I’ve come up with the Harmony Run to begin to explore my own questions and experiences, quietly asking myself in silence: what is the best way I can contribute to the ‘Harmony’ conversation? I will be sharing my journey with you over the next six months as part of the Sustainable Food Trust’s Harmony Project, documenting my physical and mental training across different terrains, my connections and conversations with other runners and the development of my understanding of Harmony. My experience will be inspired by foot strikes, breathing cycles and heart beats, mixed in with sounds of nature, revealing how the patterns of nature, and principles of Harmony are reflected through my year-long running journey. My first blog explains why I run. This time, I have chosen to explore the Harmony principle of Interdependence.
Interdependence: The connectedness of all things
What connects me? The Runner’s mind, body and spirit, the tribe, and place.
Thoughts, images and dreams emerge deep inside my consciousness. Being aware of all that is going on in nature – light, darkness, color, temperature, sounds, smells, tastes, time. Imagine looking at nature through three camera lenses: a wide angle, a normal lens and a telephoto lens. The runner’s mind is like a telephoto lens, constantly zooming in and out in thought. My mind dives deeper into self-awareness through trial and error on every run, connecting up past and present experiences. Seeing and experiencing the joined-up-ness of life and the body.
My body keeps changing year after year; there is never a year that is the same physically and mentally. The challenge is how to build and maintain physical health, vitality and fitness throughout the year and be ready for competition. My running is pretty much based on the seasonal cycles: spring is for training, summer is for racing, fall is for recovery and winter is for rest and cross training. The body, much like nature, has cycles and needs. Being ready to race at any given time is not a good idea, the body has limits. Health, sickness or injury can happen at any time, unexpectedly. I must be prepared to adapt for anything that comes in the way of my goal.
Adaptation is another key principle of Harmony. Nature itself is in a state of flux, and we can learn a lot from this dynamic way of working. Adapting my body to the physically challenging landscape I will be racing in – such as altitude, heat, a different time zone – all must be taken into account. Adapting to a local context also helps to build a sense of place, heightening the connection I feel to my surroundings when I run.
“When we work with the body there is harmony.” (Vanda Scaravelli)
Through thinking about the principles of Harmony I’ve learned to recognize and be aware of the interconnectedness of my muscles, nerves, ligaments, tendons, joints and bones. Achieving a strong mind and body requires training my legs, lungs, heart and mind to all work together. Diving deeper inside of my body, the invisible internal machine that works without rest, keeps me healthy. A healthy harmonious body needs to be nourished, hydrated, loved and celebrated.
Nature too affects the body. Being in and around nature has been proven to restore and heal us, improving both our physical and mental wellbeing. When we focus on Nature’s living elements, we are able to tap into its energy and gain strength and inspiration from it. In contrast, when we observe environments that are damaged, such as deforested land, degraded soils or landscapes littered with waste, we are reminded of the devastating impact that humans can have on the environment. The more I run, the more I see, and the more awakened I am to such problems. In me, this creates a sense of urgency to act now.
A “New way of Looking at our World” also means a new way of thinking about the way I live. Over the past year learning about the principles of Harmony and connecting it to my own thoughts and actions has taken me on a new journey inside unknown mysteries. It has led me to question my connections with the universal whole and opened my eyes and mind to the new, the old, the familiar and the sacred. It’s a different kind of ultra-marathon, where the invisible forces, energies and thoughts connect up into a new way of learning, thinking and living.
“The influence of peace and harmony released from the deepest level of consciousness is infinitely more powerful that that released from the surface level of the mind, the thinking level.” (Maharashi Mahesh Yogi)
Runners create communities and connect to each other on or off the trail. Tribes share passions. When we run, we are connected in a silent harmonious language, moving forward. Everyone has their own motivations for why they run. I prefer to run alone. I see my tribe also including all elements of nature, trees, animals, insects, light, darkness, weather, thoughts and stones. The more I learn about harmony and apply it to my own running, the more I begin to appreciate seeing the interdependence of all life, big and small. I keep this mantra in my mind always, “A new way of looking at our World.”
Anthony Rodale is Chair of the Sustainable Food Trust Board, an advocate for sustainability, endurance athlete, and keen photographer. He is 3 time finisher of the ultra Marathon des Sables. Anthony has spent years travelling the world visiting sustainable and organic farms, learning about successful practices in soil regeneration, crop production, plant diversity, carbon sequestration, economic viability, food security and community health. He has been President of the Sustainable Food Alliance since 2011. Before that served on other Boards such as the Rainforest Alliance, Friends of the Soil Association, and Board Chair of the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania.
Anthony is running the Trans Atlas Marathon to raise money for The Harmony Project. Visit his JustGiving page to sponsor him.
This article was first published on 18th July 2013 on the Sustainable Food Trust website.