July 11… Go On and On

“It is perfect weather.  Perfect temperature but there could be a few more clouds.”

Yesterday Ashprihanal finished up his 22nd day of running on the course.  Most will know of course that he has been here many times before.  That in fact this is the 14th time he has spent his summer running around Thomas Edison High school.

Who is my best friend, who?
He who gives me his rainbow-smile.
Who is my worst foe, who?
He who hides his heart-beauty-smile.

Though you can add up all the numbers and attempt to try and make sense of it all.  To be honest even though my math is pretty good I have to confess that I can’t understand it at all.  How does a 45 year old man from Finland do this?

The why part is something that I do however find is a lot more easily get some feeling for.  That is if you can grasp the concept, that though it looks like a foot race it really isn’t.

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It is a pilgrimage in which the participants gradually and inexorably draw closer to something that on the surface looks impossibly far but ultimately lies right there inside each of those who run.  The good news as well, it is inside you and I as well.

This morning he completed his 41,756 mile on this course.  Which according to the best number crunchers probably means he has run more competitive miles in races than anyone in history.  This may mean something to Ashprihanal, but he doesn’t really show it.

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As he gets towards the half way point he says, “it is nice for your mind.  To know that you have done more than you have yet to go. You begin to feel that it will probably end at some point.”

Ironically he says that around 10 days into the race it feels, “like it just goes on and on.”

“There are always nice times.  To balance the tough times.  It has been okay.  It has been pretty good.  So I am happy.”

If you want to see the inspiration at the heart of all this it best may become clear when you look at a video shot when Ashprihanal finished the race in 2007.  He won that year and  Sri Chinmoy said of him,

“My dear Ashprihanal.  I am offering you my heart’s infinite, infinite, infinite, love, and infinite, infinite, infinite, gratitude.  And my life’s boundless pride, boundless pride, boundless pride.”

“You have done extremely, extremely well in this 3100 miles.  Your aspiration flames and your aspiration fire are brightening, brightening, and brightening your life’s destination.  The Golden shore.  My heart is all gratitude to you, and my love is all pride in you.”

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July 10… To Inspire Each Other

“Sometimes it seems to go slow and sometimes time seems to go fast.”

For all of us unhurried observers of the race, the passing of 3 full weeks seems like a significant milestone.  It is also a convenient handle in order to somehow grasp the unwielding dimensions of the race.

On the other hand, for the runners there is precious little to hold onto as they push relentlessly and as hard as they possibly can every single day.

Kaneenika says though, “I was surprised we had started week 4.”

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Over the past 21 days she has run 1337 miles and she is averaging a really good 63 miles a day.  In a little less than 4 days she will be at the half way point.  “I think it feels that you are going down the hill once you reach half way.”

This year she says the race is different for her, “I have more experience.  I am trying to take things differently.”

“At the beginning of the race I said to myself, I want to stay happy.  I am trying to work on that and I think it really helps.”

“I don’t think we are here to enjoy ourselves.  What I learned after the last race is that we are not here to do the race for ourselves.”

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Kaneenika said that she came to that understanding after she finished last year and people came up to her and told her how much she had inspired them.  “Thank you for the inspiration.”

“It is definitely not just about our own progress.  This is why Sri Chinmoy created this race, to help humanity inspire each other.”

To inspire others
Is to be immediately rich
In the inner world.

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July 9… No Mind No Form

“It is wonderful.  It is so great.  It is such a difference.  It could not be better.”  (Surasa)

For all the runners of the 3100 mile race the weather on this quiet Saturday morning is extraordinarily perfect.  Grey skies, a light breeze, and the temperature will not rise above the mid 70’s (23 C). This of course when compared to the sauna like conditions of the past few days.

It is just possible that today may be the best day to run here all summer.  At the same time when you have to stretch back your perception of what Surasa and all the runners have accomplished and still have yet to do this moment is less than a blink of your eye.

When it was hot Surasa says, “I was slower, especially in the afternoon.  You don’t have so much energy.  It is more difficult.  On the other hand, I could handle the heat quite well.”

“I am happy and I am fine, but I have such respect for this race.  That everything can change so fast.  At the same time it is such a long time to run, until the end.”

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When we ran for the first time this morning Surasa later reflected upon what she had said and asked me to come with her once again.

“I don’t want to give the impression that this race is easy.  When I am saying I am happy, when your running is good and you feel well, then everybody feels happy.”

