Everything you can do can be a meditation (even if it’s 26.2 miles long)

6 April 2022 | Becs Mansfield

Last Sunday I ran the Manchester Marathon. At beanddo we say everything we do can be a meditation…

In a recent weekly Monday Morning Modern Meditation we explored meditation practice outside. This conversation gave me a big nudge in the right direction. I promised the beanddo team I would put my meditation techniques to the test and set the intention of meditating running a marathon

So what happened?

I’d like to mention this marathon was my third, so I do have experience doing it differently. And like lots of things there is no right or wrong way of doing it (well maybe when my grandad did a marathon carrying only cigarettes and a lighter!) – It’s all just experience and whatever feels right for you. 

If you’re not interested in running, please don’t stop reading – this marathon is just an example. This is about shifting your attention so anything you do can be a meditation.  

Preparing for the marathon I knew that to bring my full attention to where I am and what I am doing meant no headphones. Music or a podcast brings your attention to just that. I often listen to music or podcasts when I’m walking or running – it’s the best time for me to listen to music or podcasts because it has my full attention. But I know it can be very easy to use music or podcasts as a distraction from feeling uncomfortable. I’ve often started longer runs practicing being present for a while, but then as I start to feel tired plugged in my headphones for some much needed distraction. But what is really happening right here and now? So challenge accepted. I would run without the comfort of headphones. I would open myself up to the experience fully. 

Joy or speed?

I wasn’t ready to let go of my running watch although I knew I would be distracted with tracking my pace. I am aware that running with my tracking watch challenges me to run faster, but I do know this is also ego driven. My attitude towards running at a consistently strong pace so I achieve my personal best. Essentially so I can then share this new personal best with anyone who will listen so they know that not only I can do a marathon, but I can do it fast too. Admittedly for the first 13 miles I was running at a strong 9 minute mile pace and running with the 4 hour pacer person. If you haven’t ran a race this is someone who has a big flag on their backpack suggesting if you stay with them, you will do the race in the specified time. After keeping this up for miles I decided to let the 4 hour pacer person go. I was aware my attention was on not losing the 4 hour pacer person. And I was missing out on everything else. You could say I chose joy over speed. 

We’re human, we ebb, we flow

In meditation practice we bring our attention to the action, and not our expectation. Expectation takes you out of the present moment. Instead we practice simply observing what is really happening. Quieting our minds from describing or analysing everything. If you’re new to meditation this may sound tricky, but it’s all just practice – and some days you will find it easier than others. We’re humans – we ebb, and we flow! When I removed the expectation of running at a faster pace, I focussed my attention on the action. I observed my body running. I experienced the feelings and sensation in the body. This was indeed a sensation of burning in the legs and bum area. I noticed as my body was running for me, it just knew what to do. Endless running no matter storms, water balloon blisters, COVID recovery, “I’ve had enough” moods and the rest… It’s learnt behaviour. When we notice our body in action, we are coming into the present moment. Our body is always in the present moment, not like our mind when often our attention is elsewhere. This is a technique we use in meditation; we can practice noticing our fingers, our toes and expand our attention to our whole body. How often do you walk down the road and don’t remember the walk because you were lost in thoughts of the mind? By bringing the attention to the body and to the present moment we can shift from unconscious reaction to conscious action. 

Opening up. Feeling awake

When we direct our attention to the present moment our awareness grows and expands. I noticed a dad and his young daughter dance whilst supporting. I read signs saying “I miss you” with pictures of loved ones’ faces. I laughed at signs saying things like “Run faster… I just farted.” I enjoyed a couple playing pots and pans music in rhythm (sort of) to tunes playing out their speakers. I danced/ran under a bridge playing loud techno music. I high fived and fist pumped kids supporting, some wearing superhero outfits and handing out sweets. I connected with other runners along the way, a felt sense of unity with this shared experience. These are just are handful of events I witnessed. After the finish line I had a runner probably twice my age (I’m 29) say to me “You look how I feel” – and I thought that was brilliant. You may think that you’d notice all of this wearing headphones, or running at your goal pace, or not intentionally switching on these meditation techniques – and maybe you would. I’m saying by using meditation techniques I switched on my awareness skills and opened myself up to as much of the sensory experience as possible. 

I feel like I really soaked up the experience. But here is the small print:

“We were made for joy and woe,

And when this we rightly know,

Through the world we safely go.”

(William Blake)

Opening up to the full experience does not mean grasping at the positive and resisting the negative experience. It means accepting fully what is. I found the run very emotional. The support from the supporters and from the other runners. People running for Ukraine and people running for loved ones. A quote from Love Actually “love really is all around” and as we say at beanddo “the world is made up of love”. I really felt the love. I felt all the emotions. And all the burning pain in my legs and glutes. Instead of feeling like the run came and went in a fog, I remember it with a lot of clarity.

I really felt awake. 

Find out more about upgrading the way you think, feel and act in the world:

Learn more about the beanddo Modern Meditation techniques here that will help you strengthen your attention skills

Join Modern Meditation Coach Becs for her special online  course to help you create positive habits.

Join Mick, Becs and the rest the  beanddo family every Monday morning for a live online Modern Meditation session.