jog around the block. It was all I had time for, but I needed it to clear
my head. I had gone all weekend without exercise; when I do that, I
feel groggy and out of touch. I lose my edge.
Before I tell you my realization, some context. I’ve recently been
trying to emphasize the role of meditation and mindfulness in my
life. I was never into that sort of thing previously, but I have found it
enormously effective at getting me into a productive and positive
headspace. At clearing my head.
That’s the goal of meditation: to clear your head. To achieve a state
of mindfulness: an awareness of your body. Those seem like simple
and achievable tasks, but in reality they are difficult. If you don’t
believe me, try. Close your eyes and don’t think about anything
except your breathing and your body. Be in the moment. Then stay
that way for minutes on end. Maybe it comes easily to you; but for
me, it’s a matter of seconds before my focus tends elsewhere.
Yet as I jogged along this morning, on a brisk but sunny Fall day, my
focus was in the moment. My eyes were on the road (or sidewalk)
ahead of me and my feet moved in rhythm. As I sprinted up a hill,
the cold air burned in my lungs. The strain and exertion of the
moment purged my mind of its idle chatter. It was mindfulness. I
was meditating. Without even realizing it.
My realization was this: Sports are a form of meditation. Exercise is
a form of mindfulness. These are ends unto themselves. They are
self-fulfilling by design. When you practice and compete, you not
only nourish your body and mind – you nourish your spirit. You
accumulate precious minutes of meditation and mindfulness,
without even realizing it.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set goals or strive to achieve them
– but it does mean that you have achieved something regardless of
the outcome. There is immense value to clearing your mind and
minding your body, and doing so is not easy. It is an achievement,
and recognizing it as an achievement is paramount.
As I crested the hill and started on the downward slope, my heel
caught a loose curb and I stumbled into a second realization. I
realized the fragility of both my body and the moment. You can’t
take either for granted. They are not only achievements – they are
also gifts. They are opportunities.
As I steadied my footing and regained my balance, I was overcome
with appreciation. The value of the physical abilities and athletic
opportunities granted to me were suddenly that much clearer. I was
grateful for the moment, thankful for the opportunity – even if it was
only a quick morning jog.