Mindful Monday: Where’s Your Focus?
I was out on a long run last weekend and noticed I was feeling sort of listless; not much energy in my legs, and not particularly feeling much fire in my heart. It was like I just found myself out on a run. I not only wasn't sure how I got there, but I wasn't sure if I really wanted to even be running. Having found myself in this situation a few times over the years, I tried to think back on what in my recent past might have led up to this rather unsettling discovery. Jeez, I teach this stuff… I should love it all the time!
Upon looking back over the previous few days, the answer became all too clear. I'd been traveling and teaching for three days with very little quality down-time for myself. What I was feeling was the need to re-gather a sense of myself after all the output of the weekend (fun as it was).
Okay, so here I am out on a run and I need to settle in, rest, focus and hit the reset button all at the same time. What do I do? There were lots of things I probably could have done, but what I did next came quickly and naturally. I simply set my eyes to focus on a tree about 100m ahead and let everything else fall away. I didn't think about how spaced out I was feeling. I didn't focus on fatigue, on breathing, on cadence or foot strike… all I did was focus on that tree as it came closer and closer. Then, as I approached the tree I intuitively shifted my eyes to my next focus, a patch of bright yellow leaves in the far distance directly ahead of me. If I noticed any thoughts coming into my mind, I brought my attention back to the leaves and simply allowed those thoughts to fade into the background.
I don't remember how many times I repeated this process, but after awhile I began to feel more energized; my legs were no longer tired; my spirits were lifted and I was enjoying just watching Nature pass by like an endless 3D movie. I was BACK! And, I had found my way back by simply doing what felt natural and easy… getting out of my own way and adding focus to an apparently unfocused situation.
In Chi Running it's called Y'chi; using your mental focus to help align your energy flow. Sometimes "creating the conditions for energy to flow" (my favorite tag line) means relaxing and NOT focusing. At other times the opposite is what's called for. Whenever you come to that dilemma, trust your body to know the best answer. As Yogi Berra famously said, "When you come to a fork in the road… take it!"