My first interaction with Sakyong Mipham was when I was 13 years old. My friends and I were at the local lake, having just perfected the classic teenage sand mandala of the day, when the Sakyong walked by on his way to cool down in the waters. "Rinpoche," I inquired, "would you please bless our Wu Tang sand mandala?" Graciously Sakyong Mipham took my towel from me, waved it over the structure, and joked, "There. You're blessed."
He then walked to the nearby monkey bars and challenged me to a pull-up contest. He has approximately twenty years on me, and was devoted to taking care of his body, so that story tells itself. However, I will forever remember his encouragement as I took up the physical exercise, and his gentle nature and humor.
Flash forward to April 10th, 2012. His third book, Running With the Mind of Meditation: Lessons for Training Body and Mind arrives in my mailbox. In it I found the same kindness, consideration, and humor that I have come to expect from the Sakyong.
I am a firm believer that meditation principles can be applied to any aspect of your life. After all, we call it meditation practice for a reason, right? That reason is that we can practice developing mindfulness, being present, on the meditation cushion so we can apply that quality to all of the waking hours of our life. In practicing meditation we touch our own innate wisdom, kindness, and genuineness so that we can manifest those aspects of who we are on a regular basis.
In Running with the Mind of Meditation, Sakyong Mipham has mastered the ability to make meditation teachings applicable to our modern world, without watering down any of the traditional dharma. Do you have to be a Buddhist to enjoy this book? Heck, no. Do you have to be a marathon runner? No way. This book is for everyone, and the Sakyong does a masterful job of taking things we do all the time (breathing, moving) and making it into a practice. He encourages us to change our view around this activity, so it's not time that we space out but we instead treat every moment of our life as an opportunity for practice.
He incorporates the Four Dignities of Shambhala, the basis for his second book, Ruling Your World, into this new volume and extrapolates where it is most helpful -- on how to apply the qualities of these legendary animals to your life. In a world filled with an ever-expanding number of ways to avoid the present moment, the Sakyong here gently, kindly, brings us back again and again to the beauty of being here, right now. Compared to the number of books on meditation and yoga this book stands out in that it is the first of its kind to promote running, a very vigorous activity, as one of the many ways we can bring ourselves in line with our own awake qualities.
A dozen years after meeting my playground run-in with Sakyong Mipham, already a "hardcore" meditator, I found myself running a half-marathon in Massachusetts. It was a more rigorous course than I had expected or trained for, and after mile eight an old knee injury began to make itself known.
The Sakyong's words came to mind: "Bring together discipline and gentleness." I was able to tap into my personal motivation (discussed in this book in relation to the Tibetan word kunlong, or "to rise up") and was able to overcome my own hesitation and doubt and finish the race like a champion. Whether you are new or experienced in being a meditator, a runner, or if you are just someone who would like to live their life in a mindful and compassionate way, this book is for you. I highly recommend it, and imagine Sakyong Mipham's advice may haunt and encourage you as it has me, inspiring you to rise up above your own hesitation and live your life with more mindfulness, on and off the meditation cushion.