Sunday, March 28, 2010
Holy Week was always very hard in the monastery. The ritual is intense. The behavior of the nuns is intense. For a novice, the feeling of being left out of community was mentally destructive. I couldn't stand certain parts, but luckily, at the worst of times, I could go running and then hide from the community.
Religion is on my mind today. A week ago, I was invited to be thurifer for the Easter Vigil; the Triduum of 3 liturgical events. The thurifer is the person who serves the incense in the Roman Catholic Mass. Today, I bowed out of being thurifer. I did it because I didn’t even know today was Palm Sunday until I glanced through the new Magnificat (magazine of daily Mass readings). My thinking is outside religion and I don’t want to mix it in.
I am a runner, an employee and a solitary. I still grieve leaving the monastery. I guess I am doomed to always wish that had worked out. Is it really just being upset that I got kicked out? Is it the lack of official validation by a church authority? Do I still think I missed some spiritual boat which would have made my relationship with Jesus more special?
"True autonomy arises when we have broken free of all the old structures, all psychological dependencies, and all fear. Only then can that which is truly unique and fearless arise within us and begin to express itself." (Adyashanti)
Easter is for Christians who are believing of their religion. They believe that blessed palm fronds are different than all other palm fronds. It is a gross way to say it, but people who go to Easter services do believe that some sort of homage needs to be made to God. I should not get too involved with such people as I would have to play "when in Rome, do as the Romans," and be false to my own relationship with Jesus. My Jesus is everywhere, and equally present in every molecule, including every piece of shit.
Spirituality is my gig. Running is my gig. My ego is troubled; and I live with it's complaints about my rejection of it's desires. I seem to have been programmed to strive to be a worthwhile person. I was programmed by the likes of S. Covey that I should be leaving a legacy; that I need a legacy to be happy. I am leaving behind me a trail of nonsense and failure. My greatest accomplishments are nonsense: running and weight lifting, decades of meditation, reflection and spiritual study, non-standard diet, solitary un-involvement in social activities, many areas of ordinary life where I am not-participating. No I refuse to get fat and weak as the years go by. No I refuse to eat that junk you are eating. No I refuse to join your group. No I refuse to do what you are doing.
What is wrong with being just a runner? What is wrong with having a hidden dream of spiritual nonsense? Well, nothing except my ego is so damn uncomfortable with anonymity.
Last weekend, I ran 80 miles in 20 hours. By Tuesday, I was running again at almost normal pace with just a little pain in my right foot (the shoe did a number on the top of my right foot during the 80 mile run). I ran on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and today, Sunday. Today I ran 3 hours without any pain. Next weekend I have 3 days off and am planning a personal long distance event.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
In conjunction with the feeling of blessedness, my spiritual studies the past three days have focused very intensely on the presence of Jesus, and Jesus' promise to be with me. Very slowly, the light dawns (Jesus said "I am the light of the world"): that inner sense of blessedness could be the presence of light. It is not that I ran 80 miles, but that I did it with the presence of Christ. I went beyond my human limits because of a Higher Power.
Could the sense of blessedness be the dqwning of the awareness of Christ?
What I know about me is that I am a person who choses to believe in God and I believe I need God with me all day or I will kill myself. A Course in Miracles text says, "If you will accept the fact that I am with you, you are denying the world and accepting God. My will is His, and your decision to hear me is the decision to hear His Voice and abide in His Will." (8.IV.3.8) This morning, in my meditation, I agree that Christ, the light of the world, is my critical operating parameter.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
In 2006, I heard about the 3100 mile Self Transcendence race in New York City. A handful of runners run around a 0.5 mile block everyday for 16 hours until they complete the distance. A fifty something woman is the only one to have completed all 12 of these. I was captivated by the idea and began looking into ultramarathons. I have as of now completed several 50k events. The Aslinger event was the first 24 hour race.
Going in a race like this is a dream come true. Here I am actually at the starting line. The Race Director, Bryan, shakes my hand. I feel tears well up inside.
The race had about 50 starters, but numerous of them dropped out after 12 hours and a new bunch of runners joined the race for 12 hours. The race started at 7 pm, but I think the clock was a little early. There were 2 women runners (42 year old Angela and 51 year old me), and numerous women walkers (counted in above).
It was soon dark and we journeyed, mostly solo, thru the night. In the morning, I learned I had been running on “Optimist Drive” all night. What a hilarious joke from the Universe.
I mainly ran alone, not being matched in speed; and there was no “scenery.” After 4 or 5 hours into the race, the first pair of lap counters went home and two more came. These learned everyone’s name. And each lap I was greeted with a “Good job Laura.” I got to 50 miles at 6:40 am, 11:40 hours. On that lap, the girl said, “OMG! She’s at 50!” The RD Bryan was there and said, “Good job Laura.” Some girls who walked all night said, “Good job” every time I passed them. Bryan passed me a lot and said, “Good job Laura” every time.
Most of the men were from the St Louis Ultra Runners (SLUGS). A couple of the young guys were really fast, fast as Bryan.
Random scenes: A young black man dressed in Afro-Americana hip with a large costume diamond studded star hanging in the middle of his chest. A middle aged fat white guy on his gang banger Harley and actually flying the colors of a notorious gang. Buddies circle around to admire the bike. Arena park has an arena. It is a 4H arena and they were having a chicken show. I heard them announce showmanship class. I wonder what kids do in rooster showmanship. There was one car that couldn’t figure out the meaning of a barrier and drove right into the course in front of me (f’n go around, I think and maybe even mutter out loud to the open window and smoky dark inside as it passes me); and then the car had to dodge around several more cones to get back out. A doctor at the aid station asked (after an hour of running), “Doin’ ok?” I think, “Dipsh!t thinks I’m going to be in trouble now?”
