Sunday, October 27, 2013

Aerobic Meditation

Dale Matson

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14, NASB).

As someone who completed two 100 mile runs people often ask me what I thought about during the time that I was running. My response is that I thought about everything and I thought about nothing. There is something about prolonged aerobic activity that not only produces endorphins, a naturally produced narcotic; it also produces a connection with nature and God. It provides a peaceful and righteous fatigue.

As an ultrarunner, I would sometimes run, singing in the Spirit while moving along the trails. Trail running is part of the religious experience of the Tarahumara Indians of Northern Mexico. I don’t want to single out running however, as the only aerobic meditation. Open water swimming, climbing a steady grade on a bicycle and cross country skiing are other ways that I have experienced this. There is a fundamental goodness about prolonged rhythmic movement.

You too may have been immersed in one of these activities in the context of a group as a form of social interplay where personal defenses were dropped and people discussed parts of their lives not shared with others at any other time. There is a healthy and playful vulnerability. It is similar to what is termed “Free Association” in therapy. There is a similar transference and bonding. It reminds me of the experience of community at the communion rail during the Eucharist.

For me running has always been my drug of choice on a gently rolling trail through the woods along a lake. I hear the sound of my footfalls and breathing automatically timed by my steps. Running downhill on a single track trail elicits a rhythmic dance step to avoid rocks and roots. There are things about each of the other activities that appeal to me also. It is difficult to describe the joy of a good road bike with highly inflated tires on new asphalt and a tail wind. It brings an almost effortless ride where bike and rider become one. Cross country skiing is fast on a freshly groomed trail over new powder on a sunny day with no wind. It is wonderful to hear the squeak of poles striking cold snow. The ski strides are confident and one’s balance sure. A fresh glide wax wards off sticky transitional snow as the day warms. Swimming is an adventure in open water, raising the head occasionally to navigate to a point on another shore. Occasionally there are glimpses of water birds or airplanes or even the moon in a sunny sky as the head turns to breath. Swimming is Tai Chi in the water. It is always a matter of working on the form. It is a complex coordination of discreet micro movements united in a common goal of moving forward.

These moments and movements are so very basic in a body God has provided for us. It is times like this when I am reminded of St. Paul’s comments about our body being a temple of the Holy Spirit. I think about these holy acts of aerobic meditation, dedicated to God, being equal to the manual acts of priest at the altar. For as we move, we move in Him, in whom we live and have our being. (Acts 17:28)         

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