Sunday, January 4, 2009
As the New Year 2009 begins and we all try to feel a sense of newness and perhaps some personal transformation, we tend to think of resolutions or promises we can make to ourselves to change for the better. Trying to become more fit or healthier through diet, exercise, meditation, and other healthy activities is a very popular way to at least start the year.
I would suggest for those who choose fitness as one of their goals to try to get into the habit of going outside every day or most days, even colder days, and walk or jog if you can, for a specified amount of time. Starting with ten minutes, if you are a beginner, then increasing it after a week or so, you will see immediate results that will be very personally satisfying.
I am not a doctor who can tell you all the physical benefits this will have on your health, but there are many. Mentally and psychologically the benefits will be evident to you as you begin to become less stressed and more relaxed in body and spirit. Spiritually there will be an opportunity to have moments of deep reflection and even a dynamic meditation as you can move in a mantric-like fashion with a steady stride and calm mind.
For those who like to think while exercising, you may find that you will have the most creative thoughts while running or walking. Problem solving may come more naturally when the body is in motion instead of statically stuck in front of a computer or television screen.
For those who like to run or even walk a mile or more for whatever personal reasons, it is also helpful to remember how much Sri Chinmoy loved running and loved to see people run, no matter what the distance. For those who are more interested in the physical health benefits of walking and running there are many books by experts on the subject. But for spiritual benefits and inspiration, Sri Chinmoy was truly a Master and expert both from the inner and outer perspective. His book, ‘The Outer Running and the Inner Running’ offers endless wisdom and extremely helpful advice and inspiration for seeker-runners who wish to make genuine progress both in their spiritual lives and in their outer lives. http://www.srichinmoylibrary.com/books/0645
In this short excerpt from the introduction one can see how success and progress both can be achieved from running:
“The outer running is a burning desire to achieve everything that we see here on earth. The inner running is a climbing aspiration to receive from Above a vast compassion-sky and to give from below a tiny gratitude-flame.
The outer running is an extraordinary success on the mountain-summit. The inner running is an exemplary progress along Eternity's sunlit Road. Success is the ready and immediate acceptance of the challenges from difficulties untold. Progress is the soulful and grateful acceptance of the blessingful joy from prosperities unfathomed.” http://www.srichinmoylibrary.com/books/0645/1/1
Sri Chinmoy also offered advice and inspiration for running through poetry and songs.
In this now famous poem which became a popular running song as well, Sri Chinmoy offers meaningful advice on running and its inevitable result:
“Run and Become,
Become and Run,
Run to succeed
In the outer world.
Become to proceed
In the inner world.”
Whether it is with poetry, music, or just running itself, we all have to be motivated to get out and transform our own lives for the better. There is no better time than the present to do so, whether it is the start of a new year or just the beginning of a new day or even a new moment.
So find yourself a good running book such as ‘The Outer Running And The Inner Running’ http://www.srichinmoylibrary.com/books/0645
Then get a good pair of running shoes and go outside to enjoy the moment in motion.
Here is one more poem for those who want to cover a mile or eventually attempt to run a marathon or beyond. But no matter how long or how much you wish to move and go forward, there will always be something good waiting for you at the ‘finish line.’ Try it and see for yourself.
This short poem is for anyone who loves to run from a mile to a multiday. In a few short lines I tried to embody the essence of each distance, simply and sweetly. If anyone else get inspiration from their running to write poetry I would encourage them to share that creative urge with us. Also encouraged are any of Sri Chinmoy’s poems about running or any other author that inspires your involvement in this uniquely personal sport.
Run A Mile
Run a mile.
You will acquire a smile.
Run 26.2 miles.
You will smile for days.
Run for days.
Your smile will earn
His Heavenly Gaze.
Friday, March 14, 2008
The following are three short, illumining and entertaining creations of the hundreds of writings Sri Chinmoy offered about running. His running and his writing, among the many other activities that he mastered, have inspired many people over the years, myself included.
The Sub-Three Marathoner
Today one of the disciples was telling me that he met a very good runner while running in Flushing Meadow Park. This man had told the disciple that he often sees me running and that he thought I was a sub-three-hour marathoner because I was so thin and I looked like I was in such good shape. The disciple was very polite and told the runner that I was hoping to break three and a half hours in the New York Marathon. He didn't tell him my previous bullock-cart marathon times.
