Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Personal Best

Sri Chinmoy loved sports, whether they were on a playing field, the tennis court, the gym, or the track. Late in his life he would continue to challenge himself by setting personal records lifting heavy weights.

Most would agree however, that it was running, that gave him his greatest athletic joy. It is a unique sport in that your only real challenge comes from setting personal goals and then, attempting to transcend them.

He particularly loved the sprints, but there was a long period in his life, when he pursued with a passion, distance running. He ran 22 marathons and in March of 1979, at the age of 47, he ran a personal best of 3:55:07.

Recently a small marathon was held in New York, for those of his students who had beaten his personal best of 3:55:07, and wanted to see if they could break their own best times.
It is a cool morning in April and there is a small group of just over 50 men and women in Flushing Meadow Park getting ready to run 26.2 miles.
Every one has his or her little personal rituals to prepare. But here you will not find a lot of raucous bantering, that is present at most such distance events.
It is not that there is no joy present. Rather,these athletes are
gathering their inner strength as
well as readying their bodies for a very long tough distance.
All of course have run this far before. For some it will be one of many marathons. American runner Arpan DeAngelo has himself run well over 100.

For all these runners there is an inner experience, that they would
like to achieve. They all would
like to have the experience, that comes when they surrender their running within themselves. That they are not the doer. That it is their own hearts that are acting in and through them. It is a state of grace that comes at special moments during the race, and maybe if they are fortunate, from start to finish.

Many are also helping to put this race on today.
Providing assistance in every way. Providing water and snacks. Manning medical tables. Counting laps. Riding bicycles to keep the runners on the right course, that weaves in and around some of the many paths of Flushing Meadow park.

And then it comes, the call to the starting line. Warm clothes come off. The challenge that you have been dreading or longing for is now right in front of you.

There is a moment of silence before they start. One last chance to feel the silence that is within. To gather strength and offer up what will take many hours to complete. Maybe, even a personal best. Maybe a chance to transcend some other personal challenge on life's road.

On this day I will see only very little. Just a part of the first lap. I have to leave quickly and get to work. Soon I am busy working at the Smile of the Beyond, and can scarce imagine the joys and pains they are all going through. But there will be times when I will look up at the clock and realize that some lucky one is crossing the line.

And there was a special moment when I paused, in what I was doing, and looked up to see the clock was showing, that just under 4 hours had gone by. I pictured a runner just breaking Sri Chinmoy's personal best time of 3:55:07 and knew how happy he would have been for that runner.
And then I realize that I was not correct, that he would have been proud and happy for all who came and ran in his honor. To all who gave the best of themselves, whether they broke personal records or not.

"There are countless people on earth who do not believe in the inner strength or inner life. They feel that the outer life is everything. I do not agree with them," he said. "There is an inner life; there is spirit, and my ability to lift heavy weights proves that it can work in matter as well. I am doing these lifts with the physical body, but the power is coming from an inner source, from my prayer and meditation."

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