“But if you are having problems then it is such a different story.   This race can be so hard.  Nobody can imagine just how hard it really is to run here, particularly with an injury.”

“I don’t want to give the impression that it is easy.  That it is like drinking water.  That it is nothing.  It is not true.  Running the race is not nothing.”

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Surasa says that when she also has a problem then her mind comes forward.  “It can be very strong and strange.”  She feels that when she is happy and content that then her running simply goes well.  From her personal experience she is grateful for it but at the same time feels that she is not doing anything special or out of the ordinary.

“When you are fine then everybody is fine.  Everybody is smiling.”

We come into the camp and Surasa looks up to see Vasuprada waiting for her with a glass of water.  Surasa is touched by this.  It is something that all Surasa’s helpers appreciate.  Her kindness and concern.

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Vasuprada describes later just how sweet Surasa is.  She finishes her nights most often around 11:30.  All day she has not paid attention to her mileage.  All she hopes for at the end of the day is at least 109 laps.  Vasuprada says when she gets even one lap more than that then she is delighted.  Last night she got 115.

The three of us now are moving down the sidewalk at a brisk walk.  I ask Vasuprada if Surasa is a tough boss.  “Absolutely no,” she says with a large smile.

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When I ask why, she says, “because she has no mind.”  With this we all laugh.  Then Surasa recites:

No mind, no form, I only exist;
Now ceased all will and thought.
The final end of Nature’s dance,
I am It whom I have sought.

— Sri Chinmoy The Absolute

Sri Chinmoy, Mother India’s Lighthouse: India’s spiritual leaders, Agni Press, 1971

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July 8… Part Of My Life

You may not see them physically at the race all that much, their creations however are always present.  From the moment Nirjharini and her fellow cooks food appears at the race it vanishes quickly but not mysteriously.

It is tasty, it is wholesome, and it is the nutritional foundation for every step the runners take over many long hard, and now hot miles, that they do each day.

*Emily, Udbhasita, Nirjharini, Koojena……….Missing are Mandra, Hastakamala, and katya*

When I arrive at the kitchen this morning I am immediately offered a Japanese treat (Name eludes me) and it is of course great.  Nirjharini says, “it is yummy.”

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She along with Koojena, Udbhasita, and Emily are putting the finishing touches on the snacks that will soon be going over at 10.  Previously breakfast and hot drinks were sent and throughout the course of the day the flow of food will almost be like an endless conveyor belt.  Returning will be empty trays and the compliments of just how much their service has been appreciated.

Koojena has only joined the crew a few days ago.  She says that being here has been very inspiring.

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Nirjharini has been the head chef since 2004. “Since then I have done it every summer.  I could not imagine not coming, it is part of my life.  I am looking forward to it all year.”

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“I like to be part of the race. I feel that it is a very special project and I love cooking, so it is a very good combination.”  More importantly though she says that Sri Chinmoy personally gave her this job to do.

“So I feel it is a very important part of my spiritual life and of my spiritual progress.”

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Udbhasita says she just loves being here.  “I really feel that we have a dream team here.  Everybody is so nice, and they are such good cooks.  There is a very nice feeling all of us working together.  This is my first year to help in the kitchen.  It is a very good experience.”

Emily says she really likes thinking what the runners might like.  “Things that will be healthy and also things that will give them joy.”

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Koojena say she has been dreaming for a long time to be part of the race.  “I am just happy being here and part of the team.  It is really amazing.  Not only for the runners but also for all the servers and helpers.  They are transcending themselves in every way.  So I am happy being here.”

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My soul wants me
To spread its light
Everywhere
And offer it to
Everyone.

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July 7… Discovering New Experiences

“Another beautiful hot day.”

For Ananda-Lahari nearly every day here is a beautiful one.  And this being his 12th summer in a row at the race, he is not unfamiliar with how the heat and sticky humidity can come along and simply smother most peoples enthusiasm to even move little alone run.

He say that sometimes oppressive weather conditions affect everybody.  Right now he is walking.  “It is different when it affects me when I am running.  If I am running and I feel good than it doesn’t really matter.  I can run through anything.”

Today he is not running and instead is walking briskly.  He says, “it doesn’t change the speed.”

Recently he was remembering  how he first got introduced to ultra races.  “It was in 1998 and I went to Scotland to learn English.”  It was there that he got his first experience when he helped Tarit at the Westhighland Way race.

“It was very very impressive.  I did not know anything about long distance running.”

