A God Touch

Three years ago, on this date, Sri Chinmoy wrote the following poem, dedicated to all those who were taking part in the 3100 mile race.

A Single God Touch

Gives the seeker

Enormous thrills

Ceaseless unimaginable

by Sri Chinmoy

A Single God Touch

“Inwardly when you are doing something divine, which comes from your heart.  Somehow there is an inner feeling that God is doing it in and through you.  And that is what I feel is the God touch.” Vajra recited the poem today and gave his own interpretation of its meaning.

Three years ago when Sri Chinmoy was inspired to write these daily poems they were immediately copied and handed out to the runners.  They were meant to inspire them of course on their long journey.  In the following years they are again continued to be handed out, on the appropriate day. The message as inspiring then as they will continue to be for eternity.

They are meant for everyone of course, and each person will find their own unique and personal meaning in them. For most of us who are caught up in the daily circus which is life, it may seem impossible most of the time, to imagine that God even exists little alone that he has the power to touch and inspire us with his love.

There are special moments in a seekers life however in which, not only the existence of their own souls,  but also God’s constant inner connection with it becomes an irrefutable reality.  At that time only one goal exists.  Make ourselves an instrument of the divine.

These are precious moments and they can carry us through the times in which our own doubts seem more real than our own precious divinity.  It is a long road home.  Yet eventually we all must take it.

The runners here are on this sacred road like very few others.  What sustains and carries them on is their inner strength and their inner connection to the divine within.  On some days it is all God and on others, well, sometimes there are just bad days for everyone.

Yesterday Dharbhasana had a most remarkable day.  He had calculated that the 1/3 mark of the race would come today, at 17 days and 6 hours and that he was in danger of not being able to complete the race by the 52 day cut off.  In order to achieve the standard he would have to run more miles in one day than he ever had done before.  It was going to be a phenomenal achievement of running 68 miles.  He thought, if he was lucky, he might just do it by midnight.

He not only made the distance, he made it by 10:30 last night.  His wife and daughter were there to see it, and Shakti even rode the final lap with him on her bike.  It was a glorious victory for him, for his family, and for all those who love self-transcendence when it manifests itself in bright and beautiful ways such as this.

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Not Giving Up

She has been to the race many times before.  Today however Niharika is returning to her home in Finland.  She is here this morning cheering for fellow Finn, Asprihanal and of course all the other runners.  She is smiling and calling out to them as they pass by but it is clear that she looks just a little bit sad, because soon she will have to leave to catch her flight.

She is a Massage therapist, and over the years, she has been tireless in helping Suprabha through many of her long hard struggles here at the 3100 mile race.  Last year in particular when Suprabha was teetering on the verge of dropping out of her 13th consecutive race for the first time, Niharika got on a plane and made a special trip to New York just to help her.  She was a powerful factor in allowing Suprabha to bear through her incredible ordeal and eventually finish the race in 61 grueling days.

“I love this race.  It is very concrete that you can see the self transcendence.”  She says that the inner reality of the race is not always perceived by people who pass by.  They notice only slow joggers and may wonder why they are not running quickly.  Without any real discernment they perhaps might think the race is easy.  She describes how the runners complete more than 2 marathons a day for 40 or 50 days.  “It is unbelievable.  Your mind can’t really take it, and they keep going.”

What she feels distinguished Suprabha was simply, “not giving up.”  I ask her about coming back a second time last summer to help Suprabha.  She says that Suprabha’s team of course did a lot for her.  She says that mentally for Suprabha her return helped her as much as the therapy that she was able to provide.  “O, if she is returning I have to finish this too.  I will do my best.”  She feels that her own efforts were not anything special, “but maybe that little bit extra.”

Niharika is one of those special people, who even though they live far away, are still intimately connected to what is really happening here.  They are the ones that you cannot see, but if you look within, you can still feel their presence.  They are not, and most likely will never ever be one of the 11 runners. Instead those who love this race from afar, are part of the boundless inner dimension of the race.

With an indefatigable oneness they identify with the belief that human life can and must be transformed into the divine.  In this untiring acceptance of the inner goal one also  can become a champion.  You don’t have to run here for your heart to identify with the races message of self transcendence.  That somehow, in ways that we cannot comprehend, the boundless heights of the inner world are being summited at every moment, right here on this slab of Queens concrete.

