June 20: Dream The Impossible.

“It is a dream of all my life and all my incarnations.”   49 year old Yuri Trostenyuk may be the most experienced and well prepared first time runner that the 3100 mile Self Transcendence race has ever seen.  A fixture of the 6 and 10 day races each Spring in Flushing Meadow park he has run there 9 times, each time performing well and he even won the 10 day race 4 times.

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His home is in Vinnitsa in the Ukraine, a place that curiously seems to produce an extraordinary number of top quality multi day runners.  Yet it is also a place far far from New York city, in many ways more than just the 5,000 miles distance.  You can easily imagine it to be a place in which such dreams as spending your summer in NY and running the race of your life would remain just that, a luminous yet impossible wish.  A dream that was simply too expensive and complicated to bring forth into reality.

yuri-2One can never be too old to pursue your dreams and one can also imagine that maybe it might have been better for Yuri to have come a few years earlier, than to arrive at the starting line as he has at age 49.  Yet the world of the Self Transcendence race is not bound or defined by such limitations.

A runner needs of course to have adequate training and experience to come here but the most important thing is the inner preparation and spiritual maturity. Qualities that Yuri has shown in abundance from the moment he stepped forward on Sunday morning at 6.

To see Yuri run is to see an incredible combination of a young boy who smiles often as he strides giddily along.  His light stride makes him to appear almost as though he is rocking lightly from side to side.

Yet at other moments there is a strength, power, and determination written in firm hard lines across his face.  Hinting perhaps of the many many miles he has run throughout the dark cold winter months and also in the blazing heat of the Ukrainian Summers.

Just across the street from where Yuri and the other 3100 mile runners are taking upon themselves this monumental challenge lies the Jamaica High school track.  On the night of August 27th, 1978, a grand new era of distance running for the students of Sri Chinmoy began. It was the Spiritual Master’s 47th birthday and he decided to offer a challenge to them like most had never seen before.

58 runners took part, in what seemed at the time, an unbelievable task.  One that meant running 47 miles starting at midnight.  Something that at the time seemed unbelievable, this coming from someone who did it, not just that night but also for many more August 27ths to come.

What Sri Chinmoy clearly saw in the sport of distance running was something bold, dynamic, and at the same time transcendent.  A challenge that could powerfully bring forth both the inner and outer together.  Create an experience which was like an almost endless divine journey directly towards the runners own self transcendence.

At that time he said, “This is my best birthday gift. Watching each of you transcend your own outer limitations has given me tremendous joy. When you transcend any aspect of yourself, your spiritual qualities grow and expand. Now you see what is true for all human beings. We are all truly unlimited if we only dare to try and have faith.

Yet the following year something else happened at the 47 mile race that most of us could not imagine.  The 48 year old Sri Chinmoy ran the race himself in a time of 12:41:48.  Not just content to inspire his students with words he came back again the following year, also at age 49 and inspired us all with his actions.  This time he ran the race again more than an hour and a half faster than he had done the previous year.  Running the 47 miles in a time of 11:27:24.

Photo by Bhashwar 47 mile race 1979

Photo by Bhashwar 47 mile race 1979

It is absolutely necessary
     To dream
The impossible.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 28, Agni Press, 2002

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June 19: Searching For God Within

“Today I had a very good meditation and I am very happy.  It was a regular half an hour but on the run.  It was amazing I never had it before.”  Sarvagata is still very much glowing from the experience.  The morning is perfectly still and the dim glistening brightness of dawn is now opening up to reveal a full wide sun bright morning.  I feel very much that I have somehow come along at just the moment when the door to his heart is wide open and I have stepped by chance into some sacred still place within him.

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Sarvagata is well into his 4th day of running.  In about another hours time he will make one small step up the mileage ladder and complete his first 200 miles.   Perhaps by tomorrow he will make 300 miles and on countless other long days ahead the numbers and digits will gradually stretch further across the board beside his name.  None of those statistics however will mean as much to him as those precious moments of meditation.

Experiences that do not follow any timetable that we can measure and certainly seem both perfect and ironic at the same time.  Perfect, because runners like Sarvagata have come specifically to the self transcendence race to open a pathway to reveal the divine within himself.  And yet it is ironic undertaking as well.  For this is not some remote silent cave in which the search for peace and transcendence is sought out.  Instead it is a sometime raucous public place, in which these 12 runners have embarked upon one of the most difficult tasks in all creation.

