This post appeared on the Huffington Post on January 20, 2015
This past Sunday was a rainy day, unusual for sunny Southern California. I debated about whether to venture out for my usual weekend morning run, but decided that I would give it a try. It had been a long time since I had run in the rain.
I stepped outside into the gray mist and felt the moisture in the air. It was cool and windy, and drops of rain pounded steadily down, diagonal and persistent. The streets and sidewalks were empty, and a few fallen branches and leaves were strewn about. I started to run, tentatively, slowly. The sidewalk was slippery and I was afraid of falling.
My body was immediately aware of the newness of the experience. My body’s first reaction to something unfamiliar was to tense up. I felt the deep furrow in my forehead, where I often crease my brow as I listen to my patients, or when I am lost in my thoughts. Rivulets of rain dripped through this crease onto the top of my nose. The occasional cold plop of water fell from tree branches overhead onto my hair, startling me. My shoulders were hunched up near my ears.
What resistance to the experience! And simply because it felt different and strange. There was no way I could enjoy my run, trying to move along in this tight, stiff state. My body was sending unnecessary “bad” signals to my brain right and left.
I made a conscious effort to change my experience by changing the way I was holding my body. I relaxed my forehead, several times over. I dropped my shoulders down. I loosened my neck and relaxed my stride.
As I let go of the tension, all of a sudden, I could feel myself become part of the experience. I heard and felt the rushing sound of the wind through my ears and lungs. I noticed the way the raindrops sped up and slowed down according to how fast or slow I moved, just like the drops on the windshield of a moving car. The green of the trees and bushes against the slate background appeared lush and vivid. My movement felt light, free. I was coming alive to the moment.
And I realized that my immediate resistance to what was out of my comfort zone, was what differentiated my experience from that of a child. How a child would love to stomp about in the rain! Children rush head first into the novel experiences of life, with all breath and senses fully engaged. Their immediate reaction is often infused with delight and exhilaration.
Somewhere along the rocky path between childhood and adulthood, we learn of risks and discomfort. We close our world in, inch by inch, until one day we forget how to run in the rain. Losing control somehow feels frightening, rather than wondrous. We start to protect ourselves, even when it is not necessary.
Or, the opposite happens. As we go around the block a few times, the freshness of life’s experiences fade. Everything feels suffocating and dry. We can no longer view life through curious eyes.
Until one blustery, wet Sunday morning, you decide that instead of diving under the blankets, you will turn toward the unfamiliar with a beginners mind. You realize what it can feel like to run just for the sake of running. You welcome the feeling of consciously letting go, and leaning into the water and wind. You welcome the surrender to this ordinary moment, which has somehow, all of a sudden, become extraordinary.