Sport & Meditation is a compilation of the advice given by Sri Chinmoy about both over the years.
I bought it when i attended the week of free meditation classes given by the Sri Chinmoy centre in Dublin recently. I’ve spoken of my delight to encounter a spiritual guru who was also a huge fan of running, weight-lifting, tennis and all exercise. Initial impressions are that we were made for each other. As whenever i discover an potentially important influence on my life as this stage in that life, i always wonder – how have i not encountered them before. The guides at the Sri Chinmoy centre are fond of repeating the Indian saying – ‘when the student is ready, the master appears’ – and so it may be.
Sri Chinmoy was born in East Bengal, an area of the world apparently especially blessed with spiritual guides, and moved to the United States in 1964 to teach people about meditation and the spiritual life.
Sri Chinmoy says, “Sport has a secret. It can become an open door to your unimaginable inner potential. Meditation is an adventerous journey to your unlimited source. With a focused mind, calm emotions and the right attitude, the intensity, the flow and the joy experienced in sport can become meditation”. He also believed that meditation, and running with a meditative mind, can help you exceed your limited physical abilities and transacend your previous achievments – what’s not to like?
Sri Chinmoy introduced the Annual Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, of which the 20th anniversary occurs this year. It is called, appropriately enough, ‘The Mount Everest of ultramarathons‘ by The New York Times. It is the longest certified footrace in the world. Athletes must average 59.6 miles per day- for 52 straight days – in order to reach 3100 miles. They must run these miles in an 18-hour daily format in a city neighbourhood setting along concrete sidewalks. The Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team websits states, “The physical and psychological demands are prodigious, if not overwhelming.”
The race is based on the ‘self-transcendence’ cornerstone of Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy. The website records that Sri Chimoy stated, “The supreme secret or goal will be to transcend our own capacities. We will not try to defeat others. We will try only to constantly transcend ourselves. We must try to develop universal goodwill. When transcending ourselves, we will not fight with ourselves.”
When i first started running, having suffered from chronic fatigue illnesses for many years, i believed that if i could just run 4k then i could consider myself fit. Within a year or two, the 4k races were replaced with 5ks, in particular the spectacular parkruns and, by that time, i had progressed to that distance. My fitness aim was ‘to be able to run a 5k anytime, anyplace’. I have written about the couple of 10ks i subsequently ran, and in particular, my first ever, ‘1454 RUNNING MY FIRST EVER 10K – ANALYZING THE SYMBOLIC’. i have since ran my first ever half-marathon and signed up the Dublin City 2016 marathon – but that’s a story for another day.
A description and discussion of Sri Chinmoy’s magical book is also a topic for another day – time is not my friend today.
But here’s the inspiration, here’s perhaps the most important message i received from his book and from the meditation classes i’ve attended to date – it deals with both fitness and enlightenment – how awesome is that.
I’ve been thinking about what percentage of the population runs and exercises and, in particular, what percentage of different age groups and i hope to write more about that in the future. I’ve mentioned above how when i started running i hoped to be able to run 5k and assumed that when i could i ‘WOULD BE FIT’ – little did i know, although it was a step in the right direction.
So here’s the thing, consider the entire population, say of a fairly sedentary, rather overweight country such as my own, Ireland, and think about the small percentage of adults who run and exercise and who, for example, run a 5k every week or so. Maybe two thousand in Dublin city out of a population of some 800,000 adults – these are rough estimates for the numerical amongst you; 0.25 percent, i.e. a quarter of 1%. To my knowledge there has been at least one Dublin person who ran the 3,100 mile organised by Sri Chinmoy, perhaps there have been two or three, but that is the order of it.
Lets compare that to spiritual development, to attaining enlightenment in our lifetime. Over 99% don’t particularly care or make a token effort now and again. A small percentage, like me, aspire and train to running a 5k believing that that ability would represent the summit of running. Another, smaller percentage, know that there is more and aspire and train hard to achieve it and these number amongst themselves, the 10kers, the half-marathoners, the marathoners, the ultramarathoners, and beyond. One or two in the population recognise that the pinnicle is at least running 3,100 miles and aspire and train for that. Is this a valid comparison for our aspirations and attempts to develop spirituality?
If it is, then one of the debts that we owe Sri Chinmoy is that he showed us that there is much much more and, most importantly, that this is achievable. Let us all aspire and train to fulfill our potential. I look forward to the day when i regularly bump into fit enlightened persons as i wander the streets of Dublin and the rest of the world.
Aim high my friends