July 31: One Race

“Like a Deni-God, a chariot, coming in sunshine, in God’s glory.  Very Uplifting.  It was really nice.”……Sarvagata   On seeing Grahak’s finish

“I have learned a lot from Grahak.  I admire his qualities as a runner and as a person.  Ideally we run our own races.  I run my race and he runs his race, but somehow together it is one race.  We are working as a team.  We benefit from each other.  I like this race.  This very race I have learned a lot.  I will be better next race…..definitely.”

Photo by Alakananda

Yesterday Grahak was embraced and greeted by all his brothers at the finish line.  It is a meaningful and heartfelt tradition that has spontaneously existed when each runner  crosses over the line for the last time.  It makes no difference if the runner is first like Grahak was or if they be the last one to do so.  Each will in turn salute and honor the runner who has just completed his journey here.

Photo by Prabhakar

The crowd near by will cheer, sing, and ring bells, but it is not the same.  For it is only the other runners who have truly and totally shared in this glorious adventure, and who can grasp the full measure of what it took to get there.  How each day was a battle but one in which the enemy did not exist on the course beside them but only within themselves.

Our true foe is our own ignorance and it is in and through this divine field of battle, the 3100 that 12 warriors relentlessly attempt to conquer the slow and resistant nature that sits dormant and reluctant within us all.

Here as each mile is struggled for, and grudgingly attained, an inner fight and journey exists simultaneously.  One that does not end at the finish line, but instead ,will be complete only when we can make our way to the doorstep or our very own perfection.

When I witnessed this moment I knew that something more was taking place here than meets the eye.  For unlike any of the others, these 2 were for almost 2000 miles of the race running so closely together in terms of mileage that there must have been times when each must have felt the presence of the other, like a constant phantoms at their sides.  Subtly pressing, coaxing and prodding them on.

On the outer plane this was visible in the slender wobbly gap between the two that shriveled and shrank to little more than 40 miles.    Within though was a mutual love, admiration,  and oneness.  A bond that respectfully challenged the other to do more, to give more, to reach ever deeper within themselves to reveal all the hidden capacity each treasured.  And ultimately to fly higher than each would have ever dared to reach for alone.

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July 30: In And Through Us

“I think my mind says, O I have to get it done and get out of here.  But your heart wants to savor and be grateful and value the experience and the feeling.”…Grahak

The morning is cool here at the 3100 mile race, a perfect day to run.  A lid of clouds has slipped across the sky, at least for now, to protect this little patch of earth from a fierce July sun.

43 days ago, way back in June, Grahak began his journey here, by this afternoon he will make one last grand circuit of the course and he will need run no more.

What comes now for Grahak is the slow and gradual reentry into the world that you and I and the rest of humanity inhabit.  One that he so powerfully dashed away from back in June.  In one day more the calender peels back another page and will reveal August.  A clear note that the dreamy end of a New York summer is fast approaching.

From now on, with the inevitable blessings of each new day he will gradually heal from all the pain and hurt he has heaped willingly upon himself.  The angry terrible rash that has erupted across his flesh will gradually succumb to the certain soothing cure of long baths, dips in the sea, and the dreamy embrace of real rest.   Spread out across the long sweet endless enchantment of a full night in a bed. It is the world we nearly all call heaven.

But for 43 days Grahak and for 10 others heaven was listening not to slumber’s enticement but to the clear clarion call of his inner pilot.  To sleeplessly travel far beyond the realms of the possible and then on towards the miraculous shores of Self Transcendence.  He got there not by his own fierce determination but with the inner strength that comes from within, to aid and guide all those who seek out,  and surrender themselves fully to higher goals.

Now he and the goal are one, after striving tirelessly for 43 days, his prize is that he has once again transcended himself for a 4th time here.    The fog of time will come and dim this bright immortal moment from his eyes.  His tremendous record setting experience will gradually fade back into shadowed memory and photographs.  Yet what cannot be removed from his heart is that he has truly and deeply tasted  satisfaction in a way that we cannot.  Gone father and higher than you and I have ever dared to attempt.  And if tomorrow we look at him and think that he is just like us we will be wrong.  For he has reached and touched the divine reality that most of us are not even aware of.  If his feet have not fully and firmly planted themselves on perfection’s shore he has at least made long strides toward it.

