"Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better." Ralph Waldo Emerson
Heading out for my first attempt at a run in almost a week, I was confronted with a choice. Should I pick the shady, tree covered route that has a two mile climb or the flat route in direct sun? It was a hot day yesterday, and either one would be a challenge given that my endurance is all but nonexistent right now. Sometimes on a run, and in life, you have to pick your poison. You take on the challenge for the gift of experience it will bring. I am moved by nature, and hills are great to build muscular strength and endurance, so I picked the hill.
The way was slow and fatigue came quickly as I began the climb. I resolved to be slow and steady, and not just in my body, but in my breath, and most importantly my mind. As sensation built I tried to let go of labels or valuations, to focus on the action of each step and it's relationship to breath. I followed the energetic knowing of my body, and I did walk briefly a few times when I knew it was needed. I felt the presence of the trees and heard the rustling of leaves and sound of birds, anchors for my awareness, meditation in motion. I made that two mile climb and then enjoyed the freeing shift of descent. I know it was made even more liberating and joyful because of the trial that came before it. The blood, sweat and tears (almost), of the climb made the way down an experience of bliss and release. Without the hill and the strength it took that would not have happened. At the end of that 5 1/2 mile run I felt cleansed and made new. I felt deeply alive and connected to nature and myself, revitalized and strong.
The gift I take away from this run (and consistently find in my running) is that facing the challenge is worth the discomfort, and when confronting it, to know I will pick the path that I need in that moment. The reward of tackling either the hill or the hot place is experience, and from experience comes wisdom. Even when I fail to make it to the top, or to go the distance, which has happened, there is great learning. Learning to let go, to surrender. All of it is powerful, all of it is full of grace.