Day 28…Every Day Learn Something New (July 15)

Late this morning Sergey will reach the half way point in the 3100 mile race.  It is a tremendous achievement and were it not for the fact that he is about 2 days behind schedule we would all look at this moment with perhaps more joy than a lingering sense of regret for him (which he personally does not feel).

The more important thing today, as on most days, is that Sergey is both happy and grateful to be a part of this impossible dream now made more real with each passing mile and day.

He is part of a unique family that was formed 27 days ago and now as they spin in ever continuing orbits around the block they all become stronger, both individually and as the very real family that they have become.

Yes there are injuries and pain and a cry for rest that is relentless but the greater picture is not one defined by hardship and broken expectations.  It is founded upon a vision of transcendence that is created from within and reaches out to touch and illumine all who circle around this city block and to all whose hearts who find moments in their day to join in with them.

“Every day it is a new feeling here.  Even though I have some injuries I still feel happiness.  This happiness comes because every day I have the opportunity to learn something new.  Every day so many different interesting things happen here.  Most of all I am being inspired by examples of the other participants in this race.  They are all so strong.”

“I am learning strong qualities from each and every on of them.”

“For example from Harita I am learning how to be very light.  She is running like a butterfly that is flying.  Even though she has so many difficulties that she is going through.”

“From Kaneenika I am learning about endless patience and softness.  She is running this race for the 3rd time and the hardship that she is going through could have made her more rough and hard.  But she still remains so soft and so strong.  In the evening when she runs with such speed I always find it shocking how fast she runs and how strong she runs.”

“From Nidhruvi I am learning about caring.  She cares so much and always asks me.  How are you feeling?  How is your leg? How is everything?  I think if Nidhruvi had been a Doctor she would have cured everyone.  She battles through each lap.  Even though she battles through each lap she approaches them with such ease.  Such warriors can only be women.”

“From Yolanda I can learn determination and focus.  They may seem like masculine characteristics and any man would be happy to have them.  But even though she has these qualities she still remains so feminine.  Even when she goes ahead of me she does it in such a tactful way.

“From Smarana I am learning calmness and surety.  He is so strong and a true warrior.  It feels as though he has no barriers in front of him and he will overcome everything.”

“From Ananda-Lahari I am learning wisdom.  He knows Russian and sometimes when I come to him and we talk I receive such energy that it will last until the end of the race.”

“From Vasu I am learning about force.  When strength is combined with speed you get force.  This is how Vasu runs.  Also Vasu has a huge heart.  For him this is his 6th race and he is already a veteran.  He cares deeply about every single runner here.  Every day he comes to each runner and offers invaluable recommendations.”

“He doesn’t just think about his own progress, how to be faster and how to finish.  He cares about every single person.  This trait is very very strong.”

“From Andrey I learn about a sense of humor.  When it gets very hard for him he just begins to joke around.  He amuses everyone with his humor.  To be able to joke around in such a hard situation only very strong people can do.”

“But mostly I want to learn from Nirbhasa.  From him I see endless infinite self giving during this race.  For me it is still a mystery how every day he can always give 100%.  He can forget to eat.  He can forget to drink.  Nevertheless each morning he comes out to the start and does everything to the maximum once again.  For me this is the biggest mystery, the biggest secret.”

“This is why every day you learn something new from each one of these runners.  I am very grateful that my fate and my destiny has brought me together with these people.  I am so happy and grateful to touch the feet of any one of these runners every day.”

Newness-feeling in our lives
Comes not from without
But from within.

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Day 27…Flow Of Grace (July 14)

“It was something really significant.”  Harita tells me about making the half way point last night around 10 pm. Just by itself it is of course a great achievement for her.  The distance of 1550 miles representing a total nearly 3 times further than she has ever run before.

But time and making laps are the crucial non negotiable building blocks of the 3100.  Both she and Yolanda, who was just a half lap behind her, still had to make the unbudgable quota of 109 laps.   Something they both managed to achieve in the fading minutes of the day.  So the festivities were abbreviated but still celebratory.

