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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July 21: Conscious, Constant, Unending Patience

It is just a few minutes past 6 o’clock in the morning and Grahak, with his hands resting on his hips is walking up the ‘hill’ for the first time today. Until just a few minutes earlier he had been running smoothly and then, about 5o meters earlier, he simply down shifted his body into its lowest gears and slowed noticeably.

Practically nobody else in the city would dare classify this slight incline on this Queens sidewalk as a hill.  The change in elevation is barely detectable and yet when you bring your eyes down closer to the surface of the sidewalk, the change is noticeable, not dramatic, not Himalayan, but only really obvious from that vantage point.

Yesterday Grahak climbed this hill, going in the other direction 119 times.  In most other places climbing a hill usually means you can take advantage of the gained altitude and use it when you are then able to coast down the other side.  The strange thing about this hill next to the Grand Central is that there does not appear to be another side that ever leads downward to compensate for the effort of going up.

Surveyors could explain this better, gps devices could analyze the calculable  differences between distinct parts of the course yet ultimately if you are one of the 11 runners here this spot is indeed the hill.  No matter how fast you have been running prior to reaching the hill the moment you arrive there you stop and then start walking.

New runners usually adapt to this strategy immediately on their very first day.  Either they simply follow the example of the veterans or some part of their beings recognizes that is a really good idea to slow down right here.  It is a tactic that has been in practice for 16 years.

Out of curiosity I took out a calculator just to add up all the laps that the runners have completed here so far this summer.  As of this morning the total is just over 43,000 laps, and counting of course.  Grahak has the biggest chunk of that since he leads the field with 4,424. (5649 is the goal)

Practically every aspect of the race offers an important message and significant lesson to anyone trying to reach a new goal for themselves or change or transform some aspect of their lives.  When we loose hope and give up on anything difficult then we become our own worst enemy.

Yet not even trying at all means the ultimate victory of our own ignorance.  What these runners prove and demonstrate is the irrefutable importance of simply always going forward.  Slow down if necessary, speed up when you can, for the goal  always grows closer each day, when at least you try.

There is not a single human being on earth who does not need patience. And we who are seekers of infinite Light and Truth need patience more than others, for we are consciously, soulfully and devotedly aiming at the highest Goal. We want to climb up Mount Everest in the spiritual life. So naturally we need conscious, constant and unending patience. It is not like climbing up an ant-hill or even an ordinary hill; it cannot be done in the twinkling of an eye. The higher the goal, the more patience we need.

Sri Chinmoy, Sri Chinmoy Speaks, Part 1, Agni Press, 1976.

Sri Chinmoy Running Up 150 st.
Photo by Shradha

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July 20: Like Soul Birds

“I think that it was after a short rain, I had just the feeling or I saw it inwardly that they are not just bodies moving on the track, but I saw 12 beautiful birds flying around the course.  Like soul birds flying flying, and flying.”…..Atmavir

When you ask most people what kind of gift they would like to receive on their birthday the average person, when given enough paper and enough ink could tear off a list that could stretch into endless futile tomorrows.  When you are feet are planted firmly on the earth than often you want only want what the world has and what the world is.

Atmavir, whose 34th birthday is today, has feet that are not stuck fast to the earth but instead are swiftly skimming lightly across the face of the earth.  And there are days surely when he and all the others who run here must and do rise up from this tired painful earth and take flight towards quite a different world.  Our eyes and minds can’t see it but in some bright lit corner of our heart we can be aware of this miracle.

When you timidly cling to the earth or allow the world to bind you to it, there can be no flight.  Golden dreams can pass just above your head and yet you cannot see them and do not dare to even reach out.  For 6 summers Atmavir has run here seeking out that other world.  He has clearly heard its call and by running each day and each summer attempted to seek out and become one with the inviting whisper of tomorrow.  No one can say how far really he has come but today at least he radiates contentment and his face beams with delight and joy.

Before coming here this morning he meditated and offered his gratitude to his late teacher Sri Chinmoy for the opportunity of once again being able to take part in this journey of Self Transcendence that he created 16 summers ago.

On this day 34 years ago his soul began its life journey here on earth.  Now with each step and each new mile his soul draws closer to the place from which it sprang.  A place you can arrive at only when your hands are empty and your  heart is full.

Question: What do the birds teach us?

Sri Chinmoy: We all want freedom and we all need freedom. The birds teach us to liberate ourselves from earth’s bondage. This teaching of the birds is indeed sublime.

Sri Chinmoy, Sri Chinmoy Answers, Part 3, Agni Press, 1995.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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July 19: Someone Who Knows

“I don’t know how and why but I know there is someone who knows.  God knows, so I know this is my way.  I want to love God more.  I want to pray more.  I want to cry more for God.  I want to have more purity, simplicity, and devotion.  To please God in his own way.  I have hope and I have faith in God, and I know that one day I will run.”….Ananda Lahari

Over  last 12 days Ananda Lahari has barely run a step and yet he never stops and continues to walk on, hour after hour.  His chances of completing the full distance flew off long ago and yet his cheerfulness and quiet calm commitment have not.  Where many would become despondent and desperate when confronted by such a fate Ananda Lahari seems to increasingly continue  to gather up inner strength and poise.  Something not so apparent when you see his slight sweet smiling presence glide past.

This is his 8th summer here.  Like very few others he knows all too well the challenges thrown up in front of all those who approach the starting line.  On 5 previous occasions he has felt the ribbon break as he crossed the finish line.  He has been applauded and cheered and had songs sung in his honor.  Some years back he realized that running through a blue ribbon after circling the course 5649 times was not really why he needed to come here.

Not that he wouldn’t want to achieve this honor but perhaps more than most he is also aware of the real rewards and goals that can be experienced when you nudge and shift your focus from the glaring outer realty to the glowing inner one.

There is an obvious intensely difficult athletic competition and then there is the inner journey.  One with no finish line and no obvious reward.

Perhaps if he is still clinging to one tiny desire is that he once again find the strength and energy to be able to lift up his knees and run again.  But if it doesn’t happen it will not be any kind of tragedy at all.  For above and beyond everything else is much larger and all encompassing heartfelt wish,’To please God in his own way.’

If you want God,

open your heart and run.

If God wants you,

open your eyes,

close your ears and run.

Sri Chinmoy, A Hundred Years From Now, Agni Press, 1974.

photo by Jowan

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