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Ananda-Lahari says that the race is 96 miles long, so the runners have very little chance to rest along the way.  He says that according the rules the runner has to be accompanied by another runner the last 10km.

He could not believe how fast he had to run in order to keep up with Tarit.  “To me he was not running he was sprinting.  This was really a nice experience for me.”

The following day Tarit then informed Ananda-Lahari he was going back to work.  “For me this was too much.  This was really impressive.”

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“In my youth I did a lot of running but it was orienteering.  It was shorter distances and it was always in the woods.  I never ran on the road.  I never liked it.  Orienteering is more playful and joyful.”

He was in NY he says in the Spring of 1999 and he helped out at the 10 day race.  “I really got inspired.  I had not even run a marathon.”  So in the fall he decided he would try the 700 mile race.  “I really wanted to run that race.”  He says he did not make the distance within the 12 day cut off.

“Somehow it attracts me the long distance running.  I don’t know why.  I just like it.”

He says of course he is struggling, “but it is part of the game.  I am really happy to be here and I am really happy to be able to go for it.  For sure it is not easy, but this is what I want to do.”

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Ananda-Lahari says the main thing he feels is how Sri Chinmoy is inspiring him inwardly.  “This is about self transcendence.  The transcendence of our limitations.”

He touches his heart and says that there are many parts that make up people.  The body ultimately does not last but in the heart is the soul which does not go away.  For him he experiences self transcendence on many levels.”

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He describes lethargy and how it makes you want to sleep but he feels that it cannot be satisfied.  Even if he rested for 5 hours it would still not be satisfied.  “Here you have no chance.  I know that if I take  break it doesn’t help.”

“You just go on.  You are constantly discovering new experiences.  It brings forward for me my inner cry for God.  So that I will be a better person more worthy for this world.”

flower ananda-lahari-1300986

Keep trying!
It so often happens
That the last key opens the door.
Likewise, it is your last prayer
That may grant you salvation,
And your last meditation
That may grant you realisation.

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July 6… Deep Within

“Circumstances have brought me over for the entirety of the race.”

Nirbhasa, who is currently living in Iceland,  is a welcome presence at the 3100 mile race this year. Just as he was last year when he was actually running here for the first time.  Which, to no ones surprise, he completed in 51 days and 12 hours.

He has so much energy and enthusiasm that when you are around him you can so easily see, how, when all of this is focused on running, or for anything that matter, he can get the job done.

“I am trying to make sure that I am here every day.  A couple of times a week I am counting.  I also try and run some laps with all the runners.”

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“It is really something.  When you step onto the course it is like getting on the subway tracks and connecting to the third rail.  The one that contains all the electricity.”

Nirbhasa describes that when he is on the course he has moments when the very powerful experience of last year comes back to him.  “You are on the course for 52 days.  It really sears itself into you.  It becomes part of your life.”

He hasn’t been running multi day races for that long a period.  He feels as though his soul compelled him to take part.

“For a long time I was looking at the 3100 mile race.  It was always something I always admired and  I got tremendous inspiration from the runners.  It was not necessarily something I was going to do.”

“Even when I did my first 10 day race.  There is an unofficial qualifying standard in that race for people to move on and do the 3100 mile race.  You have to do 60 miles every day.  In my first 10 day race I was hoovering around that standard.”  He was worrying he says what might happen if he did manage to do the 60 mile a day average.

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“Because there is definitely part of my makeup.  That if you are qualified to do the 3100 than probably you should do it.”

“I think it is like most things in life.  Or most things in the spiritual life, or at least with me.  You are always start by doing it wrong.  You start doing a long race and you try and do it with the physical.  So then you run into all kinds of walls.  The only way you can get around all this is by going deep within.”

“Surrendering to the highest part of your being.  You realize that you have got to a place where your physical capacity just isn’t enough.  You need something else.”

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“What is interesting when you get to that point.  Almost everything drops off.  Your injuries become more manageable. Tiredness and all that becomes much more of a sweet experience.”

As we are moving along we are passing through a throng of people who have just left an Eid Mubarak gathering on a nearby field.  It also too place last year.

By this time the race had become more of a heart experience, more of a soul experience.  Referring to the crowds blocking the course, “All these things I could really appreciate.  All these experiences that cropped up during the course of the race.   You feel them so much more.  You feel the essence of them so much more.”

flower final-1300587

Surrender-sweetness,
Gratitude-fullness,
Every day I need.

