Learn To Be In The Heart

The day dawned warm and sticky on this Fathers day in New York.  For many years it has always been a special day, in which Sri Chinmoy was honored by his students here in Queens and also all around the world, wherever his students gathered.  Since his passing the tradition has continued and events are taking place throughout the day.

As the runners arrive this morning they can be heard to spontaneously call out “Happy Fathers Day,” to one another.  There is a lightness and joy in the spirit at the race this morning that is not matched by the heavy thick stillness of the air.

Countless people have been inspired by Sri Chinmoy over the years and many continue to feel a deep inner connection with him.  He asked little of people and yet gave so much.  How one related to him was up to the individual.  It was easy for many to feel a hearts closeness with him.  He could be a dear friend, or older brother, but for most of us, whose connection was soulfully deep, it was unquestionable but to look upon him as a Spiritual father.

This race of course was his creation, and all who are part and parcel of it know that he saw it as a powerful way to express his vision of Self-Transcendence.  His continued presence and influence here is unmistakable.

He no longer drives his little red car around the course each day but in your heart you can still feel his infinite affection and appreciation for all those who are aspiring to challenge their limitations.  Not just the 11 runners here but all aspiring seekers everywhere.

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There are 4 sharp corners on the course of the 3100 mile race.  To most, this aspect might also seem to be an additional cruel torment, added on to an already formidable list of less than desirable qualities of the loop.  This little block in Queens already has a slim to none chance that it will ever be listed in any NY  guide books as a must see place to visit when vacationing in the Big Apple.

Yet 11 runners are here on the course even now, on this the race’s 14th summer.  For them and the revolving crew who looks after them, the place is a virtual home.  One in which the runners have to circumambulate each day around it for something like 18 hours.  To have to make a radical pivot several times a lap, and then God knows how many times a day could be perceived as a torture, that could be potentially listed in the Geneva convention.

The surface of the loop itself  is already is as unforgiving and formidable as a concrete jungle.  Many voices have been heard who clamor about the monotony of innumerable turns, and wonder aloud at how great it would be to set up the race as a point to point event.  One in which the scenery is constantly changing, from one dreamy pastoral landscape to the next.  Others envision a idyllic park, buried in some cool corner of Queens which perhaps would also be more inviting.  Logistics aside, the Self-Transcendence race is not about sight seeing and personal enjoyment.  For those whose criteria demands these conditions, the 3100 will never be the race for you.

In this its 14th year the runners have described the course in many ways.  On each and every occasion, the term used most often is, ‘the sacred loop.’  Those who come back again and again, clearly recognize that the inspiration that calls them here is as significant as any holy pilgrimage.   There are no prostrations, no ceremony of any kind, it is instead an all encompassing dedication of the complete being; body, mind, and heart, to a much higher purpose, than can be seen with our mental vision.

The runners of course may look quite ordinary at times. On the surface you might be lulled into perceiving that nothing much special is happening here.  Rules of fashion and style are not applicable.   The unbelievable exposure to the elements, to your own body’s crying fatigue, and yes the twists that mark the unforgiving corners of the course mean that most often no one looks very pretty or fashionable.

The only way of making a true comparison of the Self Transcendence race is to imagine it, less as a sporting event, than as a pilgrimage.  Imagine taking a holy trek around the 14km distance at the base of Arunachala in India.  Doing it with devotion, but also with dynamism, and courage.  Letting go of all the things in your life that stop you from being the best that you can be.

Here the 11 runners, and many more over the years, have attempted to constantly to stay in tune with their inner joyousness, while simultaneously being as dedicated to their goals as one seeker can possibly be.  Aspiring for something just beyond the barrier of impossibility and perhaps just around the next turn.

Continue reading “Turns”

Self Giving Journey

It is self evident that there are some things in this world of ours which we judge to be eternal.  They may be man made monuments forged from the sturdy elements of the earth, and it also might be the grand inspiring works of nature itself.  Most often we connect to them spontaneously and deeply.  We need make no mental note or comment, for they touch us from within, and immediately remind us that on the scale of eternity our lives and accomplishments, will unlikely be long remembered in any way whatsoever.

Yet the minute speck which is our life is ours to cherish while we can.  We can find ways to make the tiny spark of our life glow as if it was heaven’s sun itself.

Last night Dharbasan’s and Nandana’s daughter Shakti drew a large cat on the sidewalk in front of the support vehicles.  It took her quite a while to make it and while doing so she had to keep her eyes out for the runners and other pedestrians who passed over it regularly.  Almost from the moment it was created it was already starting to fade.  When Dharbasana arrives this morning he is quite surprised to see that it is still there.

He in particular will still be inspired by it all day and eventually there will be no trace of the cat or the words, ‘Good Luck,’ at all.

Most, if not all of the runners, if they are fortunate will finish the 3100 in a little more than a month in and a half.  Those millions of individual steps they took along the way will ultimately end up being but a blur of motion in their minds eye.  Those countless days of sun and heat and cool and rain will just become part and parcel of a gigantic embrace of a New York summer.

