Day 34…Inner Experiences (July 21)

This morning I asked Yuri if he wouldn’t mind being interviewed once again.  He immediately and happily agreed.  He is one of those rare kind of people who seems constantly willing and selfless, no matter what is asked of them.  He is a personality of such rare sweetness and delicacy but at the same time has a kind of deep inner commitment and determination that I deeply admire.

*translation by Lyalya*

When pouring a long string of plastic cups, his hands in plastic gloves, he just goes on and on.  He never gets distracted but at the same time is very much aware what is happening around him.  He is a happy man in his very own most sacred place and knows that in another year he will once again be one of the running sidewalk heroes.

Out of curiosity I checked Yuri’s mileage for last year, and after day 33 I am not surprised to see that his 2203 miles is 14 miles further than Vasu.  Comparisons like this are of course silly and I mean not to take anything away from Vasu who is currently leading with 2189.  The chemistry of the runners each year and even each day changes.  A strong performance pulls the others.  The dedicated service of Yuri every day on the sidelines is also crucial and helps the runners in so many in other ways.

When I ask him about the race so far he says, “amazing.  There are always inner experiences.  It is like a spiritual festival.”

Asked if he missed not running, “when the race started I felt it every morning.  But my body is not strong enough yet to do it.  My heart and my soul are patiently waiting for when it will happen.”

A few days earlier he spoke with Vasu and encouraged him to pay more attention to his heart.  “God is willing to tell us how to act in this or that situation.  His whisper we can always feel it in our heart.”

“My consciousness and my heart is here at the race.  I am in complete oneness with them.”

I ask him just how important the self transcendence race is to him.  “It is the highlight of my life.  For me it is the highest experience that I can have.  Right here is Sri Chinmoy, here is the Supreme, and right here is my transformation.  That is the most important thing.”

Through experiments, the outer life advances.

Through experiences, the inner life discovers.

Sri Chinmoy, God’s Hour, Agni Press, 1973

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Day 33…Enjoy Life More (July 20)

In the last 32 days I have never heard him complain or say one negative word.  He has never demonstrated or showed any misgivings.  Neither have I seen him taking a break longer than a few minutes.  In fact Ananda-Lahari is almost perpetual motion itself.  Though his speed may vary in comparison to the other runners.

This morning he completed 1600 miles.

In those 32 days Ananda-Lahari has never been late for a 6 am start and though I haven’t seen it in person.  Because I  am already home in bed, he stays until there is just no more time on the clock.

There are many aspects of running 3100 miles in 52 days that are just categorically impossible.  But there are times when I feel that I cannot even match Ananda-Lahari’s positive attitude for even 52 minutes.

The weather today has been typically New York intolerable.  I felt myself grumble the moment I picked up my gear to head over to the race this morning.

The moment I talked with Ananda-Lahari I could not help but see what a waste of time it is to be negative.  Even the very best of us I am sure circle their wagons around a ‘woe is me attitude’ from time to time.  But to the best of my knowledge I have never heard or seen it in Ananda-Lahari.

My first question of him is a perfect example.  I ask if there is anything he would like to change.  “Lets see how the day goes but until now I wouldn’t change anything.” (It is really hot and humid)

When asked if there were aspects of himself he would like to change.  “Yes, many things.”

“Everything has its own time.  So like slowly and steadily.  We are all working on ourselves.  All humanity.  Everybody wants to be happier.  We are working on it.”

I am curious if humanity has to be conscious of making progress.  “As far as I understand it is good if you are conscious of it.  But even if you are not conscious it is still taking place, but slowly.  It can be faster if we are conscious.”

“I believe in reincarnation.  I believe we live many lives.  So I am talking in long term.  Changing human nature to be come better people.”

“Even if someone is really good, still he or she can be much nicer still.  We have unlimited possibilities and capacities.”

Ananda-Lahari says that he has changed a lot over the past 12 years of coming to the race.  “Yes many.  Definitely I enjoy life more.  I enjoy life much much more.”

Every day I enjoy
The newness of my life’s

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Day 32…Move Forward (July 19)

Nidhruvi has completed 1605 miles over the past month running around Thomas Edison High school.  That is 2926 circuits on the hardest concrete sidewalk in Queens, and you don’t have to look very closely to see that it isn’t exactly flat either.

