Day 38…It Is Possible (July 25)

I am pretty sure each one of us at some time would wish to be the author of our own destiny.  That we would somehow be able to make the time line of our lives more practical if not rewarding.  On days when we fail at something to then be able to rewrite our failure into success.

But of course the struggle is what allows us to appreciate each and every new step we take on the very long path to our own self transcendence.  On our better days we all also realize that the fabric of our destiny is woven neat and perfect for us, if only we can see it and believe it to be true. A task easy for our hearts but one not so well accommodated by a questioning mind

Yesterday Smarana completed 34 miles 63 laps of the course. There is nothing he more he would like to do now than run.  A capacity that seems for the time being to be hopelessly adrift from his grasp.  And so he walks the course as others pass him by.  He searches deep inside himself for a smile that once came so easily and he continues to search for the goal that has called all the runners here. To transcend, transcend, and transcend.

“Running was always in my family.  My family lived on the outskirts of a town.”  Smarana says that there was a track about 1 km long there created by a local factory and starting at age 6 his father would take him there in the evenings.  They ran together and as he got better the distance increased.  “Right from the beginning running was in the family.”

“It is so easy.  You only need shoes, a shirt, and shorts.  You don’t need much equipment.”

“I was in a sports club and did many different kinds of sports.  Running was one of the sports.  When I joined the Sri Chinmoy center then the big goal was the marathon.  I think it was 1993 when I did my first marathon.  I was so proud of myself.  A mental barrier in my mind just fell.  It is possible to run a marathon.”

“It shows so many times that it is just the mental barrier which is holding us back.  Once I did a marathon then came 100km, and then 24 hours.  It just shows that it is possible.  To go further and further.  It is nice.”

Photo by Jowan

Smarana says that the first time he took a serious interest in ultra running was the challenge of the 700 mile race.  “It was just there.”  Someone else in Vienna had done it and he was inspired, “I also want to do it.”  He committed to it with less than 2 years from doing his first marathon.  “It just all happened.  I didn’t plan it out.”

“Here, in the beginning you take its loudness and turmoil of the world with you.  In the course of time it just ebbs away and you feel a peace permeating your being.  There is stillness and peace.”  Smarana says such an experience is very difficult to achieve in his ordinary day to day life.

“Day after day in multi days they really help.  Because day after day you get deeper and deeper.  Especially this race is like a pilgrimage into yourself.  Finding your inner peace and poise.  It is nice if it falls into place with achieving the outer distance.  But this is just one aspect.  The deeper aspect you really take with you is the inner transformation of your nature and poise and peace.”

” And seeing that any problems you have are not such big problems.  It is we ourselves that make them big.  When you are here you get a different perspective.”

The life of spirituality
Not only invites possibility
But also transforms possibility
Into manifested reality.

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Day 37…Inner Reality (July 24)

The weather broke today and in so doing the drop in temperature brought irregular waves of heavy showers.  A blessing for most and a mixed curse for those with already blistered feet.

For Harita things are going very well.  She is consistently running 60 mile days and now only has to maintain a 59 mile a day average in order to cover the final 956 miles.  A distance which is further than the entire length of her country New Zealand.

When asked if she ever imagined that things would have worked out the way they have, she says, “No.”

“I really didn’t think about it actually.  I had no idea.  I didn’t have any goals.  It was always just to do my best, really, and to keep it all in God’s hands.”

“The only reason I am doing it is because I had the inspiration that this is what my soul wanted me to do.  So then I felt, whatever I do, I will do my best.”

“I can’t believe that it has been 5 weeks.  It feels like is has been just a big blur of one day.  I don’t know whether or not I am surprised because I really had no idea what to expect.  I have seen a lot of difficult things happen to people over the years.  A lot of really big challenges.”

“There is always going to be something wrong.  There is always going to be a pain here or an ache there.  Feel like your getting a stomach virus.  So I am learning to accept that and be okay with that.”

photo by Alakananda

“So you have to keep going which is an incredible lesson for life that you can’t be affected by obstacles.  To see them as part of life.  They make you stronger.  They really help you develop faith, and confidence, and patience, and perseverance. So many qualities that are so essential for life.”

“I am really not trying to think about the whole distance.  That is really hard.  Your mind just wants to constantly think about how many more days,  how many more miles.  As soon as your knee gets sore you think how will it ever be possible to do 20 more days.  My mind is constantly wanting to look into the future like that.”

“Try and figure out how impossible this is going to be.  So I am really trying focus on living in the moment.  Be happy in the moment.  That is probably my biggest challenge.”