One can hope that the tough cruel days of pain and fatigue will be quickly forgotten but most likely they will not.  Aches and pains will haunt them for a long time after.  But what should endure are those divine moments in which their hearts rose up and they were no longer bound by the earth or even their own humanity.  When they recognized that tantalizing thread that connects us all with the divine.  That they see that God himself is ultimately acting in and through them, and through us all.

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A New Goal

If we lived in a world which was inhabited by Super heroes than what goes on here around a small block in Queens might be appear quite ordinary, if not darn right monotonous.  That last time I looked up in the sky however I saw plenty of birds and planes but not one caped crusader streaking across the skies.  The 11 runners here are not fighting crime, bending steel with their bare hands, but yet they are doing something seemingly impossible nonetheless.

A week ago I spoke with my 90 year old father about what was taking place here.  He was genuinely shocked at the mileage the runners were able to complete every day.  He asked whether or not the world’s media was clamoring to cover the event.  He was further surprised to know that only a few came and only  from time to time.

Abichal wrote a comment a few days ago about one of my posts.  He has run this race quite a few times and knows a whole lot more about the 3100 than I will ever know.  He countered a comment I had made and said that this race was for the masses.  I of course agree with him wholeheartedly.

The world is more than hungry for fictional superheroes to leap out in 3D from movie screens but have not dared to look to the real source of all true greatness.  Furthermore they cannot believe that in fact all of us can be true champions of one kind or another.  Most of us simply do not dare look within ourselves for the unbelievable strength and capacities that sit dormant within us.  It is within each and everyone of us that our true inner capacities exist and they far out shine the puny dimensions of our minds and bodies.

The 11 runners demonstrate this each and every day.  I have used more adjectives than the runners go through shoes in trying to describe what goes on here.  Ultimately even if one is not a runner, or in fact much interested in sports at all, the 3100 can manage to still speak to their hearts and touch all, in a profound and meaningful way.  The 11 runners all have a goal they are trying to accomplish, every day right here.  The rest of us just have to find our own goals, and try to make our own journeys happen as well.

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No Return Point

A small case of World Cup fever broke out at the race on Tuesday night.  It was predicted that his would happen sooner or later some weeks ago.  There is no real cure for this and the Center for Disease Control advises everyone who catches it to remain calm, despite the obvious dramatic impulses that sometimes comes over people stricken by it.  One moment you can be quite suddenly deliriously happy and a short while later suddenly wish to burst into tears.  The fever is not life threatening and over the course of a month it will work its way through the system.  With hopefully no life threatening or long term consequences.

In the case of the outbreak last night at the 3100 mile race, Sundar Dalton, a local barber, has been identified as the principle carrier.  He has been passing out scores from matches on a regular basis throughout the past few days.  Usually his method of transmission is a phone call, but he has been known to show up unannounced with both tragic and joyous news.

No noticeable side effects have been exhibited by any of the runners who may have come into contact with the contagion.  Mileage numbers to date have not been effected.  It is hoped that at best it will inspire the runners to reach new heights.  On the other hand no one is anticipated to be so depressed that they will drop out of the race and fly home.

An International incident was diverted when the game between New Zealand and Slovakia ended in a tie.  Nandana was able to act as an intermediary between the opposing factions  but wants to remain as neutral as possible as she has a full time job being a helper, cook, and full time mom.

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I Am Happy I Did

This morning there was a celebration of sorts before the start of the race.  It would never ever appear on the radar of typical big time New York parties  but it still  meant a lot to those who are part of the 3100 mile race family.  Purna-Samarpan turned 33 today and all those who were there took a moment to wish him a happy birthday.

At the best of times, time itself is a precious commodity.  Perhaps nobody is compelled to examine the passage of time quite like the 11 who run here.  How, in an ironic fashion, you can be both a slave and a master of time simultaneously. The tiniest details gather such incomprehensible importance as the days and miles past.  Simple things like rest breaks that slip on just a fraction too long.  Taking extra steps to grab a hat or change a faulty shoe.  The most insignificant elements that add up to a missing lap here and there over the months long journey.

This is Purna-Samarpan’s second time at the race and the experience and training he gained here last year he feels was an invaluable preparation in order to transcend his effort  here this year.

Last year he was unable to complete the full distance but still had a powerful and transcendent experience.

Many would think in unimaginable to spend a birthday here doing such an impossible task.  For the 11 however the ultimate goal they strive for is far beyond the realm of cakes and party hats.  Though a birthday cake will show up at the race soon.  The ultimate gift that he seeks he cannot get today.  Where his dream takes him is to be able to simply go the distance this year.  To challenge impossibility and then reach beyond.

