Join award-winning author Nita Sweeney and other presenters and exhibitors at this health and wellness event.
How far can we go when we move together?
We are pleased to announce the 1st Annual Move Together Columbus event on Sunday, July 10, 2022! This celebration of community will feature community wellness workshops, programs, and plenty of fun for all ages and abilities! In a time when it is so easy to feel alone, we encourage you to move together!
Move Together Columbus has an entirely donation-based registration for all attendees and program hosts. All proceeds will go to our 2022 benefactors, Brown Girls Mentoring and Black Girls RUN! Columbus. Move Together Columbus will kick off with a 1 mile run/walk hosted by Black Girls RUN!, and the fun continues from there! Visit booths, attend workshops, and hang around for raffles, live music, and more!
Nita will present two programs:
Noon: Make Every Move a Meditation: How to Meditate While You Move
12:30pm: Depression Hates a Moving Target: Movement for Mental Health
Copies of Nita’s award-winning running and mental health memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target, will be for sale after the presentations and Nita will happily sign as many copies as you want!
Book Review: Run Through Barriers by Clint Adam Lovell
In his nonfiction book, Run Through Barriers: How overcoming obstacles to running will transform your health, boost your energy, and rewind your fitness age, Clint Adam Lovell demolishes every reason why you thought you might not be able to run. Instead, he provides many reasons why you should.
I’m happy he didn’t title it “Stop with the Excuses Already” even though he could have. He’s much more gentle a soul than that and I’m grateful. But that’s what the book does. Chapter by chapter, “barrier” by “barrier,” the author dispels any reason (ahem) someone might offer for why they can’t or aren’t running.
He dismantles our excuses
Using real life examples from his running journey as well as those of other people, he dismantles the things we tell ourselves and paves the way for anyone to hit the road or trail for years to come. And once he’s done that, he offers a sensible training plan to make sure you meet your running goals.
The final chapter (no spoilers here) is especially needed right now. He has lived a lot of life, run a lot of miles, met a lot of people. And he generously shares the wisdom we need to keep our feet moving.
Although he wrote a “running” book, he offers universal lessons. His wisdom applies to nearly any movement form and much of the rest of life as well. I’m so grateful I picked it up when I did. I was gifted this book while in a slump. Little did the giver know how much I needed it.
Thank you for this treasure.
Download Nita’s free ebook, Three Ways to Heal Your Mind.
If you purchase through affiliate links on this site, Write Now Columbus, a collection of resources for central Ohio writers and readers, may receive a small percentage of the sale.
54 Running Books I Love, Plus 1
This is an incomplete list of the running books I love in no particular order. There are more, but this is a good start.
1. The Girl Who Ran by Frances Poletti
In 1966, the world believed it was impossible for a woman to run the Boston Marathon. Bobbi Gibb was determined to prove them wrong. She said she would do it, she wasn’t a liar; she’d show them by running like the wind in the fire.
2. My Life on the Run: The Wit, Wisdom, and Insights of a Road Racing Icon by Bart Yasso, Kathleen Parrish and Amby Burfoot
Dubbed the “Mayor of Running,” Bart Yasso is one of the best-known figures in the sport, but few people know why he started running competitively, how it changed his life, or how his brush with a crippling illness nearly ended his career a decade ago. With insight and humor, My Life on the Run chronicles the heatstroke and frostbite, heartache and triumphs experienced while competing in more than 1,000 competitive races during his nearly 30 years with Runner’s World magazine.
3. Going Long: Legends, Oddballs, Comebacks and Adventures – Edited by David Willey
Now, for the first time, the editors of Runner’s World have gathered these and other powerful tales to give readers a collection of writing that is impossible to put down.