Niharika tells me, with emotion that surprises her, “I will miss this race.”

Complete Niharika interview

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31000 Miles Around This Block

The runners have barely even stumbled and staggered through the first lap of the day and already most are sweating.  Not just a moist sheen on the brow kind of perspiration.  Instead visualize the sticky clammy free flow of moisture bursting out from within kind.   The molecular geyser sort that gushes out out onto the surface of one’s body, in order to do the only thing nature has shown it what to do, in order to try and keep us cool. The crazy thing is, that it is not even really very hot, at least not yet anyway.

Dharbasana tells me that the temperature at the race yesterday was measured at 95F(35C). The gadgets and paraphernalia that does this thing may not be approved by the national weather surface but they are likely not too far off the mark. When you gaze out at the vast concrete farm that is the course you can well see how it becomes a perfect collector for all the mega joules of heat energy being bombarded upon it all day long.

The temperatures today may not get quite up there today, but what is already sky high, like it has been for days, is the humidity.  The glove tight kind of air, that for now is as thick and still as a muddy swamp.

There is always fresh gallons of water to drink at the race.  It is pure and there are plenty of cups just waiting to be grabbed and then thrown back.

It is not very far to make your way around the loop, but the question comes down to, how much moisture can you loose along the way. Then how much should you drink to replace what you are loosing in unknown trickling quantities.

Pranjal, has the unenviable distinction of being a poster boy for all the world class prespirers out there.  He tells me that he drinks for sure nearly every single lap.

He shows me some wrist bands that he has brought to the race today.  His arms are so wet they look as though he has just stepped out of the shower.  He tells me that yesterday so much perspiration flowed down his arms that he developed a bad case of puffy dish water hands.

He says that in the 2 weeks that he has been running he has dropped nearly 8 kg due to the heat.  And if you were to ask, is he really affected by this all, you would only have to look at the board and see that still he ran 68 miles yesterday.  The second biggest total of the day and he also finished his first 1000 miles.  Today he is focusing on and tending to the business  of completing the next 1000.

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I Love This Race

It is another hot day in what is becoming now a lengthy tiresome parade of hot days.  They are not record breaking, they are not simmering concrete ovens, and not melting black tar on the road days.  Yet if one could scamper under a cool dark shadowy tree or better yet sit beside the frosty whirring blast of an air conditioner it would have to be better than being out here in this for 18 hours a day.

The forecast for a break in this spell of sultriness doesn’t look to be happening any time soon.  At best, at least for now, it looks to be potentially  lurking in the unpredictable reaches of late week.

After 2 full weeks out here on the block, the runners have been made as road ready as they are ever going to be.  If their hides have not toughened by now to the climate, to the pounding, to the pain and fatigue than there is no hope for them.  Most find through the day, that a succession of creams and lotions can at least beat back the onslaught of scorching UV.  Some though are so weathered and road tough they need no protection at all.  The heat though is not the most ferocious adversary that prowls the course of the 3100.

Humidity is another matter all together.  No one has found a magic potion or easy cure for when the air itself sloshes and oozes with moisture.  When the oxygen about you begins to feel like a thick and binding blanket that can never be thrown off.

The Plane trees along the course have just now begun to throw off their leaves.  The sidewalk along by the school became littered by them over night.  It almost makes you think it is a scene out of a cool November day instead of a hot one at the end of June.  Now there is but a few days more, before the first step is taken into the long steamy cauldron that is a New York July.

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I Am Awestruck

“I am awestruck.  You can’t put it into words.”  This morning, one of the greatest body builders of all time, Bill Pearl has come by to visit the race.  25 years ago, on this day in 1985, Sri Chinmoy first entered the world of weight lifting.  It was a sport that he would continue on for the rest of his life.

From the very early years Bill Pearl became an adviser, intrigued that a 53 year old spiritual teacher would take up such a sport.  Very quickly the relationship deepened and they eventually became the closest of friends.

