Monday Meditation: Taming the Monkey Mind

1 Apr

For this week, I thought I’d do something a little different and write about running meditation practice. The Runner’s World April issue had a great little article called The Zen Zone that focuses on teachings from Sakyong Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche, author of Running with the Mind of Meditation.

I need to get myself a copy of this!

We all know what it’s like to have our thoughts all over the place during a run. Sometimes it’s as if our inner dialogue is running right along with us. Mindfulness meditation can help tame that “mokey mind.” According to the Sakyong,

“Meditation reduces chaos and stress. When we apply that to running, running becomes a tool that brings relaxation and vitality to the body. By allowing our mind and body to harmonize, we feel more alive and strong.”


In my professional practice, I use mindfulness-based approaches to help clients achieve balance and self-awareness for mental health. Since we all have busy lives and multiple demands on time, I encourage others to develop an “everyday” practice where mindfulness is woven into daily routine. Combining that practice with a physical activity that’s already part of the routine (such as running) makes for a great opportunity to strengthen the mind-body connection. If you remember that the goal of mindful meditation is not to clear the mind, but to quiet the mind, this practice will become more successful.

Here are the Sakyong’s basic principles for building a meditative running practice:

Tune in.

  • Develop body awareness. Pay attention to what’s happening in your body. How are you breathing? How are your feet landing? How are your arms swinging? Are you tense anywhere?
  • Relax tensed areas and consider possible causes for tension. Is it running-related or is it lifestyle-related? Acknowledging the source of discomfort and/or making corrections can lead to a more relaxed and efficient form.

Think happy.

  • Engage in positive self-talk throughout your workout. Don’t attach yourself to negative thoughts that come up – they’re just thoughts, you don’t have to believe them! (I have a couple of mantras that I use to keep me mentally grounded – “I can do it, I can do it, I can do it, I’m in shape,” for the tough workouts and “Just keep going. Just keep running,” for the long miles.)

Accept the challenge.

  • You are strong and have built up endurance – trust in your abilities and take hills, unexpected weather changes, and long distances as they come and meet them. 

Love the run.

  • Value the runner you are today. We all want to go faster and farther and that’s all well and good, but to be a mindful runner, focus on the run you are currently in. In that moment you are strengthening muscles, producing endorphins, and taking time for yourself. 


Before a race:

  1. Prepare to race. Find a spot to sit and focus on breathing for a few minutes to calm pre-race jitters and remind yourself how well-trained you are.
  2. As you run, follow your breath. Breathe in for three strides, then out for two strides. Repeat. This keeps your breath deep and consistent while you run.
  3. Do a body check. Take a minute for a self-evaluation. What’s your energy like? What muscles are tight? This can help you figure out what to focus on for your warmup and help you pace yourself through the race.

Ready to develop a meditative running practice? Great! Be patient. Building any meditative practice takes practice. If you follow these tips on your daily runs, you will start to see a difference. Run happy!


One Response to “Monday Meditation: Taming the Monkey Mind”

  1. Amanda April 1, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

    Duly noted. I love learning about how to be a more meditative runner. I think it’s so important, but my thoughts always race when I’m running.

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