“Quite a few people were there to cheer us on.  I was really grateful.  In all sincerity I didn’t even know for sure if I would make it past the first day. So half way is something really special.”

Photo by Mandra

“Yolanda finished just a half a lap behind me.  So I waited and we got a photo together.  That was really nice.”

“We both are just trying to do 109 laps a day.  For me I am not competing.  We both just happened to be at the same point.  It is nice to have someone else there.  I am sure on some level we do inspire each other.”

photo by Mandra

“The day before she was feeling really sad that she wasn’t going to do 109 laps.  I told her it is okay.  We both have a cushion of a few miles.  We doing okay, so it is like we are in this together.”

“I was already friends with Kaneenika before the race.  She gave me a lot of advice beforehand.  That was really helpful.  She is always like my sister supporting me.  Nidhruvi I didn’t really know her before the race and now I am just so grateful that she is here.”

“I think the Supreme inspired her to do the race so that I would have someone near.  She is totally like a big sister she has so much experience and she is always encouraging me.  Giving me advice and she is really fun as well.”

Harita says that the boys as well are like her brothers.  She is inspired when they too offer encouragement and advice.  “It makes such a difference.  Particularly when it comes from people who have done it before.  They know what the race is all about.  I feel like I am the baby out here.  So I take any advice.”

“I feel in one sense that I am in a flow of grace.  Today feels like a hard day for me because I realize that now I have to do the whole thing over again (1550 miles).  I go wow, how is that ever going to happen.  It is only going to be by God’s grace that it is at all possible.”

“It is a real opportunity to really live your life depending on grace, on faith, and on gratitude.  In your regular life you can kind of try and get by without being aware of those qualities.  In this race you really have to.”

“Definitely I am a lot happier than I ever imagined would have been.  That was really such a big surprise.”

Grace infinite is needed
From Above
To change humanity’s face.

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Day 26…Go Beyond (July 13)

Today is one in which the race math becomes strikingly clear.  At precisely midnight the race will be half over and if a runner does not have 1550 miles on the board when they drag themselves into the back seat of a car or wearily peddle home through the dark Queens streets.   Their chances of making the full distance become almost statistically  impossible.

But of course the race is not all about numbers and equations and math made simple by the happenstance of the calendar.  The stories we have all heard these past 26 days tells of something much vaster and grander taking place on this now muggy sidewalk.  The race is not contained or restrained by concrete and chain link fences.

Instead when we recognize that spirits and dreams cannot be bound by calculation.  Even more miracles have yet to unfold to those who run here and  to those who wish they were here to witness transcendence rising up into the limitless beyond.

Almost 2 days ago Nirbhasa passed the half way point and in just a couple of hours Smarana who he is running with will do so as well.  I joke with them that now they can go on auto pilot for the rest of the race.

“It is nice to reach the halfway point.  It is a great feeling.  But if you break it down it is just a passing number.  You have to take every day as the day you have to deal with.”

“The big picture is that you have to deal with every day and with every hour.”

Smarana says that he has had to deal with blisters in every race.  “This time I really thought that I might be over it.  But I think it may have something to do with my attitude of no pain no gain.  I think there may still be something lingering in my consciousness.  I am working really hard to override this program.”

“I have really already suffered a lot so it would really help to be able to let go.  In this race I have already made some progress.  I am still not quite there but I am making progress.”

Earlier Smarana had told me a story about his earliest race here in New York that took place at the 700 mile race on Wards Island in 1994.  He says that it fits perfectly with his battle to somehow change his philosophy of no pain no gain.  Instead he is attempting to experience joy and more joy.

He said that at the time he had a very strict attitude.  “I run 29 miles and then take a break.  No break before that.” On one occasion he had run 24 or 25 miles and Sri Chinmoy was visiting the race and offering prasad to the runners.  Instead of feeling energized, “He pulled the plug.”

