So I was thinking a little bit about this, while running. (I was reluctant to misuse the word zen – almost did – I don’t really know anything about it, any more than I do about the art of motorcycle maintenance.) The thing I do like about road running (as opposed to trail) is that it is much easier to lose yourself. Once you attain certain level of conditioning, you reach a point where your body does it’s own thing, automatically, almost effortless, and your mind can do it’s own thing. Totally in the zone. Add to that a layer of music that is synced with the rhythm of your body, a buzz of endorphins/adrenaline and it can get trance like. Similar to the feeling on a rave dance floor…with natural chemistry in place of illicit ones enhancing the experience. You cease to notice what your body is doing, the footfalls become mantra, and start to float on autopilot. Your mind is free to go anywhere.
One of the things I like about trail running on the other hand, is that it requires enough of your concentration that it is very difficult for your mind to wander. Instead, you are 100% in the now. The fact that your mind isn’t occupied by anything else, because it can’t afford to, has its own appeal.
And yet , there is a point to be reached here as well. John Krakauer talked about it in Eiger Dreams. Because it is more of a skill, it takes more mental conditioning, but you can reach a point where that becomes automatic as well… Where your body is conditioned to where you don’t feel pain or discomfort, and your body and mind together know what the next move is and do it automatically, correctly and efficiently without thinking about it. That has got to be the true high, as in Krakauer’s rock climbing, “floating up the side of the mountain effortlessly”. The same would apply to any skilled endeavor. Trail running would have to be way down on the list of “skills”, but I think I hit that point last time out. When I had the motorcycle, I felt like I was just reaching that point, like it was just around the next bend, but within reach (didn’t get out much…). To get to that level in Aikido…well…that’ll be just neato.