at least the more limited nirvana of an arhat or solitary realizer.”

Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, John Powers

Here are some images from my mundane world…which is close to earthbound nirvana for me. A random sample from living a simple life:

 

the art of learning

Yesterday a Swiss man who sounded like Gerard Butler came to the cabin. A former forestry worker, now a log cabin maker, he told us about our place and about an infected log in need of preservation. I asked about the man who built it. He said he was a calm man, a Buddhist, and still around.
     Mr. Guy who resembles an ATF vested agent on the back of a Humvee smiled next to me and said softly, "That explains a lot." He knows how drawn I have became to our homestead, as it leapt out of nowhere from the map. All along I have told him it is part of our dharma. He rolls his eyes at me most of the time. 
     This morning, with hot tea in hand, heading to the studio hut, I saw the light, the tree, the long grasses I've been cutting and tending. And this is why we live here. Simple images, as this. Surprises with each step. Shall I mention the bird calls? Too pathetic, sentimental? Perhaps, but glorious winged creatures they are.
     Before digging back into work, I read parts of Tricycle Magazine. Here is an excerpt from a semester ending speech from Seido Ray Ronci, monk/professor at University of Missouri. What can you glean? For me: a continuation of everything. 
"Socrates said that the unexamined life isn’t worth living. It was true then and it’s true now. Ideally, an education is to help you live a fully examined life. You learn the important questions to ask. You learn how to seek for the answers to those important questions. And when you find the answers, you learn how to make sense of them. But you never can stop asking questions. There is one question of many parts that is the most important question of all: who am I; who was I before I was born; what happens when I die? This is the ultimate question that all human beings are confronted with, and that wise human beings have always aspired to answer. Until you understand that—what most people never do—there are many, many questions to ask. Education teaches you not just how to ask questions but also what questions to ask. The more you learn, of anything, the more questions you will have. In short, a good education teaches you how to learn for the rest of your life."
     Here is the article in its entirety. Have a good weekend. And examine your truth....namaste.

the clarity of non-essentials

A few days back I travelled deep into the forest to hang out with some locals who spend a lot of time in Nepal and practice Buddhism ethics. Some help run orphanages in Nepal. Others run village libraries. Some deliver stretchers to villagers and climbers on Mount Everest. The chef at the party had cooked for base camp at Everest. She rocked out the Nepalian spices and vats of delish vegetarian and vegan options.  

Upon leaving I took this image, handheld of the party's house at peace. The inside glow, the outside glow, it all flowed.

Each day I take on one more mantra of living the Buddhist way. This time, it's about the clarity that rises when you shed all non-essentials. I spent Sunday only doing what was essential. And a whole realm of creativity and lightness opened up, which had been clogged from non-essentials. Awareness: that's where it's at in all aspects of life and love and peace.