Running in the spiritual life


On October 2, 2017 20 members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre in Seattle in various fashion ran ten miles to celebrate the 40 Anniversary of the first public race sponsored by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team (SCMT).  The Marathon Team was founded by Sri Chinmoy, the noted artist, poet, musician athlete and spiritual figure both to encourage his students to increase their physical fitness as an aid to their mediation practice, and to offer sports events and a new kind of service to the running community.

The first public race hosted by the Marathon Team was the Sri Chinmoy 10 Mile Race in Connecticut on October 2, 1977.  About 50 runners participated in this race.  Under the direct guidance of Sri Chinmoy, himself a decathlete champion in his youth at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, the running races of the SCMT evolved to a structure of one to two mile loops with the goal to provide maximum support and encouragement to the runners.  Very quickly the schedule of events grew so that in a few years time the Marathon Team was sponsoring marathons, 13 mile, 10 mile and 5 mile events as well as a 24 hour race.  By 1985 multiday events were added on an annual schedule as well as triathlons, and ultra long distances such as the 1,000 and 1,300 mile races…oh, and weekly 2 milers for the rest of us!  The theme of the races followed Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy of “self-transcendence”—that by going beyond one’s self perceived limits one can discover new sources of energy and capacity that can give us real life satisfaction.  He says about the nature of competition that we do not compete to defeat others but to bring to the fore our own best qualities, and surpass our previous accomplishments. .He commented

“Our best capacity comes forward only when there are other people around us.  They inspire us to bring forward our utmost capacity, and we inspire them to bring forward their utmost capacity.  This is why we have competitive sports.” 

— Sri Chinmoy, The body: humanity’s fortress, 1974

Back to the anniversary run…we all have jobs requiring different hours to be at work, so some race the day before October 2 and some the day after—early mornings, evenings and even in the dark with headlamps.  The two mile loop we ran offered additional inspiration to us as the trail passes before the bronze statue of Sri Chinmoy, entitled “Sri Chinmoy, Dreamer of Peace”.  The statue was dedicated in 2010, 3 years after his passing, and it honors his lifelong work for peace, athletics being one expression.  The statue conveys a peaceful smile and the two arms lightly hold and offer to visitors to take hold of the Oneness-Home Peace Run Torch to pause for a moment of silent reflection and offer their heartfelt prayers for peace.  On the trail bicycles and runners pass by just a few feet before the statue, while on the far side ships and rowers glide quietly past on the Ship Canal which connects our fresh water lakes with the ocean.  Stopping here after a run or during a quiet moment, it is as if the visage of the statue is smiling its approval of the dynamic nature and pioneer visage of our region.

Most of us doing this anniversary run had learned of Sri Chinmoy as we were seeking guidance in the discipline of meditation.  Or maybe we were searching for a sense of inner peace, or a feeling of being grounded and a sense of purpose and gratitude in our life.  Little did we know that  along with setting up a daily meditation practice we would be helping to set up races, preparing food for the runners, counting runners laps throughout the day—sometimes at night at 24-hour and multi-day events…and even more surprising still, finding ourselves training and succeeding at marathons, triathlons and ultra marathon races!  These events now seem like a natural progression for our lives as seekers, trying to discover our lives’ Truth, and they were not accomplished instantly.  No, our running careers started out one mile at a time, gradually building up, incrementally, our strength, fortitude and patience..  These physical undertakings along with the aspiration within our meditation practice brought to the fore a gradual understanding of the power we can access when mind/body/spirit work together to face challenges.    Oh, the JOY to discover a new part within yourself that can be dynamic, disciplined and poised!  Mixed with a fair share of sweat, sore muscles and running shoes.

Gratitude for the 40 years, Sri Chinmoy, and may we all inspire each other to keep walking, running, biking and swimming in this game called life!

Daulot & Stota Fountain