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I Was Born Here

The parades, parties, and fanfare are now officially over.  The joyous crowd that accumulated, just before the start on the first day, are nowhere to be found.  On this overcast but pleasant Monday morning the cheering fans have evaporated away like a night’s mist.  It has now come down to just the 11 runners, and the handful of crew that builds the site up each day.  The crew’s faces will change like clockwork throughout the day.  The running 11 will be the one and only singular constant of this place.

The sound of the start of the race

Their expressions of course changing like the sky.  From overcast to bright and clear.  Yet no matter the mood or the miles they will remain here.  It is home.

In appearance it is a place that is so plain and simple it hardly rates the distinction to be even  called a camp.  Not without character, but certainly not a place one would seek out unless you truly felt the inner call to be there.

Yet beneath the meager blue plastic tarps there is a magnificence not easily  perceived.    The runners of course are oblivious to their humble shelters.  They are so rarely stationary any way.  They are a whirl of almost constant motion, today, tomorrow, and on and on throughout the long New York summer.

The results of their first day upon the course is now captured on the score boards left over from the night before. In a few minutes they will shift into gear and be transformed by every new lap and mile.  For now though they reflect clearly the efforts of all full day of running by the 11.  Ashprihanal, the veteran put in a typical stellar day.  Surasa the new girl on the course demonstrated her talent and tenacity with 68 miles.  The rest showed that they are all ready and willing to continue onto towards their goals, both outer and inner.

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The Hour Has Come

For a few visitors to New York City Saturday night most likely was a restless one.  After months of anticipation and training, for the 11 runners in the world’s longest race, it was all now swiftly draining down until the scant few hours before they would actually start the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race.  Even for the veterans, who have toed the line many times, the race marks a most significant and challenging undertaking.  Each step forward in turn accumulates then into laps and then again into miles until somehow miraculously the journey has been completed.

Eventually the summer and the distance will seemingly have swept by in no time at all. In comparison to their entire life’s journeys but a heart beat in time.   Paradoxically, at the end of the road, after running 3100 long hard miles, the runner physically finds themselves in precisely the same spot from which they began months earlier, and yet within they have traveled far far beyond their expectations.

As they move forward plastic numbers temporarily show the measure of their efforts.  To the runners they are as ephemeral and illusive as fireflies dancing in the air.  They go up and down with a tell tale rip of Velcro.  The clipboards at the counting tables tell a more permanent measure of their journeys but in the end they are but mere pencil jottings on paper.

Something happens here that cannot be measured or marked or photographed or questioned or reasoned with in any way.  There are days in which you could be standing right beside it and be blind to it.  On other days you could be on the far side of the world and yet still  feel the inner thrill of what is taking place here and be as much a part of it as if you were entered in the race as well.

The 3100 is not for the masses.  It is just for those who believe that life is not just about muscle and mind.  It speaks clearly to those who believe in the unlimited capacity of heart and spirit and who believe that Self-Transcendence is not just for 11 brave runners.  Self-Transcendence is the inevitable destiny of us all.

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Now It Is Summer At Last

There are many things and events that clearly mark the change of seasons for us.  Nobody has quite the same fervid appreciation of  nature’s transformation as do school children and farmers.  Kids see the great freedom of summer vacation inching enticingly closer as the days of June fall away.  For Agriculturists their livelihoods depend on the arch of the sun climbing up higher and longer into the sky.  Astronomers of course know precisely when the great solstice will take place as do school children who know so well the date when the last chains of the school year will at last slip away.

Queens NY, like all places north of the Equator, is as familiar with the tell tale signs of the advent of summer as any place.  The whine of air conditioners in windows, fire flies dancing in the still night air, dreams of summer vacations at last morphing into tickets, reservations, and packed bags.  But for one tiny area of Queens nothing spells summer quite like the beginning of the Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race.  It is about to begin for the 14th summer on June 13 and will continue on breathlessly until all the runners have completed the race, or 52 days, which ever comes first.

Over the last week the 11 participants have been arriving from 8 different countries.  For 9 of them it is like coming home.  They are returning to an event that is for them not only the focus of their years but also very much the focus of their lives.

For a few hectic days they become almost full time shoppers.  Collecting all the little things that will sustain them over the coming months. Generally this means buying shoes and still more shoes.  It is but a brief period of chaotic freedom that they all gladly surrender in order to embark upon the great journey.  At 6 am on June 13 everything changes.  From then until midnight, each and every day it becomes all about completing the laps.  Taking a brief rest and then coming back for more.

The Self-Transcendence 3100 race is gruelingly difficult.  The reward at the end of which, is outwardly infinitesimal in comparison to the effort and sacrifice necessary in order to achieve it. People will walk and drive by the course each day most often oblivious to what is taking place on the block on which the race is being staged.  For a few however, who slow or stop, it becomes the most wonderful secret hidden in plain sight.  A miracle that clearly demonstrates the boundless capacity of what people can accomplish when they look for strength and courage within.  Each day turning their backs on the imaginary constraints of impossibility and search within themselves instead for the limitless beyond.

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