Month +23: Beyond the Trails

I feel like I haven’t spent much time at home lately. This is partly due to the fact that I have spent a large amount of it away, either on Scout Camp or in Devon. Devon is a long way from Staffordshire, but the 4-hour-plus car journey is a small price to pay. Life seems less cluttered and altogether simpler when I’m by the ocean. This may have something to do with the fact that when I’m away from home, I leave all the clutter behind. All that stuff that hardly gets used and litters our spaces – both physically and mentally – constant reminders that there are things to do, when in fact they are just distractions. I must admit, due to my erratic levels last month, my focus was on my illness, but now my eGFR has returned to an even keel, I have been able to switch my focus away from illness, and back towards wellness. And I have started meditating.

Meditation is something that I looked at some years ago, via an app on my phone. I thought it might be the cure for all my ills, but I saw it as a thing rather than a process. I went into it with various expectations of what it would do for me and when these didn’t materialise overnight I decided I didn’t have the time, energy, or focus to make any use of it. The app was left untouched and my subscription ran out. This was in part due to where my life was at the time. I was looking for the magic pill, the tonic that doesn’t exist, but I also found it difficult to find the time space to be alone for 20-30 minutes a day and focus. I had filled my life with distractions, as that was easier than dealing with reality. I also believed that I needed to start with a quiet mind to meditate. I didn’t realise that this is when I needed the calm of meditation the most, but we profit from experience.

Just lately I have started to wake up earlier, and this has allowed me the time and space I was looking for. It would be all to easy to fill this time with social media and news, but I know that would have been a waste. Instead, I deleted the social media and news apps from my phone and resolved to use the time productively, by re-introducing meditation into my day. I didn’t really know where to start with the internet awash with self-proclaimed guru’s, but after a bit of online research I decided that I could do worse than that lending my ear to that trumpeter of enlightened living and all-round comedic gobshite, Russell Brand. If he can fit meditation into his mad-cap lifestyle, I thought, so can I. Russell is a very good guide, softly introducing you to the various meditative practices and talking you through the process. This is quite at odds with his established and acerbic on-stage persona, but I would encourage you to give him a go. I think you’ll be surprised.

In other news, I ran a half-marathon yesterday. It was a lot tougher than I had expected and just as enjoyable. It was hot and hilly, with sand-dunes, beaches, trails and a fair bit of mud underfoot. It was also beautifully picturesque with wall-to-wall sunshine, along with blue seas and skies. The North Devon AONB marathon was supposed to be my triumphant comeback to the 26.2 mile distance, but since landing a place at the big one in London this October, my training priorities have shifted towards the autumn. Fortunately there was also a Half Marathon and 10K option, so on the day I opted for the former. I am very glad I did. Previous versions of me would have attempted the whole lot and then been fit for nothing, and effectively broken for a week or more. But thanks to a little mindfulness and self-awareness I am much better able to pick my battles. A very hilly, if beautiful marathon was not a fight I thought I would win. Today at least.

I have long said that running is my therapy, and that has not changed. I use the time to think. But for someone who thinks too much, there is definitely merit to reaching beyond the trails and noticing when thoughts enter the head, and again when they pass, without getting too attached or drawn into them. And once we figure out that anything worth doing is not an achievement to collect, but a process to be enjoyed, we begin to see the fruits of out labour. That’s the theory at least. In that sense, running and mindfulness are not too dissimilar.



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