Running is Zen In motion

I never liked running. I thought it was too physical. Exhausting rather than enjoyable. Then, my wife had an accident and went through ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) reconstruction surgery. The surgery replaced the ligament in her right knee with a graft and metal screws. She used to train Taekwondo and was good at it. After gruel rehabilitation for 6 months, she found limitations in her choice of sports.

“We should try jogging!” she said, one bright Sunday morning in the fall.

Not to betray her new-found, overdue excitement, I said, “Sure.” That’s how I got dragged in.


Knowing nothing about running, we ran for 1 minute and walked for 1 minute for 30 minutes. We ran 3 times a week. In 1 month, we could run 12 minutes, alternating with 3 minute walks. We never talked about quitting. It was painful for me to see her limping, knowing that she was an accomplished athlete. For me it was more of a sympathy run. For her, it was a battle for her dignity.

To reduce our pain and struggling, we learned about how to run correctly. We tried different breathing techniques. We changed our diets. Running slowly but surely began to change our lifestyle.

We ran through the winter. By spring, we had collected memories of the streets, brooks, changing colors of leaves, a half dozen state parks, and all sorts of passing thoughts. For the past 15 years, we have run in Hartford, Boston, New York, London, Seoul, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and wherever else we traveled. We proudly finished 2 half marathons.

I have learned to like running.

Running is moving Zen. It makes me happy. It brings problems and struggles to the surface. It gives me time to regurgitate them, chew them, spit them out. Because running in nature broadens my awareness of my inner self and the outer world, by the end, I am quite far removed from the problems and see things as they are. Office life could never do that.

Only in running, the sole of the foot meets with the soul in the mind.

8 Tips for Mindful Meditation

Daily meditation is a good investment for your mind health. But how do you make it an enjoyable event?


First, find somewhere you will not be disturbed, and sit.

Start with your own body. Being aware of your physical body is essential at the beginning and middle of meditation. The mind is hard to grasp and control. But once you are aware of the sensation of a part of your body, you are succeeding in herding your mind. So look at what’s already under your control. Your hands, for example. Open your hands wide, glance at the entire palm, and count the fingers. One, two, three, four, five... Now take look at the centers of the palms, one at a time, back and forth a few times. Then, place your hands on your lap.

Are you comfortable? If not, move around your body and stretch the back. Then erect your upper body so that your spine and neck are aligned vertically. It helps the shoulders and the arms relax. If you are still not comfortable, identify the part of your body that causes discomfort. Move your body around, forward and backward, and find the right posture for you. Check to see if putting a cushion or pillow under or behind you would help.

When you’re ready to begin meditation, these tips can help:

1. Take a deep breath a few times. Expanding your lungs has a calming effect. It provides more oxygen to the brain and body, and keeps the brain fresh.

2. Use the posture that you like. Familiarity lessens distraction.

3. Set a time limit. If one minute is all you have, just do it for one minute. Be flexible to take advantage of any available time and space that fits your situation and feelings.

4. Sit still. Make sure you do meditation, not a battle. If it becomes a battle, cut it short. Have multiple breaks. You don’t have to be a master meditator from day 3. Be realistic. Be generous to yourself. Take as many breaks as you need. And enjoy the moment of meditation fully, even if it is just for 30 seconds.

5. Walk around during the breaks. Stay away from the meditation spot. Stop thinking about meditation. Shift your attention to new things that you see, hear, smell. Is there a new thought popping up in your mind? Pay attention to it. Is there any new sensation in your body? Pay attention to it. You don’t have to try to figure them out. Pay attention to them, but don’t engage with them. Rather, find the mind that detects them. Discover the mind that senses what you think and feel, from the start.

6. Trust your own feelings from your body. Be mindful of your breath! Breath control is the key to regulate the body’s response to your feelings. Thoughts may fleet from one moment to another. No matter how uncomfortable your sitting may be, your thoughts can escape but the body can’t. Your body is the ultimate judge of where you stand. When you ride on the flow of your feelings of the body, you have already contained your mind. If not, you are battling.

7. Look inside of the mind which feels your discomforts and struggles. You become the observer of your own mind from a distance.

8. Look outward from the inside of the mind and examine you. Who are you? Who is the one who looks into your mind? Where are you from? Where are you going to? Is it you who looks into your mind, or is it someone else that you think you are? Or, are they the same? Or, doesn't it matter? Try to look inside out and outside in to see how you really feel and think.

5 Step Mindful Meditation

The purpose of meditation is to find the true nature of self. We can do it by emptying out what is not real in us, by discovering what is our real self as much as we can, by feeling the attainment of that real self, and finally by letting go of all-real or not real. Each time we meditate, we renew ourselves. We get a little bit closer to the true nature of ourselves. Meditation is intriguingly dynamic. It is a series of infinite waves. Like surfing, once you learn and discover your ways of floating on the waves, you can ride as far and deeply as you can.

