“Contemplation” according to Thomas Merton in New Seeds of Contemplation, “is the highest expression of man’s intellectual and spiritual life. It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active fully aware that it is alive. It is the spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness and for being. It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent and infinitely abundant Source.”
I moved to Portland, Oregon almost a year ago and it shook all of the pieces of my life up until lovely remnants swirled around me like glitter in a snowglobe. The expected trajectory of this story would be that now that I am here, married, independent and hungry for big things; I am a completely different person. One could also assume that I have started fresh and am never looking back. Instead, I am gathering up those glittering things and diving into who I am now, who I will become tomorrow, and who I have always been through an important shift.
Trail running entered my life officially when I ran a (slow) half-marathon at Fall Creek Falls in early 2015. A lot of unknowns showed up during that year and the trails became a familiar comfort. In the fall of 2015, I ran the same trails almost everyday. The routine of driving up to the forest and pounding out a few miles became the only thing I could count on. When I decided to move, I got increasingly more and more stressed and I stopped running. Within the first eight months of living here, I went running less than ten times. My body began to feel less capable and the guilt grew into an ugly pile that kept me from even trying. Last fall, I kept talking about how I missed the trails, being active and a more even mindset. My husband David listened patiently and then said, “Let’s go on a run.” So we ran. Beginning is always a struggle, but the difficulty was embellished by my negative feelings towards myself. I felt heavy on my feet, self conscious when I passed other runners, and continually grateful that David was there to distract me. After a couple months, I picked a race to run and set a goal time. This meant I had to run by myself.
As someone who has always had a guilty conscience, the notion of positive self talk naturally feels indulgent. I can always rationalize why I shouldn’t tell myself I am beautiful or powerful. But when I set out alone for my long run a few weeks ago, I knew the only way I could get through it would be by giving myself grace and love. I purposely ran without music so that I could speak directly to my negative thoughts. When my breathing became labored, I audibly told myself that I was completely capable of the task at hand. When I caught sight of my shadow, I told myself I was loved. I even let out an excited “yes!” when I reached the top of one of the tougher hills on the trail. The final thirty minutes of the run, I felt incredibly alive and aware. The whole thing sounds a little silly, but the experience flipped a switch inside of me: I really fell in love with running. My spirit was rarely involved in the action before. I saw moving through nature at a reasonable pace as means to an elevated heart rate, a mood booster, and a weight loss mechanism. But while running alone in Forest Park, I felt like I was breathing in wonder and exhaling life. Truth be told, I was in a state of contemplation.
Let me set the record straight, I am still very young, I have lived a fairly conventional life, and am not an incredible athlete. However, I felt compelled to start this blog to explore spirituality and a new way of living. I only have stories of my limited experiences to offer you and I offer them with my whole heart.