ananda lahari“Sometimes I do pay attention if it is on my way. But I am just trying to concentrate on my running and not to look on the sides so much. I really don’t know what is happening around me.”
This morning Ananda Lahari is walking. But he is not moving in the frenzied or agitated manner of power walkers, or restless pedestrians in a frantic Manhattan rush to catch a train. It is almost as though he is gliding. His foot steps are absolutely silent. At the same time he exudes such an aura of calm and tranquility that there seems almost a complete disconnect between who and what he is and the incredibly difficult thing that he is doing here.
Just walking beside him I cannot not but be aware of how light and ethereal his physical presence actually is. I imagine sometimes that he is so otherworldly, and blends so seamlessly into this world that if I did not know better I could easily imagine him disappearing before my eyes. Become simply instead a glowing presence endlessly orbiting the course on some inner pathway that yet can still be connected to the hard physical reality of the race.
Together we do a graceful yet consistent walk of the loop, not fast, not slow, but unerringly on track. I point out all the little things that have quickly captured my attention. The Asian man practicing Tai Chi in the infield, a lady across the street trying to manage a pack of 4 small white dogs, and the traffic at a peculiar standstill for a Saturday below us, on the Grand Central. None of which has any interest to him at all.
I have observed Ananda Lahari now for 8 straight years at this race. His connection with it is a deep and strong and after so many years it is almost impossible to imagine him not being here. Always moving with his unique combination of gentleness and yet real strength and courage as well. Our lap together will take about 10 minutes to make the full hard rolling circuit of the course. Something he has done now so many times and for so many years it is difficult just to come up with the number.
But numbers are not overly important to this sweet Slovak soul. Nor does the weather, the scenery, or all the countless distractions of the physical world that dance, tumble, and otherwise demand the attention of most of us mortals. His journey here is focused purely on an inner destination.
If there is anything that he resembles to me more than anything else and that is some contemplative monk endlessly traversing the countryside, searching for enlightenment. He just happens to be wearing shorts and running shoes and his path is a unrelenting concrete block in suburban NY.
While my mind spins out one question after another, about the what’s whys and wherefores of his gentle presence here, he inevitably has the simple answer for it all. “Every morning I sing and pray.”
Beautiful I am
When I pray and sing
With the morning stars.
Peaceful I am
When I meditate and sing
With the evening stars.
Sri Chinmoy, Heaven’s Ecstasy-Flames, Agni Press, 1994
Ashprihanal had a tough day yesterday. Something unusual for him, but regular for most other runners is that he now has a blister on the bottom of his foot for the first time.
Baladev arrives on his bike.
This is 40 pounds of ice. By tonight the race will use it all up plus another. The day is pleasant now but humid.
Vasu and Yuri both arrive
Sarvagata had a pretty good day yesterday but the previous 2 were hard.
Last minute preparations
It is a much different world not too very far away.
From what to what
But many others share this world as well.
Yuri keeping dry and keeping up his mileage. Yesterday a very good 116 laps
Sopan’s world took a dramatic turn yesterday. He says, “My right shin got sore last night and worse today afternoon … had to walk after 3 pm and leave early to rest it … Arpan said it is not too bad and he knows all about shin splints. Sarvagata also had shin problems in the beginning of the race but seems to be recovering running good tonight.” From his blog. He broke his streak of 113 lap days and did 101 laps yesterday.
Vasu and Yuri are very consistent. Vasu did 117 laps yesterday. Just one more than Yuri
Nidhruvi reading her mail this morning.
She is also getting a streak of 110 lap days
If you look just so you can see the hill.
The one Surasa called Everest. She climbed up and down it 111 times yesterday.
Sarah still searching for the rhythm of it all.
There are lots of people and others who are interested in what goes on here, and also want to help out.
Nature shows how strong it is with all the rain we have had
Baladev always strong
Sarvagata had 118 laps yesterday and looks to be back in form.
The early morning light illumining his steps.
Atmavir had not just a good day but a great one. 126 laps
“Ideal, the temperature is just perfect. It is not hot. It is not cold, and there is no wind, and there are clouds. Also it seems that it is not so humid. So pretty good.” It is possible that Ananda Lahari complains, but I have rarely heard him express much if any criticism of just about anything. He is right though about the morning. It is a beautiful day to run.
Last night we did a couple of laps together here and it was very muggy, and on the verge of raining. “For me it was okay because I was walking. The weather is not so important then as when you are running.”
When I mention how quiet his footsteps are he jokes by scuffing his feet for a moment. “I don’t wear out so many shoes.” He tells me he doesn’t know how many shoes he will wear out over the race but he has completed 750 miles at this point. “There are times when you can run softly, lightly, and silently. But sometimes when you can’t move your legs and only shuffle.”
We sang some of Sri Chinmoy’s songs last night. He says it is by singing his spiritual master’s music, and reciting his prayers, poems, and aphorisms that gives him joy here. “I really like it.” When I ask him if he can do it all day long he says no, and then laughs.
“But I do like to do it as much as possible. I like it when it comes to my mind and I want to do it, and then I am doing it. Sometimes the mind is just wandering and then it comes to the point when I want to sing something, or I want to pray. Or maybe it is just concentrating on my breathing or my heart. I love it, and I am very grateful for it.”
He then tells me the 2 poems that he enjoyed reciting last night.
As happy as possible –
This is the only thing
That God wants from you.
Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 50, Agni Press, 2009
At last I have pleased my Lord Supreme,
But I wish to please Him more,
Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Five Aspiration-Flames, Agni Press, 1994
He says that he and Ashprihanal were together last night for a while and that these 2 poems came up. He says their conversation ranged from God realization to shin splints. He says that the conversation between the runners covers a wide spectrum. “Sometimes it is spirituality and sometimes it is about what is happening in the race, and also joking.”
We pass the spot where Sri Chinmoy quite often gave a concert in the afternoon. “We were having a concert just 2 meters away, on the course where we ran. It was very very special. Quite often I imagine that Sri Chinmoy is sitting there and playing some instrument, or sometimes he was doing some exercises there. These are very special moments.”
Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 57, Agni Press, 1984