June 30: The Inner and The Outer

“This race is always about finding the balance between the inner and outer world.   The outer world here is always very very hard.  The running is hard.  Inside you have to find the energy that will get you to continue.  When you start to touch the limits of your physical body, your mind starts to slow down, and it is like entering into meditation.  It is like entering into another world.  It is then that you start to realize many things about yourself.  You find many things inside you which are otherwise much harder to find.”

pranjal2

40 year old Pranjal Milovnik has completed the 3100 mile race now 8 times and seems comfortably on his way to doing so an 9th time.  When he describes the grueling experience he had in his first race here it is actually hard to imagine just why he bothered to come back.  Yet in nearly every year since then he has continued to improve.  He now runs this race 12 days faster than when he first completed it and yet when you ask if it is important to continue to improve his results, he inevitably responds that he doesn’t care.

It is far from indifference, this dispassionate approach that he has to his outer achievement.  He, like really all the others definitely want to complete the journey here as swiftly as possible.  The more important thing always however for Pranjal, is simply to always do his best.  To leave nothing behind at the end of each day, and commit all that he has and is into this extraordinary adventure.

silouhette-pranjal

For Pranjal, who comes first every day and is usually the last to leave each night, there appears to be no fragment or molecule of life force that he doesn’t offer up here each day.  We can easily measure his progress each day as the numbers continuously expand beside his name.  Today the score board says he has completed 898 miles after 14 days.

But all the inner victories that he has fought and won, and all the precious jewels of discovery that he has uncovered within the secret chambers of his being are always for him alone to enjoy.

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Question: What is the spiritual significance of balance?

Sri Chinmoy: In the spiritual life balance is of paramount importance. When the result of an action elevates our consciousness, we feel that we are running towards our destined Goal. When our inner mounting cry takes us to the loftiest heights, our whole being becomes a sea of delight. But when we don’t have outer success, it doesn’t mean that we are not running toward the Highest. Sometimes defeat is a blessing in disguise. Defeat can be a reality which is secretly preparing us to run the fastest. When undivine thoughts fill our mind, we have to know that they are like passing clouds which will soon disappear. Then our soul will again come to the fore. If we have perfect balance and do not become sad or depressed, at that time we make the fastest progress. We need equanimity of mind in order to make the heart receptive. We need perfect balance in order to achieve real satisfaction.

Sri Chinmoy, Flame Waves, Part 12, Agni Press, 1978

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June 29: Every Morning I Sing And Pray

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“Sometimes I do pay attention if it is on my way.  But I am just trying to concentrate on my running and not to look on the sides so much.  I really don’t know what is happening around me.”

ananda-lahari6

This morning Ananda Lahari is walking.  But he is not moving in the frenzied or agitated manner of power walkers, or restless pedestrians in a frantic Manhattan rush to catch a train.  It is almost as though he is gliding.  His foot steps are absolutely silent.  At the same time he exudes such an aura of calm and tranquility that there seems almost a complete disconnect between who and what he is and the incredibly difficult thing that he is doing here.

Just walking beside him I cannot not but be aware of how light and ethereal his physical presence actually is.   I imagine sometimes that he is so otherworldly, and blends so seamlessly into this world that if I did not know better I could easily imagine him disappearing before my eyes.  Become simply instead a glowing presence endlessly orbiting the course on some inner pathway that yet can still be connected to the hard physical reality of the race.

Together we do a graceful yet consistent walk of the loop, not fast, not slow, but unerringly on track.  I point out all the little things that have quickly captured my attention.  The Asian man practicing Tai Chi in the infield, a lady across the street trying to manage a pack of 4 small white dogs, and the traffic at a peculiar standstill for a Saturday below us, on the Grand Central. None of which has any interest to him at all.

