Born to Run?

Aug 24

Image by godber

I’m running again.

After a multi-year layoff during which I had my kids, I started running about a month ago, with the support of my husband, my sister-in-law, and the geniuses behind the Couch-to-5K running plan.

I love the way I can be in the moment when I run.  I notice the dappled sunlight on the corn fields I run past; the mama deer eyeing me suspiciously, then dashing off into the woods as I plod past her and her fawn; the old train switch being overtaken by the undergrowth, going back to nature.  I feel the slickness of the dew on the trail, feel my laces tickling my ankles.  I smile and greet the family of four, the mom pushing the double-stroller, the dad jogging ahead and then back again, keeping pace with his family while getting his exercise, performing that balancing act we parents know so well.

One foot, then the other.  I just go.

I’ve also been trying to sneak sessions of yoga into my weeks.  Life has been, well, hectic these last few months and I figured that yoga would help me find my center, calm me down, remind me to take deep breaths.  Yoga has done that for me in the past, and I’ve always thought of it as a touchstone, a place I could come back to again and again, to be that girl once more, the one who practiced most days, who found refuge in the studio.

But I’m not that girl anymore.  And the yoga’s not doing it for me right now.  Part of that might have to do with the fact that my town doesn’t have a yoga studio, or even a decent yoga teacher, so it’s been me and Shiva Rea and my worn-out DVDs on my laptop in the basement.  And it’s hard to find your zen when you’re fighting both monkey brain and periodic crashing sounds from above (Lego towers continue to be built and demolished upstairs no matter what I’m doing beneath).

With yoga these days, I can’t seem to find my flow.

According to University of Chicago psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow means “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”  

Whatever stock you put in the current happiness industry, it’s hard to deny the power of flow, wherever you find it – in your work, your hobbies, or your relationships.

When you achieve flow, you’re not thinking about it.  It just happens.  And so I fear I jinxed myself by going to yoga seeking something.  Instead, I found flow where I was looking for something else – outside, on the running trail.  I went in for some time alone, a chance to get back in shape.  And what I’m finding are some of the best moments of my day, where goals and worries fall away and I just am.  In the flow.

Where do you find your flow?  

Have I mentioned that I’m a huge Bruce Springsteen fan?  I suspect that the E Street Band definitely knew all about flow.  To wit: