Monday, July 7, 2008

Running and Meditation

I am not the kind of person that would normally go and meditate. It seems like something a monk would do, not a runner. But over the last couple of weeks I've been turning more to cleaning my inner self. I don't know, that sounds weird, "cleaning my inner self?!" Come on Anton, what are you thinking? Well I grew up pretty religious, always going to church. I even devoted two years of my life serving a full time mission for my church. But over the last year or so, I've been struggling to keep up my spirituality. I've started reading scriptures everyday. I'm not perfect, and nobody is, but that is the first step I guess in becoming more religious again.

A week or so ago I found out about a race that is 3100 miles long. It is called the Self Transcendence 3100. It is in honor of Sri Chinmoy. He started it seven or eight years ago and he just died last year. He was a spiritual leader that was also very athletic. He taught that running was an excellent form of meditation. I started thinking about it and it is so true. When I run I am able to either clear my mind and think about nothing, or I am able to ponder a question or problem that I have.

I think of scriptural prophets who fast and pray to know the truth of something and I am able to liken that to me just a little bit. I don't fast very often or very faithfully, but I run a lot and I am able to ponder life's problems while I run. Two of the few times in my life that I have been overwhelmed with emotion were at the end of both of my previous marathons. I can't really explain it, but when your body is so exhausted and broken down, it is just hard to hold in any emotions. It is an experience like none other to cross the finish line of your first marathon. I hope it will be a similar experience when I cross the finish line of my first 50.

Here are two excerpts from Sri Chinmoy's website. "Sri Chinmoy believed that a balanced lifestyle fosters harmony and inner peace. His integral approach to life encourages physical fitness and sports as a vehicle for personal transformation."

"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 says. "There is an inner life; there is spirit."

Sri Chinmoy is not of my faith and he has probably taught many things that I would disagree with, but I agree with him on this. We can draw upon the strength of our inner selves. I, being christian, believe this power to be the Holy Ghost helping us out when we need it.

Now, I don't mean for this post to be a religious sermon or anything. I've just been thinking a lot when I run. It a way I feel like I am wasting time when I run. I could be spending time with my wife and kids, or reading and studying, or cleaning the house, or whatever else. But then I realize that I wouldn't be doing anything else anyway. I've been pretty lazy lately. If you take out running from my life I really have done absolutely nothing for the last few months. Well, anyway, I have started to listen to talks and books as opposed to music. I'll still listen to music, but I'll be listening a lot more to books and religious talks and stuff.

This morning I listened to half of Hamlet. I'm pretty sure I've seen it before, I may have even read it. This morning though it was different. I was able to mostly pay attention to it and enjoy it. It really struck me this morning when Lord Polonius was giving this speech to his son Laertes giving him words of counsel. Among other things he said:

"This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."

I know this is one of the famous lines from Hamlet, but I like it. I also like the other line, even more famous. I've heard it thousands of times before, but now I realize that there is more meaning behind just the words "to be, or not to be." Hamlet starts his speech with this:

"To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;"

I think we all go through different stages in life. We struggle from day to day. It is hard for us to imagine any good coming into our lives in the next day, week, month or even year. But "to be" is much better than "not to be." For, if we seek for God and the truth in our lives, then there is always something better to look forward to. There are other times in our lives when nothing can stop us and we feel like life is great. It is during those times that we can not turn our backs on God, or he just might turn his back on us.

Well, I think this post is long enough. Maybe next time I'll tell you all to repent or your going to go to hell. Probably not though, that's not like me. Enjoy!


Donald said...

Runners' World did an article about that event a couple of years ago. I appreciate the whole mind over matter aspect of the run, but I can honestly say that it doesn't appeal to me one single bit. Luckily, a very similar serenity can be found with ultras of much shorter distances.

Adrian said...

Hi Anton, nice to know that I'm not the only returned missionary that has let my spirituality slide. :) I totally understand what you mean- I find that sort of mind space after doing yoga. So nice to be able to quiet your mind!

Thayne said...

Good work -sounds like you and I think alike. I'll take you onto the AF Canyon trails and you won't have time to ponder too much - if you do, you fall. I find myself clearing my mind completely while running - and that's the beauty, because then the small and powerful life changing thoughts can be heard.

Just run.