4. The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer by David A. Whitsett, Forrest A. Dolgener, Tanjala Jo Kole
Athlete. Runner. Marathoner. Are these words you wouldn’t exactly use to describe yourself? Do you consider yourself too old or too out of shape to run a marathon? But somewhere deep inside have you always admired the people who could reach down and come up with the mental and physical strength to complete such a daunting and rewarding accomplishment? It doesn’t have to be somebody else crossing the finish line. You can be a marathoner.
5. Getting My Bounce Back: How I Got Fit, Healthier, and Happier (And You Can, Too) (Adversity Book, Healthy Aging, Running, Weight Loss, for Fans of Mind to Matter) by Carolee Belkin Walker, Sarajean Rudman (Foreword)
Exercise is not optional: You don’t have to run a marathon to be fit and healthy or suffer through a triathlon that includes a half-mile swim in the ocean. But you do need an exercise habit. Especially as we age, exercise is not optional. Yet unless we had been athletes as kids or young adults, and few of us were, we do not know how to find our edge. Learning how to carve out time to meet our fitness needs or to push ourselves physically and mentally is one of the greatest challenges to aging well.
6. Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner’s Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America by Marshall Ulrich
A fascinating glimpse into the mind of an ultramarathon runner and the inspirational saga of his run across America. The ultimate endurance athlete, Marshall Ulrich has run more than one hundred foot races averaging over one hundred miles each, completed twelve expedition-length adventure races, and ascended the seven summits– including Mount Everest.
7. Marathon Woman: Running the Race to Revolutionize Women’s Sports by Kathrine Switzer
Katherine Switzer ran the Boston Marathon in 1967 where she was attacked by one of the event’s directors who wanted to eject her from the all-male race. She fought off the director and finished the race. From the childhood events that inspired her to winning the New York City Marathon in 1974, this liberally illustrated book details the struggles and achievements of a pioneering woman in sports.
8. Running & Being: The Total Experience by George Sheehan
The book that helped get the world running is back. This New York Times bestseller written by the late runner, doctor, philosopher, Dr. George Sheehan is a timeless classic. It tells of Dr. Sheehan’s midlife return to the world of exercise, play, and competition. Focusing on the importance of “play”, Sheehan describes his program for fitness and joy, sharing with the reader how the body helps open up our mental and spiritual energies.
9. Zen and the Art of Running: The Path to Making Peace with Your Pace by Larry Shapiro
All runners strive to get in the “zone,” but here you’ll learn to enter the ZEN “zone”! By adopting Buddha’s mindful approach, you’ll discover that you can run longer, faster, and harder. Zen and the Art of Running shows you how to align body and mind for success on — and off — the track! Iron Man triathlete and philosophy professor Larry Shapiro coaches you to get out and run, train harder, and race the Zen way.
10. Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself by Rich Roll
Finding Ultra is an incredible but true account of achieving one of the most awe-inspiring midlife physical transformations ever. On the night before he was to turn forty, Rich Roll experienced a chilling glimpse of his future. Nearly fifty pounds overweight and unable to climb the stairs without stopping, he could see where his current sedentary life was taking him—and he woke up.
11. Marathon Man: My 26.2-Mile Journey from Unknown Grad Student to the Top of the Running World by Bill Rodgers, Matthew Shepatin
The legendary long-distance runner details his historic victory in the 1975 Boston Marathon that launched the modern running boom. Within a span of two hours and nine minutes, Bill Rodgers went from obscurity to legend, from Bill Rodgers to “Boston Billy.” In doing so, he instantly became the people’s champ and the poster boy for the soulful 1970s distance runner. Having won the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon four times each, he remains the only marathoner to have appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated twice. Winning the Holy Grail of marathons in an unthinkable record time changed Bill’s life forever.
12. Once a Runner by John L. Parker Jr.
Originally self-published in 1978, Once a Runner captures the essence of competitive running—and of athletic competition in general—and has become one of the most beloved sports novels ever published.