Smarana was so exhausted that he hardly made it around the lap.  “I crawled into my bed.  It really showed me that self transcendence and going beyond your own limits is not about killing yourself.  You can also accomplish it while in a joyous state of mind.  With a little more lightness.  It is not about torture.  It is about going beyond, and how you go beyond is your choice.”

We have to believe
In a higher power.
Only by believing
In a higher power
Can we go beyond and beyond
Our limited human capacity.

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Day 25…A Miracle Happened (July 12)

When it is possible to someone gather your thoughts about the 3100 Mile race, there is very little of it all that even sounds conceivable or even possible.  Just to assemble a group of runners willing to dedicated their lives for such a long time over such an incredible distance seems farfetched and yet it has happened continually now every year for the past 21 years.

Stutisheel is a welcome and familiar presence at the race.  A 12 time participant he has seen his life, as well as the lives of his wife and daughter shaped and strengthened by the race.  This year is an off year for him and yet he is here every morning transporting Andrey and Sergey to the race in his small car.

As well as playing the part of chauffeur it is clearly evident that his long experience at the race has given him the opportunity to shape and guide these 2 first time runners as well as many other athletes from Oneness Dream Boat Shore over the years.

I asked Stutisheel this morning if it is difficult for him to be here every day and not run.  “The answer is very simple.  You are happy when you are at the right place.  I feel that for me this year I am in the right place.  I am taking a kind of break from this race but I feel that it is the right thing for me to do.  This year I have another quite challenging project.”

“I am happy because I can still feel the flow of the very special energy here.  It is actually, in comparison to last year, I feel it is much more joyful.  So I am enjoying it.”

When I ask him about whether or not he will be back running here again next year running the race.  Stutisheel says the commitment to run always has to come from within first.  Something shared by all those who act upon the inner inspiration to come and stand each day on the starting line.  “What I can say now is that the feeling to come again is starting to come.  Most probably yes.”

“Half way is not really a big thing at all, unless it is for your mind.  When you run a marathon for me the most difficult part starts closer to the finish.  37 or 38 km, so for the 3100 miles in my experience the last 10 days are the toughest.  The runners still have a lot to do yet.”

“Now Sergey is running with an inflamed muscle for maybe a week now.  I remember once when I had almost the same problem.  Maybe an inflamed hip and for 3 days I couldn’t do anything.  Walking was pain.  Running was pain.  Lying down was pain. Life was pain. (laughs)

“Then somehow this news got to Sri Chinmoy that I had been walking for 3 days with a muscle problem.  Then the very next day I felt very much better.  Later that morning when Sri Chinmoy was offering prasad to the runners.  When he gave it to me he held on to it and asked me, how are you feeling?”

Photo by Jowan

“I immediately realized that my betterness was completely due to his intervention.  All I could do was smile and say, thank you Guru. It was obvious to me that a miracle happened.”

A short time after that Sri Chinmoy then offered prasad to his wife and daughter.  “He said to them, Stutisheel is feeling much better today.  He told them that he had put some force in me.  They felt wow, finally my injury is over.”

“But when I heard the news from them that Guru had put some force in me.  I felt that this force would not just be enough to manage this injury but all other injuries to come.  It was a profound experience.”

Come what may,
I shall run and run
And end my pilgrim-journey
At my Lord’s Feet.

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Day 24…Very Sacred (July 11)

Nirjharini loves to cook and she loves cooking in particular at the Divine Enterprise in Oslo.  Her home now for quite a few years.

When you see her in her element, which is in a comfortable kitchen, humming with activity, and filled with the delicious scents and sounds of great food being prepared you know she is in her own perfect world.  One that she seems ideally qualified for.

For the last 25 days she has found herself working in a much different kitchen far from cool Norway.  Instead she is in Queens NY where she and her devoted crew 4 ( who come from 4 different countries )have taken on the task of filling the stomachs and energizing the spirits of 10 incredibly hard working runners.  Runners whose metabolism is so finely tuned and specific at times, that she has to speak to each one individually to make sure that her menu and all her recipes are perfectly tuned to their needs.