Shortly after crossing the finish line he says:

“I want to thank Sri Chinmoy for running with us every step of the way.  Obviously this is Sri Chinmoy’s journey and a pilgrimage we all undertake together, and I am so grateful for finishing.”

O our 3,100-mile-run runners,
My sleepless, prayerful, soulful, powerful
And proud gratitude-heart-throbs
I have discovered
In your aspiration-mountain-height
And in your dedication-fountain-delight.

Photo by Jowan

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July 29: The Last Step

On May 29th 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were on the verge of becoming the first men to summit Mount Everest.  They were already at nearly 29,000 feet and between them and the summit was one last sheer vertical rock face 40 feet high.  It was not something that they had not taken into account as they had negotiated their way up the long South East ridge of the mountain.  It would however be the last major hurdle to cross before they would finally  stand atop the highest mountain on earth.

This morning just before 9 am Grahak ran into the camp of the Self Transcendence race and stood briefly beside the little number board.  His shirt damp with sweat, his body aching with pain, and his face lit up with a 3000 mile smile.  Most spectators like to peck out little milestones as they calculate the progress of the runners over the months and miles.  It give us some small secure points of reference in order to comprehend the colossal enormity of their journey.

For those running though not much matters until you are actually standing astride the summit of the 3100 mile race itself.  Tomorrow this will happen for Grahak.  If all goes, as it surely must, he will be the champion of this years race and also have transcended himself with another personal best.

The Sounds of reaching 3000 miles:

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Hillary and Norgay have been immortalized for their historic accomplishment.  It was a team effort and one impossible to accomplish without the assistance of each other.  Hillary once said:

“There is something about building up a comradeship — that I still believe is the greatest of all feats — and sharing in the dangers with your company of peers. It’s the intense effort, the giving of everything you’ve got. It’s really a very pleasant sensation.

It is an experience that Grahak knows all too well as he is now on the verge of once again completing the race here for the 4th remarkable time,  each run surpassing the previous.  Hillary also said:

It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”

In 2007 Grahak lined up here on the course in New York for the very first time.  If he had dared to imagine then, just how many times he would challenge and be challenged by the distance what would he have thought then.  Today his thoughts are his own as he plunges into the final miles.  Yet as he draws ever closer to his goal, the magnificence and splendor of his achievement can be shared with all in the world who admire perfection and seek out Self Transcendence.

Question: Can we learn more from failure or success?

Sri Chinmoy: It depends on the individual and the way one utilises the experiences. If it is an experience of failure and we use it as an opportunity to perfect our nature, then we are nearing our goal. If it is an experience of success and we use the experience to inspire us toward greater perfection, then we are also nearing our goal. There is no hard and fast rule that says we will learn more from failure or more from success; it is only how we utilise the experience.

Photo by Jowan

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July 28: Common Goal

“I have got a present for you, it is from Australia.”

2 nights ago while Grahak was running on the far side of the course a friend of his came by on a bicycle and told him this.

At this point he had been on the course for close to 14 hours and run about 60 miles in that time.  For the past 40 days his world has been focused entirely on nothing but the confined dimensions of this New York City block.

At hearing this news he gets excited……”O, it is licorice!”

“No.  It’s a lot better than that.”

“O, it is chocolate.”

“No.  It’s a lot better than that.”

“I got up to the counting area and my Brother was there.  And it was just so nice to see him.  I had no idea.  I shed a tear.  I hugged him like I never have before.  Some people said I was pretty low key.   But I was pretty emotional.  It was such a nice surprise.  So good having him here.  He is an excellent helper and he gives Satyakarma a break.”

The sudden surprise appearance of Ian will always be a wonderful memory for Grahak as he looks back at this race in the days, months, and years to come.  He has of course 10 other brothers who may not share his looks or his DNA but they are brothers just the same.

