The Mind, Body and Spirit Beside Each Other



TASK: Continue thinking about the relationship between mind, body and spirit. Identify how it functions or is addressed in the selections above. Completed.

TASK: Keep pushing in daily log writing to play with and articulate a relationship between mind, body and spirit. Completed.

TASK: Craft a story and/or write about a memory fragment that addresses the relationship between mind, body and spirit in my life.

Assignment 1: Reading Analysis

Spirit: Runners on Running

Notes for George Sheehan’s “Running”
I’m particularly interested in habits and repeated practices (through training) and what they indicate about the relationship between the mind, body and spirit. I just started reading the first essay in Runners on Running, George Sheehan’s “Running.” Describing his approach to running as “always a beginner,” he writes:

Being a beginner with a beginner’s mind, a beginner’s heart, a beginner’s body.

There is no other way to run, no other way to live. Otherwise my runs become dull, uninspired interludes. The running becomes routine, becomes part of the humdrum apathy and indifference which the poet John Hall Wheelock called a shield between us and reality. It becomes a chore, becomes habit. And habit kills awareness and separates us from ourselves (2).


…each day I take to the roads as a beginner, a child, a poet. Seeking the innocence of the beginner, the wonder of the child and the vision of the poet. Hoping for a new appreciation of the landscape, a new perspective of my inner world, some new insights on life, a new response to existence and myself (3).

The above quotations are an excerpt from a larger collection (which I have recalled from the library). I’d like to read more about what he means here. I appreciate and mostly agree with the idea of the beginner (I believe the beginner’s mind encourages curiosity, learning, joy, vitality), but I’m also critical of his dismissal of habit. Is the joyful child/poet runner only possible when we forget/refuse habits? How does he understand training in this context? Don’t habits, practice, training provide us with a structure that gives freedom to our running?–we can run farther and stronger because of our repeated habits? we can breathe in the landscape because we’ve established a pace that isn’t too hard or that leaves us out of breath?

Sheehan does not like routine and the boredom it fosters. Routine reduces life to “slow progression of days and weeks and months” and time becomes an enemy. He fights this routine with running and its timelessness (or maybe, its existence before time? where, he writes, “we can recapture our original state of perfection”).  I must stop here and say that this is sounding way too Platonic and too ideal for me. 

I’d like to write a longer (or at least more thoughtful) response to the following passage from this excerpt:

…each day I take to the roads as a beginner, a child, a poet. Seeking the innocence of the beginner, the wonder of the child and the vision of the poet. Hoping for a new appreciation of the landscape, a new perspective of my inner world, some new insights on life, a new response to existence and myself.

There are times, more often than the good times, when I fail. I never do pierce the shield. I return with a shopping list of things to do tomorrow. The miraculous has gone unseen. The message has gone unheard….Still, there is always the chance I’ll have beginner’s luck. And this run, this hour, this day, may begin in delight and end in wisdom (3). ‘

Even as I appreciate aspects of this passage, I am also bothered by it. Why?

Notes for Roger Hart’s “Runners”
You can read it here.

I really like Hart’s style in this essay. It’s almost like a list/inventory of his running experiences. Because I love lists, here’s my list of what he includes:

  • The extreme weather he ran in
  • Places he ran through
  • Animals/people that chased him
  • The weather when he ran
  • The types of surfaces he ran on
  • What we and his running partners would wear
  • How many miles they ran
  • What else they did, besides running, on their runs
  • What they ate
  • How people harassed them
  • What races they ran and what they won in those races
  • Their approaches to racing
  • The dogs they encountered
  • The things they found
  • Why they ran
  • Their injuries and aches and how they tried to treat/endure them
  • What it felt like when running was floating
  • their decline in old age

The energy and pace of this essay is so great and effective in demonstrating a love and joy for running. His last few lines are especially good:

And what did we learn from running 70,000 miles and hundreds of races, being the first to cross the finish line and once or twice not crossing it at all, those runs on icy roads in winter storms and those cool fall mornings when the air was ripe with the smell of grapes, our feet softly ticking against the pavement?

We learned we were alive, and it felt good. God, it felt so good.

I also like writing in rambling, list-like sentences. I’ve been experimenting with it in my other writing project. Maybe I should try it in my running log too.

Mind: The Runners

This is a beautiful film. I like how the filmmakers describe their purpose in an interview:

We were trying to understand what goes on in the minds of runners as they charge through the streets. What does it do to them and what can we find out about ourselves by interrupting them at this moment of vulnerability and clarity?

What do runners think about? Does running open them up, make them more vulnerable and willing to be honest? Share things they wouldn’t normally share? I like this approach to thinking about running and the mind and what runners are thinking. Much of what I’ve read (so far) that is written about the running mind, relates to the mental aspect of running, like convincing yourself that you can keep running even when you want to stop, for example. Or, how to distract yourself from negative thoughts (A few days ago, I read something online that offered tips, including counting by prime numbers and counting the number of Nike shoes. I can’t seem to find the link again and it’s really bugging me).

What do I think about when I’m running? I should try to remember and make a list. But, will I remember? Thinking while running is almost like dreaming. I rarely remember my dreams and even when I do I can’t recount them in any coherent way.