Monday, December 15, 2014

My Oprah Chopra Runs

These last few months, I returned to an old love. Running.  In Boston, I discovered hiking and ventured to the Blue Hills every weekend, rain, wind, snow and definitely sunshine. But I when I took up hiking, I sort of broke up with running for some reason. I left it behind in the rear view mirror of my mind.

That all changed last summer when, long-story short, I had to pick up someone's car from Mercy Hospital. Instead of catching the bus or neighborhood trolley, I figured, why not run the 2.5 miles to the hospital from my dad's place? If I could hike as aggressively as I've done in recent years, I should be able to run some of this stretch along Brickell Avenue and South Bayshore Drive. I wasn't sure if I could do it but to my surprise, I ran the whole thing (although I arrived to the hospital drenched in sweat hugging my family.)  And that experience reignited a passion in something I used to love so much - running.

I first caught the running fever during my junior-to-senior year at Miami Beach High School from my close friends (and neighbors down the street), Christie and Calley Masson. They were beautiful dirty-blonde, pony-tailed twins who happened to be Florida's state crossing country and track champs.

Inspired by their speed and dedication to their sport, I began running a few laps around our neighborhood's Fisher Park. After telling Calley about this, I remember her saying, "You're doing about a mile, Johnny!"  I was surprised I was doing that much.

With their cheery you-can-do spirit,  I ventured out of the park and onto the streets of Miami Beach, pushing my one-mile run boundary to three, then five and at the most, seven. (I also ran with them during some of their practice runs.) But in my 20s, I wanted to muscle up like the rest of the guys in South Beach so I stopped running and focused on weight lifting and morning push-ups.

And now I'm running a few times a week like a teenager all over again or The Flash. In the past few months, I've gone from 2 miles to four. And I change the scenery, picking different neighborhoods throughout the week and making these runs into mini-journeys.
Sometimes after work, I run in downtown Fort Lauderdale. I marvel at the electric glow of the towering skyscrapers and the bobbing mega yachts docked by the New River bridge on SE Third Ave.

I also jaunt through Coral Gables' small business district of restaurants, salons and bridal boutiques. Along Ponce de Leon Boulevard,  I admire the clusters of small colorful Mediterreanean-styled apartment buildings and their sprouting ferns and manicured lawns. 

And I run under the cool shade of downtown Miami's Brickell Avenue, to Coconut Grove's South Bayshore Drive. But instead of Mercy Hospital, I hang a left and stop at the cone-shaped La Ermita de La Caridad church . I sit, cool off and watch church-goers pray and say thanks to the beloved Cuban saint. Those scenes always put a smile on my face and the fact that two cats there now like to hang out with me while I rest.

The running Zens me out. My thoughts drift. My stresses fall away in my dust. I find myself in this special spiritual zone where I feel...present, stillness. Just me and my moving shadow ahead or to my side. I don't feel my feet pounding the pavement or my lungs huffing and puffing. I f-l-o-w, like the tropical currents of Biscayne Bay. I'm fueled by my own energy, light and grace.

I used to run to Pitbull and the Pussycat Dolls on my iPod but ever since I attended the Oprah Life You Want Weekend tour in Miami last October, I have found another soundtrack to stride to.

With my smartphone in hand, I listen to the meditations of Deepak Chopra who is introduced by Oprah Winfrey in each stream. (I just keep my eyes open when he guides me to close my eyes). With each step, I repeat the mantra of that meditation (my favorite is ''Shanti Hum'' or ''I am peace'' which is how I feel when I glide like a colt with the wind.

I call these my Oprah Chopra Runs. And the more I run, the farther and farther I'm go, to the point that I've had to ask myself at times, where am I? I'm sure those Oprah Chopra meditations weren't intended for such high-intense cardio runs but I like the combination of opening my mind and spirit as I run along the wide open boulevards of Miami and Fort Lauderdale. I just have to remember to keep my eyes open. Namaste.

Deepak Chopra and Oprah in Miami in October.

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