“I am much more aware of the inner reality all of the time than I am in my regular life, and of the importance of my state of consciousness.  Also just the fact that it is there and it is a tremendous opportunity to pray and to meditate and to be closer to the divinity that we all have at every moment within us but we so often removed from it because of our outer lives.”

My heart’s inner vision
Has to be
My life’s outer reality.

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Day 36…Inner Silence (July 23)

“I am feeling pretty good.  A little tired.  You know, standard answer after 35 days.”

*cover picture by Alakananda*

When we greet each other a routine question is usually to ask the other person how they are.  Nirbhasa has spent the last 35 days doing very little else than running around the block here in Jamaica Queens.

Yesterday he tied with Kaneenika for the most mileage of the day with a very good 64 miles 117 laps.  Probably there can be no better answer than his , “pretty good.”  Particularly when you take into account that he has so far run 2233 miles and still has 867 more miles to go.

Photo by Alakananda

The conditions on the course yesterday were best described as brutal.  Crowds swarmed around a handball tournament in the corner and the day was hot and muggy.  Welcome to the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race.

I start our conversation this morning by telling Nirbhasa about a story I had printed in the blog yesterday about the great Indian Spiritual Master Sri Ramakrishna.  I mentioned how he had given a spiritual experience to a family member who had not strived and worked for it so did not fully comprehend or appreciate what they had received.  I wondered how he felt that, compared to his and the other runners super human efforts to achieve their goals here.

“I think on some level you are obviously pushing.  You obviously want to do the fastest possible time.  You want to get in as many laps a day as possible.  But I think on another level the real struggle is inner.”

“Then again it is not really a struggle it is more a surrender of the mind.  The Inner Silence.  That is definitely something that as the race progresses it is very easy to feel that inner silence and inner vastness here.”

“The key is to keep surrendering.  It is not so much of a struggle as a matter of trying to fall into it.  Trying to calm everything down.  Don’t think how you are physically doing.  Don’t let your mind get agitated.  You are almost just trying to relax it.”

“There is a little over 2 weeks to go in the race.  In terms of the actual length of the race we have done 5 weeks already.  So 2 weeks seems like we are kind of near the end but it is a long way away.  You can’t think of the end at all.  You have to continue on doing what you have been doing every day.  Take every day one at a time.”

“Really use it as an opportunity for an inner exploration.  Which we never get to do to the same extent in the normal life.”

Nirbhasa emphasized the importance of feeling gratitude is the essential thing.  “For just being able to run, for being here, and having access to that space of inner silence.  It really is the key, gratitude.”

“Whenever I get a little bit, thoughts turning towards the end.  Or I get a little bit…..O God.  I want to be home in bed.  I really try and somehow invoke gratitude, and be happy for the experience of being out here.”

Silence inspires me.
Silence encourages me.
Silence helps me
To enter into my heart-temple
And meet with my Inner Pilot.

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Day 35…Overcome Obstacles (July 22)

Most of the time it is possible to think of the 3100 mile course as a kind of a sacred path.  That all those who assemble there each day are on a very long pilgrimage to a higher goal.  As a metaphor it sounds great and for the most part is absolutely true, in its very own quirky urban way.

But the relentless intrusions of big city life are omnipresent.  The nearby highway gets loud and busy.  Kids fill the sidewalk on their way to and from summer school, and of course the playground and the sport fields become awash with vigorous play by kids of all shapes and sizes.

The yearly handball tournament is an event that city wide handball players no doubt look forward to.  The crowd and the cacophony that spills out onto the sidewalk are of course another matter for 10 weary runners trying to get their laps in the 18 precious hours allotted to them.

Early this morning as I waited to speak to Kaneenika I got a first hand taste of it, as a man with leaf blower was pushing a great grey cloud of indeterminate debris out through the fence of the hand ball court and onto the sidewalk where I stood.

When asked if she gets concerned about such distraction she says emphatically, “I do.  It is hard to ignore it, because I know what is coming.  Even Vasu said, O NO, the big game is coming.”

She says that in previous years she was more concerned about it.  “Now I am trying to get ready for it mentally.  Physically, I don’t know how to do that.  I hope there is something that will help me.”

I ask her what she does in order to cope with an imminent hard day like today.  “Somehow there is something, or someone, who helps us to pull through.  On the hot days and when we had the really rainy day.  You feel like, this is going to be hard.  But you get through it.”

“You don’t really know how it happens.  But there is definitely a force that is helping us to overcome these obstacles.”

