Rest, recuperation and running

“I think running is your meditation”.

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I had just come back from my second long run while staying at the Kandy Samadhi Centre in Sri Lanka and Waruna, the owner, invited me to sit down for a chat while he drank his morning tea in the open dining room.  I could feel him quietly study my face as I excitedly chattered away about my running, how great it was to have this break from Afghanistan and how stressful things have been over the past few weeks.  He waited until I stopped bouncing around and said quite simply, “your mind is working very fast – too fast.” The birds in the trees nearby chirped in agreement. Waruna told me that I had become too attached – too attached to my job, to the women I wanted so desperately to help in Afghanistan, and to other people in my life.  And all of this attachment was causing me pain.

“You can’t fix the whole world and you can’t fix other people.” Waruna commented matter-of-factly. “As soon as you let that go, you will find your balance.”  He said if running was my meditation (which it is), I should keep doing it – and lots more of it.

Some people use running for exercise, others use it for competition or adventure. For me, running is my escape. It is my ‘me’ time when I try to figure things out.

In that respect, coming to the Samadhi Centre in Sri Lanka was probably the best choice for my last R&R because I can run, run, and run until my legs hurt and my mind becomes clear.   While it paints itself as a centre for yoga, meditation (the traditional kind) and writing, it clearly attracts outdoor enthusiasts and athletes as well. Shortly after I arrived, one of the other guests came up to me and asked me if the bandana he had seen me wear earlier that day was from RacingThePlanet. Olivier, from France, was a triathlete and endurance runner who had competed in UTMB a few years ago. Small world!

On my first morning at the Centre, I woke up to the sound of flowing water from the river nearby, put on my running gear and headed down for a breakfast of fresh fruits and Sri Lankan pancakes. It was a perfect way to get started and run out the Afghan stress. Rather than go forging off into the thick jungle behind the Centre, I decided to stick to the ‘road’ (really more of a dirt path in parts) where I would get a chance to see a bit more of village life.

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Enjoying some King Coconut

My route began with a 30 minute uphill climb. After two months without any kind of training on hills, I kept my expectations low. I was pleasantly surprised to find a spring in my step. I shuffled along the winding road, leaving a little more of the Kabul grime behind me with each metre forward. Occasionally a rickshaw would pass, honking me along my way. The women giggled quietly as I waved and smiled, and the men raised their eyebrows for a split second before waving back. At one point, I passed two elderly men walking up the hill in saris and buttoned shirts. I don’t know if it was the sight of a foreigner on these back country roads or the sight of a female running, but their jaws dropped to the floor, completely stunned into silence.

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When I finally made it to the top, I reached the main paved road and headed right. The views were stunning. The road hugged a hillside to the left with a steep dropoff to the right, with hills and valleys of every shade of green rolling out before me. I could feel blisters forming, but they only served as a reminder that I had neglected running too long – I had let my feet get soft. I welcomed the hot spots on my feet and forged ahead.

I passed the next village, which straddled either side of a waterfall that doused me in a cool mist. I picked up dogs and small children along the way as my pacers, who, as it turned out, could easily outrun my lumbering pace.  A few monkeys cheered me on along the way as they swung from tree branch to tree branch over my head.

I loved that first run. It exhausted me and energized me all at the same time, and I couldn’t wait to get back out there for my second and third (which I did).  I spent my mornings at the Samadhi Centre exploring the small villages and paths nearby, and my afternoons relaxing in my wonderfully meditative room.  Each room at the Samadhi Centre is individually designed and loved, filled with beautiful antiques and unique pieces of furniture.  Waruna suggested for me a room that was set at one far end of the property and which used to serve as his own home, before he moved elsewhere.  In true spiritual fashion, he described the space as being like a “mother’s womb”. I would probably describe it more like a sacred space, a sanctuary, an escape… It was quiet and peaceful – the perfect place to stretch, unwind and relax, especially after my long runs.

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For three days, I spent my time running over the hills around Kandy, and sleeping, writing and thinking in my jungle sanctuary.  If you ever need a place to run, breathe, eat (lots) and just be, I would definitely recommend the Kandy Samadhi Centre.  You can do yoga, meditation, writing… or my personal fav, the running meditation.  Also, jungle trails behind the Centre lead to a beautiful waterfall, where you can spend a morning swimming and tanning on a rock in the sun.

IMG_1046Please, please, however, before you travel to Sri Lanka, read up on ethical tourism here. It is important to be informed about the country and the government before you book, and Sri Lanka Campaign will tell you what you need to know!
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Chilling out after another meditative run

I’ve truly conquered my motivation monster and I’m back in full swing. Running feels better than it ever did before and y’know what? It was way easier to get back into running mode than I thought it would be.  I don’t know what took me so long, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to find my running mojo again. Hopefully I can bring some of this energy back with me from R&R to Afghanistan, where I’ll resume my Kompound Kilometers for a few more weeks….

P.S. If you want to read a bit more about ‘running as meditation’ or ‘meditating while running’, have a peek at this Runners’ World article or this one from a Canadian Running Magazine.

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9 Comments »

    • Hey Howard!! It is awesome to hear from you. I would love to run with you again as well… what’s next on your race plan? Any chance of seeing you in Chamonix in August?
      I liaised with Sri Lanka Campaign for about a year when I was working on Tamil issues at a diplomatic advisory group in New York. It is a fantastic organization with some really good information on traveling through Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, there are quite a few countries in which traveling ethically is also really important…
      Happy trails and chat soon!

  1. “You can’t fix the whole world and you can’t fix other people.” Right on!
    In my own experience, running has helped me through so much that I am no longer sure what is the main purpose of running for me. What I am sure of though, is that it’s an amazing asset for relaxing, both physically and mentally, so whenever I need to unwind, I know what to do.
    Keep posting, I love reading your blog and digging through your older posts!

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