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This is the 3rd summer Sarvagata has spent here in the eternal quest for Self transcendence.  On his first year here, almost from his first day on the course, he quickly moved into an almost continuous trance like mode of running.  Almost detached from the world around him and devoted himself fully to the road and task in front of him.

Quite often his face seemed twisted in a painful grimace and when asked about this he said it was not pain at all that sharpened the features of his face, it was instead that he was crying out for the Supreme, and for that alone.  He ended up that year winning the race.

sarvagataThen last year the outer experience shifted dramatically.  He was not the lonely monk lost in his solo journey into the beyond.  He found himself having to confront the world around him, he said.  It was for him a blend of the inner truth that he sought and the outer reality that he could not escape from.

It was an experience for him in which he could no longer simply exist in the tranquility and solitude of his inner self. Instead he had to accept and be part of the outer world in a way he had not been required to do in his first year of running here.

Yet it was in this face to face experience with the world that he also gathered strength and a better understanding of how the outer and inner can and must exist simultaneously. That he could still continue to search for God within, but he also had to accept that God had to be found and appreciated in the world around him as well.

He gently laughs as he talks about the meditation experience he has just had.  He jokes, “It was so nice.  You should try it.”

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Question: Since God is within us and we know that one day we will realise God, why is it necessary to practise Yoga?

Sri Chinmoy: One day we shall realise everything which is natural. God is natural and so naturally we shall realise Him. That is true, but it means that we shall have to wait for Eternity. God has given us a conscious mind and conscious aspiration. If we don’t want to use our conscious aspiration, then we can wait. God is not compelling us or forcing us. We can sleep if we want to. But if we consciously pray and meditate, then we will go faster. Everybody will reach the Goal, but he who sleeps will not reach the Goal as fast as he who is running. One day everybody will realise God because in God’s Cosmic Vision, He will never allow anyone to remain unrealised. But it will take a very long time. Again, if we want to wait, no harm; we can wait.

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

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June 18: You Must Be Very Strong

3 years ago in 2010, when Surasa arrived at JFK airport in New York, she was asked by the Immigration officer what was the purpose of her visit to America.  She told the man that she had come to run the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race and would spend every day, that summer while visiting, running .   He was surprised of course and said, “you must be very strong.”  Surasa a veteran of many many multi day races remembers that she was a bit shocked by his words.  For she did not think of herself as strong or particularly special.  Perhaps there was part of her that simply thought that it wasn’t such a miraculous thing for one to run 3100 miles.  For she simply felt so strongly deep within herself that this was the thing she was supposed to do and that was that.

surasa-and-board

Very early on during that,  her first attempt at completing the race she had a bad case of shin splints.  Within a few weeks it became clear that her chances of making the full distance before the cut off had slipped away.  Time, always a relentless adversary would not surrender to her dreams.

Yet the nature of Surasa is such that she remained happy despite this setback.  Now If you have never experienced an injury of this kind then picture yourself trying to run one mile in searing agony and then simply imagine continuing doing that same thing over and over again for another 1000 more miles.

Where so many would crumple under the burden she prevailed.  She was so determined to do her best that she persevered, despite the pain, and finished that year with 2700 miles. At the end of all this she was happy and grateful to have made it that far.

The following year she returned and had no such problems or injuries.  She appeared to run efficiently and with regimented precision.  Finishing the race in an excellent time seemed to be well within her grasp.  Then on her 47th day on the course, with just 320 miles left to go, her right calf  was struck by a pain of such severity she could not move forward even one step.  A car had to be brought out onto to the course and pick her up so that she could receive medical attention.

A chiropractor who examined her at the time suggested that due to the catastrophic nature of the injury that he diagnosed that it would be impossible for her to continue.  He was so shocked by his examination of her leg that he couldn’t tell her his finding at the time.  He described to the race directors how even touching the area felt to her like being struck by a knife.

night4This kind of experience would break the spirit of most us.  Snatch away all your hope and extinguish the last bright beams of joy and and then simply toss what remains into into a abyss of despair.  But this is where Surasa did not go, or even ponder this option for even a moment.  If her leg was going to fail, if her body was going to suffer, then what and who she was inside would remain triumphant and undaunted by the burdens of the physical.

On her 48th day she returned to the course and somehow made a total of 12.8 miles.  The following day she completed nearly 30 miles.    Each step hurt, each mile she complete was one more hard fought victory of her inner self against the limitations her body was futilely trying to throw up against her. On the final night of the race, with just a couple of hours to spare she crossed the finish line triumphant.

