A nail in the coffin of a new blog

Among Buddhism’s selling points is the fact it’s the major world religion that sounds most like “burrito.” That’s practically all the reason I needed to convert.

Burritos, well … I eat a bunch. Enough, at least, for a friend to suggest I start a blog about them, though he may have just been trying to get me to shut up and keep my commentary to online posts he’d never have to read.

As I was preparing to roll out my Burr-write-o blog a couple of months ago, a co-worker, having just bought a burrito from a local restaurant, bit into his dinner, heard a crunch, and pulled out a glossy fake fingernail. As gross as it was, the guy had the burrito story of the year handed to him in a tortilla shell, and lamentably, it was his news to break. My blog was scooped before it even began.

The Burr-write-o blog was a half-hearted venture to begin with. I soon realized there were two other topics I’d much rather be writing about: running and Buddhism.

I’m no authority on either. I have no insights on how to run with speed or grace. The only race I ever won was a two-person contest to see whose blackened big toenail would fall off first.

As for following the Buddhist path, I’m barely even a beginner. For all I know, there’s an ancient Buddhist text somewhere that explicitly forbids running. If so, I’ll be aborting this blog too, or at least shutting it down for a few weeks before relaunching it as Running against the Dharma.

My hunch is I won’t need to. Miles on the trail and time on the meditation cushion have pointed to some common truths. I’ve been surprised, often moved, by how much running and Buddhist practice support each other.

“Dharma,” I should note, is a word with several meanings that has been used for many purposes, from naming formulaic sitcoms to attempting to describe the nature of the cosmos. In the context of this blog, dharma refers to the teachings of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama.

In these teachings, the Buddha pointed to the value of paying attention to the present moment to get a better handle on the ways we suffer, and to gain insight into how we can lessen that suffering. As important as mindfulness is, I’ve heard several dharma teachers speak of the usefulness of reflecting on the past from time to time. It can be an aid to spiritual practice, so long as we don’t get too caught up in the good and bad times that have come and gone.

That’s the intention behind this blog. I’m not out to convince my running friends to spark a stick of incense and pretzel themselves into the full lotus position, nor am I looking to spur my Buddhist friends into signing up for a 5K race – though if that’s how things pan out, I won’t complain.

Rather, I hope to make note of how I view running and Buddhism today, so down the road I can engage in a healthy reflection on where these complementary practices have led me. If all that comes from this blog is being able to look back a year from now and think “Boy, that was a dumb thing to write,” I’ll have considered this time well spent.

I’ll also abide by a valuable lesson that’s been reinforced to me through running and Buddhist practice, which is the importance of approaching what you do, whatever you do, with a sense of ease. It’s a truth I’ve heard articulated in different ways by various running enthusiasts and Buddhist practitioners.

“Think Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless. When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smooooooth. You won’t have to worry about the last one – you get those three, and you’ll be fast.”

Caballo Blanco (Micah True)
From Born to Run
by Christopher McDougall

“To be easy with what’s happening is to make … space around it or hold it lightly. Even very important things can be held easy. And in that space of ease, then there’s opportunity to relax. … There’s opportunity to step back and see what’s going on with greater clarity that you can’t if you’re really kind of caught with things.”

Gil Fronsdal
Insight Meditation Center,
Redwood City, Calif.
Sept. 15, 2010

I’m looking to keep things light and easy with this blog, without being too glib or oversimplifying things. If I screw up, let me know. Criticism can be a big help.

Oh, and so you don’t think I’m trying to pull a fast one, there’s no real dharma on this site. I’ve often heard it said that the dharma isn’t found in words, but in those who experience it. It’s perhaps another thing both Buddhism and running have in common – they occupy that narrow strip where the rubber hits the road.