FALSE START #J - MARCH 2016 by David E. Ortman

Moving Meditation

I was on my way back to Seattle (where you don’t need oxygen tanks to breath, or inhale cactus dust – mold and moss will do very nicely, thank you) very late Sunday evening after the USATF Masters Indoor T&F Championships - Albuquerque. In a New Yorker magazine I had picked up, I spotted an interesting ad from “The Great Courses.” You’ve probably seen these. They offer DVD lectures on over 500 courses. This ad was for a DVD of something called “Essentials of Tai Chi and Qigong.” I have no real idea what this is (although it sounded like a cooking class), but the ad carried a headline: “Master the Art of Moving Meditation.”

Instantly a lightbulb went off. Yes! That is what Masters track and field is all about: “Moving Meditation!” That should be on our t-shirts and entry forms and Masters Track and Field advertising.

My best friend “wiki,” who acts as my memory so I don’t have to actually remember concepts or past events, says: “Meditation is a practice where an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content, or as an end in itself.”

I’m not sure what “mode of consciousness” means, without asking “wiki,” again, but I do know that it is close to what I experience in carrying out “Moving Meditation,” at masters track and field meets.

Take the Long Jump or High Jump, for example. In the Long Jump you are faced with running down the runway as fast, or nearly as fast as you can and jump as far as you can by getting your foot to hit a white board you can’t see on takeoff (because it is beneath you). Overthinking just clutters the mind. You want to enter a “mode of consciousness,” where “Moving Meditation” takes over. You rely on muscle memory, not mind control, to launch yourself into the air and land in the sand with the only thought being, “Cripes, I hope they dug up the pit, or this is going to be one jarring landing!”

In the High Jump, if you are a flopper (only in track and field is this a good thing), you have to jump over a bar you can’t see. And no matter how low or high the bar, your butt has a little sensor that sends a signal to the brain to tell the body not to clear the bar by a centimeter more than necessary. For me, from the start of my approach to planting my foot to launching myself in the air and finding myself in the pit (only in track and field is this a good thing) (and come to think of it, why is something that is elevated called a “pit”?) it is all “moving meditation.” My mind goes into a “mode of consciousness” (well, maybe a “mode of unconsciousness”). As a result, I am unable to describe exactly what happens or what I am doing during a high jump. (Digression: Did you hear the joke about the high jumper who walked into a bar? Sorry, that’s the entire joke.)

Or a sprint race. Having run only one marathon (the 1990 Goodwill Games Marathon against the Russians on the hottest day of the year in Seattle where I was mostly in “moving pain”), I can’t speak for distance runners. But in a sprint race, once the gun goes off, my mind goes into auto mode, similar to what my friend “wiki” describes as: “A particularly ambitious form of meditation aims at effortlessly sustained single-pointed concentration meant to enable its practitioner to enjoy an indestructible sense of well-being while engaging in any life activity.”

There it is. Masters track and field enables us to enjoy an indestructible sense of well-being while engaging in any life activity, including running, jumping, or throwing in your underwear.

What could be better than “moving meditation?”

(c) Copyright 2016, David E. Ortman

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