Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Blessings of Running: Senses

Lately, I've been feeling a little down. Besides feeling an emotional ennui, I've also been dealing with a lot of aches and pains. Running has not been easy.

A couple of weeks ago, I caught part of an On Being episode on the radio as I was driving. The interview was so intriguing, I had to wait in my driveway to finish a section of the interview.

Long story short, I downloaded the podcast, "The Inner Landscape of Beauty." On that episode, Krista Tippett interviewed John O'Donohue, an Irish poet and philosopher. O'Donohue's thoughts, blessings, and poetry spoke to me. While I could write about O'Donohue, the On Being episode, and his book "Anam Cara" for much longer than you would read, I'll instead share some thoughts on one of his blessings.

Running has truly blessed me, and though it's been more painful and less fluid recently, it's still been a needed escape. Here is one of O'Donohue's blessings from his book "Anam Cara."

"A Blessing for the Senses"
May your body be blessed.
May you realize that your body is a faithful and beautiful 

  friend of your soul.
And may you be peaceful and joyful and recognize that your 

  senses are sacred thresholds.
May you realize that holiness is mindful, gazing, feeling, 

   hearing, and touching.
May your senses gather you and bring you home.
May your senses always enable you to celebrate the universe 

  and the mystery and possibilities in your presence here.
May the Eros of the Earth bless you.

– John O’Donohue in "Anam Cara"

Being mindful takes practice. Feeling my feet on the ground when I run, directing my gaze on a solitary spot, or allowing my thoughts and my body to be still are not easy for me.

Still. Being present is food for the body and spirit. Walking, running, or being still without the buzz of a radio, the mindlessness of a smart phone, or the intrusiveness of a television seem foreign to many people.

I'll end with a poem of my own:


My senses are full,

 Minnesota summer air
 humidity and sweat clinging to my shirt.
 listening to 
   hum of traffic, 
   whistling of waterfowl in flight.

   respiration of trees 
   fresh mowed grass.

   flowing waters of the Mississippi 
   an egret creeping in the shallows.

these are enough for my senses.

Run well.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Spending time meaningfully is a lost art. The phrase "killing time" suggest a boredom and lack of productivity, but spending time suggests presence and meaning. One of my favorite poems describes time better than I ever could:

Image credit:

 A Time for Everything

 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace
                                                  ~ Ecclesiastes

The world is a strange place. When you're young, time has a way of slowing down. At age twenty, a year can seem like a long time--and it is. One year is 5% of a twenty year old's life.

When my great grandmother was spending her last days in the nursing home, she would often say, "The days go by slowly, but the years pass quickly." At the time of her death she was ninety eight years of age. She'd lived a good life, but at the end she spent her days in the routine of the nursing home, and with many of her children having died and her other children and grandchildren living far away, her visitors were few and far between.

When she did have visitors, they cared for her very much. My parents would sneak her beer and pizza. She winced the first time they had her try Diet Coke.

My Aunt Anita, a major in the Air Force and a nurse, dressed down the nursing home staff when she found out Grandma Lohmen was no longer getting dessert for dietary reasons.  My Uncle Mark, a pastor, let another Lutheran pastor experience a righteous rebuke when he found out Grandma Lohmen wasn't receiving regular pastoral visits and communion.

Time is a funny thing. In our modern world, it has become the enemy. People rush from task to task, fighting the hectic demands of work and constant communication with people in far away places. How many times do we see a group of friends sitting together, checking Facebook or sending text messages to people who aren't there?

Others who are sick, in the hospital, or passing days in an empty house or the room of a nursing home experience time at a much slower pace. Time can make one downright depressed.

When running, loneliness rarely creeps into my mind. I can be content with my inner world as I experience the movement of the outer world around me. I can run with a group of people as we share stories, laugh, and exert ourselves together.

Time is a strange thing, but it's not the enemy. Time is a gift. Spend it wisely.

Run well.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Jeff the Cyclist, Poetry and Art

Jeff the Cyclist is either Lance Armstrong, Bill Watterson, or a combination of the two.

Image Credit at: Go Comics

Ponder this as you read my bicycling poem:

I wrote the first draft of this poem in April of 2014 as I was biking to work:


The splattering, gritty muck,
that flings from my tires
as I pedal down the street
     goes unnoticed.

I push the pedals
down, standing occasionally
to drive the gear at a high RPM
to drive the cogs on the back.

As the chain revolves
around the gear in
a faster circle,
my thoughts follow suit.

Around they go--
approaching my problem from
every possible angle until
      my thoughts are exhausted.

Which is fortunate--
my mind is tired now,
and the exhaust from the cars
fills my lungs so I
slow down.

I am home now.
Street dirt coats my bike
my legs
my lungs.

My thoughts, however
have stopped spinning and
my problem is exhausted.

Run another one of my poems in Run Minnesota, the July/August issue. You can pick them up from a variety of running stores in the Twin Cities area.

Read more about Bill Watterson here in Mental Floss:
TEAM ‘CUL DE SAC’ AUCTION: Rare Watterson painting sells for $13K.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Time to Think

During the school year, I generally enjoy running by myself. Although I draw a lot of my energy from being around other people, running alone gives me some much needed time for solitude and reflection.

Sitting still and relaxing during times of stress have never been easy for me. The motion of a bike ride or a run helps me work out my frustrations and anxiety while I think about my "problems." I often decide that certain things are not worth the emotional energy I spend as I push my body through a training run.

Backwaters of the Minnesota River near a trail through Fort Snelling State Park

Besides dealing with stressful situations, I also have time for contemplation. Running through wooded areas, along water, or, near other athletes give me energy for becoming a better friend, family member, and resident of earth.

Intrinsically I know I'm no better than any other human being, and I try to live by the verse, "in humility, consider others better than yourself." Often it is easy for me to become self-righteous, questioning others' motivations and actions. On a run I can think about the good qualities of people I'm having a hard time with, and I can realize that I have no idea what their motivations are or why they act the way they do.

Riding my bike to work, I'm often remind how much easier life is than I make it out to be in my mind. I have food, clean water, shelter, and more possessions than any human could possibly need. I don't have to worry about where my next meal is coming from. Loving family, friends, and a community of believers at my church are thinking of me, praying for me, and offering me support--especially in times of stress.

And you, readers of this blog, have offered me a forum where I can share some of my inner thoughts, free from judgment. Admitting weakness, failure, anxiety, and insecurity is not easy for me to do. Too often I've been told, "You're overreacting," or, worse, "What you need to do is..."

Listening is a lost art. I'm not the world's best listener--I'm often thinking of what I want to say rather than really hearing the words of the people around me.

Although listening doesn't always come naturally to me, reading does. Reading an e-mail, Facebook post, or text message is easy for me. Responding to a difficult situation through those mediums is not.

Those who have helped me through difficult situations in life haven't always been those who have given me advice. Rather, they have been the ones who have said, "I don't know what to tell you, but I'm sorry you're going through this," or, "what can I do to help?" or, "I'll keep you in my thoughts."

So, to all of you, thanks for listening.

Run well.