This blog as might be apparent from the title has to do with running, biking and basically other outdoor individualistic sports, sometimes extreme, such as rock climbing . But don't be surprised if you find articles on work, personal life, music and even philosophy, this blog is an exception in this aspect in the blogosphere of running blogs and I am trying to revamp the blog to make it more runner friendly. You might want to look at the sidebar titled 'categorised', which as is obvious, categorizes my posts into different areas of interest.
The other thing that might interest many people is a section on 'running videos' and 'general videos' on the side bar, which I keep updating now and then.
I plan to bring in more posts on running and biking, with some added colour, so as to make them 'complete'. That's about it for now.
As a post-note, I have run a half-marathon, but I am yet to attempt a marathon, which through some concerted effort and time should happen in the future, but that ofcourse is not the culmination of this blog, it would on the contrary be something to jumpstart this blog onto new vistas.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Running and Spirituality

These two words are probably ones that I cherish the most these days (there are many other words too, as you will see later on). Now, how the heck is running related with spirituality you ask?
I had a friend come up to me during my undergrad and tell me, "You seem to be very spiritual. By the way, can you tell me what exactly is spirituality?". It was a funny moment, I told him that I was not sure.

If you have noticed, I started out into the blogosphere with this blog, Musings of a runner. I then added, Musings of a grad student, when I became a graduate student to capture some intriguing ways of life I encountered/was encountering.
And then came along, Musings of a seeker, my official spiritual blog.

My point is that I have only recently realized or better understood the link between running and spirituality, or for that matter what spirituality actually is.

Here's my definition of spirituality:
Activities, processes, attitudes that uplift your spirit. As simple as that.
People also refer to spirituality as a process of growth - growth of the self. Now, what this self/soul is, etc is a topic by itself and out of scope of this blog.

By the above definition here are some things that I find uplift my spirit:

a) Running (there you go)
b) Nothing like good old laughter
c) Meditation
d) Lack of worries and care. Notice that, it is a conscious choice whether you choose to worry or not although people make it a subconscious process without realizing its effects on body and mind. Also, worry doesn't help decision making. I find I make my best decisions when I am clear, confident and relaxed.
e) At the end of a weary day, relaxation techniques (shavasana et al) to revive myself or equivalently running or:
f) Music
g) Hiking: Most of my recent blogs have been on hiking. There is something about hiking in nature that is soothing and calming, but at the same time refreshing. This again, by our definition, is a spiritual activity. I have indeed come to realize that hiking rejuvenates me, and gives me time to think on things clearly.

(What are some activities that uplift you?)

Now, you can become cheeky and say that, psychedelic drugs also tend to uplift the spirit and cause euphoric experiences. I don't deny that, they would definitely be spiritual experiences, but considering the side-effects on health and the risk of addiction, I would rather avoid them.
I mean if there is a healthy way to 'get high' wouldn't you opt for it?

Running and spirituality
Running is something that seemed a natural thing to do when I was a kid. You have nothing to do? Run around the house, wreak havoc, get scoldings. Get kicked out of the house - Then you run around in the streets playing cricket or whatever. Get called in for dinner. Go to sleep. Running for me was synonymous with being free: An elder person could you stop you to give advice, but you could just dash away if you are bored!
I used to participate in 100 metres dash every year and that was also fun.
I seriously started pursuing long distance running when I entered college. Initially it was a drag, I had to push my body to keep doing the rounds. I would get injured. Get back to running, become faster. Get injured. And so on. But, once running become a regular thing to do, I found my running to be 'effortless' at times.
Whenever my running was effortless or rhythmic, I would feel pretty good, it was akin to a 'high'. Long slow runs would also produces patches of this 'high'.
This is not some 'psychological high', it is actually a 'physiological high' - Read
this blog to know more.
So by our definition of spirituality, and because of this 'getting high' due to anandamide, running is definitely a spiritual exercise!

Religion and spirituality
People might tend to confuse religion with spirituality. Here's my take on it:
Religion is a set of beliefs and activities that you have/do because you identify yourself with a particular religion.
On the other hand, spirituality is a set of activities that you do because you like to do them!
Ofcourse, spirituality and religion can intersect. People can be both spiritual and religious. These days, it has become fashionable to say that one is spiritual but not religious. Whatever works.

On being spiritual
Spiritual experiences needn't be esoteric, mystical and 'out there'. Spiritual experiences can happen right here, right now if we recognize and choose them to happen. You can always choose to take a break from a busy schedule and go hiking or walking, for example and feel refreshed or recharged. You can notice times when you are really tense and take a break by relaxing your body and/or breath. It is a matter of simple observation that, the breath, the body and mind are linked. Whenever you are tense, agitated or angry, notice your breath - It would happen in short, arrhythmic quick bursts. Also notice your breath when you are relaxed, calm and peaceful. The breath would be deep, slow and rhythmic.
This link between, rhythms of breath and states of mind is the basis for certain breathing practices (Tai chi, Pranayama, Chi Kung, etc). The idea is that when you can't control your agitated mind, you can control the agitated breath and make it more rhythmic and this has an effect of calming down the mind. Hence, breathing practices are one way to stay centered and be equanimous.

Ofcourse, the range of spiritual experiences that can happen are really broad - It can be a plain simple 'spacing out' while having a shower to 'out of body' experiences that change your perspective on life and death.
The focus is not on having these spiritual experiences, but on doing things you like. Experiences will follow suit in time and space.

I would like to end this article with two quotes I believe in: "We are not human beings having spiritual experiences, we are spiritual beings having a human experience".
"Spirituality is all about getting high, the natural way".

Would be interested in your views/experiences related to this topic - Feel free to pass on a comment or email me at


My Blog Your Thoughts said...

Great work of co-relation between Sports and Spirituality,may be you can give title 'Attaining Spirituality through Biking/Sports'
How does it sound?

Any ways I too write on same subject line...

Amit Sharma

karthik said...

Hey Amit.. thanks for your comment.. Yeah Spirituality as you say is very broad.. Infact I should have just said 'spirituality' as the title.. But I wanted to relate it to running..
Yeah visited your blog..looks good.

Lara Robinson said...

I too am a running, and am blogging about the spirituality, friendship, philosophy, etc. that I find when I run. I run because I can, because I must, and I write for the same reasons. I enjoy your "musings". :-)


karthik said...

Yeah, running definitely rocks..Have fun, will keep tabs on your blog.
Happy running :)

Sandra said...

Very nice post in this blog. This information that has been provided is informative. Keep posting nice informative article in this blog.


Kennenisa Bekele with the WR

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