Once I finally succeeded in quitting my two-pack-a-day, 20-year smoking habit, I didn’t believe I’d be able to make it through a day without a smoke. It had been my way to relax, my well-deserved reward at the end of a long, hard-working day. I started to eat more once I quit and I certainly didn’t want to replace smoking with eating, so I made the decision to try running. After buying a pair of running shoes and a cute, color-coordinated running outfit, I eagerly stepped outside to begin my first run. I made it to the end of the driveway before I began coughing so violently, I thought I’d cough up a lung.
The next day I tried walking instead; but even walking made me short of breath. Strengthened by the fact I had actually been able to give up smoking after two decades, I kept at it. Slowly I was able to run for short distances during my walks—more like a shuffle really, after all I was an ex-smoker with a chronic cough. Once I got strong enough to speed up and actually run, I felt the wonderful physical and emotional effects of being physically fit. I was rushing toward the unknown with no idea where my love of a physical challenge would take me.
Whenever I felt stressed, I’d keep running, adding more and more miles until my body buzzed with the effort and my mind became as silent as a forest after a heavy snowfall. I had found my passion and life took on new meaning. I loved being outside in any weather and didn’t want any distractions, so I never brought a radio. I focused on experiencing the moments of each season—the sights, the smells, the sounds— or especially the lack of sound.
Slowly as my mind began to clear away some of its negativity and senseless chatter, it opened to the transcendent state nature can bring. Nature with its infinite varieties of beauty, always kept my mind from its ruminating about things I couldn’t control.