Mindful May Challenge - Week Three Monday 17th-Sunday 23rd May
A week by week challenge to explore mindful running throughout May
//Week Three – Allowing Thoughts
Welcome to week three of the Mindful May Challenge. If you missed week one and two you can always go back and read the introductions and catch up with the invited practice too if you want to.
In week one we began to explore our experience and senses while running, noticing the sensations in our bodies and noticing what our senses are experiencing in our environments. Week two invited us to use the breath to anchor us in our moment by moment experience within our body.
In week three the invitation is to notice and make friends with our thoughts.
Our minds have a tendency to wonder off, to chatter and comment on everything we are doing, to get lost in planning, analysing, judging, worrying, criticising, daydreaming, etc. known as the ‘Doing Mind’
The vast majority of our thoughts are caught up in the past and the future, thinking about what’s happened before and/or what’s going to happen next, but we are rarely present with what is happing now. A huge amount of our thoughts are also repetitions of thoughts we have already had (all that worrying and going over and over everything, it’s the same thoughts again and again with no difference in the result!)
There is a big myth about mindfulness, that somehow it’s about magically emptying our mind and getting rid of all our thoughts…. I’ll give you a moment to try it, good luck! If you try not to think at all, what you will experience is a whole rush of thoughts, it’s just not possible. And it’s not what mindfulness is about. What we are doing with mindfulness is learning to see the thoughts for what they are, and by noticing them as an observer we are practicing not getting caught up in them. We bring a sense of kindness and non-judgement to the process, and as discussed in week two, we notice them and then guide our attention back to the breath, in the here and now.
You can also practice labelling the thoughts as they arise, such as ‘past’, ‘future’, or ‘planning’, ‘judging’, ‘analysing’, ‘worrying’, or ‘old thought’, ‘repetitive thought’ Giving it a label like this can help us to remove ourselves from getting caught in the thought and let it pass, each time returning to the breath or sensations in the body.
When I first began bringing mindfulness to my running I realised my mind was bombarding me with thoughts about how I wasn’t a runner, all sorts of criticisms and struggles would fill my mind telling me all the reasons I wasn’t a real runner and would never improve my speed or endurance. Yet all the time these thoughts were filling my attention telling me I can’t run, there I was running. Labelling the thoughts as ‘criticism’, ‘judgement’, ‘fear’, and ‘repetitive’ and paying attention to my breath, my body and my moment by moment experience, one foot in front of the other, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out, allowed me to let the thoughts come and go as they pleased without them having a negative impact on my experience.
We are not our thoughts, we can allow our thoughts to be there without giving them all our attention. And this is the challenge for week three.
Meditation: This ten minute meditation on Sounds and Thoughts helps to practice letting thoughts go, relating to them in the same way as external sounds, just noises that arise and pass Practice with this once a day and then bring the practice to your running
Running Challenge: When planning and getting ready for you run, during your run and after your run!
Notice your thoughts and practice labelling them and letting them arise and fall. Remember to bring kindness to your experience as you notice critical thoughts or random thoughts, or perhaps noticing thoughts about how hard it is to notice thoughts and let them go… notice how you will have thoughts about your thoughts, notice how silly this is!
With each thought, see it there and then let it go, remember your breathing anchor practice to help you do this. Also remember that the real power of this mind training is the continual nature of noticing and letting go, noticing and letting go. The repetitive movement of the mind in this way strengthens the minds muscle that will then allow you to develop your ability to focus.
You will likely get caught up in your thoughts many many times, this is okay, this is the training. With kindness and non-judgement know that at the point you have become aware you are caught up in your thoughts once again, it actually means you are back in the present moment so well done!
*Read: Mindful Running, Mackenzi L. Havey
*Read: Finding Peace in a Frantic World, Mark Williams & Danny Penman
*Watch: Mindfulness Dissolves Thoughts, Attention is What’s Left Over a 5 minute video with Jon Kabat-Zinn
*Watch: Observing a Train of Thoughts a really simple 2 minute video that explains the idea really well
*Watch: How mindfulness changes the emotional life of our brains | Richard J. Davidson | TEDxSanFrancisco
There are also some great mindfulness apps available to explore such as Insite Timer and Headspace, both of which have fee and paying options for multiple guided meditations.
//Don't forget, I'm here if you have any questions or want to chat anything through, Ema xx
From your home
Led by Ema Quinn
(she/her) Liverpool Area Activator, mountain hiking beach wanderer at heart, a surprised runner, and wild swimming wannabe.
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