Photo by Jowan

Photo by Jowan

Courtesy World Harmony Run

Courtesy World Harmony Run

I have observed Ananda Lahari now for 8 straight years at this race.  His connection with it is a deep and strong and after so many years it is almost impossible to imagine him not being here.  Always moving with his unique combination of gentleness and yet real strength and courage as well.  Our lap together will take about 10 minutes to make the full hard rolling circuit of the course.   Something he has done now so many times and for so many years it is difficult just to come up with the number.

But numbers are not overly important to this sweet Slovak soul.  Nor does the weather, the scenery, or all the countless distractions of the physical world that dance, tumble, and otherwise demand the attention of most of us mortals.  His journey here is focused purely on an inner destination.

If there is anything that he resembles to me more than anything else and that is some contemplative monk endlessly traversing the countryside, searching for enlightenment.  He just happens to be wearing shorts and running shoes and his path is a unrelenting concrete block in suburban NY.

While my mind spins out one question after another, about the what’s whys and wherefores of his gentle presence here, he inevitably has the simple answer for it all.   “Every morning I sing and pray.”

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Beautiful I am
When I pray and sing
With the morning stars.
Peaceful I am
When I meditate and sing
With the evening stars.

Sri Chinmoy, Heaven’s Ecstasy-Flames, Agni Press, 1994

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June 28: Keep Moving

“Sri Chinmoy tried to inspire us in many ways, and this was one of them.”  Sopan has just read for me the prayer that Sri Chinmoy composed on this day in 2006.  Asked why he thinks he wrote these sweet offerings for the runners each day that summer and then on through the entire race in 2007.  “He showed his appreciation to the runners in this way, and inspired us to keep moving.”

sopan3

This amazing young Bulgarian runner has demonstrated a daily mileage consistency like no one else on the course this year.   With almost clock like precision he has put in 10 days out of the last 12 in which he has run 113 laps each day.

Sometime late this afternoon he will pass 800 miles and then sometime close to midnight he will call it a day, hopefully with 113 more laps neatly marked on his clip board.  Then almost in an instant he will pack his things up and head back to his room.  Pedaling through the dark streets towards a room where he will spend a handful of quiet hopefully restful hours.  The briefest of sweet breaks  in which he will have to share with no one but himself.

sopan7

He wrote in his daily blog the other day, “Felt like blessing after a difficult humid day. Finally I can catch up a little on sleep as I have been going regularly to bed kind of late.” He like all the runners obviously deserve blessings.  Who can really imagine just how hard it is each day being here and doing what they do.

Then try and grasp hold the reality that this same routine will simply replicate itself for many more miles and many more weeks yet to come.  The lives of the runners here are almost always in constant movement.  Sopan and all the others see in this great journey a goal which will not let them stop or rest until they at last complete the very last step of the 3100 miles.

photo by Bhashwar 1979

photo by Bhashwar 1979

The spiritual life is not like the ordinary life. In the ordinary life, if you have come to a particular point and do not want to go further, you can just stay there. But in the spiritual life, if you have come to a point and then do not continue ahead, you cannot remain where you are; ignorance will pull you back. In the ordinary life, if you have come five steps, you can stay there for three months and then, if you want to continue your journey, you can. But in the spiritual life, if after taking five steps you wait for five days, immediately you will be pulled back to your starting point, because ignorance is only one step behind you all the time waiting to grab you. In the spiritual life, my child, you always have to be on the move.

Sri Chinmoy, The Ambition-Deer, Agni Press, 1974

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June 27: Everything Is New

Sometime late this morning Yuri Trostenyuk will run past the  731 mile mark.  It is possible that he might not even be aware when this special moment takes place.  Certainly the counter who is carefully writing down all his lap times may not understand its significance.  Yet whether it is celebrated, or recognized, or simply sweeps by in the great cavalcade of attained mileage, today a 49 year old Ukrainian runner will have past one of the great milestones of his running career.

yuri-and-board

In the great scheme of things it has been his dream just to be here.  He has undertaken a great pilgrimage in his life just to make it to the starting line.  He has trained long and hard to be fit and ready.  He has competed at similar but shorter events to understand just how to focus, how to pace, and how to tolerate pain and fatigue like few mortals ever have to endure.