In a few hours an anniversary celebration will take place nearby.  He has been a unique witness and supporter of much of Sri Chinmoy’s many remarkable achievements. Because he has observed countless of Sri Chinmoy’s astonishing accomplishments in a multitude of fields, he is not surprised that such an event as a 3100 mile race is still taking place.  He himself still feels a heart felt connection to Sri Chinmoy and continues to be motivated by his inspiration.  He is still incredibly fit, and does not look at all like a man of 80.  He still subscribes to the philosophy of daily exercise and demonstrates that a vegetarian diet does not decrease one’s strength.

“If you are talking about world harmony, and changing the world, if things like this don’t do it, it is not going to be changed by anybody.”

He is with his wife as we are talking and I ask what in particular his relationship with Sri Chinmoy did for him.  “It changed our lives.  Not only religiously but also our thought patterns.  He was the epitome of what a true friend is.  I could relate to Guru and he could relate to me.  He was kind enough to ask me for advice, and he actually took my suggestions, which is the biggest compliment I could receive.”

“The average person doesn’t understand what a 500 pound weight is or what it looks like.  I was constantly suggesting to Guru to lift things that are visual.”  This would lead to Sri Chinmoy lifting practically every imaginable heavy object.  In particular his, “Lifting up the World,’ became his own unique way of honoring people and inspiring others, by lifting up people, who stood on a platform above his head.

He says that in the beginning Sri Chinmoy first started it all by lifting a 40 pound dumbbell.     “That isn’t a heavy weight by my standards. ”  Eventually he progressed to lifting, as he calls it, “unbelievably heavy weights.  He said the relationship began simply enough by Sri Chinmoy asking questions of him.

Than he says, “I started asking questions of him.  I became more and more fascinated.  He was trying to promote world peace through nonviolent efforts.”

He is still an ardent promoter of daily exercise and says that if one has the discipline to exercise than that quality can contribute to your well being in all other fields as well.  “If you take a stand on a daily basis, like these people who are doing this run.  If you do something like this, you will do this with everything in life you attempt to do.  It goes hand in hand.”

When he is asked what else he will doing while he is visiting Queens, he says, “I will be smiling the entire time.  That’s it period.  That says it all.”

Bill Pearl Interview

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Everywhere Everything is Possible

Pranjal Milovnik finished running last night just before midnight.  All the other runners had left earlier and he was alone on the course with just himself and an immense bright moon hanging low in the night sky above him.

As he does most nights, he struggled on until there was simply no time left to run.  He then pulled his small bag together and drove off on his bicycle to ride the  1/2 mile to the place where he is staying.  Once there, he  still had to negotiate locks, stairs and hot showers.

He may or may not had been aware that when he left the course last night he had less than a mile more to run before he would have completed 800 miles.  On his second lap today, as he starts his 13th day of running here, a counter will stand up with a bright sunshine smile and ring a bell to congratulate him as he passes by.  He does not react, he does not respond, he simply keeps on shuffling forward.  He is not interested in celebration, at least not now, when there is so incredibly much further he has left to go.  He does not calculate, that if he ran that distance on the roads straight west from New York, he would have made it to Chicago and still have miles to spare. He probably is not even aware that for the first time in the race yesterday, he ran more miles than anyone else.

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that in all the previous 5 years of running here, he has never before posted the most one day mileage total.  That he bettered the efforts of the 4 runners in front of him is no slim achievement. If this were just a single day race, what he accomplished on day 12, by running nearly 67 miles on a simmering day drenched with oppressive humidity would be considered an astonishing achievement.

It is very hard to determine exactly what motivates and inspires him to do this incredible thing, running 3100 miles.  We can ponder and guess but will never really know for sure about him or of the others for that matter.  At best we can admire and  appreciate what really pulls and pushes them onward.  If it was for the vague glory of running the most miles in a day you probably wouldn’t last too long here.  Instead, we can only attempt to scan the surface of big men like Pranjal and lightly poke and question and try and extract a few precious glimpses of what is burning in the core of his heart.

There is precious little that we bystanders can do at all to make his journey swifter or sweeter.   At best we can strive for some oneness with all of those who run here.  Follow, and admire their progress, as they climb higher and higher on the mountain that we too must summit. And then ask of ourselves, what more must we do.