13. Talking Running: Stories, profiles and conversations with the running community by Noel Paine
A collection of running stories from Canada and around the world. A book for runners written by a runner about runners. Profiles and interesting stories to inspire, motivate about everyone from middle-of-the-pack runners, Olympians, elites and just plain interesting people who lace up. The stories are peppered up with quotes from the running world and spiced up with a few photos.
14. The Silence of Great Distance by Frank Murphy
The Silence of Great Distance is the story of the developing world of women’s athletics, focused on long-distance running. With significant chapters on Doris Brown Heritage, the women of the Soviet Union, and Mary Decker Slaney, the primary narrative is carried by Stephanie Herbst, a nine-time all-American who competed for the University of Wisconsin between 1984 and 1988.
15. What I Talk about When I Talk about Running by Haruki Murakami
In 1982, having sold his jazz bar to devote himself to writing, Murakami began running to keep fit. A year later, he’d completed a solo course from Athens to Marathon, and now, after dozens of such races, not to mention triathlons and a dozen critically acclaimed books, he reflects upon the influence the sport has had on his life and even more importantly, on his writing.
16. Bowerman and the Men of Oregon: The Story of Oregon’s Legendary Coach and Nike’s Co-founder by Kenny Moore
The first biography of the legendary track coach, and founder of Nike, who had an unparalleled impact on the sport of running. During his tenure as track coach at the University of Oregon from 1949 through 1972, Bill Bowerman won 4 national team titles, trained dozens of milers to break the 4-minute barrier, and his athletes set 13 world and 22 American records. Single-handedly he helped turn the college town of Eugene, Oregon, into the running capital of the world.
17. Running with the Mind of Meditation: Lessons for Training Body and Mind by Sakyong Mipham
A unique fitness program from a highly respected spiritual leader that blends physical and spiritual practice for everyone – regardless of age, spiritual background, or ability – to great benefits for both body and soul.
18. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
Full of incredible characters, amazing athletic achievements, cutting-edge science, and, most of all, pure inspiration, Born to Run is an epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? In search of an answer, Christopher McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong.
19. The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner by Amy L. Marxkors
A simple request for training advice turned into a year of high-intensity coaching, unexpected adventure, unlikely friendships, and the realization that life, like the marathon, isn’t about the finish line. Through the journal of Lola, a nom de plume created to embody the spirit of all runners, Amy Marxkors chronicles her journey of self-discovery as she decides to find out just how good she could be if she really tried. Humorous and endearingly candid, The Lola Papers reveals the universal truths and profound humanity hidden in the miles, showing that sometimes the greatest gift in life is getting more than what you bargained for.
20. The Runner’s Bucket List: 200 Races to Run Before You Die by Denise Malan
Have you ever thought about running a 5K naked or getting the all-time biggest marathon finisher’s medal? How about running five miles while eating a dozen donuts or chugging down a few beers? Or maybe you’d prefer running a half marathon in paradise or a 5K dressed as a gorilla? Whatever your dreams, runner and traveler Denise Malan has written the perfect book for everybody who is searching for America’s greatest—and craziest—running adventures: the races that all enthusiasts should seriously consider running before they die. She gives the inside scoop on 200 truly unique races around the United States, covering distances from one mile to ultramarathon.
21. The Long Run: One Man’s Attempt to Regain His Athletic Career-And His Life-by Running the New York City Marathon by Matt Long, Charles Butler
New York City firefighter’s emotional and inspiring memoir of learning to run again after a debilitating accident, based on the wildly popular March 2009 piece in Runner’s World.
On the morning of December 22, 2005, Matt Long was cycling to work in the early morning when he was struck by and sucked under a 20-ton bus making an illegal turn. The injuries he sustained pushed him within inches of his life. Miraculously, more than 40 operations and months later, Matt was able to start his recovery. In spite of the severity of his injuries, Matt found the psychological consequences of the accident nearly as hard to process. He would no longer be able to compete at the highest level.
