My hoodie’s pockets were full: tissues in one, apartment keys in the other. Now that Madrid’s weather had taken a turn for the chilly, tissue paper had become a must-have when I set out for a run.
As I stepped out of my apartment building, I tapped the keys in my pocket one last time before l the iron door slam behind me. I’d never been locked out before, and I wanted to keep it that way. I looked to my left, to my right, and to my left again. “Sure, why not?” I wondered, and set off at a slow gait. Left it is.
Start, stop. Start, stop. Start, stop. These city blocks weren’t long at all. Every time I got into a groove, a red light would hit the pause button on my flow until the recording of birds chirping made it through my headphones. “I hate those birds,” I thought to myself. Why would the city of Madrid choose chirping birds to announce to pedestrians when they can or can’t walk across the intersection? That shrill "chirp, chirp, chirp” even made it into my dreams some nights.
I slowly climbed the subtle hill toward Paseo de Castellana, inching my way northeast with each street block. Once I made my way onto the wide boulevard of the city’s main street, I was free. No street lights making me hit the brakes, and nobody for me to dodge. With free space in front of me, I decided to hit the gas full speed. Sprint, sprint, sprint, my legs propelled me forward, my heart racing, and my smile a mile wide.
After about a minute of challenging myself to run as fast as my legs could take me, a strange awareness hit me like a tidal wave. I realized I wasn’t thinking anything! I tried to recall, “What was the last thing I thought of?” and I came up short. I couldn’t remember thinking anything after I’d chosen to turn left outside my apartment. “That’s…odd,” I concluded. Isn’t thinking a good thing?
I’d read about this long ago, about extreme concentration forcing a person into a state of mind so utterly focused that no other thoughts can infiltrate. I’d talked about it with a friend of mine who’s a devout mountain climber.
“Think about it,” he’d explained. “There’s no room for thought when you’re clinging to the wall and your fingers are slipping. You either survive or you don’t. Sure, I’ve got harnesses and the whole deal, but my mind isn’t thinking about the back-up plan. It’s focused on succeeding.”
I continued running down the tree-lined boulevard, savoring in the sporadic rays of sunlight that made it through the branches. I welcomed their jolts of warmth as I slowed back down to a jog.
“Mmm,” I realized. “This is delicious."
This story is mostly for me. I miss running outside. I miss having so much beauty to wonder at as I put one foot in front of the other. I miss no-mind. Maybe I'll search for it this week. :-)
Thanks for reading Day 7 of 100!