-16 October 1979
Question: How can we benefit spiritually from training for and running marathons?
Sri Chinmoy: The marathon is a long journey. Of course, there is also the ultramarathon, but the marathon is unique and it will always remain unparalleled among long-distance runs. Just as the marathon is a long journey on the outer plane, so is spirituality a long, longer, longest journey on the inner plane. Your own spiritual run is birthless and deathless; it is endless.
When you run a marathon, you are trying to accomplish on the physical plane something most difficult and arduous. When you do this, it gives you joy because it reminds you of what you are trying to accomplish on the inner plane. As you are determined to complete the longest journey on the outer plane, the marathon, so are you determined to reach the Goal in your inner journey. The one journey will always remind you of the other. The outer journey will remind you of your inner journey toward God-realisation, and the inner journey will remind you of your outer journey toward God-manifestation.
“The spiritual life is a marathon,
An inner marathon which never ends.
The Supreme is begging
All His seeker-children
To be excellent runners-
To run speedily, like deer-
In this eternal inner journey.”
Friday, March 7, 2008
When Sri Chinmoy was a young man in his teenage years and throughout his twenties he grew up in a spiritual community called the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, southern India. Sports was an integral part of daily disciplines for many members of this unique ashram, including Sri Chinmoy who loved running on a track, barefoot most of the time. He was also a very good soccer and volley ball player, developing his speed and strength through these various disciplines. But his favorite sport was running, track and field in particular. He was the decathlon champion for ten years and the fastest sprinter for many years as well. But during this time of his life in the ashram, even a half mile or 800 metre race was a long run for him. After leaving the ashram at age 32 in April of 1964 and coming to the United States, Sri Chinmoy ended his running career, or at least for a time anyway.
Many years later, in the late 1970’s, Sri Chinmoy felt inspired to get back into running, but this time it would be long, slow distance compared to his running career from decades before. In his oneness with his disciples, many who were inspired by him to train for long distance racing, he also trained for longer distances. His first official long distance race was in September 1978 in Greenwich, Connecticut, where he ran the Sri Chinmoy Ten-Mile Race in 1 hour, 45 minutes and 21 seconds, which translates into a 10:31 per mile pace. This was quite a feat for a 47 year old Spiritual Master who always had been a fast sprinter in the past and had not been running for decades.
I remember that race, as I also ran it. It was a very hilly course, totally different than running on a track. I lived and worked in Greenwich for a while and I was used to training on these roads. But Sri Chinmoy was not used to all the hills and he worked very hard to get in shape to survive this long and difficult course. There was a point in his training where Sri Chinmoy got very serious about training on hills. He would ask some of his disciples to look for long hills to train on. Some of them were one mile long hills or courses with many miles of up and down hilly terrain. Many years after Sri Chinmoy ended his running career we had a four mile race on one of his hilly training courses. It was one of the toughest middle distance races I ever ran!
Soon after his long distance racing career got started, Sri Chinmoy began seriously challenging himself to run faster and longer. He ran another ten mile race on Dec. 1, 1978, this time in 1 hour, 28 minutes and 22 seconds, an 8:49 per mile pace. In a little over two months he was able to improve his ten mile time by 17 minutes, or 1 minute 42 seconds per mile faster! Unbelievable progress for anyone at any age in that short amount of time between races. Only 30 days later, on Dec. 31, he ran a 7 mile race in 56:24, or an 8 minute and 3 seconds per mile pace. One could easily see at this point how serious and determined Sri Chinmoy was in his newly found sport of long distance racing.
That was just a warm-up for what was to come in the following year of 1979. Training quite seriously throughout the coldest months of January and February, Sri Chinmoy prepared himself for his greatest running challenge up to this point, a full marathon race, 26.2 miles, or 42 kilometers. Fortunately, the race was held in a relatively warmer climate than his hometown of New York City. On March 3 in 1979 Sri Chinmoy ran the Bidwell Classic Marathon in Chico, California. It was quite a memorable, historic and exciting day as this middle-aged former sprinter and track star who was an adept at meditation and a great Yogi of the highest caliber, took on the challenge of running what was then the most revered and feared, long distance race ever. He finished the race in a respectable time of 4 hours, 31 minutes and 34 seconds. Considering his age, the amount of time he prepared, and his lack of distance background, it was an excellent first time marathon.