22. Running with the Buffaloes: A Season Inside with Mark Wetmore, Adam Goucher, and the University of Colorado Men’s Cross-Country Team by Chris Lear
A phenomenal portrait of courage and desire that will do for college cross-country what John Feinstein’s A Season on the Brink did for college basketball.
Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down is the memoir of 104-year-old, world-record-holding runner Ida Keeling. Miss Ida, as she’s known throughout her Bronx community, isn’t your typical runner. Her fierce independence helped her through the Depression and the Civil Rights movement. But her greatest trials were yet to come.
26. Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory by Deena Kastor and Michelle Hamilton
From an Olympic medalist runner and the record-holder in the women’s marathon and half-marathon, a vividly inspirational memoir on using positive psychology and brain science to achieve unparalleled athletic success.
27. Run! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss by Dean Karnazes
From the downright hilarious to the truly profound, the linked stories in Run! create an unforgettable tableau, providing readers with the ultimate escape and offering a rare glimpse into the mindset and motivation of an extreme athlete. Karnazes addresses the pain and perseverance and also charts his emotional state as he pushes the edges of human achievement.
28. Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes
Karnazes reveals the mind-boggling adventures of his nonstop treks through the hell of Death Valley, the incomprehensible frigidity of the South Pole, and the breathtaking beauty of the mountains and canyons of the Sierra Nevada.
29. ICU to Marathon by David Johndrow
As funny as it is dramatic, “ICU to Marathon – Diaries of a Nearly Dead Man” by David Johndrow will capture your heart and inspire you to try harder, laugh more and maybe even pray.
30. The Elements of Effort: Reflections on the Art and Science of Running by John Jerome
All runners, from beginners to Olympians, will delight in this luminous compendium of wisdom wrought from many years of running. Applying his clear vision and wry wit to a smorgasbord of running-related topics, including stretching, dancing, bugs, falling, spaghetti, sweat, and the food police, John Jerome shares his contagious passion for the most basic of sports.
31. Long slow distance: The humane way to train by Joe B. Henderson
“A revolutionary is where you find him,” wrote running’s leading writer, Dr. George Sheehan, as he reflected on the revolution-charged 1960s. “He could be the guy next door. Joe Henderson looks like a typical guy next door. Out of Iowa, he has the smile and style of the heartland of America. But he has fallen for that old Socratic saw that the unexamined life is not worth living.
32. Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley
Running Like a Girl tells the story of how Alexandra gets beyond the brutal part, makes running a part of her life, and reaps the rewards: not just the obvious things, like weight loss, health, and glowing skin, but self-confidence and immeasurable daily pleasure, along with a new closeness to her father—a marathon runner—and her brother, with whom she ultimately runs her first marathon.
33. Running with a Police Escort: Tales from the Back of the Pack by Jill Grunenwald
In the fall of 2012, quirky and cat-loving Cleveland librarian Jill Grunenwald got an alarming email from her younger sister: her sister was very concerned with Jill’s weight and her overall mental and physical health. Having always struggled with her weight, Jill was currently hitting the scales at more than three hundred pounds. Right then, Jill looked in the mirror and decided that she needed to make a life-style change, pronto. She enrolled in Weight Watchers and did something else that she–the girl who avoided gym class like the plague in high school–never thought she’d do; Jill started running. And believe it or not, it wasn’t that bad. Actually, it was kind of fun.
34. Strong: A Confidence Journal for Runners and All Brave Women by Kara Goucher
In Strong: A Confidence Journal For Runners and All Brave Women, Kara teaches you how to improve your confidence and mental preparedness while training for a race. Although often overlooked, mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation when it comes to preparing for a race. For the first time ever, two-time Olympian, World Champion runner, and most Influential Female Running Personality (Run USA), Kara Goucher, is sharing her practice of keeping a Confidence Journal with the world.