I mention that she often wears a shirt that says, ‘Never Give Up.’ Kaneenika says that the opposite of that, one can sometimes easily give in to.

She says that she gets real strength and inspiration from the other runners who also overcome powerful obstacles.

“Definitely, last week when so many runners got sick I was just amazed how fast they all got through it.  The next day everybody looked as if nothing had happened.  It did give me a lot of inspiration and a lot of strength to continue.  Just as everybody did as if nothing had happened.”

Yesterday Kannenika tied Vasu for running the most miles of the day, 65.3 (119 laps).  Her current total of 2148 is 15 miles ahead of last year.

I ask her if at this point she feel more strongly the pull of the finish line.  “It is still far away.  But it is definitely closer.  It is closer than it was on day one.  I can feel the finish line much more.  That there is an end.”

Obstacles there are.
Again, eagerness and enthusiasm
Also are there
To overcome all obstacles —
Present and future.

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Day 34…Inner Experiences (July 21)

This morning I asked Yuri if he wouldn’t mind being interviewed once again.  He immediately and happily agreed.  He is one of those rare kind of people who seems constantly willing and selfless, no matter what is asked of them.  He is a personality of such rare sweetness and delicacy but at the same time has a kind of deep inner commitment and determination that I deeply admire.

*translation by Lyalya*

When pouring a long string of plastic cups, his hands in plastic gloves, he just goes on and on.  He never gets distracted but at the same time is very much aware what is happening around him.  He is a happy man in his very own most sacred place and knows that in another year he will once again be one of the running sidewalk heroes.

Out of curiosity I checked Yuri’s mileage for last year, and after day 33 I am not surprised to see that his 2203 miles is 14 miles further than Vasu.  Comparisons like this are of course silly and I mean not to take anything away from Vasu who is currently leading with 2189.  The chemistry of the runners each year and even each day changes.  A strong performance pulls the others.  The dedicated service of Yuri every day on the sidelines is also crucial and helps the runners in so many in other ways.

When I ask him about the race so far he says, “amazing.  There are always inner experiences.  It is like a spiritual festival.”

Asked if he missed not running, “when the race started I felt it every morning.  But my body is not strong enough yet to do it.  My heart and my soul are patiently waiting for when it will happen.”

A few days earlier he spoke with Vasu and encouraged him to pay more attention to his heart.  “God is willing to tell us how to act in this or that situation.  His whisper we can always feel it in our heart.”

“My consciousness and my heart is here at the race.  I am in complete oneness with them.”

I ask him just how important the self transcendence race is to him.  “It is the highlight of my life.  For me it is the highest experience that I can have.  Right here is Sri Chinmoy, here is the Supreme, and right here is my transformation.  That is the most important thing.”

Through experiments, the outer life advances.

Through experiences, the inner life discovers.

Sri Chinmoy, God’s Hour, Agni Press, 1973

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Day 33…Enjoy Life More (July 20)

In the last 32 days I have never heard him complain or say one negative word.  He has never demonstrated or showed any misgivings.  Neither have I seen him taking a break longer than a few minutes.  In fact Ananda-Lahari is almost perpetual motion itself.  Though his speed may vary in comparison to the other runners.

This morning he completed 1600 miles.

In those 32 days Ananda-Lahari has never been late for a 6 am start and though I haven’t seen it in person.  Because I  am already home in bed, he stays until there is just no more time on the clock.

There are many aspects of running 3100 miles in 52 days that are just categorically impossible.  But there are times when I feel that I cannot even match Ananda-Lahari’s positive attitude for even 52 minutes.

The weather today has been typically New York intolerable.  I felt myself grumble the moment I picked up my gear to head over to the race this morning.

The moment I talked with Ananda-Lahari I could not help but see what a waste of time it is to be negative.  Even the very best of us I am sure circle their wagons around a ‘woe is me attitude’ from time to time.  But to the best of my knowledge I have never heard or seen it in Ananda-Lahari.

My first question of him is a perfect example.  I ask if there is anything he would like to change.  “Lets see how the day goes but until now I wouldn’t change anything.” (It is really hot and humid)

When asked if there were aspects of himself he would like to change.  “Yes, many things.”

“Everything has its own time.  So like slowly and steadily.  We are all working on ourselves.  All humanity.  Everybody wants to be happier.  We are working on it.”

I am curious if humanity has to be conscious of making progress.  “As far as I understand it is good if you are conscious of it.  But even if you are not conscious it is still taking place, but slowly.  It can be faster if we are conscious.”