5 step meditation 1a.jpg

A good set-up at the beginning is important in meditation. Like traveling, meditation needs direction before starting your car. Randomly taking off can lead to disaster for a beginner. It can turn into a physical pain and mental torture, sitting in an uncomfortable posture for minutes.

Having a goal, however, can alleviate the burden and make the journey purposeful, meaningful, and even joyful. Counter-intuitively, have a goal to set your mind free.

But the nature of the mind seems to need to be shackled to be set free. If not, it may bore you to sleep or run away or quit. Here are my thoughts about entertaining your mind to keep it mindful of being mindful. You may customize my suggestions for yourself as you journey.

1. Observing

When I meditate, I keep myself casual. Initially. Nothing particular in mind. I relax my attention. Just like watching waves rushing in and retreating from the shore. As this watching continues for a few minutes, my attention gradually finds its way to a certain element or force or energy.

This is when I draw an imaginary circle in my mind. This, I found, depends on the status the mind in the moment. The size, color, shape of the circle often are different. I pay no special attention to forms. Just being aware of everything. Not ignoring is the key!

5 step meditation 1.jpg

Then, I make an entering gate at the top of the circle and an exit at the bottom. I just sit with my legs crossed and watch the gate. Soon many thoughts try to enter from all different directions but I intentionally guide one thought at a time to enter the gate. I am in no hurry. Taking time, watching the thought enter, wandering in the circle. When I see it exit, I allow the next guest to enter and repeat the practice.

I am often tempted to look somewhere else, finding many thoughts about my mind, seeing who's entering. Thoughts feelings worries ideas foods friends work regrets weddings letters blogs rain shoestring guitar birds...I see hear smell taste...

All look special. Everything appears to need my particular attention. Overwhelming!

2. Recognizing Evenly

When thoughts enter my awareness, I number them. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7...

Reflection in meditation reveals many layers inside. Peace resides between layers of troubling thoughts

Reflection in meditation reveals many layers inside. Peace resides between layers of troubling thoughts

I am a human so everything I see, hear, smell, touch, have some attachments to my memories and feelings and opinions. Some thoughts and feelings are so particular that they draw attention toward bias. They often throw my balance off. So I try to give everything the same importance or non-importance. Acknowledging everything equally keeps my mind at even levels and detached. Soon, none become special, all look the same. Acknowledging this is the key!

3. Being Aware of the Observing Mind

Now that things that are in my mind are not so special, I can be aware of them without bias. I can see them as they are without emotional attachment. It requires much less mental effort. My brain calms down. The muscles relax. I pay attention to breathing. At breathing in, I observe my breathing self. At breathing out, I observe the self who observes the breathing. It is this observing mind that I truly observe!

4. Taking Hold of the Experiencing Mind

I see what I see now from renewed perspectives. No attachment. No bias. No worry. No fear. So I allow myself to stay in this moment as long as I want. When I get disconnected, I return to #1. Start over again. I focus on my breath. A few long slow deep breaths take me back on track. It gets easier after a few months of practice. At this stage, I can experience what my mind is experiencing. It is a tranquil awareness of my renewed self. It makes me feel light and jubilant. Profound.

5. Let go

After taking hold of my light self, I reflect on what I go through from the new self. Its like seeing myself within myself. Many things that I did not understand in the past suddenly have some light shining on. Making sense of things help me be in peace. Then, the things I discovered gradually drop off. Like waves at the shore, new experiences enter. I let things go.


Partially I want to complete my mindful meditation with a positive ending; and partially because I want to leave what I have experienced right there and start fresh next time. After this emptying meditation, much more space is made in me. That was the way it was to begin with after all.

Homecoming! A void above the horizon that lures me in again.

Paradox of Mindfulness

Being mindful isn't intended to mean being vigilant at all times. Indeed, quite the opposite is true. The ultimate experience of being mindful occurs when we forget about everything, even the mindful self and doing. A paradox it is that to be mindful one must not try to be mindful, and to not be mindful, one must be mindful.

Can we cut it short? The answer is yes. We can skip the mindful thing. How? By just doing what we like to do when we feel like doing it in the way we feel the best. No thought, no mind. It's a vacation of the mind so to speak. You kick the mindful thing out of the equation from the start.

Total physical immersion with mental emptiness. Just doing.


For most of us, this is quite a challenge. As in a rock climbing we use a niche or a thing to place a foot or finger in to grasp, we need somewhere tangible to place our mind. Something to think about or focus on keeps us oriented. It anchors the mind to a specific moment in time preventing it from fleeting. It keeps our awareness contained within our body so that the body does not do things randomly.

Once the mind is contained, the body can fly.