Running and the Art of Letting Go

Running is one of those activities that can both elevate mindfulness as well as stimulate an already racing stream of thoughts. I find that whatever I am thinking about or dwelling on before my run will be greatly expanded upon, exaggerated, picked over while I exercise. As a fiction writer, this can be productive, but when it comes to ruminating on past hurts, sometimes recriminations harden, and negative stories are spun like dark fairy tales.

Though I run on most days, once a week I dedicate my run to practicing mindfulness. I have a variety of ways to do this, some of which I will cover in later exercises. The following exercise is good for both running and practicing mindful letting go.

It’s rare that we run at the exact same pace as others, and as I age I keenly notice more and more people passing me. Instead of framing this as a negative thing, I try to accept it for what it is, and make the most of my time with these strangers. As somebody passes, I open myself up to their energy, the hints of personality they exhibit while running: you can really gather a lot by just this fleeting impression (here I give myself permission to create a story, be it accurate or not).

I appreciate the space in time we temporarily share, then I allow myself to let them go as they gradually disappear in front of me. I don’t try to keep up, just take this step to let go until the diminishing shape vanishes into the distance.

This allows for a small, manageable step toward the greater letting go: not just the person I have shared space with – and others I have had to let go of in life – but also of some residual competitiveness, and of a faster, younger self.

For more dirty mindfulness exercises, look here.

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