35. Kara Goucher’s Running for Women: From First Steps to Marathons by Kara Goucher, Adam Bean
Get fit, get fast, and go farther with Olympic runner Kara Goucher’s comprehensive guide to running for women! Kara Goucher is crazy, madly, head-over-heels in love with running, and she wants to help you feel that love, too. Whether you’re just getting started or already a seasoned runner, this is the book that will take you to the next level.
36. The Run-Walk-Run Method by Jeff Galloway
Learn how to transform visions into performance and to be in charge of your performance with the help of Jeff Galloway’s ‘RUN-WALK-RUN’ method.
37. Running with the Kenyans: Passion, Adventure, and the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth by Adharanand Finn
Whether running is your recreation, your religion, or just a spectator sport, Adharanand Finn’s incredible journey to the elite training camps of Kenya will captivate and inspire you. Part travelogue, part memoir, this mesmerizing quest to uncover the secrets of the world’s greatest runners—and put them to the test—combines practical advice, a fresh look at barefoot running, and hard-won spiritual insights.
38. What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen by Kate Fagan
From noted ESPN commentator and journalist Kate Fagan, the heartbreaking and vital story of college athlete Madison Holleran, whose death by suicide rocked the University of Pennsylvania campus and whose life reveals with haunting detail and uncommon understanding the struggle of young people suffering from mental illness today.
39. The Tao of Running by Gary Dudney
The Tao of Running brings a fresh and unique perspective to the topic of running. It offers readers multiple ways to significantly deepen, enlighten, and enrich their running experiences.
40. ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running by Danny Dreyer, Katherine Dreyer
Join the hundreds of thousands of people who are now running without injury or pain using the ChiRunning method. This new edition is fully updated with fresh insights and innovative training techniques from one of the sport’s leading voices. Danny Dreyer teaches us how to heal and prevent injuries and also to run faster, farther, and with much less effort at any age or ability.
41. Running Is My Therapy: Relieve Stress and Anxiety, Fight Depression, Ditch Bad Habits, and Live Happier by Scott Douglas
Longtime running writer Scott Douglas marshals expert advice (especially his own, cultivated from more than 110,000 miles of personal experience), and a growing body of scientific research to show how running can make us happier.
42. Bannister and Beyond: The Mystique of the Four-Minute Mile by Jim Denison
The 50th anniversary of the first four-minute mile is May 6, 2004. Since that great day in 1954 when Roger Bannister broke through the wall that many said would never be breached, hundreds of milers have gone sub-four—but the achievement is still an extraordinary one, and the four-minute mile stands as a measure of greatness.
43. Running Ransom Road: Confronting the Past, One Marathon at a Time by Caleb Daniloff
The monikers drunk, addict, abuser, and boozehound were Caleb Daniloff’s for fifteen years. Now, the introduction that fits him best is My name is Caleb and I am a runner.
44. How to Lose a Marathon: A Starter’s Guide to Finishing in 26.2 Chapters by Joel Cohen
In How to Lose a Marathon, Joel Cohen takes readers on a step-by-step journey from being a couch potato to being a couch potato who can finish a marathon. Through a hilarious combination of running tips, narrative, illustrations and infographics, Cohen breaks down the misery that is forcing yourself to run.
45. Chasing The Runner’s High: My Sixty Million Step Program by Ray Charbonneau
Chasing the Runner’s High is the story of how Ray Charbonneau pushed his addiction to running up to, and then past, his limits. Ray shares what he learned, what he should have learned, and what he still has to learn from running.
46. Duel in the Sun: Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsley, and America’s Greatest Marathon by John Brant
John Brant re-creates the tense drama of the 1982 Boston Marathon—and the powerful forces of fate that drove these two athletes in the years afterwards.
47. Marathoning for Mortals: A Regular Person’s Guide to the Joy of Running or Walking a Half-Marathon or Mar Athon by John Bingham, Jenny Hadfield
Once considered a feat for superhuman athletes, the marathon is now within every mortal’s grasp. Former couch potato John Bingham has joined forces with coach Jenny Hadfield to create a winning plan that works for every mortal–even you.
