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Living An Embodied Life Posted on April 03, 2014

I spent a great deal of my life chasing shadows. I believed that happiness was around the corner, whether that be with another post-grad degree under my belt, a specific career trajectory, or after losing (fill in the blank) pounds. That’s not to say I haven’t lived a good life. I am incredibly grateful for the wonderful opportunities and people who have graced me, and continue to do so. I have lived many years, made up of many happy moments, but there has always been this unspeakable, unidentifiable malaise that lingered at the edge of my experience. It visited me during quiet nights, and drawn out days. I am a seeker by nature, wandering down paths of academic, spiritual, and relational enlightenment. And yet, all of my studies, relationships, meditations, were never able to address the very real, and very fractured relationship I had with my body. Sure, I was able to come to a cognitive understanding of the complex psycho-social underpinnings of my development, relational breaks, and the harmful messages sent to us by a commercial culture that cares not for our well-being, but seeks to control and manipulate us in deceitful ways by playing to our base insecurities. Armed with an arsenal of philosophical, psychological, and sociological wisdom, why was I still unable to live fully and freely in the world? Why wasn’t I able to slay the dragons in my mind that were fed by negative messages and unrealistic expectations? Why was I embarrassed to wear short sleeves in public? Why did I hate looking at myself in the mirror? The older I got, the more I cursed my body. It was something apart from me, something to be contained and disciplined. I viewed exercise as a means to an end, and not an end in itself. I now realize that the dysfunction, and inability to fill in those dark spaces, was due to the fact that I was not living a fully embodied life.

I was given the gift of running in 2012, when I committed to doing a 5k to raise money for a counseling/advocacy center that I used to work at. It seemed impossible, but I was determined. In the early days, I ran at night, in the shadows of south city, embarrassed to be seen. I worked out in the gym, my body fully covered with clothing not suited to the humid, hot environment. I wrestled with my inabilities instead of focusing on my abilities. I kept at it, but the darkness of insecurity and self-loathing continued to linger on the edges. It wasn’t until I made a resolution in 2013 that I significantly opened up to the possibilities that running (and life) had to offer. It was a simple resolution: come to a place of radical self-acceptance. I had no idea where this journey would take me, what monsters awaited in the darkness, or what gifts would appear when I was thirsty for sustenance. Running had my feet on the ground and moving in the right direction, but it wasn’t until I discovered, and plugged into, the power of mindfulness that I was able to really make the connections that created a massive consciousness shift. I learned to live in the present. Instead of wishing I were faster, thinner, stronger, I worked on loving my body for what it is, and is capable of, today.  When you’re running, that’s all you have: your body, the moment, the present, and the road in front of you. Growth comes from living all of those moments fully, pushing your body, and opening your mind to unlimited possibilities. In this, we become part of an expansive universe.

Over the course of my first half marathon training, I added yoga into my weekly training routine. It offers a deeper, meditative yin to the white, hot, burning energy of the running yang. It taught me to focus more deeply on the interconnectedness of my body. Channeling this into my running, I began to pay attention to the feeling of blood pumping, the rhythm of my breath, the feeling of my heart expanding in my chest, the physical shifts that occur during a small tweak to running form, the opening of new spaces by engaging parts of the body previously ignored, and experiencing the feeling of cool rivers running through hot muscles.

What is so radical about all of this is that I have been liberated in the process. The dark corners of my being have been exposed, cleaned out, and filled with the light of gratitude and transcendental joy. I compassionate with the monsters, when they rear their heads, speaking in voices that are all too familiar and hurtful. I soothe them instead of feeding them and fighting them. I no longer hide my body. I move fully and freely in the world, without apology. Sure, my body has changed some, but not as much as my spirit. I am mending the fractures that run deep. I am reconnecting with a profound sense of joy that was lost to me long ago, and am rediscovering the unfettered wonder of childhood dreaming.

I run to survive. I run to live. I run to connect with my deepest sense of self, and am better able to connect with others in an authentic way. It has given me the hope to dream big. When I started running, I couldn’t run for a minute. I recently ran my fourth half marathon, meeting my personal goals along the way. I turn 40 this year, with marathon dreams on the horizon. I love the anticipation and energy of big races and the quiet, meditativeness of running on a cold winter night in the city, inhaling the misty breath of melting snow. I will never be the fastest or the strongest. I may never even finish in the top half, and that’s okay. I run for myself. It has given me the gift of a life fully lived, pushing boundaries, and expanding horizons. No matter where you are on your journey, these gifts are available to you. Carpe Diem.


*Katherine Annemarie is a freelance blogger for the More Miles More Smiles team*


by Mark Spewak


Maureen on On 05/11 at 01:50 PM

Just came across this as I was looking for ideas for my GOTR fundraising. We have a lot in common my friend! Many of the things you said in your blog are the same thoughts that run through my head on a daily basis. Thank you for your honestly and for sharing your experience. It is always good to know that you are not alone and someone else out there has been in those dark places and found their way out. I really needed to see this today so thank you! I am so proud of you and all you have accomplished! Chicago here I come!

Ruth on On 04/13 at 04:45 PM

I love this too. Worth coming back to!

Dana on On 04/04 at 06:11 PM

What a great article. You are SO AWESOME, I am so very proud of you!

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