Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Lessons in Running


"Ready?", I asked as we turned into Central Park. "Let's do it.", he agreed, and we started jogging at the same time. Left, right, left, right.

The other night, while communicating via email, I felt like this client needed a change of pace - literally and metaphorically. I wrote him back to meet me at my place, running shoes on and ready to go. For some strange reason, people seem to really trust me so he showed up this morning, dropped off his stuff and we took off.

As we started running, I asked him to jut his neck out forward and did it with him. If you're a runner, or even if you've ever just enjoyed a casual jog, you know that it's pretty hard to run with your head leading. It throws you off balance and it doesn't feel too good.

"Here's the thing," I started talking, continuing to run with my neck out, "when we run with our heads moving before out feet, we get uncomfortable, feel awkward, cause ourselves pain, and feel like we're doing something wrong." I eased my neck back into it's rightful and comfortable position before continuing, asking him to do the same. "When we let our feet lead us, it feels much better, and we get to where we're going easier, with less pain. It's the same in life. We can't let our mind move before our actions, just as we can't let our heads move before our feet."

It's something I actually say to myself on my runs: feet before head, just like actions before mind. I repeat this as I loop around corners, as the sweat settles in, and when I think I can't keep going. Somehow, when I get back home and back to work, these words have tucked themselves into my being and I take action much more freely, without worrying about what anyone will think or what the outcome may be. Feet first, actions first.

Slowing him back to a walking pace, I pointed to where we had wound up, at a beautiful fountain in the middle of the most beautiful park in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. "Sometimes it feels like we can't keep going, or that we're pushing ourselves too hard, or that we'll never get out of an uncomfortable place we happen to be in. That our feelings will last forever." I gestured the scenery we had wound up at, "But life is like this. Uncomfortable feelings and situations lead us to beautiful places."

We took off again and instead of going my regular route, I followed a new path and promptly announced I had no idea where we were or how we'd get home (seriously, why do people trust me?). He laughed because I think he was catching on now. "But here's the thing, I'm safe. I'm okay. Nothing bad is happening to me, right?" He agreed. "Just because I don't know where I'm going doesn't mean I won't get there eventually. I'm not going to get stuck here forever. I'm just going to keep going until I find my way to where I need to be."

Have you ever heard that quote about Love being the gentle process of leading ourselves home? Wait, I'll find it. Okay, got it: "Perhaps Love is the process of my leading you gently back to yourself." Running, for me, is love/hate. Most of the things I love most in the world feels a little love/hate sometimes, actually. But running especially. However, I consistently find that running leads me slowly and steadily back to the truth of who I am. It shows me that I'm not someone who gives up, that I can feel like I'm going to die but in actuality I'm totally fine, and that when I'm in pain I am always getting stronger. It reminds me that when I'm receptive to life, I'm flooded with gorgeous lessons that are aligned with what I need to learn at the moment.

We were nearly done by now and running easily down a hill. When we came to a walk again, I mentioned how easy it can feel during the downhill times, when everything feels like it's going great and you want to push forward and go faster to get to where you're going sooner. "But even in those times of feeling easy and free, we still have to maintain our pace, use our core, and not go crazy. If we speed up really fast, there's a chance we'll trip on our own feet and faceplant. It's the same in taking action. If you get a burst of motivation and do everything at once, you might find yourself tripping up and wishing you'd kept your even pace. It's not about getting there faster, it's about trusting that we're on the path we're meant to be on and we'll get there exactly when we're meant to."

Coaching, for me, is not about acting like I have it all together or I know secret things that no one else can ever know. It's about using examples in my own life, admitting to my own flaws and shortcomings, and reminding my clients, and the people around me, that we are all in this together. In essence, we're jogging alongside one another, urging each other on, experiencing all of the same feelings, and trusting that when we're struggling to keep going, a friend will catch our pace and stay next to us awhile, and we'll do that for someone else a little later down the line.

Lace up your shoes, friends. We've got places to go.

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