Friday, July 6, 2007

cycling = prayer, swimming = meditation

Shortly after I got into cycling that activity became an important part of my spiritual practice as I was able while cycling to immerse myself in nature, to slow down, and to open myself to receiving the wisdom of the world around me as I moved through it. In my conception of prayer as listening rather than talking, cycling presented a perfect opportunity: lots of time, lots of data, the regular bodily motion creating a trance-like state. I learned a lot about myself and God while cycling.

Running, though, and now swimming as well, doesn't work like that. The physcial requirements are simply too intense. There's no room in my brain for any thoughts except concentrating on the proper technique. And if my mind does begin to wander the physical situation itself: the foot hitting the ground, or the need to breathe in the water, bring me back immediately to the task at hand.

It's the difference between the thoughtful state of prayer, and the mind-emptying goal of meditation. Both are spiritual practices, and useful, but in entirely different directions.


jfield said...

I've found the same spiritual experience in running as cycling, though not in the swimming. I think this is because the swimming is so technical. I'm just now finding the ability to swim at a pace where I can float with the water in a way that allows me to enter a space kind of like that with cycling. Of course that may be the benefit of my short course triathlon, I may be able to handle each section without maxing out. Now a little over a month into training I find that I can get pretty meditative during the 2nd or 3rd mile of running.

I pulled a 27 minute 3 mile run today and am pretty excited. This is on top of 1200 yards pool swimming and about 15 miles of biking yesterday. Very apprehensive about open water clinic tommorrow.

I am really glad you wrote this because I have been thinking about this very thing. I think cycling has made me a theist again.

Rev. Ricky said...

eventually I got to the place with running where I could forget the technical part and release my mind somewhat to other thoughts. But the difference for me remained in the fact that with running you have to run every step, there's nothing akin to the coasting you can sometimes get to in cycling. I expect as I get better at swimming the experience will also move in that direction.

Edward said...


Ed says, "Your muscles have to learn how to swim to do it out of memory. Then you can relax and meditate or pray."

But I've been taught that once your muscles memorize the routine you have to move to another sport. The sport is about athleticism (sp?).

I am amazed that you can find a "runner's high" and meditate almost everywhere. I'll keep trying! Reading your blog helps me to just relax and breathe. Does that count for meditation? I hope it's a start!(Eve)