“I believe in reincarnation.  I believe we live many lives.  So I am talking in long term.  Changing human nature to be come better people.”

“Even if someone is really good, still he or she can be much nicer still.  We have unlimited possibilities and capacities.”

Ananda-Lahari says that he has changed a lot over the past 12 years of coming to the race.  “Yes many.  Definitely I enjoy life more.  I enjoy life much much more.”

Every day I enjoy
The newness of my life’s
Perfection-expedition.

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Day 32…Move Forward (July 19)

Nidhruvi has completed 1605 miles over the past month running around Thomas Edison High school.  That is 2926 circuits on the hardest concrete sidewalk in Queens, and you don’t have to look very closely to see that it isn’t exactly flat either.

She has faced adversity in this race such that she has never encountered before in her long and impressive multi day running career.  Now the weather has turned hot and miserable over the past couple of days and there is still 20 long unavoidable grueling days ahead.  Her goal of reaching 3100 miles before the cutoff is nigh on impossible and yet she is still able to smile and tell jokes.

“One bunny says to the other bunny.  Don’t worry be hoppy.”

“I am definitely trying to be as happy as possible. Trying to be in a good consciousness and be in acceptance in every way.  Just to take life as it is, and keep going. Move forward.”

“Never look back even at what happened 2 seconds ago.”

“There is only one way that we can make real progress, or even for the world to make progress is that we have to go on.  Always move forward and never ever give up.  There is only one way.  Just always go, one step at a time.”

Just 2 days ago Nidhruvi and a few other runners were suffering from very bad stomach and digestive problems.  I ask her if she was able to push through that particularly tough period as well.”

“O yes.  Whatever this is.  Whatever the forces are that are attacking us we are not going to stop.  Nothing can hinder us.  Nothing can hold us back.  We will show just how strong we are.  That we are a huge divine army.  Together we will get through this and together we will make it definitely.”

“They cannot catch us.  We will never give up.  Everybody stayed so strong and tried their best.  This is the way it should be.”

“Every day is a new challenge and a new hope and a new promise and we have to try and fulfill it.  Every day we have to start new.  We begin anew and each day we do our best.  Then see what happens.”

“Time is passing by so fast.”

A life of perfection
Never stops.
It only moves forward,
Upward and inward.

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Day 31…What We Can Accomplish Is Limitless (July 18)

There has to be something fundamentally optimistic built into Yolanda’s DNA.  Or it may just be that she has an amazing sense of determination or it just comes down to good old fashioned heart power.

2 days ago she, like several other runners were having some pretty serious stomach and digestive problems.  She was only able to make 21 miles which is just about as close to catastrophe as an entrant can get.  Particularly with how much time is left in the race.  She lost 37 miles, flat out, plain and simple.

Yesterday her health rebounded so strongly that she made 68 miles 124 laps and would have been the most mileage of the day except for an extraordinary performance by Ananda-Lahari who did 80 miles 147 laps.

When asked if she has been having good and bad adventures she says, “I have been having more good than bad.  I only had one bad one 2 days ago.  Actually it wasn’t really bad.  The bad part was that I got sick. The good part of being sick was that I got 13 hours of sleep.”

“This race will test everything.  Your mind, your body, your soul.  It is just amazing.  It is just an adventure now.  I have made it to day 31 and I am excited about it.”

“Yesterday was my best day.  I pulled off 68 miles.  Today I am moving a little slow because I have 2 blisters on my left foot.  My right foot is perfect.  One on my left heel got a little infected.  So we worked on it this morning.  So it is a little painful and I waiting for the Tylenol to kick in and once it does I will be able to pull off some miles.  It is a beautiful day.”

I ask Yolanda if she was aware of just how strong and determined she was.  “I think I have had the opportunity to bring it out.  When I got sick I lost 37 miles.  So yesterday I made up 7 miles.”

“I realize that our power and our strength in what we can accomplish is limitless.  I proved that yesterday and today I am going to try and knock off an extra 3 miles.”

She feels undeniably that the impossible can be conquered and she wanted to remind all those who have taken up her 52 day challenge that there is still 21 days left.  “You can conquer anything.”

She says we just need to let go of our excuses and remember that she and 9 others are running the longest race in the world.  “The impossible is possible.  We overcome a whole lot.”

“I thought that the weather was going to be an issue.  But no.  Every day there is something new that we have to challenge.  It is amazing.  It is crazy.  But it is all doable.”

“I am just smiling through it.”

