As a father and an educator, I spend a fair amount of time imploring kids to pay attention. And, it seems like these days, I am doing it more and more. I am not sure if this is all due to the technological distractions kids have these days or simply the fact that there are so many things competing for kids’ attention, but more and more I find it difficult for kids to center, focus, and pay attention.
I was thinking about this last Sunday on my eight-mile run on Ridge Road here in Charlottesville. Ridge Road is a popular running destination for all the locals here. It is a nice, soft dirt road with ample shade and gently rolling hills. Basically, it’s the kind of bucolic running environment that allows me to lose myself in the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other.
Since moving to Central Virginia four years ago, I have probably run Ridge Road over 100 times. Winter, spring, summer, and fall I have traversed this road. Sometimes I’ve run fast, other times I’ve run slow. At times it’s a slog and at other times seem to just flow along. Ridge is a great training test piece as well as an ideal place to unwind. During my run this past Sunday, about two miles in, I found myself looking around, noticing things I hadn’t seen before. My attention became sharp and my run became free.
The light shining through the leaves, the horses at the fenceposts, the subtly changing road surface, and the sound of the wind all converged to focus my attention to the present. This focus allowed me to gradually become absorbed in the moment. When I got back to my car I remained in that ephemeral space and as I drove home, I thought about how running uniquely allows me to pay attention and I wondered how I might extend that to my work with kids.
Certainly, the act of running in and of itself improves attentiveness both for the short and long term. Are there ways that this natural evolution can be extended to the rest of life both with and for our communal well-being? I know for me, modern life has a way of dividing attention in ways I never would have imagined 25 years ago. Only through the conscious act of focused attention can I find a way out of a distracted mind. The best way I know to do that is to lace up my shoes and get out the door. I wish everyone had the chance to feel that way too!
AJW’s Beer of the Week
The week’s Beer of the Week comes from Ballast Point Brewing Company in San Diego, California. This great brewery, known for their award-winning Sculpin IPA, recently introduced an outstanding Double IPA called Dorado. Tipping the scales at 10% ABV and 90 IBUs, Dorado is not for the faint of heart but is surprisingly smooth drinking.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- What parts or conditions of trail running make you become fully attentive to your actions and surroundings?
- Does practicing attentiveness while running help you tend to the rest of your life?
- What happens if and when your attention lapses from life or running?