I know someone who meditates.
He finds his sense of peace, his stillness, completing some of the most challenging races in the world: 135 miles through a Minnesota winter, 57 hours searching for books in haunted Tennessee woods, and a soon-to-be 200 miles through the Swiss Alps.
Needless to say, he runs these races.
And he runs them hard.
But to find his stillness, he pushes his body far past what most consider healthy.
I meditate, too, you know. Like his, my form of meditation is an isolating experience: I sit with pen and paper, wherever that may be—in bed, at a cafe, or on a moss-covered rock—and I meditate. That is, I write.
Some days I know exactly want I want to write about. I’ll have begun writing long before I inscribe anything onto the page. Some idea or thought has been knocking against my head for days, and I’ve finally figured out how to organize it onto the page.
Some days I won’t have any plan. I’ll just write what comes to me in that moment; I’ll just write because it’s a mental release.
It doesn’t matter what I write. I’m simply writing because I love it.
But recently I found myself wondering whether writing was a waste of time: Am I spending my life writing about life rather than living it?
That’s when I looked away from the page and noticed my friend running his life away.
- He doesn’t put a number on his life—the only number he wears is on the back of his racing jersey.
- He doesn’t preserve his life, suffocating his body in bubble wrap—he preserves the precious water left on a 32-mile run.
- He doesn’t think about his life’s end—he dreams about finishing the next race.
Where I write to make meaning, where I seek solitude with words—a meditation in its own right—he runs. I understand that he seeks his own equilibrium in these races; in these efforts, he’s seeking his own balance. I don’t need to wake up at 3 a.m. in order to fit in a romp up three local mountains before work. But I need to write at some point throughout the day to find my focus. While he finds his focus in the foggy climb before dawn, I find my clarity in the words that I write.
I don’t understand his meditation, and maybe he doesn’t understand mine. But does it matter? If I find stillness in language and the way the words are assembled on paper, why can’t he amble up mountains?
He lives dangerously, running. I know that, and most of all, he knows that. And yet knowing that he lives life at the precipice, where he stands between his most glorious, successful race and an injury, a setback, even death, I still love him back. I still appreciate his form of meditation, even if it isn’t my own.
After all, I’m an eager, inspired student, looking to support myself in the world through words.
Living dangerously, no matter the risk, is the only way I know how.
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Ed: B. Bemel