Sitting and moving. That’s what I spend the majority of my free time doing.
Stated another way, I spend a lot of time meditating and running. Between those two activities, I probably average between three and four hours a day. That may seem like a lot of time to spend on activities with no obvious practical purpose. But to me, they are the most fundamental things I do every day.
It’s hard for me at this point to imagine doing anything different with my life. But almost every other person on this planet chooses to spend their time differently, which means that my choices here are unique. So I figured I’d write a brief homage to why I enjoy these two activities so much.
The moving is beneficial because it is exercise. Evolutionary history tells me that we humans are animals first and cognitive creatures second. If we get caught up too much in our cognition, the machinery stalls out. By moving every day, I bring myself back to the most basic aspects of my physical being—navigating my natural environment. That navigating helps me remind myself every day of the way that I physically inhabit the space around me. It is powerful to move. Without that movement, the other aspects of my day feel less real.
The sitting is beneficial because it stops me from getting too caught up in the things I have going on in my life. The tasks of a professional can seem very important in the moment you are doing them, but on a cosmic scale, it is hard to think that they are. Sitting is a daily reminder of the fragility of our temporary forms of existence. It is a reminder to let go of small things and to remember one’s place in the broader scheme of the universe. That sounds like heady stuff, but in the moment of sitting, there is truly nothing to do. Sitting is not an addition process; it is a subtraction process. Just sit and let go of everything else.
On the surface, one might think that running that would be the harder of the two—much harder than sitting. But I certainly find the sitting to be much more challenging than the moving. For me, unless I’m pushing myself to the extremes of my fitness level, running for an hour or even two hours isn’t that much of a challenge. On the other hand, sitting still for an hour is incredibly difficult—and I almost always fail to sit completely still for the entire time that I set out to sit.
So in a sense, I’m a better mover than a sitter. Or perhaps sitting still is inherently more difficult than moving. Either way, it’s the sitting that is the harder of the two for me.
Also, the more I meditate, the more I find commonality in what previously seemed like disparate experiences. I practice a few different kinds of meditation, some of which involve deep attempts at concentration and some that are not as active, but rather attempts to let go of the intention to control one’s attention. Initially, the latter experience didn’t feel much like meditation at all, but rather just an out-of-control wandering. But the more I meditate, the less different the focused meditation and the non-intentional meditation seem to be. Often, after twenty or thirty minutes, there is no difference, or there does not seem to be.
And so too with sitting and moving. The more I meditate and run, the more I find that returning to the breath can be as useful in running as it is in sitting. And after an extended time running, I sometimes notice similar sensations to those I feel when sitting—the challenge of staying focused in the moment, an internal voice suggesting to do something else, even a form of mini-nausea arising from the intensity of the experience.
The more that I sit and move, the more the experiences start to seem alike. Perhaps there might be a lesson in there about the universality of all experience, but I doubt I’m qualified to render such an opinion. What I can attest to is the power of the intentional sitting and moving. It’s a power that feels as deep as anything I have encountered.