The miracle of mindfulness

Posted on October 6, 2012


I’m such a believer in mantras and never compete in an event without my little laminated words of support by my side. So when listening to a podcast the other day with the incredibly awesome, inspiring and utterly brilliant Timothy Olson, one of the world’s top ultra runners, I was intrigued to hear his mantra, the words that make him shine on the trails. And I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I was so captivated by what he said that I raced home and emailed Timothy himself then did some reading on the very man who wrote it.

Timothy’s mantra is this:

I have arrived. I am home. In the here and in the now. I am solid. I am free. In the ultimate I dwell. 

They are the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen master.

From dishes …

Think about when you’re washing the dishes. The idea is that at that moment, you should be completely aware that you’re washing those dishes, not just in order to have clean dishes but in order to wash the dishes, to be alive to that moment, the here and now.  And if you find your mind drifting off elsewhere, you bring it back to the present moment … your breath, the soap suds, your hands in the warm water.

… to the trails …

Likewise when running on the trails, in magnificent scenery, come rain, hail or shine, it takes great practice to stay in the present moment.  We want to be aware of what’s around us and how our body feels yet we have a constant internal battle not to think about what’s for dinner, what to wear on that date, what deadlines are looming and so on.

… it’s all about being mindful …

This whole practice, stemming from Buddhism and Taoism, is called mindfulness and it’s a type of meditation that reminds us that each and every moment holds the opportunity for peace and for greater self-understanding.  The present moment is a miracle and in it we have everything we need to live fully.

Thich Nhat Hanh calls mindfulness “the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves.” When our mind is jumping around from one thing to another, from one place to another, mindfulness is the miracle that can call it back to wholeness, tranquility and clarity.

… in everything we do.

Hanh actually wrote these words as a walking meditation but whether you use them to walk, run, swim or skydive, it doesn’t matter.  What does matter is connecting your body and soul with the here and now, being aware of your breathing and aware of the contact between your feet and the ground.

So try always to be in the now. The past is past and the future is not yet with us. We have an appointment with life and that appointment takes place in the present moment.

And try always to be in touch with your body, your finiteness and at the same time your freedom. Think of a wave on the ocean.  It has its own separate form, its own beginning and end, its own size and location, but at the same time it is the water.  Similarly we exist both as individuals and as part of a larger whole, as part of the rich tapestry of life.

Try too not to insist on processing everything that is happening around us. Instead, think of yourself as the process. Forget creeds, forget deeds and just experience the moment, with all that is in it and all that you are.  Whatever your traditions or beliefs, all the wisdom we seek is right around us. And when we realise this, in the ultimate, we dwell.

Ultimately, every runner has different mantras, words that give them strength when the chips are down and words that keep them grounded when they’re hitting the jackpot.  But this I rather like. In fact, I suspect I may just start using it myself and if it makes me dance along the trails like the legendary Timothy O then I really will be dwelling in the ultimate!

So thank you Timothy for sharing this.  Keep shining! 

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