Posted by: M.C. | 7 February 2011

The Taming Power of the Small

So where do I start on this attempting to consciously cultivate and regain my right mind? That is, what does this cultivation look like? During most of the past five years, running has been my main physical/spiritual (yes, I’ve used that word; say it with me: spiritual) practice. Over that time, I ran one half marathon, three marathons, a seven mile cross country race, and a 5k. But 2010 was the first year in that span in which I didn’t participate in a race. Racing itself isn’t such a big deal to me; frankly, it can be more stress that it’s worth at times—at least my anxiety has been. If I had simply decided I didn’t want to race anymore, I’d be fine with that. But the truth is I haven’t been in any shape to race because I haven’t been training; I haven’t been running each day, putting in the miles, putting in the time. I have had no real routine to speak of since the end of 2009. The adjustment to a new, fulltime job just about a year ago has a lot to do with that. It released an internal jumpy need to be produce, be active, make things happen, and as a result not much good has been happening inside me. Another problem has been dealing with winter, which puts me out of shape and out of sorts when spring comes, which makes the heat of summer intimidating. Or so the story goes. Don’t misunderstand. Plenty of good fortune continues to come my way. I have met and worked with interesting people, I have my wife and my young son, and my teenage sons are doing well in another city with their mother. I have no real complaints or problems; nothing is wrong. None of this, though, has added up to contentment, which means that I need to adjust not so much my circumstances as my sense of myself, which aspect of my life that I am most discontented with. I realize now that I’ve become so externally focused that I’ve convinced myself that I’d feel great once everything “out there” fell into place. But that’s now where the disorder is.

So I just went to the library where I work and am checking out a tai chi video to use. I took my first class something like 15 years ago, and I’ve returned to it from time to time ever since. I don’t need any big steps or grand statements. I need something that I know I can keep doing. I need to spend some time breathing and moving in place, then breathing and moving through space when I get running again. Small things. Each day. And that, I try to remind myself, is what spiritual cultivation looks like. Small. Slow. Continual.

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