48. The Courage To Start: A Guide To Running for Your Life by John Bingham, Jenny Hadfield
“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” Take your first step toward fitness and a happier, healthier life.
49. Staying The Course: A Runner’s Toughest Race by Dick Beardsley, Maureen Anderson
For a moment, Dick Beardsley became the most famous runner in the world by losing a race. In the 1982 Boston Marathon, Beardsley, foiled by a motorcycle that cut him off, finished two seconds behind Alberto Salazar in one of the most memorable contests in marathon history.
50. The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb
In the tradition of Seabiscuit and Chariots of Fire, Bascomb delivers a breathtaking story of unlikely heroes and leaves listeners with a lasting portrait of the twilight years of the golden age of sport.
51. The Four-Minute Mile by Roger Bannister
A personal and heartfelt account of the most stunning athletic achievement of the twentieth century.
52. Running Home by Katie Arnold
In the tradition of Wild and H Is for Hawk, a former Outside magazine writer tells her story—of fathers and daughters, grief and renewal, adventure and obsession, and the power of running to change your life.
53. The Runner’s Rule Book: Everything a Runner Needs to Know – And Then Some by Mark Remy
Every sport has rules. Running is no exception. If you’re curious, just visit the Web site of USA Track & Field, the sport’s governing body, where you’ll find detailed dictates on everything from disqualification to bib-number placement to the caliber of the starter’s pistol.
54. Racing the Rain by John L. Parker Jr.
From the author of the New York Times bestseller Once a Runner–“the best novel ever written about running” (Runner’s World)–comes that novel’s prequel, the story of a world-class athlete coming of age in the 1950s and ’60s on Florida’s Gold Coast. Quenton Cassidy’s first foot races are with nature itself: the summer storms that sweep through his subtropical neighborhood.
BONUS: Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink by Nita Sweeney
You might have heard of this one. 😉
If you purchase something through the affiliate links on this page, Write Now Columbus, a collection of resources for central Ohio writers and readers, will receive a small percentage of the sale.
A Love Note to My Running Tribe
My running group, Marathoner in Training (MIT), asked members to write a “Good Thing” that happened during the ever-so-odd and nearly cancelled 2020 spring season. I contributed this love note to my running tribe.
This week’s “Good Thing” comes from Nita Sweeney who refuses to choose between the 13:00 Run/Walk group and the 14:00 Run/Walk group, and who often finds herself finishing after the Walker group.
This MIT season has been filled with both “good” and difficult things.
In February, while my husband Ed and I were on book tour in California, for Depression Hates a Moving Target, Ed, had a heart attack. He also had pneumonia twice, and open-heart surgery in March that left him on a gastric feeding tube for two months. Gratefully, he continues to heal and is returning to good health.
Ed and Nita Sweeney returning from California in February 2020
Meanwhile, with bookstores and libraries closed, and book festivals cancelled or postponed, I launched a second book. This, a writing journal, You Should Be Writing, I co-authored with Mango Associate Publisher Brenda Knight.
For my sanity, I returned to running after everything I just mentioned (combined with a pandemic and a civil rights revolution) had derailed my training.
Nita and Scarlet the #ninetyninepercentgooddog
But those aren’t the “good things” I want to share.
When Ed came home from the hospital, and his care transformed me from “award-winning author” to “accidental home health aide” overnight, I feared I wasn’t up to the task. My MIT friends saw my distress. Food, supplies, cards, and stuffed animals flooded in and have not stopped even now that Ed is recovering.
All You Need is Love and a Unicorn
But their real gift came one Saturday when I got a text that said:
“Look out your front door.”
After a few of them had met for a socially distanced run, they had each driven separately to our house. When Ed and I looked out, we saw them, standing six feet apart, holding motivational signs like those normally seen at races. It brought Ed and I to tears. We both felt as if Ed was in a race for his life.