Many of his disciples started training for and attempting to run marathons now as they were inspired by their running Guru and his many songs and poems he had composed about this particular distance race. But most importantly, here he was now bravely challenging his own body and mind to struggle through the months and months of training and the hours and hours of actual racing that is involved in this epic event. Sri Chinmoy considered the marathon distance very special and unique, and now he was experiencing it firsthand.
Here are some comments about the marathon that he made in 1979: “The marathon is a long journey. Of course, there is also the ultramarathon, but the marathon is unique and it will always remain unparalleled among long-distance runs. Just as the marathon is a long journey on the outer plane, so is spirituality a long, longer, longest journey on the inner plane. Your own spiritual run is birthless and deathless; it is endless.”
He goes on to say, “When you run a marathon, you are trying to accomplish on the physical plane something most difficult and arduous. When you do this, it gives you joy because it reminds you of what you are trying to accomplish on the inner plane. As you are determined to complete the longest journey on the outer plane, the marathon, so are you determined to reach the Goal in your inner journey. The one journey will always remind you of the other. The outer journey will remind you of your inner journey toward God-realisation, and the inner journey will remind you of your outer journey toward God-manifestation.”
Sri Chinmoy’s incredible accomplishment in this first marathon in Chico was just the beginning of his own personal challenges that were to follow. True to his own philosophy of ‘self-transcendence’, where he says that ‘today’s goal is tomorrow’s starting point’, Sri Chinmoy immediately began to train for another marathon that very same month. Usually after a marathon, especially the first one that a person runs, one needs at least a few weeks of recovery time before starting a training schedule again. But in only three weeks time Sri Chinmoy not only recovered from his first marathon but also trained for another marathon, trying to improve upon his first time and demonstrate the true meaning of self-transcendence in the running world.
On March 25 Sri Chinmoy ran the Heart-Watcher’s Marathon in Toledo, Ohio. He finished in an amazing time of 3 hours, 55 minutes and 7 seconds! In three weeks he had taken more than 36 minutes off of his previous and first marathon time. This was an incredible 1 minute and 23 seconds per mile faster for the whole 26 miles! The term ‘Self-Transcendence’ was never more evident to me and others at this point. Sri Chinmoy ended up running thirteen races that year, 1979. He ran seven marathons in the short span of nine months, as well as five shorter races, and an ultra marathon race of 47 miles!
Although his marathon times did not improve after the stellar 3:55:07 in Toledo, he did improve upon his ten mile time every time he ran it. Many people may not appreciate or understand just how special this is. In less than a year after his very first long distance race of ten miles, he improved on that distance by almost 22 minutes, which means that his pace per mile improved by more than two minutes per mile faster. From a 10:31 per mile he went down to an 8:23 per mile pace for ten miles in just under one year. More amazingly, he did that with 11 other tough races in between, including four marathons and an ultramarathon. But he did not stop there. He finished off the last three months of 1979 with three more marathons, one of them being the very difficult Phidippides Marathon in Athens, Greece, where the marathon was ‘born’.
The following is a poem that he also set to music in a song that expresses the spirit of the Olympic Marathon:
“Marathon, marathon, marathon,
O kindling, streaming flames
Of great Olympic Games,
O Greece-world vision-height,
Divinity’s supreme Grace.”
It is obvious from his races in the following year,1980, that Sri Chinmoy was trying to develop more speed at the middle distances instead of focusing on the grueling and slower marathon. He did not start racing again until March 23 when he ran a 3.5 mile race in 25:29, at a 7:16 per mile pace. A week later he ran a seven mile race at almost the same pace, clocking a 51:18 at a 7:19 per mile pace. Only a week after that he ran a 5K(3.1mile) race in 22 :16 at a 7:11 per mile pace. One could see how he was seriously progressing as he focused only on the ‘shorter’ long distance races. Running as many marathons as he did in his first year of racing at his age can really be tough on the legs and slow down a runner’s ‘edge’ in terms of speed. But Sri Chinmoy worked and raced hard to get some of his speed back as he was determined to make progress as long as his body could stand the amazing demands he put on it.
