Running. It’s never been my thing. As a child I ran around in the woods at play, but the kind of running for exercise many adults do I simply never really enjoyed. I found it to be hard work, sweaty and honestly rather boring. Recently, however I have found an amazing way to incorporate it into my life in a contemplative, meditational manner. I have begun to go on these runs several times a week, often earlier in the morning to avoid the heat of the day. It has helped tone my body, burn stored fat and pretty much get everything inside circulating and moving and flowing. The body is a living eco-system and things are meant to be hydrated and moving on the inside. But of course, we are more than our bodies and there is much in our mental and emotional bodies which need to flow as well.
I began running one morning when I realized that although I was an Environmental Educator and hiked throughout the week, as much as nearly five miles a day at times, it was not enough exercise for me and I needed to work on more cardiovascular and upper body exercise. I do not belong to a gym or go to the YMCA and it isn't in my budget currently. In a moment of frustration, I decided that none of these things were going to stop me from doing what I needed to do to meet my health intentions. I put on some shorts and a quick-dry shirt, filled my camel-back with water and headed out onto the street.
Living in the Mesa Junction part of town has many advantages for sure, close to the Public Library, local family owned restaurants and coffeehouses, local potters and artists, a historic tavern and even a small community garden. The building I live in is about a block from the Historic Downtown which has many small shops, galleries, salons, coffeehouses and pubs. It is also close to the Arkansas River.
I walked downhill toward the Union Street Bridge, increased my pace a bit and began to focus on my breathing. Arriving at the bridge I made my way over to the stairs and did a few preliminary stretches utilizing the railing and concrete blocks nearby as aids.Then down the stairs I went to the River Walk which runs the length of the South Side of the Arkansas River section which flows through the downtown area.
I began to jog along finding a comfortable pace and watching my breathing harmonize with the pace. I began to notice the steady beat of my feet and the rhythm of my breath over it and thought of it as a kind of music. As many poets, dj’s, and lyricists have pointed out, music can set up the initial patterns of thinking in the mind. Often, if there is a beat or a musical phrasing, a lyricist or writer can begin to put words in. I find this is true for me. As a poet I have used music a lot in this fashion, and at times the words just seem to fall into place. It was the same with the music I was experiencing kinetically from the physical movements of my body; the steady beat of my feet, the rhythm of my breathing and the swinging of my arms. Words began to fall into place; they were simple and positive at first, repeating simple inspirational phrases. Something like “when things are tough” thump-thump “I keep going” thump-thump “I don’t stop,” but as I went the phrases began to get more complex. I began to think about the fact that I was being the person I wanted to be right now, not intending to live a healthier lifestyle, but that I was DOING the thing that needed to be done to manifest those intentions. I was running toward my dreams by actually choosing to be as similar to my dream as I could in the moment. I was burning stored calories which I began to see as essentially ridding myself of the past which was lingering and moving or transforming my body and self toward the healthier, fitter and more vibrant being I desired to be.
Part of my regular contemplative or meditational practice involves a journal or a workbook in which I write out the lists of things I want to do or experience as well as lists of things I am grateful for or ways I would like to think of my life. I use a lot of Intention, Gratitude and Positive Affirmations in my personal work especially when transitioning through major times of change. I find that the focused clarity and frequent attention to these things can have a dramatic effect on the quickness and accuracy of my ability to shift from one kind of energy to another.
Before I knew it my mind had turned its attention on the areas of my life experience I wanted to shift or attract as well as areas that I wanted to expand into or allow to flow through and away from me.
It was at this point in my run that I came to the bridge just east of the Santa Fe and I-25 overpasses where the River Walk crosses the River.
I stopped in the center of the bridge and faced the oncoming flow of water which was a very apropos image for the interior work I had just been doing.
I began to watch the water and recount aloud the many things that were flowing to me in life or that I intended to flow to me in life, things I wanted to increase. It seemed to just flow out of me, specific items from many areas of my life. The things I loved about my perfect loving relationship, the abundance and financial opportunities that were flowing to me, gratitude about many dreams and goals I had achieved in the last few months. I began to get a very elated feeling of joy which I recognized as very good energy to resonate with and it inspired me to deeply feel the feeling of joy as I imagined all the things that were flowing to me in my life and many that I intended to flow to me.
When I had exhausted this listI turned and faced the river in the opposite direction to see the water flow over a small spillway and on out East towards Pueblo’s Historic East Side and further to the agricultural lands of the Mesa and beyond. Focusing on this image of the river flowing away from me I began to list the things in my life that were flowing through me and away, old patterns, old emotions, old ways of coping with challenges. I recounted anything I could think of that was appropriate I recognized as something which may or may not have been effective or advantageous or truly loved and enjoyed but which no longer had a place in the person I was in the present moment and the future self I was creating.
When I finished with this I knew I was done with that work and turned to continue my run. I was elated at the use of the natural flow of the river as a visual and contemplative aid in doing personal inner work. I felt I had found a new method of exercising that was invigorating and important to my overall health, a way to run and work to improve the body, mind and soul. I continued to run on around the Runyon Lakes behind Runyon Field, past a nice frog pond.
After a bit of time watching the ripples of large and mysterious fish in these ponds and checking out the frogs along the bank, I continued running and decided to keep left and head back around the lake with my eventual goal being to run to the Historic Union Avenue area.
The trail crosses a few small bridges and it occurred to me that this same flowing meditation could be practiced at any of these bridges or any stream. It even occurred to me that depending on ones environmental limitations one could make use of trains or the flow of traffic along a highway to do the same flowing meditation.
The trail crosses a land bridge between two lakes, one large one closer to Sante Fe Avenue, and behind it another smaller one closer to the confluence of the Fountain Creek and the Arkansas river.
On the North/East side of the lake I was surprised to encounter a stone-lined labyrinth. It is part of the Mahatma Gandhi Peace Garden which is not very well maintained or used as far as I can tell, however the paths are fairly weed free where people walk and someone had watered the few plants and cacti in the stone beds.
I decided that I should walk through this circular maze with its winding pathway toward center and out again. I knew there were therapeutic properties to the walking of labyrinths, things having to do with the right and left brain and possibly some deeper things dealing with psychological flow, but I was no expert, so I simply walked the labyrinth and got back on the trail to run some more.
The River Walk continues on alongside the larger lake and as it heads toward a parking lot for those visiting by car it passes another frog pond full of frogs and cattails and wonderful reflections. After making it's way through the parking lot it returns to more natural settings again as it runs along the creek which flows into the lakes. This path is lined with many flowers and birds are everywhere at this time of year.
Beyond this stretch, the path makes it’s way back into the more urban areas and reemerges to interfaces with Pueblo’s urbania by running underneath I-25 and then safely over Sante Fe Avenue via the Faye’s Crossing pedestrian bridge and then connects to the Historic Arkansas River Project River Walk. I ran along the neatly manicured greenbelt park and around the new Veterans Memorial Bridge and on into the Union area before heading back up Union Street, past all the shops and over the bridge back up to the Mesa Junction neighborhood of Pueblo I now call Home. I was greatly inspired by the beauty of the opportunities around me to not only meet my fitness intentions, but that there was more nature very near my neighborhood which I had never really explored.
I have been running this trail for over a month now and have seen Deer, Hawks, Fish, Frogs, a red Coachwhip snake, Swallows, Sparrows, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Mallards, Cormorants, a pair of Osprey fishing even what I believe to be a Beaver swimming in the lake near the creek It's good to break the mold, get out there and do it!