This is the 14th summer that she has volunteered to organize the race kitchen at the 3100 mile race.  Not a job that many would seek out but one that found its way to her when her late spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy made a request of her to do it.  Since then she has taken it upon herself as a sacred duty.  One that compliments her own service to the Oslo restaurant and one that 10 runners and countless other hungry eyes and hungry stomachs are grateful that she does. (myself included)

When I ask her what is different now that the race is nearly half over.  “It is changing all the time.” Recently Aklanta (race Doctor) came to give medical support to the runners and he suggested that she try and make her food more alkaline.  “Because as the runners run along acid builds up in their body.”

Mirka from the Czech Republic is one of her first time helpers who comes in with Nirjharini at 4:30 to start the first food preparation.  “Most of the times she is before me.  She is a real early bird.”

I make a joke with the girls, that they have been here so long they must be ready to go home.  Kamaneeya says, “I want to stay until the end.  It is really great.”

Giribhu from Germany says, “It is wonderful to be here and be part of the race.” Mirka  shakes her head at the suggestion of leaving.  She, like all the very dedicated girls working in the comfortable kitchen, is very happy and fulfilled by being able to share in the unbelievable adventure of the Self transcendence 3100 mile race.

Mandra from New Zealand, who will come in later for the late shift shows me a menu board she is working on.  Some items are listed but not all.  She says she will make it up as she goes along.  “It is fun that way.”

Nirjharini adds, “I love this race and have been doing it for 14 years.  It is always very special.  This race every year it is very different.  Depending who is running and who is working with me in the kitchen.  Each person brings a different aspect to the race.  It is my selfless service to Sri Chinmoy and it is very sacred.  For me being able to serve all day is very special  and inwardly very highly rewarding.”

A soulful smile
Is the nourishing food
Of love.
A fruitful cry
Is the fulfilling food
Of oneness.

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Day 23…Intensify Your Inner Cry (July 10)

A conversation with Ananda-Lahari as he makes his way around the course is always for me a great wake up call.  A crystal clear reminder of how beautiful and simple life can be when you dedicate yourself, as he has done now for 13 years, to the 3100 mile race.  Doing some pretty basic math, that means by the time August rolls around he will have spent nearly 2 years of his life going around the loop.  Doing one of the simplest things a human body can do, move forward.

It is a journey that he seems to never grow tired of, refrains from complaining audibly, though I am pretty sure his love of the course and the event is such that the grumbling words are not there any way.  He seems to have an almost complete absence of negativity of any kind.  He seems to be simply immune to such negative thoughts and feelings.  Thus they can find nothing to cling to, either in his mind or in his heart.

I asked him this morning if some days are better than others.  “Yes, just like in life.  Some days are better and some are worse.”  I follow this up with what makes a bad day.  He ponders this for a moment.  “We have to go beyond.  Actually there are no bad days.  So I was wrong. (smiles) There is only a wrong attitude.”

As for what makes a good day, “when I can cry sleeplessly for God.” He doesn’t know for sure what stops all of us from summoning this cry.  He says it must be our own ignorance.

He experiences it most profoundly here and says that when he is not at the race he cannot invoke it in the same way.  “This is the place where it intensifies your inner cry.  The race really helps me to focus on the things that are important in life.”

Ananda-Lahari says for all of us our goal should be to find our true selves.  “To dive deep within and bring forward our good qualities which are inside.  Which are peace, love, and joy.  These kind of things.  To feel God inside you.”  He feels that our lives should not be based always on our outer circumstances.  Though we of course have to take care of all significant responsibilities, such as work and family.

“I love the philosophy of Sri Chinmoy and I try to fully identify with it.  As I understand it, and as I have read in his books.  Is that we should not worry about our bad qualities, instead we should concentrate on what is good in us.  Try to cultivate it and focus on it and there may then be one little spark.  This spark may grow and then illumine the things in us.”

