6 & 10 Day Race….First Day

10 days from now these 53 people will have accomplished something momentous and truly great.  For now the space besides their names remains blank, for they have yet to set out upon their way, to take their first eager steps, to begin a journey that so few have taken and yet now lies unavoidably before each one of these courageous runners.

We all who support, encourage, and in any small way aid them hope that their journeys be fine, bright, and fulfilling.  But a 10 day race is not a sporting event that does not allow a runner not to be shaken, molded, or left untouched in ways both simple and profound.  Even if you are torn down while doing the task, be assured, that once again you will arise up anew.  To be rebuilt and transformed in some way that is all simply an unavoidable part of our personal growth and self transcendence.

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Not all will look upon the 10 days yet to come as a spiritual journey.  Nor each will feel that each step and mile is a test or battle.  Numbers will accumulate beside each name.  Some in abundant and glorious fashion and others struggled for each one.

No matter your training, no matter your fitness, and no matter the buoyant brightness of your dreams that compelled them all to come here.  Whatever the outcome,  it will all be worth it in the end.

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Pain, fatigue, and suffering with different faces will come calling and be dismissed, fought, and every once in a while surrendered to.

But there is already victory here.  Just to stand up and step forward even one step from the line is its own great achievement and reward.  The numbers by each name will come gradually and accumulate each and every day.  By this time, 10 days from now, they will be put aside though.  The great green board, the village, and all the trappings of this 10 day race will vanish.

What will remain in the hearts and minds, and within the very fiber of each and every runner, is something that is not so easily lost or found.  It will be the inner experience, the change, and transformation that will push and guide each one to the next great challenge in their lives beyond.

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6 & 10 Day Race…..Setting Up

For 355 days a year this little piece of Flushing Meadow Park doesn’t look like very much.  But for 10 days, and perhaps just a little more, each April it becomes something quite wonderful.  All that planes that soar in and out of LaGuardia airport close by, just might see out of the ordinary, is a momentary puzzling flash of blue and white plastic tarpaulin as they cross over this fragment of a New York City park.

Depending on how kindly you look down upon it, there is a wide assortment of landscaping here even at the best of times.  Some tired patches of dirt, crumpled roadway, great swaths of lawn, and trees spreading their towering canopies across the pathways.   Depending upon where you sit in a plane that crosses over, you just might catch a brief glimpse of it all.

But how is it possible, when you are soaring past, can you really tell at all what it is that you are seeing just beneath your window, and more importantly, know at all about the marvelous things that happen here over those 10 sweet hard days each Spring.

Map-of-park

A few days ago the construction of the 6 and 10 day village began in earnest

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To see how it all comes together is a miracle in and of itself… Bipin is the main manager of the building and Rupantar the Captain of the Sri Chinmoy marathon team.

rupantar-and-bipin

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World’s Largest Peace Torch

The moon has been growing full for some days now.  It is hard for us to resist its pull and attraction when it glows so bright and inviting in the clear Spring night.  But on this past Sunday evening there was another lofty brightness illuminating the darkness that caught the attention of several hundred people in a little corner of Queens NY.  It is a neighborhood not unaccustomed to the large and the extraordinary.  This April 13th however saw the creation and lighting of something that even this, a place where the unexpected often shows up, the World’s largest Peace Torch.

torch-night-2

The threads of this particularly story are both very simple and yet also extraordinarily complex and profound.  Ashrita Furman is the first name that comes into the mix as the driving force behind this new Guinness record, for he has more of those records than anyone else.  (Something like 182) But he himself would say the real inspiration for this unique creation is his late Spiritual Teacher, Sri Chinmoy.  Who first came to America 50 years ago, on April 13th 1964.

Ashrita, has always dedicated his achievements to Sri Chinmoy, and so wanted this 50th anniversary to be more than just special, that it also be historic.  He, along with a team of helpers wanted to create a Guinness record that would be original, powerful, and at its heart, symbolically represent some of the deep inner values and aspirations that Sri Chinmoy himself tirelessly championed.  In particular Sri Chinmoy’s Oneness-Home Peace run, in which a team of runners carry a peace torch.  This event has been taking place in more than 140 countries around the world for more than 20 years.

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May the flames of peace-torch
Kindle and awaken
Each and every world-citizen.

Sri Chinmoy, A Love-Bathed Heart, Agni Press, 1993

olympictorches

The Guinness record people informed Ashrita, when he first proposed building a giant torch that he could not simply create an original designed torch.  Instead it would have to be modeled after a previous Olympic torch and be at least 10 times the size of it.  After examining pictures of all possible torches Ashrita selected the 1998 Nagano winter Olympic torch to be the most beautiful.  Yet now the dilemma arose.  How to find blueprints or even a copy of an almost sacred object that was built 16 years earlier in far off Japan.

Ashirvad just happened to be giving meditation classes in Tokyo when the original idea happened to be formed.  Setting up an appointment with the torch creator, he took a 3 hour train trip to Nagano to speak to people there to see if it would be somehow possible to get technical information on the original torch.

“A gentleman from the company received us and he was very happy to see us.”  The man was Akio Haruhara who actually designed and created the torch.  In order to give him some idea of what Ashrita was planning he showed him a video of some of Ashrita’s other records.  “He was extremely inspired by the video.”

Mr. Haruhara then showed them the real torch.  “It was really beautiful.” They were also allowed to take measurements.  He then asked if they needed anything else.  They asked of course for more precise diagrams of the torch and mr. Harahura apologized.   He said that Olympic rules forbade that he do that.  Then after taking a long look at Ashirvad he said, “Just take the torch. So he gave us a real torch.”  Upon returning to New York he mentioned to Ashrita only that he had been quite successful in his search.  Not revealing the full extent of his success until he delightfully handed  Ashrita the actual torch last December.

 

ashirvad-and-haruhara

“He was like a kid who receives the nicest toy at Christmas.  The one he was hoping for.  He wasn’t expecting to get the torch.  It was a big surprise.”

When Ashirvad was originally with him, he told Mr. Haruhara, “of course if you come (when it is constructed) you will be welcomed.  They don’t speak much English so I didn’t feel that he would do it.  But his wife was very excited about the idea.  She said, yes, you need to go to New York.”  Time passes and it was only a few weeks ago that Mr. Haruhara and his wife confirmed that they would come.  “It is really nice.”

haruhara-and-ashrita2

“There is something about this project, and I have seen many records.  That the level of commitment that was put into it that I don’t think I have seen before.  Everyone is so focused on making this torch the best way we could.  Every little detail was given a lot of attention.  From the materials used to the finish, colors, every little thing is an exact copy of that torch.  It is just amazing.”

Interview

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