Watching my Step


Last Monday was a perfect day. I took advantage of the weather to enjoy a new friend with whom I've recently reconnected - mindful running. Going for a run outside is a completely different experience for me now than it was a year or more ago. One of the biggest differences is my attention. When I tune out of metrics like speed, time, and distance - and liberate myself my compulsive check-ins with my GPS watch - I realize how much I've been missing this whole time. 

In yoga, we talk a lot about being present. I've heard and read a lot about how it benefits our minds and our health. But on this particular run, it occurred to me with a start that presence is not only important for inner peace, but also for outer peace - specifically nonviolence. 

You see, being present on my run directly enabled me to practice ahimsa (nonviolence.) I was gleefully jogging along the paths of Patterson Park and glanced down occasionally... albeit out of selfish aversion to dog droppings or trash. I started to notice, though, that there's a whole world down there!

If you're on the East Coast I probably don't have to tell you about the gypsy moth caterpillars who are coming out of every nook and cranny right now. I have really fond memories of watching them as a little kid in suburban Maryland, so excited and intrigued by their impending transformation. Right now, they're everywhere in Baltimore - including on running paths.

A few steps later, I found a much rarer sight: a tiny baby turtle crawling in the grass just inches from my feet! It was nibbling on plants and shuffling around in the freshly mowed lawn. The turtle was so tiny that the buttercups around it almost obscured my little shelled friend from view. The little guy or girl was all alone and blended in perfectly with the grass and dirt of Patterson Park. I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if I'd not been paying attention. As I pondered the details I could have been missing this whole time, it struck me: there is no ahimsa without presence.

I couldn't stop thinking of the caterpillars and the little turtle that I could have easily harmed had I not been looking. Then I started to wonder how I could translate this practice of presence and ahimsa to myself. Admittedly, it's less fun to inquisitively watch myself for opportunities to practice internal nonviolence than it is to check out baby turtles on a sunny day. But it's just as important. I'll be meditating on presence without expectations, without predictions - and on how this presence helps me identify opportunities for ahimsa every day.

Oh, and by the way, a bird flying overhead "relieved itself" on my shoulder during that run - but I somehow managed to practice non-harming thoughts toward him. ;)



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