I’ve added a new element to my running practice. I listen to podcasts that inspire me – mostly of the spiritual variety. If you’re interested, here are some great sources for inspirational podcasts:

Sacred Awakening Series – my favourites so far are Wendy Palmer (whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and doing some aikido practice with), Alice Walker (of The Color Purple fame), and Leonard Jacobson.

CBC Tapestry – on public radio in Canada on Sunday afternoons

This morning I was listening to Leonard Jacobson (whom I’d never heard of before) while I ran. While I listened, my mind was on some of the things I was worried about this morning and a whole bunch of old stories that were replaying on the video screen in my mind. I was having a hard time focusing. And then, while I approached the duck pond, I heard him say something about the importance of presence.

“The ego doesn’t want you to be present,” he said (a paraphrase). “The ego wants to keep you in the past or in the future. The ego wants to be in control and when you are in the present, the ego no longer has control.”

Oh yeah. Right. Be present. Stop letting all those old stories control me. Stop worrying about stuff in the future that hasn’t even happened yet.

And so I spent the next few minutes intentionally present in the moment. I felt the sun on my face, I listened to the cacophony of geese gathered at the pond, and I stood in front of a magnificent tree. (Jacobson also said “The next time you’re thinking ‘Am I worthy? Am I good enough?’ go ask a tree. A tree will tell you that those questions are irrelevent – you just are what you’re created to be.”)

As I stood there soaking in the beauty I was surrounded by, I realized he was right – the ego had to let go of control and the worries and old stories just didn’t carry as much weight any more.

I ran the rest of the way home, trying to stay present. And then his final words hit me with a resounding thud. “God is in everything, even the pain. If we avoid the pain, we avoid God.” Wow. Heavy stuff. Even when life is painful, I have to stay present instead of letting ego carry me away into past or future?

Rather ironically, shortly after hearing his final words, I slipped on a patch of black ice and pulled something in my groin. It hurt. I was miles from home and my first thought was “oh my gosh – how am I going to get home? What if I’m late for the event I’m supposed to photograph this afternoon? What if I can’t even limp the half mile to the road to try to flag down a ride or catch a bus?” Oh yeah – some lessons take awhile to sink into this stubborn brain, even moments after I’ve learned them. In no time flat, I was worried about the future.

And then I remembered – be present, even in the pain. And so I was. I let myself feel it. I let go of the question about how I’d get home, I stretched those muscles that felt damaged, and I really felt the pain.

And then, just like that, it went away.

Perhaps it was just meant as a momentary (much needed) lesson in presence. I managed to run all the way home without any pain.