The kath is the belly centre, also known as the hara (in some Buddhist traditions) and the don tien (in martial arts) or dantien. In the Diamond Approach we use the term kath, and one of the foundational practices is the kath meditation. The kath centre is also known as the moving centre, so on my run in the mountains by the Seymour River yesterday, I experimented with doing the kath meditation while running. Running is definitely a form of movement!
A while ago on a vision fast in Colorado, Ann Debaldo, a student of the Diamond Approach and apprentice on that vision fast, told me that focusing on the kath would help my feet find their way in the dark. I have certainly found this to be true on night runs when I can’t see the path. But yesterday I tried it in broad daylight, and what a revelation! First, I could see so much more of my surroundings by looking straight ahead rather than at the path. My eyes and soul could take in the magnificent greenness of the forest and the purity and freshness of the snowy mountain peaks ahead. Also, by focusing on the kath, my mind was much more still, which meant I could absorb the impact of the surroundings more. This is what I long for when I run in the forest; to be impacted by the beauty of nature, and have that freshness enliven the dead, stale spaces of my soul that get trapped in endless dry thought patterns. It was so refreshing!
And finally, I find it very difficult to rest in the kath centre when I do my sitting meditation each morning. But resting in the kath while running was very easy! I felt a fullness there, like a thick liquid, resilient and substantial. It actually seemed motionless, though my body was in movement. It was a wonderful way to experience the kath. And my feet did indeed find their way, over stones and sticks, potholes and lumps, with speed and agility. I recommend that you try this the next time you go for a run. Just bring your awareness into your belly, below the belly button. And keep bringing it back there when the mind wanders away. I’d love to hear about your experience after you’ve tried it!
By the way, the other thing that I did was to keep my eyes focused straight ahead or looking around at the mountains, trees, and river, rather than on the path. Keeping the eyes focused straight ahead is one of the techniques of ChiRunning. Angela James told me that she had one of her best race times ever when she focused on this technique. If you are interested in learning more about ChiRunning, check out the ChiRunning and yoga retreat at Monkey Valley in July!
And finally, I want to mention an interesting idea I came across in the Winter 2009 issue of Circles on the Mountain, the publication of the Wilderness Guides Council. The Hawaiian Maoli people have an ideal of Mihikala—the act of giving and receiving forgiveness before it is needed. Imagine the freedom of being able to forgive someone, rather than get upset, even before they do the thing that would upset you! The longing for freedom from reactivity is very strong in me these days, so this idea has much appeal. I will try to practice it on the other drivers during the drive in to work this morning!