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July 5… So Much Progress Here

“It is hard.”

Baladev’s description of the race this morning is by far the simplest and most direct response you could possibly ask for.

In their own way, each of the other runners would probably echo this same sentiment.  Even the most astute observer of the race cannot really grasp the dimensions or the supreme challenge of it all.  We can never know or understand just what he and the other runners are up against here on the course of the 3100 mile race.

For even the most experienced distance runner at best can only come to some theoretical understanding of what it must be like running 18 hours a day for weeks on end.

But when it comes down to it, if you have never done it then you cannot ever really understand it.  Bask in all its subtle delights or also suffer through all its crushing agonies.

Baladev now has been running for 17 days and has completed 909 miles.  But looking back over the 7 other years he has been here it doesn’t take long to realize that he has spent more than a year of his life doing what he is doing right now.  Endlessly circling a half mile strip of concrete in Queens New York.

“Every lap is interesting.  Sometimes every step.”

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When I quiz him about the difficulties of running here he says, “I feel as though I am running in a park.  My first year I did not feel that.  But since then I feel this way.”

“Sometimes people ask, how can you run around just one block?  But there are so many trees, grass, and nature.”

“Being here makes me definitely connect with my inner experiences.  Because when you are doing something very intense like this, in the same place, many many times, you can feel connected to this place.”

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“I would like to be here all year.  It is hard for me when I am not here.  It is also definitely hard to be here but it  is even harder for me when I am not here.”

“After a few years whenever I came back here it started to feel like home.  There is no other place around the world where I feel like I do here.”

“I make so much progress here.”

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Baladev describes how in many other difficult sports the athletes keep coming back again and again because of the satisfaction they experience when they continue to do them.

As for the 3100 mile race he says, “Guru created this.  The Supreme created this for people to do it.  There must be something special and there is something special here.”

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Peace means joy;

Joy means peace.

Peace and joy

can never be separated.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 16, Agni Press, 1999

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July 4…Unlimited Power of the Heart

If Stutisheel had for some reason decided not to run around Thomas Edison High School these past 15 days, and instead headed South west.   He would have, as of this morning, nearly made it to Memphis. A distance of 890 miles.

This 46 year old Ukranian born runner has spent a lot of summers and run a lot of miles here in the United States.

Though technically he may not have spent a lot of time exploring its geographical boundaries he seems each year to be drawing closer and be more inspired by America’s inner qualities.

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This morning he came dressed in an American flag outfit.  Something he has been doing regularly for nearly all the 12 summers he has run here.

Along with Ashprihanal and Sopan they perform a short skit where each portrays a different President.  Stutisheel played the part of President Kennedy.  He recited a short passage from the speech that President John Kennedy gave at his inaugural address in January of 1961.

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And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

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Click to Hear Play:

Play

“Somehow I find this so inspiring, and it resonates in my heart.  I hardly believe I am still running.”

“I remember that I believe Guru once said that all ultra runners serve their countries in a most special way.  I still cannot fathom what this way is but probably when a runner goes through all this hardship you have to stay more connected to your inner source.  You are praying, you are your are crying, your are invoking.  Somehow it must elevate other people also.”

“In the beginning I had a few tough days.  Since then I have been running pretty steadily.  That is my goal.  Not to have high mileage the first half of the race.  But to be steady.  So far I am very satisfied.”

“Then when the second half comes, with all its surprises.  We will see.”

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“To tell the truth.  This edition of the race is very different from last years edition.  Many runners agree that this time we have much more sweetness.  Somehow there is not so much intensity.”

Like when Ashprihanal and Surasa established their world records.  Stutisheel says that Ashprihanal was so focused last year that he barely remembers anything about his experience here last year.

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“This is like inner sweetness, inner feelings.  On the outer plane there is also power and determination.”

“Meditation is a source of unlimited power.   It is unimaginable.”  You cannot describe the power of it by comparing it to all the things that we normally think of as powerful in the outer world.  The inner power is not harsh or destructive.  It is all peace and harmony.  In turn this inner power manifests itself through extraordinary events like the 3100 mile race.

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Limited is the power of the vital.
I am sure by this time
You have known it.
Equally limited is the power of the mind.
I am sure by this time
You have realized it.
But unlimited is the power of the heart.
You will realise it
Before long.

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July 3… Touches Your Heart

Last night Shamita finished up 2 weeks of running here with another good day.  She completed 62 miles and has now done 867 miles.

