Sunday, August 9, 2009

Zen Day: Greed, Anxiety, Fear and CO2

I love my Sunday runs for a couple reasons. First, that's usually the day I add distance to my run and don't worry so much about time or pace. It becomes a lesson in endurance. Second, generally my run follows my Saturday yoga class and Sunday's church service. I always start my Sunday run with a head full of new ideas to work through.

Saturday's yoga class was about fear. Through the practice of arm balances and deep stretches and back bends I examined fear. The fear of landing on my head or not being able to support my weight keeps me stuck on the ground. I know this to be true because one class I got up into crow pose and felt a momentary elatedness before I crashed to the floor and haven't been able to get both feet up in the air again (yet).

Today, in church, we learned about Buddhism and how dwelling on things, trying to control them or hold on to them only breeds anxiety and suffering and how Greed is one emotional reaction to the things that life presents us with.

I rolled these two days into one as I ran to contemplate where in my life am I Greedy, Fearful and Anxious and how does it relate to my physical training. In the swimming, I am afraid that I will take in water and drown. This causes me to tense up, lose my breathing and of course, suck up a lung full of pool water. My Friday morning drill was floating on my back with my head nearly submerged and I went into a low level panic. For a few successful moments though, when I let go of the fear of submerging my head and was able to press back into the water, my legs rose effortlessly. When we push down against a fear, something new can rise.

I wasn't sure what to think about running at first. I'm not afraid I won't breathe or even that I'll hurt myself or exhaust myself so what could be holding me back (today was not my strongest run)? Sadly, I realized it was Greed. I am greedy for how comfortable it feels to just walk, not have to breathe hard, to stay comfortable. Of course, when I push through the initial or reoccuring discomfort, the endorphins kick in and I feel terrific. It's just another matter of recognizing that nothing is permanent, even the discomfort of running. I can wait, acknowledge that yes, it is uncomfortable right now but soon it won't be again.

This led me to thing about breathing. As I am told, the signal I get that I need a breath is really my body's chemical reaction to needing to expel carbon dioxide. As badly as I feel I want to breathe in, what really needs to happen is to breathe out. The intake is really there to help expel the waste. And here's where I make my final leap for the weekend. If I am anxious about a situation, it is generally because I am fearful of what an outcome might be. If I try and control the situation, I falsely believe I will be able to direct its outcome and soon all joy of the current state is lost to me in the anxiety I feel over its uncertainty.

Things are never static. They will always change. They will always bring the potential for suffering. The suffering is driven by our own greed, anxiety and fears. We tend to focus on the inhale, the fresh new breath the things that feel good, easy, comfortable and predictable when our need for this breath may just be our bodies screaming for the chance to expel the toxins we are creating as we shuffle through our lives.

I can't float if I'm fighting the water. I can't run if I'm attached to how good it feels to stop. I can't do an arm balance if I don't take my feet off the floor. And I can't love if I am fearful that I may not be loved in return.

Now, time to hit the shower because I can't sit with myself and ponder any longer if I don't get clean!

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