Their lives and dreams so intimately connected.  Their singular collective pursuit of an impossible goal.  A journey they share and take together.  One that may not have a finish line for each who runs here but no matter.  There will be a divine victory nonetheless for each  and every ceaselessly moving member of this Self Transcendence family.

“We all feel like we are one out here.  We all have this common goal, and we all want to get to the finish of the distance.  When one gets there it is inspiring for everyone.”…Grahak

The ancient dream of cooperation is not just a human dream that has nothing to do with reality. This ancient dream is not a dream at all, but a faultless and divine vision – an unhorizoned vision that is slowly, steadily and unerringly shaping our individual and collective destiny as humanity marches towards its supreme goal of universal oneness and transcendental newness.

Photo by Jowan

 

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July 27: Enthusiasm God’s Main Food

Most of the sidewalks in New York city are long, straight and predictable.  It is a big city with lots of people wanting to travel many places quickly.  Many years ago city planners came up with the good idea of simply assigning numbers to all the streets roads and thoroughfares.  So as the busy populace moved about they could know exactly where they were and just how many blocks they had to travel before they reached their destination.

84th ave in Queens is unusual in that is not straight and well defined.  From 168th st. it takes a large sweeping curve as it makes its way towards 164th st.  Tucked up against a low brick wall beside Thomas Edison High is a little eddy of peace.  Students and teachers rush up and down the sidewalk all year long and yet by taking just one or 2 gentle steps out of the torrent, you will immediately find yourself to be free of the pull and tide of rushing humanity.

There is a very unique and sacred history written very large here on this little spot, and yet you would be hard pressed to see it or even know that it even exists.  There is no plaque or inscription of any kind to prove and point out its significance, but many people know it just the same.   There is always a special feeling they get when they look there and when they walk by.  It is a place that Sri Chinmoy held dear from almost the very moment he created his Self Transcendence 3100 mile race.  A place in later years that he could come and inspire his runners and he too perhaps be inspired. Even now as the 3100 mile runners go by they still feel its sweet bright promise.  It is a silent treasure of peace in a world awash with haste and hurry.  People rushing about and still going nowhere

Photo by Jowan

For just about 20 minutes each day of the race a group of girl singers come here and perform. They are called the Enthusiasm Awakeners.  5 years ago today Sri Chinmoy gave them that name.   Each one wearing the same brightly colored shirts, that as the week progresses shifts through a rainbow of colors.

They stand close together up next to the wall and they sing the songs that Sri Chinmoy taught them.  Many right there, a new one each day of the race.  He would come early, before the clutter of cars made the roads chaotic.  He would drive up in a shiny little red car and park near the wall.  The window would come down for just a few minutes, out would come a simple English song composed, probably on the spot, and then he was gone.

We most often think of historical moments as grand sweeping affairs.  Thousands gathered at Gettysburg to hear Lincoln.  The Mall in Washington overflowing with a multitude to hear the stirring words of Dr. King.  Moments that marked pivotal shifts in the life of this nation if not the world.

Yet what happened here is historic in a way that history cannot record very well nor understand.  Here a spiritual master came each day all summer long and composed short simple songs on Enthusiasm.   Watched tired runners discover smiles, which they sometimes didn’t think they could still possibly have within their tired bodies.  Runners who embraced and embarked on a  journey, so far beyond the limits of possibility, that it simply doesn’t make any sense on the physical plane.

God works in mysterious ways it is said, and if your eyes cannot still see it here, your heart may yet be able to reach out and embrace the miracle of this little place.  One that occurred just beyond the sight and senses of sleeping humanity, but one freely available to all who are seeking out, and want to journey to, the highest heights of heaven.

Enthusiasm, enthusiasm,
God’s main food,
He begs me to eat
For my good.

Composed by Sri Chinmoy on December 19, 1999

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July 26: Divine Flow

“You suffer so little in comparison to what you gain inwardly, which is unimaginably big.”…Pushkar

Today is the beginning of the 40th day for all the runners here.  The number itself is a bold milestone on the long road that is now stretching across nearly all off the full wide bright face of summer.  Over this period all of us have had moments of stress and maybe some pain.