In a 10 day race more than a year ago he ran 731 miles and then got to sit beside the track and marvel at what he had accomplished.  Today, when he passes 731 miles, his journey will in some ways have just begun, for still before him now are many more thousands of miles yet to go.

When I ask him what it means to him to transcend his previous best distance.  “It seems like I will go beyond.  It is newness.  Newness of feelings.  Newness of life.  Everything is new.  Newness of joy.”

At the start of the race in 2007 Sri Chinmoy spontaneously composed a poem about his beloved 3100 mile race.  The runners were standing in front of him. At first he was meditating silently and powerfully and then began to speak these words.

Photo by Jowan 2007

Photo by Jowan 2007

Longest self giving journey

Heaven’s brightest smile

Earth’s proudest embrace

God’s Newest Victory Discovery

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This 3100 mile Self Transcendence race, like many, if not all the spiritually significant and illumining things that Sri Chinmoy created in his lifetime, are difficult if not impossible to fully comprehend.  We can never precisely know why he did these things and then again,  what their impact will be on this world of ours, long into the future.  You can look at these precious words and for a moment and then get quickly tangled up trying to understand exactly what he meant by them.  But the nature and workings of a great spiritual master like Sri Chinmoy are not easily deciphered. Our hearts however can more easily embrace and accept their significance.

Analysis can take you some distance forward, but then you can stumble when you simply realize just how far beyond limited humanity Sri Chinmoy’s vision, his tireless service, and all his incredible manifestations really were. What actually becomes clearer, as we try and crack the significance of his life, is that we then actually discover just how limited we can see our own lives to be.  How little we seem to be able to accomplish at changing our own fates, particularly when we identify ourselves too closely with the confined dimensions of the materiel world. It is at this point that we can then choose the path that will realize and fulfill our heart’s inner cry.

photo by Jowan 2007

photo by Jowan 2007

Sri Chinmoy however was not bound up by this world or by anything other than the will of the Supreme.   His divine vision was always pointing out and guiding us to the unhorizoned reality of the golden shore from where we all came from.  Also the place that continually beckons us and eagerly awaits our return.

For me the easiest way to understand anything about this race is to simply to run beside Yuri this morning and listen to his words.  Allow myself to be swept up by his boundless enthusiasm for this difficult task that he is gladly and willingly doing here.  A man who is so enthralled and excited about what he has set out accomplish, right here on this little loop in Queens.

A runner, like all the others in this race,  who are all bravely pressing back the boundaries of the impossible.  12 who are accomplishing so much with their commitment and self sacrifice.   How with each mile run they draw ever closer to the glowing reality of their own self transcendence.  Accomplishing a task  which Sri Chinmoy revealed to them in their own hearts, and who is now showing them how to reach and rise up towards their own perfection

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June 26: Just Surrender

At the start of the race this morning Surasa informed everyone at the starting line that it was Nidhruvi’s birthday.

happy-birthday3

Instead of rushing off at their own usual pace all 12 runners instead walked soulfully together with her towards an ever brightening dawn sky.  For a short distance, perhaps no more than 100 meters, they clearly showed just how much a unique family they all really are.  Together they sang for her the birthday song with a delightful mixture of voices, some sweet and some perhaps searching hard to find the note, but still singing with oneness and affection for this wondrous runner from Austria.

For her yesterday was not the kind of day that would normally bring a smile and yet she was still able to find one just the same.  It was a tough one for this great runner, who has run so well for decades now.   She who is also defying most ideas of just what a runner can still do as her age creeps ever closer to 50.

nidhruvi-wide

Today, which is her souls day is now stretched out, long and gruelingly hard before her.  Ahead are 18 arduous hours locked in place.  Time in which she has nothing else to do but run her very best.  But she, like all the others, go forward each day with optimism.  A not fragile belief that their bodies will endure the unforgiving test they all face.  That their spirits will remain just as luminous as the dawn which glows with so much promise now on all their faces.