She has faced adversity in this race such that she has never encountered before in her long and impressive multi day running career.  Now the weather has turned hot and miserable over the past couple of days and there is still 20 long unavoidable grueling days ahead.  Her goal of reaching 3100 miles before the cutoff is nigh on impossible and yet she is still able to smile and tell jokes.

“One bunny says to the other bunny.  Don’t worry be hoppy.”

“I am definitely trying to be as happy as possible. Trying to be in a good consciousness and be in acceptance in every way.  Just to take life as it is, and keep going. Move forward.”

“Never look back even at what happened 2 seconds ago.”

“There is only one way that we can make real progress, or even for the world to make progress is that we have to go on.  Always move forward and never ever give up.  There is only one way.  Just always go, one step at a time.”

Just 2 days ago Nidhruvi and a few other runners were suffering from very bad stomach and digestive problems.  I ask her if she was able to push through that particularly tough period as well.”

“O yes.  Whatever this is.  Whatever the forces are that are attacking us we are not going to stop.  Nothing can hinder us.  Nothing can hold us back.  We will show just how strong we are.  That we are a huge divine army.  Together we will get through this and together we will make it definitely.”

“They cannot catch us.  We will never give up.  Everybody stayed so strong and tried their best.  This is the way it should be.”

“Every day is a new challenge and a new hope and a new promise and we have to try and fulfill it.  Every day we have to start new.  We begin anew and each day we do our best.  Then see what happens.”

“Time is passing by so fast.”

A life of perfection
Never stops.
It only moves forward,
Upward and inward.

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Day 31…What We Can Accomplish Is Limitless (July 18)

There has to be something fundamentally optimistic built into Yolanda’s DNA.  Or it may just be that she has an amazing sense of determination or it just comes down to good old fashioned heart power.

2 days ago she, like several other runners were having some pretty serious stomach and digestive problems.  She was only able to make 21 miles which is just about as close to catastrophe as an entrant can get.  Particularly with how much time is left in the race.  She lost 37 miles, flat out, plain and simple.

Yesterday her health rebounded so strongly that she made 68 miles 124 laps and would have been the most mileage of the day except for an extraordinary performance by Ananda-Lahari who did 80 miles 147 laps.

When asked if she has been having good and bad adventures she says, “I have been having more good than bad.  I only had one bad one 2 days ago.  Actually it wasn’t really bad.  The bad part was that I got sick. The good part of being sick was that I got 13 hours of sleep.”

“This race will test everything.  Your mind, your body, your soul.  It is just amazing.  It is just an adventure now.  I have made it to day 31 and I am excited about it.”

“Yesterday was my best day.  I pulled off 68 miles.  Today I am moving a little slow because I have 2 blisters on my left foot.  My right foot is perfect.  One on my left heel got a little infected.  So we worked on it this morning.  So it is a little painful and I waiting for the Tylenol to kick in and once it does I will be able to pull off some miles.  It is a beautiful day.”

I ask Yolanda if she was aware of just how strong and determined she was.  “I think I have had the opportunity to bring it out.  When I got sick I lost 37 miles.  So yesterday I made up 7 miles.”

“I realize that our power and our strength in what we can accomplish is limitless.  I proved that yesterday and today I am going to try and knock off an extra 3 miles.”

She feels undeniably that the impossible can be conquered and she wanted to remind all those who have taken up her 52 day challenge that there is still 21 days left.  “You can conquer anything.”

She says we just need to let go of our excuses and remember that she and 9 others are running the longest race in the world.  “The impossible is possible.  We overcome a whole lot.”

“I thought that the weather was going to be an issue.  But no.  Every day there is something new that we have to challenge.  It is amazing.  It is crazy.  But it is all doable.”

“I am just smiling through it.”

Daring enthusiasm and abiding cheerfulness
Can accomplish everything on earth
Without fail.

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Day 30…Still Learning (July 17 )

Last night after running here every day for 4 weeks and a day Andrey Andreev went home having completed 1600 miles.  A not insignificant number and one which is about 1000 miles further than he has ever run before.