In May,1980, he improved his time once more, running a 7:09 per mile pace in a 5K race, running it in 22:12. Then at the end of May and the beginning of June he ran two marathons in a one week period. Sri Chinmoy’s reborn running career in its first year or so was like a whirlwind of strength, endurance and speed which showed no signs of stopping. He also started running two mile races quite seriously in 1980. His first two mile race was run in August in hilly Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York City. He ran a 13:53 there which was not bad for his first attempt. Again, in keeping with his own philosophy of self-transcendence, Sri Chinmoy set his goals very high, and in 1981 he ran 21 more two mile races. His personal best was 13:42 for two miles which is quite good considering his age and all the other longer races he was also doing at the time which tends to slow down the shorter race pace. In the two mile race world, Sri Chinmoy ended up running a total of 76 races, his last one for the 80’s was in 1986 and then he revisited the two mile race again in 1995 and 1996 running 11 more of them. His last official two mile race was on 10 Feb. 1996 in Goose Pond Park, Queens where he ran and walked it in 23:21.
Sri Chinmoy also ran many one mile races during the 80’s mostly. I will continue from this point in Part 2 of this series about Sri Chinmoy’s remarkable running career.
There are certain aspects of our being do not like to put out the effort and the adjustments we must make as well as the sacrifice of our 'comfort zone', to go out and run. Also, once we do get over the mental and physical hurdles that prevent us from running if we are capable of doing so, it may be difficult to describe the wonderful experiences we get, during our runs and even after we finish.
What is the best way to understand the fragrance and beauty of a flower, or the delicious taste of a fruit? It is not through the mind’s explanations or through detailed words. We have to experience them for ourselves, through the act of smelling, of tasting, or of running, to truly understand the beauty and joy that they offer. One reason why Sri Chinmoy has encouraged many of us to run was because he knew of the joy that resulted from it even through all the discipline and sometimes unenjoyable efforts and pains that had to be experienced along with it, like the rose having its thorns.
If we run with the proper attitude, with a spiritual approach, and to please the Supreme Being who resides in our bodies, minds and hearts, then we find it to be another great opportunity to make spiritual progress while also reaping the fitness and health benefits. I cannot convince anyone of the ‘unimaginable joy experience’ as Sri Chinmoy says in one of his running songs, that we can get for our heart and soul through running. It is by getting past the lethargy of the mind and body and patiently developing the strength in the will and in the body to get out regularly and run, whether it is easy or hard running. Most of my running is easy and that is why I have endured through 35 years of running and racing. But I attribute most of my longevity in running to my love of running and racing, encouraged and inspired by my Guru, Sri Chinmoy.
I am thrilled to be able to inspire others, especially young, strong and promising runners to get out and train and even enjoy the thrill of racing. Sri Chinmoy loved track racing in his youth in the Ashram as we all know. But it wasn’t until 1978 when he was 47 years old that he started long distance training and racing in 1979. A 47 year old Spiritual Master does not need to discipline himself in the ways of long distance running or to make the commitment and efforts it takes to race marathons and many other distances. But Sri Chinmoy did just that, mostly to inspire us to do the same, but also to experience the outer joys of the long distance running disciplines.
I have been researching Sri Chinmoy’s racing experiences and I am writing an article about his running for the April issue of ‘Self-Transcendence-Fragrance Sports’, which will come out next month. I am getting tremendous inspiration from seeing all the races and knowing a little about the training that Sri Chinmoy did in the nine or ten years he dedicated to middle and long distance running and racing. I am sure that this magazine, which will be dedicated solely to Sri Chinmoy’s personal sports, will inspire all of us, no matter what age, gender or capacity, to get out and discipline our lethargic bodies in ways that will surprise us and benefit our spiritual lives.
Just as a little teaser, I can tell you that Sri Chinmoy ran about 268 races [unofficial stat] mostly from 1979 to 1986 and again in 1994 thru 1996. During that time he also spent countless hours training on the roads and at home with other types of exercises. Since 1985 he also spent lots of hours weightlifting as well.
I will tell much more about his running during this time in the magazine next month. The act of researching and writing about Sri Chinmoy’s running and racing mostly has inspired me tremendously and inspires me to get out and race more. He has run 22 marathons, 5 Ultras, over 75 two-mile races and countless other races as well in 10 years of running. If was able to do it, especially at the time and at the age that he did run so much, then what is wrong with us?
