Taming the Horse

Sakyong Mipham in Running with the Mind of Meditation describes the Buddhist view of the mind and body as being a single entity. This connection is a unique relationship between the breath and the mind that creates the feeling of calmness that I so often experience after a run. Mipham explains that the breath is like a horse, and the mind is like the rider. This Eastern analogy has been borrowed and re-purposed on numerous occasions from the Switch Framework for change to the tongue-in-cheek “Dead Horse” strategy. The story goes that when you discover you are riding a dead horse the best strategy is to dismount, however in education we do things like:

• Get a stronger whip.
• Ride the horse for longer periods of time.
• Appoint a committee to study the horse.
• Blame the horses’ parents. The problem must be in the breeding.
• Increase the standards for dead horses.
• Increase the standards for dead horse riders.
• Change the standards so that the horse is no longer technically dead.
• Complain about the state of horses these days.
• Identify and visit sites where they ride dead horses more efficiently.

Dead horses aside, runners have a natural feeling for the breath. According to Mipham, the mental benefits of running  are achieved not by taming the horse, but by exhausting the horse.

Thus the mind is present and at peace. So the clarity and peace of mind we feel after running is mostly because the wild horse is tired, not necessarily because it has been tamed. The mental clarity brought about by physical exercise is temporary. When the horse has more energy, it resumes running around.

Perhaps this is why we get addicted to running…

We breathe all the time, but rarely breathe deeply. Taking a few moments each day to breathe deeply, whether through running or just in a quiet moment, is one of the easiest things you can do to momentarily tame the horse.

I was particularly taken by Amit Carmeli’s focus on the breathe as a force for unleashing creativity at Creative Innovation 2015.

Developing Self

Late 2012, I came to the realisation that effective leaders have four key characteristics:

  • They have a strong sense of who they are;
  • Have awareness of their impact on other people;
  • Seek continual feedback &
  • Can effectively managing their inner or personal life.

It was the last two points that I needed to work on. So I decided to set some goals for 2013. I had never been big on setting goals and I wasn’t very good at receiving feedback – positive, negative, constructive or otherwise. I was generally of the attitude “let’s just see what happens.”

I tied the laces and started running. My first attempt at 10k was in January of this year and I ran 53min25sec. After that nearly killed me I decided to purchase a GPS watch, aim high and set a goal of running a 5K under 20 minutes & a 10k under 40 minutes by the end of 2013.

Even though there was a 3 month layoff due to injury I have recently completed my goal. See my PR’s below (taken from Garmin Connect.)

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 11.21.16 AM

Generally I like the idea of running by feel and perceived exertion, but having a GPS watch added real value to my training. The feedback provided is in real time, formative, targeted, & specific. Also being able to share and compare your data with other runners online is a great motivator. 

I can imagine that those who talk of learning analytics imagine a future for education like runners currently have with real time statistics such as distance, time, splits, heart rate, averages, pace, speed, elevation gain/loss, cadence etc. Whilst that future remains to be seen, Hattie & Timperley in The Power of Feedback provide 3 simple questions that can frame effective feedback, namely:

  • Where am I going?
  • How am I going?
  • Where to next?

This year I have learnt to seek constant feedback & to slow down & listen – listen to other people, listen to your body and listen to your environment. It’s not easy – for instance next time you are in a conversation with someone pause mid-conversation and ask yourself, “Have I been really listening, or am I just formulating in my own mind what I am going to say next?”

We all have blind spots that impact the way we interact with others. Feedback can breathe new life into your professional and personal life if you can have the self-awareness to separate yourself from your role(s) and not take things too personally.

Where to next? Great Ocean Road Marathon, May 2014 & then the Surf Coast 100, September 2014.

Moving Toward Balance

“Whatever your doing, your trajectory has to be toward happiness. There’s just no point otherwise.”

MOVE – A (very) Short Film About Trail Running from Darcy Turenne on Vimeo.

Late last year I started running again. I needed to find balance. Perspective. 

Work can become all consuming if you let it. You need to find a balance between interests outside of work, spending time with those who mean the most to you and scheduling plenty of down time. Once you get to that place, you rediscover why you do what you do.

The ability to have a positive influence on the development of young people is a privilege. This privilege requires that we have balance.  Balance enables the fire to keep burning brightly.

We owe that not only to ourselves but also our students.