Last year Surasa did not come back to the race due to injuries.  This year she felt the imponderable yet enchanting call of the race once again in her heart.  At age 55 there are few who would have questioned her decision not to come and run.

But she does not listen to the doubters.  She has no interest in the prognosticators who would predict that completing the race at this age within the strict time limits as unlikely.  She somehow has set aside fear and worries as being companions of which she has no interest or time for.  As of Sunday morning, the start of the race, she set off with 11 others, under the brightness of a beautiful dawn sky and then on deep into the stillness of a warm NY night.

At the end of 2 days of this she has completed 134 miles and as you read this and think of her she will probably be continuing to run and run.   You and I will, as the hot bright arc of the summer passes over us, be caught up in that same time, in challenges big and small, both compelling and boring, of some importance to ourselves but quite often just the silly little events that clutter up our days.  Surasa this summer will be running and only running, and if per chance you fly into New York and meet that same immigration officer at JFK airport, who asked her if she was strong, you can answer for her.

 

Where the heart’s eagerness
Is strong, very strong,
Life’s obstacles
Are weak, very weak.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 5, Agni Press, 1998

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

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June 17: Our Journey’s Goal

The bright bell tone of the singing bowl radiates outward like a warm gentle breeze.  It’s sound is light, clear, and soothing.  It’s music reaches well beyond your ear and then on into some internal place calm, deep and still within the listener.  Utsahi smiles as he gently stirs his wooden mallet in a methodical even tempo around and around the worn outer rim of the bowl.  Something many other hands have probably done for more than a century.  Today the listeners are the runners who slip by and are only briefly caught up in its spell.

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It gleams as it rests in the palm of his left hand.    To get it to sing is not difficult but your touch has to be precise. Neither can you press too hard or too lightly.  But once the musician maintains their oneness with the bowl presumably it would continue to sing out its perfect pure tone. The only reason it would ever stop singing is if the hand of the player grew tired and then could simply no longer make another precise revolution of its rim.

“It was made with lots of care because you can see all the little marks that the artisan put on it.  To just show that he loves the bowl and he created a sound that is unique in this world.  This sound you cannot hear anywhere else.  Just this bowl will create this sound.  It is like our souls.  Each of our souls has a sound, and we have to make it play.”

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“All singing bowls are unique and all the runners are unique as well.  And being unique we all have to express what we are here for, Our Journey’s Goal.  The bowl wants to sing.  The runners want to run.  The bowls are happy when they play their tunes that they have been made to play.  And the artisan, God, has made them special, with special ingredients.  There are between 7 and 10 different metals in this bowl.  So we are all like that.  We each have special ingredients that we are made of.  And when we do what we are supposed to do, we are happy. ”

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                                                 Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

“When the runners do what they are called to do, they are happy.  So maybe there is a relationship between the race and the bowls.”

 

 

 

If our journey’s goal is success,
Then we will be totally fooled.

.
If our journey’s goal is progress,
Then God will be proud of us

.
And we shall be proud of ourselves.

 

 

Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 267, Agni Press, 1998

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June 16: The Divine Journey

On some level we all know that the Divine is always present within us and also fills the world around us.  We all may have different names for it, and each person when asked may have various opinions as to how much importance it has in their life and also just how much they want to experience more of it.

For the most part our day to day reality consists of all the limitations of the material world and yet from time to time we hopefully can see beyond the demands of email, our human frailties, and the problems of the world which seem to be inexhaustible.  Either we are pushed or pulled into an awareness of our true inner nature and we are then, if only briefly, no longer prisoners of our limited body and mind.  We are aware that we are part and parcel of the divine and the inner call of our journey means we need and must go beyond what we currently imagine ourselves to be.

first-lap2

Each year at the start of the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race I experience a profound moment of realization.  I am but a tiny part of this great event and yet each and every year when I am there, doing what I do I feel myself become more alive inside.  It is almost as though that up until then I have been lost in some unconscious slumber and simply by being at the course I am catapulted into wakefulness.  I sense a new awareness, not just within myself but also the world around becomes imbued with a radiance and glow that I had somehow not been aware of up until then.

