How to Focus Your Body and Relax Your Mind
"Focused spaciousness"… Katherine coined this phrase years ago when she was describing the state of mind she experiences when she applies the ChiRunning and ChiWalking focuses to her movement. You might think she was talking about focusing her mind while relaxing her body. But, what if you switch the words in the phrase to mean the inverse: focusing your body and relaxing your mind. I would say that most, if not all, of the tension I feel in my body, actually originates in my mind. Many times, when I'm running, I catch myself doing small things that keep me from relaxing and moving as easily as I could. When I'm uptight about something at work, I hold tension in my chest, making it more difficult to breath. When I'm trying too hard, I tense my face. When I'm running late, tension floods my shoulders. Sound familiar?
It's pretty easy to see that the tension I feel in my body is only a side effect of the tension I carry in my mind. It all starts up there in my noggin and I'll bet the same is true for most people.
So, what's the antidote for mental tension? Give your mind something positive or constructive to focus on, or something that is more expansive to think about.
Let's say you're out on a run and you start to feel some little pain in your knee. Your mind can go one of two general directions from here. On one hand it might go down the path of focusing on the physical pain, or the despair and frustration of running in discomfort, in which case your body might begin to feel tense around the situation. If you continue along this path your mind might expand your sore knee to mean any number of fabricated projections of what the future of your running career might look like. Or, you might feel bad about yourself for getting hurt. You might curse your running shoes, or the person running next to you who seems to be pushing the pace. It's a rabbit hole and a downward spiral of energy as your level of emotional and physical tension increases.
On the other hand, you could point your mind in a positive, constructive and expansive direction. Use your mind to sense what might be causing the pain. See it as "just another sensation," as an ultra marathoner once told me. Approach it as a mystery to be solved… knowing that the right clue might lead you to eliminating the pain altogether. Then, you'd be using your mind as it was designed to work… sifting through data banks and stepping back to allow a solution to unfold. This is an expansive approach that will lead you along the path toward hope and possibilities instead of the gloom and doom of your first option. It all depends on which way you allow your mind to go right from the onset.
The former option leads toward a narrowing path and the latter keeps the path wider. You're focused, but you're focused on the right things. And, you're more relaxed because instead of being a victim to your pain, you're the master of your situation… rolling down the road in a state of focused spaciousness. The practices of ChiRunning and ChiWalking are designed to help you to always keep the option of choice alive.
Enjoy the ride.