I am not a runner. Or at least that is what I told myself all my life. This limiting belief changed in my last vacation to North Michigan, where we rented a house on Lake Michigan. I don’t know if it was a combination of the clear waters, gentle breeze, the soft earth below my feet, and the whispering trees or just the fact that I was in a new place, that beckoned me to run. I felt propelled to join my husband and nephew, who are runners. I started out with them at a warming up pace for them.
I am not sure how long we had been running before we reached a cross road. My heart was racing and I was ready to stop. But before I stopped I wanted to know how far I had run. I asked my husband if we had done a mile. He looked at his Surge watch (Fitbit tracker) and replied, “.18 mile.” OK. That certainly felt like a mile to my pounding heart. It was clear that I wasn’t going to be running with them. They turned left and I turned right. I decided to go on my own, at my own pace, for however long I could manage. I told myself that I can stop whenever I wanted. I had no goal other than to take this one step, and the next one, till I could no longer take another step.
To my surprise I ran longer and farther than I had anticipated. According to my phone I had run 2.15 miles that day. I later discovered that my phone was off by some, but I had still run about 1.5 miles even though I was ready to give up after just 0.18 mile. Over the next few days I increased the distance I ran and was running more than 2 miles (which of course my phone was showing as 3 miles and felt pretty good). Regardless of how fast or how long I ran, this was an excellent opportunity to observe my mind and body during an activity I believed I could not do. Jogging for me became a mindfulness practice that also helped me break out of a limited belief that I had about myself.
I am using jogging as an example, but the same process can be applied to any limiting belief we have about ourselves.
Be present to this step: Let go of the weight of expectations
If I had thought that I am going to run for 2 miles or even a mile on my first day, I would have given up before even trying. Based on my past experience there is no way I could see myself accomplishing that goal. In later runs, I noticed that every time I thought of running 2 miles, I would feel like there is no way I can do it and would want to give up trying all together. Instead, when I would turn my attention to the immediate step, and the next one, I was able to run longer. The practice is to stay present to each step without any expectations of how many you can take.
Being present to each step without the weight of expectations of how long or far I will run, allowed me to run longer and farther.
I noticed the same process at work even in writing my book. When I think of the whole book and what a big endeavor that is, I feel stuck. And as soon as I bring my attention to completing just this one idea or page or chapter that I am working on, I can keep going.
Moving through the few moments of resistance
The other interesting thing I have noted about running or any other challenging task, such as writing, is that it is natural for resistance to come up. And when it does come up we can remind ourselves to not give in. Assuming you are not risking yourself in any way, move through the resistance, don’t stop. After a few minutes of experiencing resistance, which can take the form of racing heart, fatigue, and other thoughts or emotions that make you believe that you cannot go on, you will discover that you can go on. In my mindful jogging, I find that after a few minutes of initial resistance, my heart beat settles and there is more ease in my stride. In writing it can feel like I go into a state of flow after moving through the initial resistance.
When you experience resistance, remember you are not your thoughts or emotions. When you don’t give in to your limiting thoughts, they lose their power over you.
Stay open to new experiences
I am certain that if I had not gone on a vacation to this new location, I would not have ended up running. It was being in a new place that gave me the opportunity to step out of my routine and try something new, which is gradually becoming a new addition to my mindfulness routine for a healthy mind and body. It is said that 95% of our decisions are based on our unconscious thinking that is shaped by past conditioning. It is easy for the mind to go on autopilot and stay stuck in old beliefs. By exposing ourselves to new situations, cultures, experiences, and activities, we create opportunities to question our beliefs that limit us.
When we are open to trying new things and not afraid to fail, we awaken to the joy of being alive and the infinite possibilities available to us to create a life that is meaningful.
I am grateful for this vacation planned by my husband that created opportunities for me to continue to explore my limiting beliefs and discover new ways of living and being that are compassionate, wisdomful, and full of mindful vitality.
To learn more about mindfulness and how it can benefit you or your organization, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the upcoming classes in Downtown Mindfulness.