As the summer begins to fade into the arms of autumn, I estimate the number of sunny days I will have left to run in the sublime. For me, running is especially enthralling in the summer. The wide open spaces that are extended with endless sky, the warm air cushioning your muscles, the smell and sounds of life all around you. I run because I feel like part of something much larger than myself.
This feeling is not mine alone. It is shared in the testimony of countless runners, bikers, hikers, kayakers etc. Can it really just be the bouts of epinephrine that keep us coming back for more? Or is it something much larger than that? Something physical. Something emotional. Something spiritual.
“His gut kept telling him that there was some kind of connection between the capacity to love and the capacity to love running,” writes Christopher McDougall in the book Born to Run, “…both depended on loosening your grip on your own desires, putting aside what you wanted and appreciating what you got, being patient and forgiving and undemanding.” McDougall explains that running feels so good because it is what our ancestors used to do. It was our communion with the earth. It was our way of participating in this great world and this cycle of life. “Perhaps all our troubles – all the violence, obesity, illness, depression and greed we can’t over come – began when we stopped living as Running People.”
Psychological research has come up with lists of good reasons to run. Improve your mental health by lacing up those tennis shoes. Memory, relationships, blood pressure, and positive thinking are just a few of the things that exercise has proven to nurture. Can it really be that simple? Take a jog and improve your quality of life? The statistics say yes…but why?
In this age of technology, civilization and national security is it possible that we’re so removed from our primitive roots and impulses, that exercise becomes a reminder of that ancient type of existence? A portal into a realm that exists beyond thought, and allows us, or forces us, to use all aspects of the self; physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. A period of time where we are in each grueling moment. Seconds seem like minutes and then vanish. We are suddenly interconnected with everything around us. The ground we are navigating, the air on our skin, the sweat on our back, the people we pass and weave around, the hawk that bursts out in front of us, the hot sun on our faces. We are a part of something much larger, much safer, much more eternal. This burst of intuition gives birth to energy and hopefulness.
My run is over. I feel satisfied, renewed, whole. Not because I willed my limbs to carry me swiftly for four miles, but because I surrendered to the engulfing arms of the universe.
The Spirit of Therapy
Where psychotherapy interacts with our mental, emotional, spiritual, physical and relational wellbeing.