For the most part we mortals do not seek out the hard, the difficult, or the painful unless we are absolutely certain something ultimately greater is to be gained by it all.  On the superficial level it just might be a sky high momentary excitement.  Something that sparkles for an instant and than the glow is immediately engulfed by darkness.

But real goals do not come often and are not easily arrived at.  Those true Himalayan goals that are more about creating a lasting thrill within the heart and not just quickening of the pulse.  The goals of transcendence and transformation are lifetime journeys.  Leading slowly and inexorably to destinations that only gather brightness and are never timid in the face of darkness.

A friend reminded me recently that there is nothing about this race that will accept compromise or falseness.  It is a shockingly revealing experience in which  procrastinating or pretending is not tolerated. In my life there are little dull corners in which I can make, for a time at least, a casual acquaintance with lethargy and indulgence.  Here if you are a runner at the 3100 it is not possible to act in this manner or to find such places to stop and hide from the world or yourself.  As well the simple mathematics of adding up all the numbers to make 3100 cannot be fudged or falsified.

Somehow, no matter how far we  step back or no matter how hard we search for the perfect vantage point in order to comprehend the totality of what their true inner and outer experience here it is not possible.  No software no mental reasoning and no magic can gather it all up into one tidy concise package.  We can count laps, treat injuries and try to gather up data on all the tears and smiles.  No image, no equation, and no clarity can come of it all.

The human in Pushkar  we may understand just a little. When his knee suddenly spasms with pain and refuses to unlock, the frailties and foibles of the body we understand.  The marvel is that he cannot go home, like most of us would if this happened to us in our own world.  Instead he has to go on.  In front of him lies the unconscionable enormity of a 1000 more miles still to go.   His body is uncertain how it will make it even half way round the block.  Yet  he somehow he finds a way through this labyrinth of pain.  Listening only briefly to the loud nagging argument his body is screaming at him.

Somehow instead he is able to devote his attention to another voice, one that is not sharp and shrill but instead is calm and clear.  His own inner voice does not doubt and does not dither.  It tells him to simply keep moving on and let loose the fragments of his imperfection that he has brought to this race.  To cast away whatever ignorance he no longer wants to carry, and be transformed, not by outer human pain but by his willingness to surrender to his own inner divinity.

In the life-game, each soul is running consciously or unconsciously toward the goal of inner perfection. There is not a single individual who has not left the starting point. Now, one individual may be behind another in the Godward race, but all are making progress and running toward the same goal.

Sri Chinmoy, The Outer Running And The Inner Running, Agni Press, 1974.

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July 25: Seek My Limits

“I am really really grateful to have this experience now in the race that I can really run.  Nothing is bothering me.  There are many experiences that you can have in the race and this one I didn’t have yet.  I have the joy now of being able to seek my limits.  Because if you have an injury or something is wrong.  Than you have to be careful” ….Pradeep

As I replay these words again more than 12 hours have passed.  In the meantime my day has been a whim and whirl of activity.  From time to time sudden pressure and emergencies have billowed up like the sudden rush of hot magma trying to break through the crust of the earth.

Experiences came that were so intense and so immediately pressing it felt almost as though the very fate of the world itself was at stake, and then these moments simply vanished into oblivion.  Gone so quickly it is almost as though they never even existed.

Of course I realize that these dramatic episodes on the stage of my life are engineered and authored by my own lack of receptivity.  My prayer always, once I stumble back to some sense of calm awareness, is that eventually one day I can offer up the entire script of my life fully to the one who really is in charge of all life and its transformation.

In the grand scheme of things my roller coaster ride was typical for me as it was probably for billions of other residents in our little universe.  Each day a melody of joys and sorrows.  Of tiny victories of our heart’s cry, and a list of annoying defeats to the relentless insistence of our own ignorance.  And yet if we were to take the time to methodically sum up all the wins and losses over the course of a day we would never advance another step.  We would find ourselves locked in a endlessly repeating loop which would dare not release us once again into the endless possibilities of tomorrow.