When I talked to many of the helpers on the course this morning they also confirmed the sense of brightness and newness and clarity they experienced as well.   There are of course so many indescribable aspects of the divine which don’t easily conform to our mental notions of reality.  Each runner hopefully will describe over the coming weeks just what snatched them up from so many distant lands and then brought them to this place.  Perhaps we all can learn just a little more of what it was that made them take up the self transcendence challenge at 6 o’clock this morning and then run on and on throughout the long New York summer towards a goal that today is so far far away.

first-lap3

A special thanks to Sri Chinmoy who created and continues to maintain this world of wonder on this little block in Queens, on this Fathers Day.   And also a special thanks to those who from time to time drop by here on this blog and either embrace or tolerate my attempts to reveal the  miracle that is the Self Transcendence 3100 Mile race.

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Question: When we attain a divine consciousness, is it better to say that the divine consciousness attains us or that we attain it?

Sri Chinmoy: When we attain the divine consciousness, it attains us and we also attain it. There is a meeting place where the two come together. Reality is all-pervading. Suppose right now we are on the first floor; this is our reality. God, who embodies the universal Consciousness, is on the third floor. So God comes down to the second floor with His Compassion and we go up to the second floor with our intense cry to attain oneness with His Consciousness. God embodies the highest divine Consciousness and He also embodies our inner cry. So God, who is within us in the form of our inner cry, carries us to the second floor; and God, who is outside us in the form of the infinite divine Consciousness, comes down to the second floor. God climbs up with us and God climbs down with the divine Consciousness. When both the seeker and God arrive at a particular place, the seeker enters into the divine Consciousness and the divine Consciousness enters into the seeker. With our personal effort and God’s Grace we go up and with His Compassion and Love God comes down.

Sri Chinmoy, Canada Aspires, Canada Receives, Canada Achieves Part 1, Agni Press, 1974

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June 15: Miracles Large and Small

Early this Spring a famous Hollywood actress appeared on a well known American television talk show.   She had been nominated for an Academy award and was thus being interviewed by many different programs in the time leading up to the show.  These kinds of interviews very rarely get too serious because for the most part viewers like to be entertained with jokes and funny stories.  What made this interview unique was that in the very heart of her interview the actress started to talk about her meeting with Sri Chinmoy, one that had taken place probably 8 years earlier.  As you watch the show you can see her very deliberately change the tone of the conversation to something that was for her very real and significant, and also perhaps something that she had never before made public.

                                           Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

She was not in a hurry and seemed determined to share this experience in its entirety with the host, who for his part was perhaps a little more interested in humor and frivolous topics.   As the actress told about her experience she described at length how she had been first approached and invited to come out to Queens and to be lifted by Sri Chinmoy.

There was no drama in either her words or in her memory.  It was slow, deliberate, and methodical, she wanted to share with the host and no doubt the world that something very significant and miraculous had taken place that day during her meeting.

She did not go into lengthy detail about their private conversation but she indicated that at the time of their private conversation she was having a problem in her life and it seemed as though she specifically asked Sri Chinmoy for his help with this matter.

Now she never said that he indicated in any way that he could or would help her, but in her tone and in the way she recounted her experience she seemed to make clear that indeed Sri Chinmoy did something to make a very private dream of hers come true. One that she had struggled with for a number of years.

The subject of miracles is not one that Sri Chinmoy would often ever speak of.  His path was and is not about swaying people with  spectacular showy phenomena.

Instead he wanted to inspire people from within and was not interested in tricks that would only entertain the mind but briefly.  However for anyone who spent any length of time with him, it was obvious to most that on a regular basis many events took place in and around him that were simply miraculous.   And yet in so many ways we accepted these things so readily because he himself simply did not believe in or accept that anything was  impossible.    And further more, there was no task that was too difficult to accomplish if you simply accepted his philosophy of, not ever giving up.

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In 1997 Sri Chinmoy first inaugurated  the 3100 mile race.  From its inception until even today it continues to be an athletic challenge of such staggering immensity and difficulty that it is almost incomprehensible that anyone could even complete the distance little alone attract 12 runners as it has in this its 17th year.  No matter if you have never seen it up close from the sidewalk or on the internet on the other side of the world this race can never be fully experienced or understood unless you are one of the runners.   And even then something new and powerful happens each year the runners come back again.

Self transcendence occurs in each step they take in this seemingly impossible journey of 3100 miles.  Yet for those of us who watch this great miracle unfold we can still allow it to uplift us and inspire our own lives in ways that we could not have dreamt were even possible.

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Start 2003

Run not after miracles!
All miracles
Are shockingly fragile.

Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 82, Agni Press, 1984

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