Sunday, February 7, 2010

My Mortal Eccentricity

Running barefoot down a heavily populated bike trail isn't for the faint of heart. Of course, first is the discomfort experienced by the foot after years of being pampered in comfortable shoes. But second, and perhaps the more difficult challenge, is being aware of the fact that you are that freak on the trail that everyone is puzzled by.

An unlikely character made this second challenge a piece of cake.

I've been reading The Dharma Bums. The book is about the Beat generation, and follows the journeys of a man as he seeks nirvana. At one point the protagonist is living with his mother, jobless, his hair long and shaggy, hanging out in the woods meditating every day, and frequently spouting off Buddhist philosophy like "Everything is empty but awake. Things are empty in time and space and mind." Obviously many people in town thought he was a nut job. I kind of think he's a nut job.

Personally though, I have been very impressed with how comfortable he is with being different. And something he said about this really impressed me. He says, "So what did I care what the old tobacco-chewing stickwhittlers at the crossroads store had to say about my mortal eccentricity, we all get to be gum in the graves anyway." Well put.

My experience consisted of a 1.5 mile run to a public pool where I swam a mile, and then a 1.5 mile run back home. It was exhilarating. The ground was cold and slightly wet from yesterday's rain. I filled up a small backpack with a towel, a bottle of water, and my swim card. And then I took off. There is a lot of required concentration on the present moment when you are running barefoot. Foot placement is a big deal since a wrong move can mean that a sharp rock gets jammed up your foot. So I was continually focused on the task of foot placement, and making sure to keep my knees slightly bent so that they could catch my fall if I made a wrong move.

I recently read that one of the tenets of zen running is to spend time concentrating on the moment, not the past or the future. This run really helped me accomplish that, as I was literally forced to focus on the way my feet struck the ground. Looks like I may be on my way to nirvana as well...

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