The weather forecast predicts that today will be much more pleasant than the hot miserable drudgery which was yesterday. “The weather became cooler, it is such a gift, it is a blessing.”

With so much more running yet to come she tells me she does not have any expectations.  Right now on her souls day she is doing just the thing that she loves best to do.  “It is so quiet inside me, that I could start crying immediately.”

silouhette-nidhruvi

“I felt it already yesterday.  Yesterday I had some little problems with the Achilles and I was so grateful that I could still run.  I just surrendered.  I thought I am not going to push.  Just stay peaceful and calm.  It helped me so much, just to take it the way it is.”

For her it was a surprise that all the runners would honor her on her birthday in this way.  “It was kind of touching.” I suggest that when she is here next year she will not be surprised.

An unconditional surrender
Is just one farther stride
     To Heaven.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 6, Agni Press, 1998

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

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June 25: Everything In Life We Have To Share

pre-sarvagata-and-atmavir2“I don’t want to have a blister and this morning I felt something. So I wanted to prevent it, as much as possible.”  Sometimes precious moments take place here at the race that continually prove again and again just how divine humanity can be. How much more can be achieved through oneness instead of competition.

Earlier Sarvagata had mentioned to Atmavir that he was concerned about his foot.  None of the runners has much time to spare,  particularly in those hectic minutes before the start.  Yet just the same Atmavir came over and gave him a special jar of cream and showed him how to use it.  Now as he applies it to his foot he tells me, that Atmavir was, “very kind and brought me the cream.”

pre-sarvagata2

“We do that here.  If you have something more than you need, or if there is something that you need. Than it is no problem to share.” There may be athletic events in which great records are set and champions are celebrated for their exceptional victory.  Here however, at the Self Transcendence race it is a much different world than any other sporting event.

For here the wondrous events that take place are quite often not even visible. They happen so spontaneously and are so heartfelt that unless you are right there you probably wouldn’t even notice.   The runners themselves certainly don’t often talk about the little jewels of kindness.  The gentle triumph of joy over suffering.  How hearts united with sincere oneness can together create a  collective strength that can accomplish what is unquestionably impossible.

silouhette-behind

Question: Is giving as important as achieving?

When we follow the spiritual life, we come to realise that we never give anything to a third party; the giver and the receiver are the same person. God is in everybody. This moment God is playing the role of the giver inside me, and the next moment He is playing the role of the receiver inside you. Then it is reversed. It is like taking from the left hand and giving to the right hand. Again, God the giver cannot be happy unless God the receiver takes what is offered. When the father gives something to the child, if the child does not take it, the father will feel sad. But when the child takes and is happy, the father is also happy. So it is reciprocal happiness, in which the giver and the taker are of equal importance.

If you are playing a masterpiece and the audience is not receptive, then you are very sad. Only if the audience is very, very attentive and receiving joy from your playing will you also get tremendous joy. So the joy has to be mutual. Everything in life we have to share. What you have, you have to share with me. What I have, I have to share with you. Otherwise, there is no happiness.

Sri Chinmoy, Sri Chinmoy Answers, Part 10, Agni Press, 1999

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

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June 24: If There Is No Running How Can There Be Transcendence

“I left at 11:30.  I could have done 2 or 3 more laps, but for me it was more important to go home and get a little more sleep.  And that helped so much.  It was the first night that I could sleep for a full 3 1/2 hours. Yesterday I had my best mileage day but I really felt that I needed a little bit more sleep. I did 113 laps.”Photo by Jowan

Photo by Jowan

Nidhruvi Zimmerman like all the runners of the 3100 mile race have been on the course now for 8 full days. Depending on where you live in the world there is an extremely good chance that at the moment you are preparing yourself for a good nights rest the runners will be still out on the course here and running.