Yet now as I listen to Pradeep’s words again, I am reminded of just how infinitesimal and insignificant just about every moment of my day really was.  How caught up I was in a gaudy daily carnival of illusion.  For Pradeep and the other runners they are moving ever deeper into a luminous world stripped of pretense and falseness and all the little vanities they we allow to cling to our lives.

For several days now he has been running stronger and with more joy and confidence than he has since his very first day.  Miraculously this is just now happening, after more than a month of running virtually non stop.   After completing  more than 2,000 miles he is at last reaching the bright crest of his journey, and as he looks around and about him, pain and injury are no longer at his side.  Instead, “I have the joy now of being able to seek my limits.

No limit
To what my love, devotion
And surrender can do,
Not only for me,
But also for the entire world.

2005 Photo by Abakash

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July 24: Encouragement

Watching all the other people joining in on the running. They encourage other people.  I find that so exciting.”

Larry Washington knows this little block in Queens just about better than anybody else.  He has been a caretaker at Thomas Edison High School for 25 years and most mornings he is out around the school grounds cleaning up trash.  He is methodical about his job and takes pains to make sure all the garbage is cleaned up every day.  Proud to make his little bit of this world that he is personally responsible for neat and tidy, though most certainly by tomorrow surely more will come and take its place.

For 16 years Larry has had a front row seat on this little miracle, the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race.  A vantage point that very few others have and so because this race inhabits a big chunk of his universe he has noticed a lot, and more importantly, been impressed by what takes place here for 52 days each summer.

What he notices is how people from around the neighborhood are drawn to the block and exercise as well here.

“You can see them when they come out.  They don’t run as long as diligent and as dedicated as the runners who are running out there.  But watching them, and watching the others who may just come around and run once or twice, and the elderly who walk at the same time.  I find that very encouraging.  Because that gives people the inner strength that they can do it.”

When asked what he thought of it all when it first started.  He confesses, “I was not viewing it in a correct light.  (laughs) Because it wouldn’t be me.  Then I started growing a little bit, and I started equating it with when I was in the Service.  We had to run 5 miles before we started our regular duties.  So I said, these are diligent people.  They are really dedicated to their work.  Of trying to accomplish what ever it is, whether it is their health, or if it is spiritual, what ever it is that they are trying to do.  I can see that they are dedicated to it. ”

“I see their determination and the extra will that goes along with it.  Trying to see themselves through that long journey, and I find that very encouraging.  You can see the human spirit pushing forward when they know they can’t.  And they are saying , O yes I can, and they overcome it.  I find it to be a good thing.”

Click to play interview

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Photo by Abakash 2005

The heart knows
Not only how to encourage
But also how to help the mind
To lead a better life.

.

.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 20, Agni Press, 2001.

July 23: To Make Progress

“The physical is not the main factor in the race, although you use the physical to keep moving forward.  But something else is happening.  That soul’s world, that reality is what I am trying to think of more today.”….Arpan

Photo by Prabhakar

For some months now Arpan has been dreaming about this day, his 60th birthday.   Clearly visualizing  how he would be able to celebrate his soul’s day here, by running 60 miles on the course of the 3100 mile race.  For quite a few years he would come by himself alone and start running here shortly after midnight. Run throughout the dark night and into the warm bright embrace of the dawn.  Keep on going, lap after lap, mile after mile until he had run the exact same miles as was his age.  He called this project, his Ageathon.

Arpan 2009

His birthday has always been an important occasion for him over the years. On that special date each year he saw it as a perfect opportunity to offer his gratitude to his spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy, by running a mile for every year he had spent on earth.

A task that becomes ever more difficult as the required mileage relentlessly notches upwards while simultaneously the strength and endurance to accomplish it flows towards an unforgiving precipice of diminishing capacity.

What distinctly and ironically separates this simple wish from any other year is that as of this morning he has already coaxed, coddled, cajoled, and literally begged his reluctant body into already running 1988 miles on the course.

He has forged an all consuming epic battle here on this cruel sidewalk for 36 straight days. A tremendous achievement and yet one that also brings into striking clarity an almost insurmountable mathematical burden.