With 3 weeks and a day left to continue his task he will run many more miles yet.  Reaching 3100 is unlikely but this fact is one that is irrelevant to Andrey and to the others who are quickly shaping new goals as their fortunes shift and change.

*translation by Lyalya*

He has spent the last 10 years shaping and molding himself into a distance runner.  He is an eternal optimist, one who seems to find new experiences and new inner and outer achievement with each lap.   And more importantly knows that his personal finish line is not a mark made here on the sidewalk.  But rather one which continues to call to him in his eternal race towards his own self transcendence.

When asked how he is doing he says simply, “amazing.”

Hoping for a little more I ask him specifically about his body and what it has gone through. “It looks as though I am still learning how to listen to my body better.  I am also learning to love my body.  To be able to listen to it clearly and not be confused by it.”

When asked about his mind, I joke that he perhaps left it back in Russia.  “In order to do this race I had no choice but to leave my mind back there.  Otherwise I wasn’t even considering doing this race.”

“Here I have to control my mind some way.  I was already somewhat experienced at that.  I control it by setting certain goals.  Prayers really help me and having aspiration for all my best qualities.”

Andrey tells me that his heart is happy.

As for spiritual experiences he describes in the past of having different kinds.  “But here they are all combined into one big current.  Now for me it seems that everything has emerged into this one big all inclusive spiritual experience.”

“I am not having any unpleasant experiences here at all.  Even pain or other unpleasant things are just part of the experience.  There is for me no bad experience.”

As for the days ahead, “I am carefully looking at them but actually why should I look at the next 22 days when we are all here and now.  In the present moment.  We know that the future is being formed by our perceptions today.  So there is no reason to look at the days ahead.”

My mind learns earthly lessons
My heart learns Heavenly lessons
My soul learns both earthly
And Heavenly lessons

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Day 29…A Rainbow Opportunity (July 16 )

The conversation I had yesterday with Sergey has continued to touch and inspire me in ways that I had not predicted.  Some others have mentioned to me as well that Sergey’s heart felt clarity and genuine appreciation for his little running family has inspired them as well.  I am not surprised.

We know of course that the runners are exceptional athletes but Sergey was able to simply and honestly bring forward and to show just how good they are as people as well.  That each runners embodies unique and beautiful qualities that when observed with a oneness spirit can then help to bring forward each runners own divine aspects.

Illustrating most clearly what happens when we are somehow able to discard the superficiality of most of our day to day lives.  When we  endeavor to conquer our own impossible task, as they all are doing, then what is the very best within us then has to come forward as well.  Of course the darker parts of our nature are also exposed, but in so doing they are cast into the light and transformed.  Within this great adventure is where perhaps the core of self transcendence finds its base and then is able to rise above and beyond.

I mention to Vasu today that Sergey had said many nice things about his heart.  That he made everyone feel like they were part of a family.  “Its true, we are a family.  We do the same things as people do in families.  This is because we are children of the Supreme.  We are his golden children.  He is our father.”

“Every runner is unique and we each bring here our qualities.  These qualities are for everybody and they can share them with everyone else.”

I ask Vasu if he feels that he is being helped by these qualities of others.  “Maybe much more inwardly.”

“Yesterday for example Yuri reminded me about being more in the heart.”  They also talked about the significance of the Daily Prayer.  The ones which Sri Chinmoy wrote on each day of the race back in 2006 and 2007.  Yuri suggested to Vasu that he give more significance to them each and every day.

“This helped me so much.  I ran and told that day’s prayer to another runner and we repeated it together.  It gave me energy, it gave me peace, and it gave me more connection.  I felt I could move easier after reciting the prayer.  It helped me so so much.”

Vasu feels that if Sri Chinmoy wrote the prayer on that day then it would continue to inspire the runners on that same day each year.

“Every day good.  Every day is special.  Some days you may have less laps but every day is still unique.  We need to take each day as it comes and be grateful for this day.  Because each day gives us a new opportunity. As Sri Chinmoy said a rainbow opportunity.”

The world’s
Has at once won
God’s Compassion-Eye
God’s Protection-Heart.

Sri Chinmoy

July 15th, 2006

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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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