So try to get out there on a regular basis, at least four or five days a week if not more, to really find out what running has to offer in the ways of spiritual and health benefits. If you are serious about marathons or other races you can refer to my training manual: ‘Seven Steps to a Successful Marathon’. You can find this online at Arpan.us
More to share later about the love of running,
This past Thursday, 6 March, 2008, I was fortunate and grateful to be part of the crew, along with Homagni and Medur, who helped Ashrita with his latest Guinness World Record. He currently holds 79 records including the record of holding the most records. The record that he was attempting to break today was to push a car more than 12 miles within a 24 hour period. Ashrita had practiced quite a bit in New York and here in New Jersey at a flat and straight car raceway. It was a quarter mile ‘drag strip’ at the Old Bridge Raceway Park in New Jersey where he would attempt to push a small car which had to weigh at least 1600 pounds or 726 Kg. This car weighed a little over 1800 pounds or 817 Kg., almost one ton.
It was our friend Homagni’s birthday that day and he was the designated driver for most of the record. I gladly took over ‘driving’ for him after the first three and a half hours during which Ashrita still had not taken a break. It was a very peaceful, relatively warm and sunny day out at the race track which is usually bustling with activity and noise. The race cars usually travel here at hundreds of miles per hour along this short strip of flat concrete. Ashrita’s car was travelling about 3 miles per hour, but was much more peaceful, quiet, and fuel conserving than the dragsters. You could say that it was an ‘eco-friendly’ record.
He had to push the car along the shoulder of the drag strip because the main part of the track was so sticky from the melted rubber of the tires and the chemicals they spray for traction during the races. Your shoes almost stick to the pavement as you walk along the track, which is not very conducive to pushing cars manually. I started out by walking in front of the car to look for dangerous metal pieces which could cause a flat tire, something that Ashrita could not afford during this very serious world record attempt in which every second counted. I found at least 30 bits of metal including screws and bolts and even pieces of broken gears from some of the race cars.
I did get to steer the car for over an hour, during which he broke the old record of 12 miles. It was very peaceful and thrilling to ‘drive’ a car in this way: nice and slow, with no noise or exhaust fumes or traffic. Ashrita passed the old record of 12 miles only after a little over four hours of pushing. He finally took a little to eat at this time, only having drank water up to that point. Although he started tiring quickly after that and getting a bit sore in the hip and arms, he did not really take any breaks even though he could have stopped as much as he wanted to.
Three different groups of people also came during the six hours and ten minutes that it took him to push the car a total of 17 miles. There were two local newspapers with reporters, photographers and a videographer, all who took sincere interest in Ashrita’s endeavors. They asked very insightful questions and were quite happy and entertained as they followed along with Ashrita. He was also quite pleased with their presence as it inspired him to think of all the reasons that he was expending so much energy, instead of dwelling on his tiredness and soreness.
The third group that came to interview him and photograph him was the Raceway Park’s officials who were with the newspaper which they publish regularly to a wide audience of racing fans. The officials at the Raceway Park have been very kind to Ashrita, allowing him to practice there a few times and not charging him to use the track for the record as well. The reporters were also very kind and considerate as they followed him for a few laps.
Ashrita stopped at 17 miles after six hours and ten minutes of pushing the car, breaking the old record by a full five miles. He could have gone longer as he had a full 24 hours at his disposal, but we wanted to get back to New York for Homagni’s birthday party. I am sure that Ashrita did not mind stopping when he did though, as he was quite tired and sore, but happy and grateful at the same time.
The whole experience was very uplifting to me and all those who came to witness this incredible spiritual athlete push himself and a car to another world record. But he did not do it with the aggressive or egotistic attitude of a self-centered star athlete. His demeanor is always very kind, mild and humble. He strives with much dedication and focus, always considerate of those around him. He makes you feel that you are as important to the record as he is. His perspective on why he is doing such unusual events is never lost in the glory of his incredible achievements.
Ashrita knows and demonstrates quite clearly that his achievements are not merely for self-glorification. Rather they are to achieve a personal self-transcendence inspired by his mentor and Guru Sri Chinmoy who has himself achieved amazing feats of self-transcendence in many fields during his 76 years on earth serving humanity.
I am all gratitude to them both: Sri Chinmoy for bring the best out of those who aspire inwardly and outwardly, and Ashrita for showing us that we can achieve things beyond what we may imagine is possible, as long as we have faith and dedication in our action.