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The Smile Does Everything Else

When I shook Ray’s hand early this morning it was clear that it unmistakably belonged to a big guy who worked hard.  It was about the size of both of my hands put together. He was driving one of the jumbo dump trucks that is currently hauling the last of the huge loads of dirt out of the nearby field.  The gate was still locked, so he came by to find out who could possibly be up and working earlier than a guy like him, who made his living getting up early and working hard.

When he saw the board with all the large numbers he took of his hard hat and his jaw went slack.  “That’s really somethin,” he said.  “And they are gonna be here all summer, wow!  I’d rather do this than what I’m doin.”

Just around the corner, down by the basket ball courts is Lee-Ann’s Day care center.  Her morning starts just about the same time as the race, and she has been observing it for years.

It amazes her that just as her day starts the runners start running and then they just go on and on.  Even after she has gone to bed she says they are still out there.

She is familiar with Suprabha, having seen her every day for 13 years, and is a little sad that she is no longer running.  She says that her husband keeps saying to her, why can’t she go out and do something like that.  I tell her, why doesn’t she tell her husband, why doesn’t he start first and then you can both do it together.

Stutisheel tells me this morning that he was once asked, if all the noise and traffic bother him.  He said, that after just 2 days, the runners are simply  no longer aware of it, and if they are, they are unaffected by it. Sometimes the big trucks, like the one Ray is driving, take a little while to get in and out of the gate.  The runners just sweep wide around them or wait but a moment for it to pass.

The caretaker at the little park piles up bags of garbage each night by the gate to be collected later the next day.  Vajra also comes each day to try and keep the course in tip top cleanliness but when the weekend comes around, the war against trash is hard to beat.

Factor in the almost constant din of traffic on the nearby expressway and you would have to think that not only was the place not scenic it just might be unpleasant to even come and visit.

Yet clearly, nothing could be further from the truth.  Even as you approach from afar it is possible to feel the specialness of this little hard block.  That it is lacking in obvious outer charm and scenic natural splendor, is irrefutable.  Yet still one can be astonished by the beauty and peace that exists here.  With an abundant sense of tranquility,  as serene as any zen garden.

Perhaps it is because so many runners, for so many years, through their devotion and unrelenting efforts, have made it really and truly sacred ground.  Or maybe  it is a simply a spot so surcharged with grace, that though the every day hectic world can be seen here, it somehow cannot manage to intrude or disturb the idyllic atmosphere that permeates the .56 mile loop. There are times as well when one can wonder, why the rest of the world cannot feel so splendid and sublime as this little block in Queens.

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Running Seems To Be The Way

If one day you were offered the opportunity to experience genuine all encompassing life fulfillment and inner satisfaction, would you hesitate for even a second?  As a an added bonus you would also be able to gradually release the nearly constant nagging chatter and clutter of your own mind.  In accepting this offer you would then be set down on a path that led directly to your own self perfection.  Where you would not be distracted or obstructed by any responsibilities or obligations to the world at large.

Instead you could commit your entire being to its transformation.  Removing all the barriers and obstructions we so often hold in place and allow   the pure divinity that grows and glows within us all to come to the fore. In the process perhaps expediting years of slow spiritual growth in a matter of weeks.

As all hands rise up to accept this incredible, and unbelievable offer, the ‘BUT’ falls heavy and hard in front of you.  In order to accept this opportunity you would have to experience almost daily physical agony and aching levels of fatigue that  most of humanity has never experienced unless you were imprisoned in some slave labor camp run by some inhuman despot.  The terms of this offer too are not negotiable.

The Self Transcendence 3100 does not have some iron clad contract that is scrutinized by lawyers nor does it either provide any certain guarantees of any kind.  Those who come to it are not conscripted, instead they come readily and voluntarily.  Most, if not all feel a profound and unambiguous inner call to participate.  An inexplicable longing that sweetly nudges, cajoles, and even often just flat out commands those to come here and run.  Then simply, you have to stay voluntarily and accept whatever nature, your body, and your soul decides to throw at you or bless you with.

