"Why do I run? I run to get inspiration. I run to increase my dynamism. I run to enjoy the beauty of nature and feel my connection with that beauty, which to me is something very sacred. Most of all, I run because running has changed me as a person and is changing me still. Through running, I'm becoming.
Is running a form of meditation? Well, sometimes yes. I have certainly had meditative experiences while running, especially during races where the intensity of the event triggers in turn an intense concentration - which is of course one of the gateways into the experience of meditation.
As with meditation, I feel the proof of the spiritual value of running is not necessarily in how you feel at the time. While running I may feel tired, drained, generally having a tough time (though thankfully these occasions are the exception rather than the rule!) but running has definitely taught me valuable spiritual lessons, and helped me to bring my good qualities more to the fore. After a run or a race, even if the experience was challenging or difficult, I invariably have a lighter mood, a happier demeanour, a feeling that life is simpler than we think and full of positive opportunities.
When I trained for my first marathon, it seemed like an impossible task. When I completed that first marathon, it brought home to me how anything is possible - how tough challenges will surrender in the face of determination and perseverance. Running has given me that confidence and optimism, and also more belief in myself and in the divine grace that is there to help all of us when we attempt the improbable (I should give up using that word "impossible"). When I ran my first ultramarathon, I realised that there is no limit to our achievements - we can keep going one step further.
Running has its pitfalls, most notably the injuries that one can sustain (though with hindsight all mine were avoidable, had I known then what I know now!). Coming to terms with being unable to run, and the process by which the injuries were surmounted so I could run again, was in itself an inspirational journey. In those times when I could not run, I was aware of how my consciousness suffered - something was most certainly missing. Thats not to say that one cannot follow the spiritual life without running, but for me it has become an essential ingredient, and were I ever deprived of it for good I would need to find another source of purity, simplicity and dynamism to complement my practise of meditation.
I worked for many years in a running shop, meeting hundreds of runners every month. Not all are conscious that running has a spiritual side, and some would dismiss such a notion as fanciful. Most runners, though, do find the activity inspiring and a source of immense satisfaction. I'm convinced many or even most runners are growing spiritually through their running, developing self discipline, determination, perseverance, detachment and numerous other spiritual qualities; not to mention the most significant spiritual quality: happiness, pure and simple. Anyone who takes on the marathon, for example, must learn how to contact their inner reserves - not just their physical reserves of energy but also their will power and the strength and inspiration that abide in one's heart and soul. If you doubt this, go to your nearest marathon and look at the faces of the finishers. You may be surprised at what you see; in their eyes, in their smiles, in the way they are finding fulfilment through as simple an activity as running.
In the spiritual life, one's spiritual practise must take first priority in one's life. Each morning when the day begins, I rise early to meditate. After meditation I sing spiritual songs, and give myself time to assimilate my meditation. Then, I get on my running shoes and head out to greet the day. Whatever the weather, its invariably a beautiful morning."
Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team Race Director, Bristol
The inspiration for my poetry began as a young child growing up in the Caribbean. On cool dark, wintry nights, in the village of Hermitage, St Patrick's on the island of Grenada, the boys and I would sit on the side of the road telling Annancy [traditional folklore] stories until the early hours of the morning. Our only, yet precious comfort, was the taste of piped water coming directly from the 'boiling' springs. Of course, the stories themselves gave tremendous joy and inspiration, together with a deep sense of love and brotherly comradeship. I have not heard stories such as ours since, neither have I encountered the purity and self-giving nature of this life-energising water on those cool dark nights.
It was not until the early 70s that I continued my work. The divine poet, to me, is inspired unconsciously, as well as consciously. As to whether the inner accolade that comes from poetry is greater when the poet is conscious of the higher force or not conscious, I leave for others to decide. What is do know is that some of my earlier works, while written for the mundane, contained many lofty and sublime pieces. This I was only able to recognise with my spiritual awakening and the depth of inner awareness given to me on Sri Chinmoy's path. So even prior to my conscious awakening, I was unconsciously reaching for higher ideals.
My first poems that I wrote on Sri Chinmoy's path were 'prayers' written in the 80s, composed to assist me in my life of spiritual pursuit. Sri Chinmoy's style of devotion, yearning and aspiration for the Supreme had influenced me deeply, giving me the strength and necessary tools to re-commence my work.
What is a poet? I was once sitting at home when I received a letter, which had a most profound effect upon me. there and then I started composing a poem:
Said the devotee to his gurubhai.
The words echoing from his inner core,
While joyful secretions trickled down his cheeks.
Happy was he in the waves of gratitude
Suddenly taking hold of his heart.
O lord, immeasurable is Your beauty,
How diverse Thy ways of expressing it!
This moment: stillness, repose, and the next...
Flowing gladness, wondrous delight,
An awakening of psychic tears and thankfulness.
Brother gurubhai, appreciation for thy faith in Man.
Long lives thy soulful inspiration.
Again at a gathering in Shepherds' Bush [in London], I experienced a 'flashing' of the wholeness of life and its interconnectedness, which prompted me to write the following poem:
I smiled at the server,
Who lovingly handed me the drink.
The swami had just finished
A most stirring speech.
Musicians played hauntingly,
While the vocalist sang melodiously
To rapturous applause,
And the drumming of the tabla mesmerised the crowds.
Upstairs, where I now sit,
The aroma of palatable food and cheerful noises,
Permeate the soulful atmosphere.
Servers diligently seek to see
That all is fed and trays are taken away.
Tables are wiped clean,
While floors are swept.
All is buzzing with life.
Downstairs, the pungent smell
Of incense, still lingers on,
And the deities stand majestically
At their respective places.
The shoes racks swell with pride,
And the book tables quietly wait their turn
In this game of life.
Silently I sit, not moving, but
Marvelling at the intricate web and
Beauty of Truth's Creation.
Each part of the whole,
Playing his or her tune, and dancing with God.
Some of my most inspired works came as a direct result of experience in mediation. I have enclosed one below:
In the Presence of Thy Sanctity
As I sit down before Thy sacred shrine,
Your stillness-peace within I feel.
Grace points me to an inner thrill,
I know the effort is not mine.
Around me all is calm, serene,
Your spirit percolates my being.
Before I even think of Thee,
Thy bliss is flowing ever free.
Your love is sanctimonious, keen,
So selfless for a wretch like me,
When all I have done is enter in,
The presence of Thy sanctuary.
The point here is to show that the divine poet, whether he is conscious or not conscious of the Supreme, writes primarily from a Higher inspiration flowing through his soul, heart, mind, vital and finally fingers and pen in order to be dynamically used to an esoteric or psychic flow. Thus Sri Chinmoy, with his direct inner vision, does infinitely better than I can, and so I would finish this writing with a poem of his which illustrates fully - in my view - the soul of the inspired poet as well as the poet with direct perception of life's inner transcendental beauty.
O Light of the Supreme
by Sri Chinmoy
O Beauty non-pareil, O Beloved,
Do burn the fire of beauty and splendour
Within my heart.
By loving You, eternally beautiful I shall be.
May Lord Shiva's destruction-dance
Destroy all shackles of the finite.
May the light of the Supreme inundate me,
My heart, my heart, my all.
Having loved the Infinite,
The heart of gloom is crying
For the bloom of Light
O life infinite, give me the eternal hunger
The tiniest drop will lose it's raison d'etre
In the heart of the boundless ocean.
In fire and air Your life of the Spirit I behold.