Prayerful running

Rev. Roger Joslin, an Episcopal priest at All Saints’ Church in Bentonville, Arkansas, talks about his journey toward prayerful running.

Here is an excerpt from a Q&A with How did running start to become spiritual for you?

Roger Joslin: Life grew difficult and I went through a painful divorce. I was working out of town often and had a lot of free time, so I began to run longer and longer distances. I found that when I ran, I felt better. But it was an escape; I was not just avoiding the pain, but seeking something else. Running allowed me to be tuned in to what was going on around me.

Meditation is difficult for me – I am an active person, so sitting in silence for twenty minutes is difficult. I began to get much better at meditation as I combined it with my running practice. In the practice of sitting mediation, attention to breath is critical. When running, I found that it was almost impossible not to focus on my breath. After paying attention to my breath for years, I finally was breathing naturally in the way I had been seeking.

HH: How did running become a healing process for you?

RJ: At first, it was avoidance – a sort of treatment for the symptoms. The healing process came later as I began to practice God’s presence. We are called to practice the presence of God. My practice was to pay attention to God along the course of the run. It was easy to find distractions: I could turn on the radio or I could quiet my mind. I began to focus on being present – God exists in the present. God is clearly comprehensible and we are able to realize God in the immediate moment. God’s healing presence happens in the present – when we are focused on what has happened to us in the past or where we are going in the future, we are drawn away from the presence of God. When we can bring ourselves to that immediate moment, we are healed. That immediacy of God’s presence is the most healing balm I can imagine. As I ran and began to find ways to bring myself back to the present, I was healed.

HH: Could you talk about prayerful running?

RJ: As with meditation, prayerful running is more about listening than talking. You are allowing God’s voice to speak to you rather than telling God what you want. You have to find ways to listen. With a running meditation, you cannot shut out the physical environment. Initially I tried to shut those things out. I realized how foolish I was to do this – all of the surroundings on my run brought me into presence with God.

With a sitting meditation, you are always fighting distraction. When running, I can use distractions to remind me of my pursuit of God’s presence – a flower, a smell or a shift in light reconnects me with the present. If we can find ways to keep ourselves in the present, we will experience the Divine. As we strive to move toward a sense of God’s presence during a run, the more we will be able to do it in our lives.

Read the rest here.

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