“I like this idea and I am trying to live by this.  It gives me joy.”

If we do not intensify
Our inner cry,
How can our heart fly
In Infinity’s sky?

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Day 22…Why I Am In The Race (July 9)

She has completed 3 full weeks here at the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race and Kaneenika has 1325 miles to show for it.  Her performance thus far has been consistent and impressive.  So well that she is in fact in 3rd place overall, and if it really mattered much, at this point she is just 40 miles behind 2nd place.

I ask her if at this point, which is nearly half way, if she ever gets more relaxed about the race.  “I was  just thinking about that.  That I wanted to be more relaxed.”

“There isn’t a point when you can be relaxed.  But today I  was thinking that maybe I should be more relaxed.  I think that in my mind I need to be more relaxed.”

When I ask her how this can be done.  “I think the answer is to think more about the Supreme.  To remember why I am in the race.”

“Sometimes you  just accumulate the miles.  But sometimes you get into a state where you see that there is much more going on here.  It is not just the numbers on the board.  There is a duty that we runners have here to inspire the world.  To do our best.  To transcend what is in our way.”

“You go through so many moods and emotions.  I think the hard part is when you struggle.  You are tired, you are sore, but you know that there is always a solution.”

“Sometimes it comes from outer help.  Sometimes it is more from your brothers and sisters and their encouragement.  From the people here and whoever.  I realized at the beginning of the race.  This is my 3rd race here. I started noticing things that I didn’t notice before.  The big pine tree. (she points ahead) I didn’t notice that it is so magnificent.”

“I thought it is just like in life.  You go through your daily routine.  It is up to you how you take the circumstances and what you take from it.”

I mention that she is in 3rd place.  “I am trying to not think about it.  It is still too early in the race.  You just never know what is around the corner.”

You can make the fastest progress
If you can say,
“I came into the world
To love God, only God.
I came into the world
To serve God, only God.
I came into the world
To manifest God,
Only God.”

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Day 21…What You Do Inwardly (July 8)

Nirbhasa starts day 21 with 1300 well run miles and now a clear glimpse of the halfway point which is about 4 days away just now.  Vasu, who is in first place has about a full day of running between them.  Smarana in third is about a day behind.  For Nirbhasa it is now most definitely about enjoying the experience as much as he can.  Soon enough he will be making one last dash up 84 th ave and crossing the finish line.

“You know day 21 is the same as day 1.  You just take each day as it comes and stay in the moment.  You know of course if you do 1,000 miles or 1,300 miles it is really nice. It shows that you have made some progress.  That somehow the goal is not such a far cry anymore.”

“But really it is not the accumulation of distance it is what you do inwardly here that counts.  When you wake up every day that is what you try and work on.”

“I have been making the daily mileage requirement every day.  That is quite  nice.  Obviously it seems my body is adjusted to the race this year.  In a way that it wasn’t 2 years ago.  So it is nice to not to have to think too much about that.  Because if you just go a certain speed.  Then not think too much about laps or miles.  You are happy.  You are on a certain speed.  Then you can just keep going.”

“The beauty of being here is that it gives you a forum to really work on your inner life.  With a dedication that it might not be possible to achieve in the outer world, unless your really really consciously set aside time.”

“I have been in 24 hour races where you can see people who do it by kind of pushing.  You can do it by sticking on headphones and putting on loud music and willing your way to the finish, somehow gritting your way through the pain.”

“But definitely in races beyond a certain distance.  You really need to go beyond the mind.”

“If you can just stay in your heart the miles just somehow accumulate.  Some times I find myself here running going forward and it is just happening.  You are going forward and the race somehow has its own momentum.  You just have to stay in the moment and really appreciate the beauty of what it is.”

My heart runs
The world’s longest race,
And not my mind.
My Lord runs ahead of me;
My breath runs behind.

