This morning I went on a training hike for the Bataan Memorial Death March to be held on March 20th at the Army base at White Sands, NM. I’m doing the short version at 14.2 miles. It is a trail run with sand, hills, and (did I say) sand? Anyway, I am training on desert trails out behind my house. This morning I did nearly 3 miles in 29 degree weather. I stayed on pace at 20 minutes per mile. It was a good effort over rough terrain.
What does this have to do with Zen? Well, biking, running and walking have a cadence. As we are out there on a course eventually our body settles into a “zone” where breath, footfall, and attention seem to integrate into a seamless pattern…almost oneness itself. We are aware of the scenery, looking forward enough to check our path but, most of all, mindfully moving along. I call this, “Stillness in motion” and have this phrase on the back of our “Team Zen” tee shirts.
The “zone” I am talking about is not a “zoned-out” thing, rather its a mindfulness in motion sort of thing. Contrary to conventional thought we have not separated ourselves from our bodies as we are aware and mindful of both our internal world and our external world: we float like a duck and don’t hold on to anything. It is this that is what I call Zen in motion. Once we begin, the flow will take us there whether we like it or not because its the inevitable ‘practice realization’ that Master Dogen referred to in his work.
In ‘Zen in motion,’ we simply put one foot in front of another and let our thoughts and feelings do what they do. What we do not do is allow them the power to take us away from what’s in front of us to do: finish the race. This is, of course, easier said than done. Yet, we have each other, don’t we? None of us are alone on the trail: I’ve had my teacher, my coach, my family, my sangha, and my friends each run every race I have run be with me as I put each foot down on the ground. So, in the end, its not me who runs the race, its all of us together. In truth this is true of all of life: we are not alone.