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Mixing Running and Meditation

Speaking with Buddhist leader and runner Sakyong Mipham meditattion and his new book about running.

“Our inner running definitely helps us in our outer running. Through prayer and meditation, we can develop intense will power, and this will power can help us do extremely well in our outer running. Meditation is stillness, calmness and quietness, while the running consciousness is all dynamism.” – Shri Chimnoy (Spiritual teacher)

For Shri Chimnoy and many others who have run long enough to lose themselves in thought or feel the calm thoughtlessness or moments of focused concentration during running- there certainly seems to be a relationship between running and meditation.

In my hometown of Halifax there is a Buddhist center tucked away downtown not far from Point Pleasant Park, one of the favourite local running spots. I have been to the Buddhist Centre (Halifax Shambhala Center) and sat uncomfortably with my tight runner hamstrings screaming while trying to meditate. Not long after, as coincidence would have it, I met its leader while working at the local running shop, he was shopping for running gear; I believe as I was looking into Buddhism, he was looking into running.

I was intrigued then but only now many years later, did I get the privilege to communicate with and write about this runner and spiritual leader.

Spiritual leader Sakyong Mipham sporting running gear.
Spiritual leader Sakyong Mipham sporting running gear.

Sakyong Mipham
Sakyong Mipham is a Tibetan lama and the leader of Shambhala, a global community of meditation retreat centers (including one in Halifax) grounded in realizing basic goodness and an enlightened society through daily life. The 50-year-old, who looks younger than his years, has close-cropped hair, and a smile that always seems genuine and is also a father to a young daughter born in 2010.

He is also an avid runner who has completed 9 marathons. Sakyong Mipham teaches all over the world, using his unique blend of Eastern and Western perspectives to the benefit of his students in North and South America, Europe, and Asia. As well as being one of the world’s top mediators and spiritual leader, Sakyong Mipham has a personal best of of 3:05 for the marathon, which he ran at the Chicago Marathon in 2006. Other marathons he has run include Edmonton, NYC and the famous Boston marathon.

Reaching out to the spiritual leader after my interest in him was sparked by the publication of his new book called “Running with the Mind of Meditation.” I had the privilege of asking him a few questions.

When did you begin running and why?
“I began running in 2002 for a number of reasons. At first it was about getting physically stronger and connecting with the environment. Then, it started to take on more social qualities, like making personal connections with people and running for good causes.”

What role has running played in your role as a spiritual leader and in your personal life?
“Since running is a big part of who I am, it naturally affects my teaching on meditation and my personal life. For me it has always been an integrated experience. When meditation came to the West, it was disembodied and dissociated from regular, daily activity. But the tradition of meditation is actually about being very present and very embodied – being engaged with what is going on personally and culturally. Disembodiment causes a lot of the stress that is prevalent in our society. But, as I say in the book, “Movement is good for the body and stillness is good for the mind.” It really comes down to having a healthy relationship with your own life.”

What does your book about meditation and running give insight into, and why should someone read it?
“Running with the Mind of Meditation talks about synchronizing the body and mind beginning with physical exercise. If you can bring these simple meditative principles into your daily routine, not only will your workouts be more rewarding, but your whole life will become infused with those good qualities.”

What races or marathons have you completed and how do you choose where and what race you will run?
“I have completed nine marathons and one half marathon. They were all very different races, but the one thing that they all had in common was the sense of connecting with the environment and the community. No matter where we run, there is always a feeling of communicating with our surroundings and those around us. Whether we are running in a city or out in nature, we can connect in a very immediate way. At the same time, it is essential to communicate with those around us. This kind of connection and communication is a part of being alive. It inspires us and makes us stronger, allowing us to communicate with the world in much subtler ways.”

My often-feeble attempts and problems with running may be tied to my lack of mental fortitude and maybe I need to not only look to train my legs but also my mind. Running can do so much good and can be used to help many overcome many challenges, but regardless of beliefs, religion or marathon times, a focused, clear and peaceful mind always comes in handy.

Run on Sakyong Mipham. Welcome to the Canadian running community when you are amongst us.

Do you have a story to tell or know someone who does?


To learn more about Sakyong Mipham.
To learn more about his book, “Running with the mind of meditation“.

See you on the roads or in the blogosphere.