This morning as we run together I joke and suggest that since she has run 1,000 miles before, this current distance is Old Hat for her. (an expression used to refer to something considered uninteresting, predictable, tritely familiar, or old-fashioned.)

“Wowwww, I wouldn’t say this.” (laughs)

“It is always, always challenging.  You can never say I did this so I can do it easily again.”  Then in a more serious note she added, “it is not our work.  Every moment is because of God’s grace.”

“There are many things happening here.  What I really enjoyed the most was the thunder storm ( 2 days ago).  I was really laughing when the rain came down.  All the raindrops knocking on your head.”

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“People usually don’t like it.   But I love it.  I started jumping.  All the water on the street makes you go through little lakes.”  I mention that her mileage for the day was not effected by it, while many others did up to 5 miles less.

“It was not bad weather.  We all need water by the way.  Then when the sun came out there was a most beautiful rainbow.”

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Shamita says that her last 1,000 mile race took place 20 years ago.  “I took 15 days and 1 hour I think.”

“I try and do this race totally new.  Not thinking about other races or anything else.  Because when you do you also bring as well the not so nice stuff.  I really wanted to start totally new.”

“But if something is really inspiring from the old days.  I will take it from my memory, bring it forward and remember it, as good as I can.”

“What we try here is to focus on that which will give us constant joy, and aspiration.  Staying in the heart.  No matter what the experience you are having.”

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“All the people are amazing.  They take care of everything.   Every single little wish, or every single problem.  I had a problem 2 days ago with my joints.  Really painful.  One day I was running totally with pain.”

“Then Dipali and some others like Bahula came up with what to do.  They know so many things.  They are so experienced.  They helped with all their wisdom.  Next day I was much much better.  This also touches your heart.  To see what a nice family we are.”

“I have to say that the race is tough.  It is really tough.  Even Ashprihanal when he passed me a few days ago said, ‘this is a tough race, a tough race.’ And he is like the champion of champions.”

“Guru said of him that running long distances was as easy as drinking water.”

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“It is ups and downs.  If you have downs then even the ups are even more delightful.”

“Then all of a sudden you see Guru standing somewhere and you start to cry.   You know Guru is here.”

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The more I can stay
In my child-heart,
The faster and safer
Will be my real progress.

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July 2… Happiness Of My Soul

“People are asking me how am I doing, and how am I moving?  I tell them very well and I am also moving very well.”

“Because of my condition I cannot move very fast, but what I can do is focus on my consciousness.  So that I can do.  I can smile and be happy.”

5 days ago Volodymyr’s back was so bad he could not get up in the morning and come to the race and run.  A moment that could have easily spelled the abrupt end of his long time wish to come and run the 3100 mile race.

In the subtle way that small miracles often happen when you least expect them, Volodymyr was thrown a life line.  A consultation by Auyervadic Dr. Kumar revealed that it was his kidneys that were causing the problem and the problem was treatable, but would remain painful.

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By the afternoon of his visit to the Doctor, Volodymyr was back on the track and managed to make 26 miles.

Subsequently he is now able to come back every day and walk.  Usually he makes mileage in the high 40’s.  His optimism that he might yet get back to running again a twinkling hope that he will not let extinguish.

“My kidney is not allowing me to go fast.  It is giving me pain.  I cannot go faster than I am going.  Because of this it makes me focus more on my soul.  And to try and find happiness within.”

“The pain is always there but it goes to the background and to the forefront comes out the true happiness of my soul.”

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“Definitely being here is much better having this pain and this happiness here.  The pain came from my depression that I used to have.  Now it has manifested in this kidney and this is forcing me to find the true happiness inside of me.”

“I am extremely happy and grateful to be here.  Because here I am working on self healing, on self transformation.  Otherwise if I were in a different environment I would never have been able to create this experience in order to heal myself.”

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“Here I am extremely happy even though my body is in extreme pain.  My mind, my vital, my heart, and my soul are truly happy that I am here.”

“So through the union of my soul, my heart, and my mind I am fixing my body.  Also with my oneness with Guru.”

“Guru is the personal aspect of God.  When I see Guru I see God.  So I here I can do this from morning until night.  As much aspiration as I have to do it.”

flower voldy-1290639

The most important thing in life

is not to win the race,

not even to run the race,

but to see God’s face

while sleeping, standing, and running

right in front of your own face.

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