MIT Folks at the Door
That brings me to the “good thing.”
Whether you’re struggling to get in the miles, having a bad day, or feeling so low you’re not sure you want to stay on the planet, please reach out to me or any other member of the MIT family. We will stand with you and cheer you on the same way these MIT members have done for Ed and me. MIT is family, nothing less.
Even if you don’t live in central Ohio and can’t join our MIT family, if you run, you’re part of the tribe. That makes you family! The offer I made to the MIT members stands for you as well.
Inertia. Apathy. Terror.
Was I alone in my delusion that becoming a published author would cure this ill, drive it from my mind? Having books out in the world with my name on them hasn’t fixed it. Rather, the critical internal voice has grown stronger and more bold.
“Who do you think you are?”
Imposter syndrome. Low self-esteem. Personality quirks. Sloth. Insecurity. Anxiety. Chronic depression (recurrent, severe).
This is what I face nearly every time I sit down to write. Call it what you want, but one term fits better than any other:
“According to Buddhist principles, the ‘monkey mind’ is a term that refers to being unsettled, restless, or confused.”—Psychology Today
Monkey mind can take many forms. It might be a voice in your head or mild (or extreme) agitation. It could send you to the refrigerator (or the drug dealer) and is probably why you’re unloading the dishwasher (or going for yet another dog walk) instead of writing that piece you promised your editor months ago. Monkey mind transforms itself and reformulates as quickly as you find a solution.
Monkey mind is the great chameleon.
Best-selling author Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones, Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home) explains one theory about the tenacity of monkey mind. In Thunder and Lightning, Natalie calls monkey mind “The guardian at the gate.”
Monkey mind, she explains, is like those enormous and somewhat terrifying statues that “guard” the gates to a monastery. They’re put there to challenge entrants. The guardians ask if you are willing to face these demons (and your own). Are you worthy of the teachings? Are you up to the challenge?
Sensei Sean Murphy of Sage Institute for Creativity and Consciousness recently discussed something similar with our 200-hour meditation leader training cohort. As he traveled across the country interviewing Zen teachers for his book One Bird, One Stone, many of the teachers did their best to evade him, refusing to answer his questions. They only wanted to teach the serious, the persistent, the rigorous. Sensei Murphy continued to show up and, ironically, their antics, playing guardian at the gate, gave him great stories to tell.
What do grotesque statues and reluctant Zen masters have in common with your unrelenting desire to play just one more game of computer solitaire?
Inertia. Apathy. Terror.
They are protecting the jewels.
The part of us trying to write terrifies the part of the mind that thinks we need to be protected. Monkey mind believes it is doing you a favor. But this guardian at the gate of your heart and mind also knows you’re getting close. The story that needs to be told, the mystery only you can solve, the message you must tell the world awaits just behind the temple door.
The guardian asks, “How bad to you want it?”
And how do you prove you want it?
Simple, but true. In another piece I’ll talk about how the only cure for writing is writing.
Is that it? Just write? Yes, and no. Other techniques can help you still that chattering monkey which will, in turn, allow you to face the page.
For me, it’s meditation both on the cushion and out in the world.
Sitting meditation, writing practice, and moving meditation (usually running) have brought my own monkey mind out of hiding. It’s stealthy, slippery, persistent, but not invincible. When you sit through terror, run through inertia, and write about (and through) apathy, monkey mind realizes you’re not fooling around.
But why bother if writing is so difficult? Why not take up plumbing or mathematics or binge-eating instead?
Because the rewards are huge. Not much beats the feeling of pushing a pen across a page. And when you’re done, you have the victory of having made a thing, first a raw, often ugly, rarely sensical, thing, and later, a more lovely, shaped, and formed creation.
You’re at the temple gate. Will you walk through?
For more writing wisdom, please check out You Should Be Writing, the new writing journal from Mango Publishing by Brenda Knight and Nita Sweeney.