Last week’s post was on the topic of silencing the inner chatter, of stopping the clanging of the mind so the body can relax into doing what it knows how to do. Sometimes the mind doesn’t need to be silenced so much as it needs to be heard.
This Saturday I ran alone. Sophie had a basketball game at 8 AM and there was no way I could run and still make it to the YMCA to see her run up and down the court with the other 9-year-olds. After the game Bill and the kids took the car to the mechanic, leaving me to roam the streets and open space of Louisville.
I started slowly from my house, listening to the croon of Ray Charles. My legs felt like lead. I was cold in the twenty degree weather and didn’t think I would ever warm up, though didn’t go overboard with the layers of clothing. The eternal optimist; hopeful that blood would flow though doubting it would really happen. I felt dull and stupid in the cold grayness of the morning, and excruciatingly tired even though I just awoke from a hard nine hours of sleep.
I cruised up Lafayette Street to Via Appia and headed to the Rec Center. Crossing the street at the crosswalk, I jogged up the hill and wound my way from Arapaho Street to McCaslin, where I headed out onto the open space of Davidson Mesa. My legs were heavy, tired, and my brain was busy. I recently uncovered some stories I wrote in 6th and 7th grade, and the memories of that long, traumatic time were coming hard and fast. My body wanted to lie down and sleep, to run away from the energy that was swirling in my head. Sleep wasn’t the answer though, as I had learned from the previous night. The only thing that I wanted- craved really- was movement, even though the movement was slow and completely devoid of the usual excitement that accompanied these runs. At least I was moving.
I took the long way around the Mesa. The frozen dirt crunched under my feet and the dusting of snow made the red dirt bunch up into the treads of my sneakers. The music from my iPod was a refreshing mix of instrumental songs that don’t get nearly enough playtime. The sound was low enough that it was background noise to my thoughts that roamed and cavorted through my senses. Red energy, the color of anger, swirled and danced from my thoughts into the pit of my stomach where I felt a familiar tightening in response. Fear, silence, loneliness and confusion joined to form a combination that assaulted the senses in a way that rivaled Cirque du Soleil’s rich tapestry of movement and color.
I circled the Mesa and headed north. The mountains stood tall and protective over the Front Range, resting. The movement along the path, the steady drumbeat of my feet pounding the cold dirt and snow, and a cry started welling up in the back of my throat. Something shifted from the background noise of my head into absolute consciousness, and I visualized myself responding to the emotion. I wanted to yell and scream and roar my anger. I wanted to be heard. My back started tingling and energy coursed through my spine, indeed, my entire nervous system. All my attention was focused on the energy that was moving faster and faster, up through the deep nerve centers of my being. The energy was akin to the raging of a river in flood, coursing over unseen hazards underneath the surface, swirling, dipping, gaining momentum. My breathing intensified and I felt compelled to blow it out hard, and harder, and harder still. I couldn’t stop it, I didn’t WANT to stop it. This was pure power, a connection to my soul and the abuses laid to it so many years before. This was healing power to the highest degree, my own personal connection with the most powerful, most sacred energy forces this Universe has to offer.
This was what labor pains felt like, without the contractions. The noises started coming out of my mouth, animal moans that matched cadence with my breath and heartbeat. Each breath was a new chance to bring the force closer and closer to the surface. My body was expelling the ache, the pain, the scar tissue of old wounds. The energy coursed, the breathing increased, and with one final yell I pushed it out.
The tingling subsided and my head cleared. The fog inside my head was gone. I looked up from where I had been focusing blindly on the trail in front of me to notice that I was half way around the Mesa. I was still moving; I never stopped. The steady rhythm of my drumming legs had helped create a safe haven for the movement in the depths of my soul, akin to the ancient drumming of indigenous tribes. The air was warmer, my hands were now as warm as if they had been held in front of a fire, and my legs were like little wings. They were so light I could barely feel them. The weight of the world had been lifted and I was free.
I looped back to McCaslin and headed into the subdivisions, where I picked up the path behind Fireside Elementary. I had been running for almost an hour, though it felt like I had been through hell and back. My body felt so good now that I didn’t want to stop. At the fork in the road I chose to extend the run another three miles on the Coal Creek Trail.
I passed all of three people on the run. It was cold and grey and miserable, with a chill that could permeate a bulky coat and settle into the bones. If I weren’t running, I wouldn’t be out here either.
My legs were moving faster and faster. At the start of the run I was at a solid 9:30 pace; I couldn’t move any faster. Once I was on the flat Mesa three miles later, I noticed the pace had picked up to 8:30 per mile. Now that I was off the Mesa and I had a new lease on life, my tempo was a steady 7:12. I had been meditating for nine miles and had descended into utter darkness. I went in tired, achy, and sad. I came out the other end a virtual Kali; fierce, alive, passionate, wild and free.
Rounding the corner to my house, I slowed to a walk and stopped the timer on my GPS. Just then Dusty Springfield started singing “Son of a Preacher Man” and I laughed out loud. I hadn’t been able to laugh all day, and the ability to find joy in the lyrics of the song pleased me to no end. I walked around the neighborhood, singing in my off-key soprano voice, bopping my head and snapping my fingers in time to the music. Finding the energy of the Universe and allowing it to course through the veins is one thing; finding the joy humans create and allowing that to heal the aches is real too. Today, I am grateful for the energy found in the world, and acknowledge the fathomless depth of the spiritual in even the simple act of running.