Why are you ALWAYS running?
I’ve spent a lot of time running. Running on pavement, and sand, and trail. Running away from problems and challenges. Running away from things that scare me. Running away from thoughts. Running away from change. Running away from me.
I remember the first time I felt that freedom. I was in a private Alexander Technique lesson and my teacher, Betsy Polatin, saw that I was holding onto something, hold back from releasing a huge physical impulse. My body was stuck and it was freezing my evolution as a person. With her encouragement, I found that my body wanted to run, to escape, to get out, and to reclaim the right to choose whether or not it participated in each and every situation.
So I started to run. The more I did, the longer distances I conquered, the more free and alive and present I felt. My runs usually helped me subconsciously untangle thoughts or problems or anxieties. I put on a killer playlist and let my mind wander far away from whatever troubled me. An hour or more later, I am no longer bothered. I feel like I can choose again.
I had a really interesting experience recently on a run. Shocker, I feel very vividly. So when I received an anxiety-inducing email the night before, I woke up with thoughts that felt like a hundred people yelling at me in the middle of a sidewalk while a fleet of fire engines and police cars with sirens blaring roll by. That’s a lot of mental noise for 7am on a Saturday morning.
This particular morning, I tried to listen to some of my favorite songs and it felt like the chaos inside of my head amplified. I’ve been making playlist for a long time. It’s roughly 25 percent of my job. My resume looks like “special skills: curating music for experiences, avoiding problematic people/ideas/ situations”. I usually make playlists for runs, but that morning I did something that I haven't done in years. I turned off my Spotify and listened to the thoughts come and go. It was like experiencing myself for the first time. Suddenly, self-deprecating doubts untangled themselves from facts. Suddenly, I saw the problems from multiple different angles. Suddenly, I found five new and more creative solutions that I hadn’t seen before.
Why are you running? What is so terrifying that you feel your only option to distance yourself from it? When I started running, I needed the music to give me something other than my torrent of thoughts to focus on. The music, the way my cadence fit inside the experience of each song, allowed me to avoid chaotic thoughts. Running away from thoughts and problems does not solve them. It’s uncomfortable, but you’ve got to run straight into them and deal with them. This impulse came from a place of feeling helpless. I didn't want to engage with the problem because when I engaged directly, a cascade of doubt overwhelmed me. What if I put everything out there and I fail? What if they tell that I am not good enough for what I am asking for? The fear was so paralyzingly that I couldn’t focus on potential solutions.
There are many iterations of me running away: moving to different cities, changing jobs, literal running, and my yoga practice. At one point, all of my movement practices were avoidance tactics. When I practice with such attention to detail, my mind had no other choice than to leave everything else behind. It's served me well, until recently. As I spend more time in this world, the challenges and decisions I face grow. Running away is no longer the best option.
I've started to bring big decisions into my yoga practice instead of leaving them out. Yoga consistently teaches me to encounter big choices, big fears, big feelings, with grace. It teaches me that I will not succeed every time I try something new, but if I keep practicing with integrity, I will continue to move forward. When I’m working on an arm balance or a particularly challenging inversion variation, I breathe, focus on what I need to do to succeed, recognize where I'm at in the moment, and then do the thing. I was on this run, coming around the north path of the Jackie Onassis Reservoir and it hit me: THIS IS PRACTICE! Watch those thoughts. Acknowledge their existence. Get interested in them without giving them all of the power. I'm trying to dilberately and compassionately make more choices in my life. Anything that I do by rote, stops being a choice. What happens when I do the thing that is not habit? What happens when I choose the uncomfortable? That's the space where growth lives.
What are you running from? Why do you feel like your only choice is to run? How can you courageously choose to encounter whatever that thing is and soften in the face of it? How can you choose to respond with creativity and compassion?