What seems so unavoidably evident now is  that the trajectory of his dreams will now no longer be able to carry his uncooperative body victoriously to the 3100 mile finish line.  The ultimate distance, barring some true divine intervention, will still be spectacular, and quite possibly record breaking.  As he moves further into the depths of the final 2 weeks the glimmer of what that goal will actually be will certainly grow more bright and eventually be revealed and manifested.

As he starts his running this morning he is confronted with both a physical dilemma and a divine opportunity.  For the first part it seems almost as though his physical has abandoned him at this most precious juncture of his life.  Quickly surrendering to a now growing list of injuries when it has served him impeccably through decades of endurance running.   What distance it will relinquish and grudgingly allow will be ultimately revealed at the stroke of midnight tonight.

More importantly though is the reality that Arpan is a true aspirant and spiritual seeker.  Before him over the next 18 hours of his birthday will be his heart’s gift and his soul’s treasure.  Instead of diving into the murky depths of his body’s pain he will attempt to rise beyond and above the physical horizon.  Allow the dimensions of his world not be defined and limited by what his grumbling muscles are speaking just now, but by what melody  his grateful heart chooses to sing for all eternity.

The ordinary human body is imperfection incarnate. This imperfection can be transformed into perfection only when the body voluntarily offers itself to the soul’s ever-growing Light, Wisdom and Bliss. A day is bound to dawn when the body will make this offering. Then the body and the soul will run together to fulfil the Supreme’s Mission—the mission of nature’s transformation, the mission of the revelation, manifestation and fulfilment of the highest Truth here on earth.

Sri Chinmoy, Eastern Light For The Western Mind, Agni Press, 1973.

Photo by Abakash 2004

 

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July 22: This Place Is Paradise

“From my inner feeling from the first day for me this place is paradise.” Vasu

We all like to construct from time to time an imaginary perfect world in our minds.  Unleash the power of our thoughts and allow them to rise up to celestial heights and visit a fanciful haven of our own making.  An idyllic sanctuary and one also untethered to our current physical reality.  Unbound by all the restrictions and limitations of the human condition, and if we are so inclined, also leave the door wide open, should God ever be prepared to visit us there.

If we invent such a place it is unlikely that God would ever truly be impressed with our self styled construction of perfection.  Particularly when it is built entirely of thought and illusion.  God is after all the master builder and would much prefer we take up residence in places that he has already created just for us.  Ones in which instead of our mental power we use our hearts aspiration to rise up to and become one with.

For the most part we literally have to jettison the baggage of all thought and instead surrender ourselves to the inner cry of our hearts.   When we do this we find a path already clearly marked out for us.  One that if we follow rises up and leads us to our own perfect perfection.  The miracle of aspiration then is that in the moment God notices us trying he then willingly and gladly comes down to lift us even higher.

For 35 days Vasu has sincerely felt blessed to be here.  His heart aches with gratitude at the opportunity to run here while at the same time he is able to be detached from all the brutal physical aches and suffering that also have been heaped upon this 47 year old man from St. Petersburg.

If Self Transcendence were a simple math puzzle he would have succeeded at bettering his best running achievements weeks ago.  As of last night he had run 2121 miles which far surpasses any of the vast numbers he has run in competition before.  Never having run further than 10 days he has also been here already 35.

Now with just 17 days left the imposing journey still lying in front of him is not a small one.  He has yet a 1000 miles more to run.  But in his face and in his steps you clearly see a miracle taking place.  For he has found his paradise already, and it is running around a high school in Queens.

It is a little heaven that he shares with 10 other souls.  A place in which a grimy tide of pain and fatigue vainly tries to pull him down but he resists its relentless ebb and flow.  For Vasu has stepped free, just beyond its reach and instead rushes now towards his goal.  Enjoying a paradise along the way, that is all his for 17 full more days.

 

Photo by Abakash 2004

Paradise is the place
Where my heart wants to grow.

.
Paradise is the place
Where my mind wants to know.

.
Paradise is the place
Where my soul wants to sow –
Sow the seed of perfection.

 

Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 62, Agni Press, 1983.

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