Daring enthusiasm and abiding cheerfulness
Can accomplish everything on earth
Without fail.

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Day 30…Still Learning (July 17 )

Last night after running here every day for 4 weeks and a day Andrey Andreev went home having completed 1600 miles.  A not insignificant number and one which is about 1000 miles further than he has ever run before.

With 3 weeks and a day left to continue his task he will run many more miles yet.  Reaching 3100 is unlikely but this fact is one that is irrelevant to Andrey and to the others who are quickly shaping new goals as their fortunes shift and change.

*translation by Lyalya*

He has spent the last 10 years shaping and molding himself into a distance runner.  He is an eternal optimist, one who seems to find new experiences and new inner and outer achievement with each lap.   And more importantly knows that his personal finish line is not a mark made here on the sidewalk.  But rather one which continues to call to him in his eternal race towards his own self transcendence.

When asked how he is doing he says simply, “amazing.”

Hoping for a little more I ask him specifically about his body and what it has gone through. “It looks as though I am still learning how to listen to my body better.  I am also learning to love my body.  To be able to listen to it clearly and not be confused by it.”

When asked about his mind, I joke that he perhaps left it back in Russia.  “In order to do this race I had no choice but to leave my mind back there.  Otherwise I wasn’t even considering doing this race.”

“Here I have to control my mind some way.  I was already somewhat experienced at that.  I control it by setting certain goals.  Prayers really help me and having aspiration for all my best qualities.”

Andrey tells me that his heart is happy.

As for spiritual experiences he describes in the past of having different kinds.  “But here they are all combined into one big current.  Now for me it seems that everything has emerged into this one big all inclusive spiritual experience.”

“I am not having any unpleasant experiences here at all.  Even pain or other unpleasant things are just part of the experience.  There is for me no bad experience.”

As for the days ahead, “I am carefully looking at them but actually why should I look at the next 22 days when we are all here and now.  In the present moment.  We know that the future is being formed by our perceptions today.  So there is no reason to look at the days ahead.”

My mind learns earthly lessons
Quickly.
My heart learns Heavenly lessons
Self-givingly.
My soul learns both earthly
And Heavenly lessons
Intuitively.

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Day 29…A Rainbow Opportunity (July 16 )

The conversation I had yesterday with Sergey has continued to touch and inspire me in ways that I had not predicted.  Some others have mentioned to me as well that Sergey’s heart felt clarity and genuine appreciation for his little running family has inspired them as well.  I am not surprised.

We know of course that the runners are exceptional athletes but Sergey was able to simply and honestly bring forward and to show just how good they are as people as well.  That each runners embodies unique and beautiful qualities that when observed with a oneness spirit can then help to bring forward each runners own divine aspects.

Illustrating most clearly what happens when we are somehow able to discard the superficiality of most of our day to day lives.  When we  endeavor to conquer our own impossible task, as they all are doing, then what is the very best within us then has to come forward as well.  Of course the darker parts of our nature are also exposed, but in so doing they are cast into the light and transformed.  Within this great adventure is where perhaps the core of self transcendence finds its base and then is able to rise above and beyond.

I mention to Vasu today that Sergey had said many nice things about his heart.  That he made everyone feel like they were part of a family.  “Its true, we are a family.  We do the same things as people do in families.  This is because we are children of the Supreme.  We are his golden children.  He is our father.”

“Every runner is unique and we each bring here our qualities.  These qualities are for everybody and they can share them with everyone else.”

I ask Vasu if he feels that he is being helped by these qualities of others.  “Maybe much more inwardly.”

“Yesterday for example Yuri reminded me about being more in the heart.”  They also talked about the significance of the Daily Prayer.  The ones which Sri Chinmoy wrote on each day of the race back in 2006 and 2007.  Yuri suggested to Vasu that he give more significance to them each and every day.

“This helped me so much.  I ran and told that day’s prayer to another runner and we repeated it together.  It gave me energy, it gave me peace, and it gave me more connection.  I felt I could move easier after reciting the prayer.  It helped me so so much.”

Vasu feels that if Sri Chinmoy wrote the prayer on that day then it would continue to inspire the runners on that same day each year.

“Every day good.  Every day is special.  Some days you may have less laps but every day is still unique.  We need to take each day as it comes and be grateful for this day.  Because each day gives us a new opportunity. As Sri Chinmoy said a rainbow opportunity.”

The world’s
Longest-distance-runner
Has at once won
God’s Compassion-Eye
And
God’s Protection-Heart.

Sri Chinmoy

July 15th, 2006

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