To iPod or not to iPod? This is a question I have heard & asked myself and others as the growing majority of people seem to have grown wires even when they go for a walk, run, ride, or like. Just a few decades ago, you had to carry a boom box on your shoulder if you wanted to move with your music, but now it’s often small, wired, and light, not to mention that the battery lasts a lot longer. Before this technological explosion, what did people DO when they went to workout? I often hear panic or disbelief in people’s voices when they see me running or moving my body without sound-inducing paraphernalia attached to me or nearby. Maybe it’s a question of INTROVERT or EXTROVERT, PITA or VATA, ONLY CHILD or ONE OF MANY. Or maybe it’s just become a habit. Not knowing how to shut off when we are conscious, much less unconscious, seems to be a growing dilemma, hence the 1200% increase in diagnosed cases of anxiety since 1980, the beginning of the technology revolution.
I’m reminded of Isaac Newton who said “an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by a equal or stronger force.” In other words, our brains & body will continue to crave and expect constant stimulation until they experience something that is more powerful or profound (i.e. Your Brain on Nature). While using headphones during walks, workouts, & wanderings can serve a purpose, I find it unnecessary (especially on workouts <1 hr), unsafe (especially when cycling or walking in a cycling area), and yet another distraction from the healing that Nature provides us when we immerse ourselves in it with mind, body, and spirit. Our days are already jammed pack with the stimulation and noise from kids, spouses, co-workers, TV, radio, computers, phones, etc. Sleep seems to be the only time we are free from the constant stimulation unless you fall asleep with the TV or radio or computer going. If you fall in the latter category, How is your quality of sleep? Do you feel rested when you wake-up? Are you frequently injured or sick? When constantly bombarded with noise from sun up to sun down, our minds and bodies can’t rest, heal, and integrate properly. Multi-tasking isn’t a biological reality according a recent study in the NY Times. You may multi-task and multi-task fairly well, but your brain and body are suffering for it.
Granted, the longer the distance the more challenging it is to train without a partner or an iPod, but what great mental training for race day when we must go it alone to a great extent. By running or walking with Nature as my companion, I’m able to stay better connected to my body and how it’s being impacted, whether it be gratitude for a breeze or shade or awareness that it’s gotten warmer & I need to slow down or take some water. In many ways, the longer we go, the more deeply we need to be in tune with our bodies and our environment because training can only take us so far. The rest is up to the elements and how we flow with them or fight with them.
Go solo & sound-free on your next outing and see what arises. Keep it short to start. Notice where you’re mind wanders to and gently bring it back to “this moment, this breath, this sensation or sight.” It’s really a form of meditation, learning to concentrate and focus your mind so that you are in charge of it vs. it being in charge of you. The first time may be miserable but full of information about your edges. So keep trying it and see how it can serve you. Sometimes our greatest insights come through our greatest (& smallest) trials.