Charlie Dark’s meditation practice reflects his passions, and consequently, his career. The founder of Run Dem Crew believes it all comes down to making your mind free—be that spinning his favourite tracks as a DJ, guiding students through yoga flows, or finding total ease when running alone, or leading a group.
The connection? Breath, movement and most importantly for our global run ambassador—music. “For people to get into meditation, we need to show that it doesn’t have to be a contrived cross-legged pose,” he says. “There are many different ways that people can meditate, like running or losing yourself to your favourite playlist—they just don’t fall under the stereotypical meditation umbrella.”
With that in mind, Charlie shares his expert tips on finding a meditative state while running (or walking if you’re just getting started), as well as his five favourite tracks to move with.
How did you get into running?
Running is something I’ve done for the last decade and a half—it’s a huge part of my life. I started because I wanted a change; to lead a healthier lifestyle and it was the easiest thing I could get into that didn’t involve going to the gym, which was quite an unwelcoming place to be at the time.
Running and meditating seem very different in theory, so how do you combine the two?
Running meditation is different to traditional seated methods as you’re at the mercy of the world around you, so you have to keep a sense of awareness. When you’re trying to get into that meditative state, you want to find the point where it just feels easy, so you’re ticking off miles without being aware of the miles you’re ticking off.
You should also focus on other aspects other than the running itself—like strength training, flexibility, nutrition and hydration. Mental preparation is also key. These things will help your body arrive as its optimum state at the beginning of your run so that it feels effortless.
Music is also important. Many people from a fitness background think that the harder and faster the music is, the harder and faster you’ll run or exercise. But if you’re a musician or DJ, you know that a tune can be slow and still have an impact. It’s not about tempo or mood. I often run to classical or disco music.
What does a meditative state feel like for you when you’re running?
It feels like nothing—it’s effortless, like you can run forever. You’re obviously aware of your surroundings, but it feels like you’re running as efficiently as you can, and everything is working together.
How long did it take you to reach that point?
There were a lot of things I had to work on to reach that point. Running is something people can do naturally, so we often take certain elements of the journey for granted. For example, when people talk about running, it’s usually based on the physical movement and not what your head, arms and feet are doing. The conversation at the moment is very much: how far can you go? How fast can you go? For me, that’s not a meditative state, that’s looking at your watch.
Run Dem Crew is all about community. Is it possible to achieve a meditative state as a group when it’s stereotypically something that’s done solo?
Definitely. Some of the best meditations I’ve done have been in large groups. When you’re running with other people, the ultimate aim is to get to the point where everyone is in sync: in breath, in footsteps—it’s a collective mentality. I always say that you run at your best when you become comfortable with the feeling of being uncomfortable.
What would you say to sceptics of both running and meditation?
Make a Spotify playlist of your favourite records, put your headphones in and then spend some time listening to your favourite tunes. That’s a good start. As a club DJ, I’d see people meditating all the time, but it’s not called meditation—it’s called raving, so I feel like music can really help you.
Why do you think meditation is so important, especially in today’s world?
Meditation should be an essential part of general wellbeing, particularly as we’re going through a global pandemic where everything is uncertain. I meditate because the world, city and area that I live in are always testing me— it allows me to be more measured in my responses to what I find outside my door.
Meditation also helps with anxiety and stress. People are willing to go and take medicine, but they aren’t as willing to tap into what’s already inside their bodies. That’s why I think it’s so important, particularly amongst young people. A global pandemic is hard at the best of times. It’s hard for adults, but it’s really hard for a young person. if you’re 18 and have always been told that the world is your oyster with good grades and an education—you’re now learning that’s not the case and the world is becoming smaller. So, I really think that meditation, in whatever form, is a really handy tool for dealing with life.
How can we make meditation, in all its forms, more accessible?
With Run Dem Crew, I’ve definitely been one of the major players in the world to make running more accessible to people, but with meditation it’s definitely harder. The wellness industry is more resistant to change, which makes it more difficult to get the doors open to new people. If it’s only accessible to people who can afford it and know about it, then it’s not doing any good.
But there are many different ways that people meditate—like running and music—they just don’t currently fall under the stereotypical meditation umbrella.
How else do you personally find a meditative state?
DJing. It really is the best feeling in the world. Playing records and taking people on a journey is when I feel my most free and happy. It’s been the best thing for me during lockdown—lifesaving in fact. With all this uncertainty right now, I encourage people to rediscover their passions, especially those from childhood.
And finally, can you share your current top five tracks to run to?
“Running” by Gil Scott-Heron
“Occasions” by Jogging House
“Sincere – Jazzanova Sincerely Yours Remix” by MJ Cole, Jay Dee, Nova Caspar, Jazzanova
“Running Away” by Roy Ayers
“It’s Alright, I feel it! – M.A.W. 12” Mix by Nuyorican Soul