6 August 2005
New York

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Day 20…Inside The Dream (July 7)

Just last year Yuri was running the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race for his 4th straight year.  In what was perhaps an unexpected turn of events, Yuri won the race in 46 days and 1 hour.  In another unexpected turn of events he is once again back here at the race but this time as an early morning set up man.

Before the sun peaks its light over the rim of Thomas Edison High school he is pulling chairs and gear out of the trailers and getting the camp ready for a long long day for the 10 runners entered in this years race.

*Translation by Lyalya*

For me each time we have talked over the years he usually speaks from a mystical perspective.  One, not unattached or fully removed from the push and pull of the every day physical challenge.  Yet at the same time he yearns tirelessly for the divine.  Putting more emphasis on the challenges to his heart and of course the rewards of looking within first while moving along as quickly as possible.

This morning when we talked again after he had finished setting up I asked him if he had any mystical experiences so far this year on the sidelines.  He smiled at me and said no.  Those have to be earned.

“This is a dream of Sri Chinmoy this race.  It is a unique race. Last year I was inside this dream and this year I am watching from outside.  I am observing the runners.  How they change.  How they move.  This is an amazing experience.”

“To be a runner here is to be inside the life, and right next to Sri Chinmoy.  But when you are a helper like I am this year you are an observer.”

When asked if he will be back next year.  “This is my dream.  I really want to.”

As for what he has learned over the 12,400 miles he has run here.  “You have to love God.  You have to love him very sincerely, very deeply, and very devotedly.”

It is not a difficult task
To make my Lord Supreme happy.
He just asks me to smile and smile,
And never to stop.

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Day 19…To Be An Instrument (July 6)

Sometime late this morning Nidhruvi will be the 9th of the 10 runners to pass the 1,000 mile mark.  For most of us this would be an achievement of a lifetime but for Nidhruvi it is just one very early milestone on the way to achieving the ultimate goal of 3100 miles.  As it is still only day 19, and with 33 more potential days to recover missing miles ahead.  It is still way too early to say that the ultimate goal for her cannot be reached.

Something much more interesting is happening for Nidhruvi here than can be observed on lap sheets and score boards.  She tells me that before she even came a Doctor in Austria did not have much hope that her knees would do her bidding.  He recommended that she wear heavy knee supports.  Ones that may have relieved stress but would have most certainly been uncomfortable and encumbered her running.

As she talks about different maladies that have made her acquaintance over the past 19 days she is not gloomy whatsoever.  These crippling problems she has learned to somehow to not be a prisoner to them.  Recognize that yes, they are there, but then let go.  To remove the strangle hold of fear and doubt from the equation.  Let the Supreme do his job in and through her, and on her part be an instrument.

I ask Nidhruvi if she is having problems today.  “No not really.  It is always up and down.  There are always some challenges every day.  So it is pretty normal.”

She has done many many multi day races and I ask her if there is anything that distinguishes one from the other.  “In a way they are all similar.  You know how the challenges are.  But in a way they are very different and not different.”

I ask her if she was ever frightened about taking up any of her very hard races.  “There was always a bit of fear with it but the excitement, happiness, and joy is much stronger.  You are totally excited and want to explore new things.”

“I started with 700 miles at Wards island in 1996 I think.  I remember there was one moment there which I have never forgotten.  I just knew I had to go back there.  So this was not the first or last race.  This I knew for sure.”  She understood it was all part of Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy of self transcendence.  If you have the capacity keep going.”

“You want to be useful and try and give it a chance.”

“I think my task this time is for me to offer my total surrender.  This is the feeling I had even before I entered into this race.   I had a slight feeling that it all may not work out the way that I wanted.  When I started I could see it already coming that this race is different.”

“I promised myself that I just want to be a good instrument.  A humble and devoted instrument.  I am doing my best, and I hope I can inspire lots of people on earth.  I know that they are out there and they are praying for me, which is so fulfilling and touching.”

Immediately
Start again
With your willingness-mind
And selflessness-heart
To be an unconditionally choice instrument
Of your Inner Pilot.

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