Some Reflections On Running
What a wonderful feature of our spiritual path the focus on physical wellbeing – especially running – is!
I'm so grateful that here in Auckland we have so many wild and beautiful places – mountains, forests, lovely stretches of coastline – that offer peace and solace and a refuge to the spirit. Cradled in the vastness of ocean and sky, how can we not feel gratitude on those lovely morning runs as we stride down the wilderness of beach that stretches out to a far horizon.
This week has been 'aspiration week' in the Auckland Sri Chinmoy Centre, an invitation to each of our members to set and reach new goals, enjoy open nights and new activities in our meditation Centre and generally rekindle our aspiration. I have set running goals – not an easy task in this cold winter! – and I am delighted with the results already. This morning two of us met up at 5:15 am and drove 45 minutes through a wet and rainy pre-dawn gloom to a large area of forest on our west coast – a wilderness of pines and native forest inhabited by deer, the odd wild boar and lots of small wild life. We ran for 30 minutes along the blackness of roads, the sound of the sea in our ears and light rain on our faces, then as darkness receded we ventured into the forest and onto some of the narrow game trails that wind for miles through these hills. At one point two large black stags erupted out of a clearing in front of us, the white tines of their antlers gleaming in the rainy dawn and the flick-flicker of their white rumps receding away through the trees.
I was feeling such joy, exulting in an almost primeval sense of well-being and filled with gratitude at this enduring gift of speed and delight as we silently traversed the dark forest. We felt like indigenous man, all the artifice of civilisation gone, jubilant in the simplicity of life itself and the joy of being. Ninety minutes later we came out through dunes filled with tall ferns and grasses, crested a ridge of black sand and then out onto the beach where we swam in the freezing sea – the cold ocean filled us with a sense of physical and mental prana, the healing touch of nature, and we made our way back, bare feet in the rising tide, along the empty sweep of coastline.
This 'aspiration week' Sri Chinmoy's writings have provided a wealth of illumining insights into the benefits of exercise – and the unique benefits conferred by running in particular. One recurring theme is the principal of holistic living – the inter-relationship between mind, body, spirit. The runner can enhance his or her physical achievements by tapping into an inner power source, while the meditator can achieve a greater proficiency and stillness by first establishing a foundation of well-being, and of clarity in the mind, which running confers.
Consider some of these little 'gold nuggets' by Sri Chinmoy:
"When it is a matter of running, all the members of the family – the body, vital, mind and heart – have to work together. It is like a family party. The head of the family has invited all of the family members to come and eat. Through running, the soul wants to offer a feast to all it's children. What running is doing is keeping the body, vital, mind and heart fit, so that the soul can get complete happiness. The soul is happy when it sees that all it's children have come to enjoy the feast.
"We try to synthesize and harmonize the outer life and the inner life. The outer life is like a beautiful flower and the inner life it's fragrance. If there is no fragrance then we cannot appreciate the flower. Again, if there is no flower how can there be any fragrance?"
"The body's capacity and the soul's capacity, the body's speed and the soul's speed go together. The outer running reminds us of something higher and deeper – the soul – which is running along Eternity's Road. Running and physical fitness help us both in our inner life of aspiration and in our outer life of activity."
Sri Chinmoy demonstrates in his own life, particularly through his weightlifting, the truth of his comments on the relationship between power and strength.
"Strength is predominantly in the physical, with the physical and for the physical. Power has a higher and deeper source. Strength is an outer achievement. Power is an inner achievement. If there is a tug-of-war between strength and power, power will always win, for the source of power is infinitely greater than the physical strength that any human being can have. Power can be used in the physical, but it is not bound there. It's home is high, very high in the loftiest regions of the infinite Consciousness."
On the responsiveness of the body to the cosmic energy within Sri Chinmoy comments:
"We can draw upon the cosmic energy by entering into our deeper consciousness, the all-pervading consciousness, which is here, there, everywhere. It is the inmost consciousness that touches the springs of the cosmic energy. If we can have a free access to our inmost consciousness, the cosmic energy is bound to come to the fore. If you go deep within it comes like a spring, a never – failing spring. And when it comes it permeates the whole body."
And here is an unusual insight:
"Running has it's own inner value. While you run, each breath that you take is connected with a higher reality. While you are jogging, if you are in a good consciousness your breath is being blessed by a higher inner breath... each breath will connect you with a higher, deeper inner reality."
Sri Chinmoy encourages seekers on his own path to run each day, in so doing maintaining the body-temple as a perfect vehicle for the inner journey. Running cultivates aspiration, dynamism, physical excellence, clarity of mind, happiness, will power and determination – exactly the qualities needed for the inner-running toward the goal of God Realisation.
In one charming analogy he comments:
"Unless you touch something everyday it does not shine. Often I have told people to touch the furniture in their homes everyday. As soon as you touch something it gets new life... If you have good health, if you touch your health everyday it gets new life. By giving attention to something you give new life to it."
Sri Chinmoy's writings are filled also with references to happiness and self-transcendence:
"True happiness comes only from our increasing sense of perfection, which we can achieve only through self-transcendence. Self-transcendence gives us joy in boundless measure. When we transcend ourselves we do not compete with others but with ourselves. And each time we surpass our previous achievements we get joy."
"How I wish all human beings would run faster than the fastest, with unimaginable speed towards Eternity's ever-transcending Goal. Once we reach the highest transcendental Height with our fastest speed and consciously begin serving our Supreme Pilot at every moment, at that time we can and we shall create and absolutely new creation. At that time there will be only one reality, one song; the song of self-transcendence."