I decided to get some exercise today. A thirty minute run seemed a good start. Now, usually I like to go out and run at a pretty good pace. After all, people might be watching. But the last few times I’ve tried this approach, I’ve ended up sadly walking to the end of my “run.” But today, for some unknown reason, I decided to run at a pace that was just right for me in my present state of just a bit out of shape. I ran at a pace that was slightly more than a walk. Actually, I had a pretty good race with a man walking his dog, and just edged him out to the end of a city block. Of course, I immediately started judging myself. People must be laughing at how slow I’m running. Amazing the incredible ego involved in feeling insecure. I mean really, as if the people in my neighborhood had nothing better to do than watch a man hobbling past their homes. Jeez!
I ran slowly. I ran mindfully. Aware of every step. Every breath. Taking in the scenery of my neighborhood. Listening to the sounds and even smiling a “hello-smile” at a few fellow pedestrians. I was aware of my pace and when I found myself speeding up because one of my neighbors was watering his front yard and might see me, I consciously slowed my pace. I ran for just over thirty minutes without stopping and made all the way to my front door. One of life’s small accomplishments, that on any given day, feels like scaling Everest.
Of course, now I have to turn this run into another sports metaphor. As I ran, this thirty minute enterprise taught me something about life, especially as it is for me now (and I assume for many others). Currently, I’m living in a state of trying to repair my mental, spiritual, as well as physical health. And just like with my former efforts to run for thirty minutes at a pace that was too fast for me…currently, that is. I’ve been trying to recover mentally, emotionally, and spiritually at a rate that has been beyond my limitations. Not to mention judging myself for failing to keep what I viewed as a reasonable pace. But when I slowed down my run, I made it to my front door, I finished the run. And when I stopped judging myself, and was able to see just a bit of healthy humor in the (slower than) snail’s pace I was keeping, I began to enjoy the process of getting from point A to point B.
“A man’s got to know his limitations,” says Dirty Harry. He might have added that a man has to honor his limitations as well, appreciate them as guideposts for what is to be done right now, in this moment. There is strength in honoring one’s frailties and allowing them to become part of the composite that is a human being. There is strength in turning off the judging mind (another weakness, one might say) and honoring that which makes us who we are, our amazing strengths and the limitations that make us truly human.
The best way to honor our whole selves is to slow down, turn off the judging mind, and simply live this moment. Breathing in. Breathing out. Stepping slowly in the glory of our great heroism and human limitations. As Zen master, Suzuki Roshi once said, “Each of you is perfect the way you are…and you could use a little improvement.” We are perfect in our imperfection, heroism, and humanity. May we take the time and have the courage to follow our own paths, free of self-judgement, walking slowly in the promise of the moment.
Time for a nap.