A 6 hour break from the race every night can for some multi day runners seem like an extravagant luxury.  But try inserting all the other necessary chores that you need to do just after, and then again just before the race starts at 6 am.  The amount of free time you anticipated begins to get squeezed down into something, that looks less and less like sweet dreams and more and more like a nightmare.

pre-pranjal

When Pranjal leaves the race he tries and works briefly on his blog. He ran 118 laps yesterday and this morning he stretched out for not more than 5 minutes before the start.

Question: Did God really intend everyone to run?

Sri Chinmoy: In God’s case, there is no difference between His sleeping and His running. Even while sleeping, He runs the fastest. And when He is sleeping, He knows that He is running. In the case of an ordinary human being, it is different. When you run, then only do you know that you are running. But when you are sleeping, you do not feel that you are running, unless you have wild dreams that you are running faster than the fastest. But God, even when He is sleeping, knows that He is running.

God created two things for the human mind: running and sleeping. You can say that you have already done your share of sleeping. But God says, “Since you have pleased Me by sleeping, now please Me also by running.” So God did intend everybody to run. Running means speed, both on the inner plane and the outer plane. God’s Poise is speed, God’s Peace is speed. How will He go beyond His Goal if there is no speed? If there is no running, how can there be transcendence?

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

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

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June 23: Writing A Book

“When I came the first time I had expectations.  I didn’t know what this was all about.  Each year that I have come after that is like creating another book, or adding more pages in this book.  For me it is a process which is continuing in my case.  Once I started I want to finish, to read the book until the very end.”

atmavir2

In 2007 when Atmavir first came to the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race he may have thought the book or experience he was about to embark upon would reach some clear and  logical conclusion within a year or two.  After which he would start something new and different in his life.   But his story, like that of quite a few others here,  seems very far from reaching its ultimate destination in this Self Transcendence race.

Photo by Jowan 2007

Photo by Jowan 2007

Atmavir as he heads into his 7th straight year is still only 35.   On this his 8th day of running he has run more miles so far than anyone else.  Within an hour of starting this morning he will pass 500 miles.

He moves easily with a light efficient stride.  With each new lap he always looks comfortable and well within himself.  He appears as though he has yet to explore the outer limits, of both his physical and spiritual capacity.

So it is not hard to imagine that the 18,000 plus miles that he has already run here could possibly be just the beginning of a great voluminous encyclopedia of experience and illumination.

That quite possibly he is well on his way to creating an epic saga that could possibly match the feat of Suprabha who ran this race 13 times.

But it is not records or winning or simply seeing the big plastic number ‘3100’ beside his name, that brings him back here each day and each summer.  When I watch him run on these soft bright mornings he seems to be intimately connected with not just himself, but also the very boundless dimensions of the race itself.  He moves with lightness and fluidity.  Furthermore he considers all those who run with him, not as competitors but as his spiritual brothers and sisters.

Photo by Jowan 2007

Photo by Jowan 2007

There are times when we spectators can get lost, struggling endlessly down a tangled path made up of numbers and statistics.  That somehow we can decipher all that happens here if we just can stack all the bits and pieces together in a pattern that makes sense of it all. But who of us can ever analyze a true inner call or ever comprehend the deep inner motivation that directs and inspires any of our inner journeys.  Little alone Atmavir and the others who are writing such profound inner and outer stories with their lives of Self Transcendence.

God wants me to write
A very simple and soulful book
So that every day
He can read and appreciate it
And inspire and teach me to write
A better and simpler book.

Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 27, Agni Press, 1984

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

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June 22: Small Victories

“Sometimes when people see us running maybe it looks to them that it is just easy running.  We are going slowly, no problem.  But it is not like this.  Every lap is a fight.  And when you complete each lap it is a very small victory and each day when you finish it is also a victory.”  When 37 year old Baladev Saraz started his 7th day of running here he had so far accumulated 688 of these small victories or laps of the course.  Not very many perhaps when you consider he will still have to complete another 5,000 of them in the 45 days he still has left here.

baladev

As someone who gets to observe the race each day I have the luxury of pausing and examining the runners from countless vantage points all around the loop.  Every day I try to find a slightly different location, uncover a fresh perspective and to hopefully reveal something new and inspiring.   Attempt to see and understand this incredible story of self transcendence as it unfolds.  The extraordinary thing is that no matter how much I look, and ask questions, and ponder the impenetrable immensity of if all I hear something new and amazing every day.

wide-corner

There are of course 12 stories to be told and though all are unique, what Baladev said this morning is most likely true for each of the brave runners here.  That each lap is a victory.   By now there are perhaps 50 or 60 individuals who have contributed some small active service to the race.  The continually rotating cast who sit behind a stack of clip boards and with sharp pencils keep track of those laps.  Still more who have spent long hours making food, cleaning up, giving medical assistance and otherwise helping in the almost endless ways that make the great roller coaster of life here keep rolling.

wide-silouhette

Yet no matter how much you help and serve, or sing or clap and cheer along the way, we cannot ever really know how precious those solitary laps really are.  How their slow and steady accumulation brings a runner just a fraction closer to their goal, which is still thousands of miles away.

It was many hours ago now as I am writing this that Baladev spoke about those small victories.  I am sitting back in a comfortable chair and trying to make sense of something that is really almost impossible to grasp.  I am not sure if over the course of my day I had even one small victory.  Sometime late tonight Baladev will have completed probably about 110 of them.

Every small moment of victory
     In pleasing God
Is of paramount importance
     In our life.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 26, Agni Press, 2002

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

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June 21: Transformation For Me

“I was the youngest to attempt and complete the race in 2005.”  That year when Sopan first came here to run the 3100 mile race he was only 24 years old.  I ask him what he remembers about himself at that time, so many years and miles ago. He laughs at just the thought of this absurd question.  “No really.  After my first race I changed so much.  I cannot remember.  My first race was such a huge transformation for me.”

So I ask, over these past 8 years what then has he become.  His simple answer, “I hope better.”

sopan7

The news that someone has become a better person simply isn’t that interesting to traditional media.  Do some terrible act and a throng of journalists will be at your door in an instant.  There are times when I watch people reading newspapers where I work and you can see them getting visibly more miserable as they consume one ugly story after the next.

We seem to be almost continually bombarded by bad news from around the world, accompanied as well by shocking pictures of these same events.  Sometimes you can get the impression by reading the news that nothing beautiful or inspiring is happening anywhere in this world of ours.  Which is really not true of course.  The soulful beautiful things are simply hard to find and perhaps just a little more difficult to tell as well.

Quite a few people over the last week have commented that they have been inspired by the 3100 mile race.  From remarks printed and otherwise communicated it is clear that there are many people around the world who do see and feel that something soulful and significant is happening right now on a hard cement block in Queens.

wide-sopan

Savadhara recently said, “Utpal, please, say every runner that in faraway Ukraine and Russia their friends are following them every step. We pray for them and we are very grateful.”

Francesco wrote, “Today I had a day so hard that all the time I imagined if I could be a runner in the 3100 mile race that runs between peace and harmony,
suffering outside, but with so much joy on the inner level.”

Laura from Texas says, “Every year since 2006 I have been peeking in on this race and love seeing the regulars come back and new ones succeed.”

These comments and many more that I have received over the last week have helped me to see as well  just how this 3100 mile race does not just exist on this fragment of a New York street. That the course does not just endlessly circle one short half mile strip of concrete.

In many ways it also exists in the thoughts and feelings of all those who can identify with the great journey that is continually taking place here and over the course of the long hot summer ahead.  That at its finest moments, the race can connect and inspire the hearts of all those who are reaching forward towards their own self transcendence.

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Do not avoid
But transform
The things that need
Transformation.

Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 77, Agni Press, 1984

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