In return you would be forced to, at almost every moment, go within.  Push past the cacophony of one’s own mind and enter instead into your heart.  Then once there find the peace and tranquility that we so often neglect and do not cherish enough.   Occasionally, I have had brief glimpses of this world the 11 runners inhabit.  This morning as a bright dawn sun gradually lit the world about us I felt this intoxicating ecstasy that is the inner reality of the race.  It was for only a brief few seconds but in that fleeting moment in time it felt like a kiss from heaven itself.

A fraction of an experience in which I saw the all encompassing divinity that was possible for the 11 runners to have and to experience on a constant basis.  Where the physical world simply lost its importance and the world of the runners was composed entirely of just joy and light.  Then of course I had to depart for work and leave heaven for just them alone to enjoy.

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A Pilgrimage Towards Myself

During the heart of the great depression, in 1930, the city of New York built a water tower to supply the needs of its growing suburban population.  For 70 years it was kept full, from a pump beside it, that reached deep into the ground beneath Queens to tap a vast aquifer beneath the borough.

Rapid urbanization has its pitfalls and by the year 2000 the water below it was no longer considered safe to drink.  At that time Queens was then able to tap into the upstate reservoirs, that already supplied drinking water to most of the city.

For 10 years this Jamaica landmark has stood empty and worthless to the community that now looked elsewhere for its needs.  After 80 years it is coming down today.  For the next few days its demolition will create a snarl of traffic on 164th st and in turn have an affect on traffic throughout the neighborhood.  This project will have no impact on the runners or the running of the race.

Except for a few ambling pedestrians and wayward dogs their way will be clear.  No one is ever policing traffic around the route nor telling them when they must stop or are free to go.  From 6 am until midnight the course is theirs to conquer or be conquered by.  In truth those who would be subdued by it simply do not ever come here.  The intimidating challenge of it is simply too great

Inside of them each day a demolition of their own takes place.  What is removed from them almost with every step are their own limitations.  The red flag comes up of course from time to time but it is being waved by a part of themselves.

It is not some external foe telling them to slow down or quit.  Most often the culprit is their own minds which can rarely willingly give into such an incomprehensible undertaking.

The body can also sometimes be an even less willing instrument.  Ultimately, when our inner obstructions are recognized for what they truly are, they can and must surrender to the heart and spirit within us all that simply does not accept impossibility at all.

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Today marks the first day of summer for several billion inhabitants of the Northern Hemisphere.  For most of us, these astronomical calculations are significant markers for many of our life’s plans.  Both the summer and winter solstice often has a major affect upon our strategy and attitude about the coming weeks that lie ahead.  No doubt on some deep and molecular level our bodies also make some small but significant adjustments to the amount, or lack of light, that we do and we do not receive from the sun.   Let us not forget also, how the moon’s orbit subtly pulls upon us as well. In other words, as the universe moves around and about us our physical beings have no choice but to be uncontrollably caught up in the swirl and flow of nature’s rhythms.

To the 11 runners at the 3100 mile race the arrival of summer is just one of the many things, that we judge to be important, and yet has no particular significance to them whatsoever.  Ultimately they are not immune to the push and pull of the cosmos, but the only true orbit they control themselves and consider of any real importance, is the continuous motion of their own bodies circling around the loop.  They need to make at least 110 laps on the course before they can even think of slipping back into the warm embrace of sleep.

What gathers more importance as each day passes as well is the relationships between the 11 who run here.  How with each new lap and each new day the 3100 family finds strength and support from one another.

Right now, as the sun begins its journey downward, gradually sinking lower and lower each day beneath the equator, an epic struggle for first place is shaping up.  Just one minuscule mile on this first day of summer separates Petr and Ashprihanal.  In any other sporting competition they would be combatants, but not here.

Here, like in no other race they are instead brothers.  Ones who are pushing each other forward in order to reach the exact same goal, self-transcendence.  They joke and kid and inspire one another, but wish nothing but the best for the other.  For how well one does will also motivate and encourage the other to continue to do their best as well. Try to take away from someone else and you take away even more from yourself.

At one point this morning Stutisheel is running with fellow Ukranian Vlady.  After 8 days of hard running they are but 27 miles apart.  Stutisheel hands me his phone and asks me to take a picture of them both running together.

When they see the photo they laugh with joy.  For it is only in a picture that they are able to see themselves together.  See themselves with their eyes as they so easily feel how close they are together in their hearts.

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