The bathrooms were inside the 4H building, and very nice. Good thing as my bladder seemed to get full every hour.
Most of the first 45 miles, my brain was busy calculating paces and projecting that I’d get to 100 miles. Then, for two hours I seriously wondered why I was doing this race. Things were starting to hurt. There was not going to be any glory in the next 12 hours; just pain. I e-mailed my Canadian supporters (Runningmania.com) and I’m sure I received psychic energy. Anyway I just kept going. After 51 miles, I gave up the calculating. I thought about fueling. I’m glad I brought my own stuff. I didn’t even look at the food table during the night because I couldn’t see it. In the morning, I was looking for something to add to my own electrolyte supply (S-caps). I touched a white thing and found a potato. I dipped it in the salt. But they ran out of potatoes by 10 am. I also ate a couple of bananas.
On having passed the depression of 10 hours and come to the realization of being under 100 miles for 24 hours, what was there to think about? Mostly I repeated to myself the Course in Miracles lesson for the day, “I am sustained by the Love of God.” Some of the time I pondered what this meant, and stopped my calculating brain long enough to consider God’s sustenance. When it comes down to it, ultra marathoning is not about glory. Yes, your friends will be impressed and you can brag about your race later; but to you, it is the amazement of doing something you cannot do under your own will power.
At mile 75, I had been walking only. My blisters were not that bad, but my legs were no longer capable of running. They didn’t hurt exactly but felt fatigued and the knees were saying, “No, we refuse to take one more pounding.” I gave a victory arm raise for the lap counters, Bryan happened to be there again and said, “Good job Laura.” In the next two laps, I knew the end was near. My body was shot and continuing on my ruin it for a long time. I’m not willing to give up a summer of running for the sake of “I ran 24 hours” braggadocio. At mile 79, I asked the lap counter how many I had as I was thinking I’d quit right then. They said 79 and right then, Bryan comes running thru pushing a baby stroller and finishing 100 miles. I couldn’t quit amidst the hoopla, wouldn’t have been right. So I told the ladies I’d quit at 80.
After that I felt great. I felt happy and smart. I knew that I was following the guidance of my soul and not my ego. When I first signed up for this race, I was hoping to ego annihilation and Self transcendence. When I followed my soul, I had reached the moment I was looking for: the end of ego domination. During this boring-axx long-axx run, I had experienced ego deflation at depth. I am cleanly right sized and Self directed. That was my mission. Self transcendence was the definition of winning for me. I won!
What did I learn about myself? I am not a win at all cost person. Or my definition of winning is not what everyone else says. I quit at 80 miles because my body was shot and I had nothing to prove. In other words, I had won. For most others, the only way to win that race would be to stay for 24 hours, not quit at 20. The proof that I won was in the belt buckle.
So often we define winning in terms of meaningless numbers or artificial definitions of standards. Many people are unhappy with their running because it doesn’t meet some artificial definition like Boston Qualifier. Or people set a goal, 4 hour marathon, and then feel bad if they run a 4:02 marathon. I learned from my race that I am free of these standard measurements. When it is time for me to call it quits, I call it quits.
I eat to run, not run to eat, so a reward salad was nice. I slept for seven and a half hours like a rock. I woke up a 4 am but did not get up. I thought about my accomplishment of 80 miles and how happy I am that I knew when it was enough. Then I fell asleep and slept until 8:30. Standing up was a task, but after an hour in the hotel room, I could walk pretty good.
I know I don’t train enough to do a 100 mile race. I’m not sure I’ll ever do another 24 hour race; but at least two more ultras are on my radar for this year. I’m sure I’ll do many more marathons and continue to train 50 to 70 miles per week. I’ll continue to work on weight control and the perfect abdomen. I don’t have a need to do more or better or faster. My running is in the daily ups and down of the hills of Riverside.
Getting on the freeway, I teared up again. It had been quite a journey. 80 miles is a lot; more than I can imagine. I think I’ll do it again next year. Now, for the long drive home….the long drive home….
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
For now, stillness reigns. The ethos of the athlete enters the rare zone of pure mentality.
Spirit Flower stands at the gates of the dreamed of reality. Awash in silence. Embraced by the awareness of the holy. Journey over. Journey yet to begin.
Spirit Flower, why did you come here? Who do you think you are? What have you come with?
Spirit Flower stands alone in her truth, refusing to waiver, steely green eyed gaze. For nothing. Being nothing. With nothing.
The energy of honest naked magnificence builds a bridge. The surety stands illuminated. Silent. Still. Stripped of identity, the athlete waits in holy communion for time to tick by.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
What I like: running, being an athlete, spiritual study (A Course in Miracles), green tea with soy milk, dieting and eating off the bell curve, my apartment, my Prius, and communion with my soul.
Things different about me: doing life as a solo, woman engineer always working with men, endurance, intelligence, not-going-along-ism, thinking, discipline, adaptability, my choice of fiction.
Features of my life: the levy where I run, fear of spiders, process safety, money, God and Jesus.
My life is devoid of: alcohol or mind altering drugs, friends, sex, potato chips, music, TV, voting, holidays, meat, medicine and disease, pets, property, social position, career advancement and religion.
God has been a problem since I was 22. Shortly thereafter, Jesus came into the picture. Jesus was not tossed immediately because he represented a potential promise: salvation. I don’t want salvation as it is explained in the Christian denomination: accept Jesus as Lord, be forgiven your sins and get into heaven when you die. I want salvation in different terms, like: enlightenment, transcendence or contemplatio. These terms are living things. These terms are for the now.
I deeply deeply want to escape from something I call this world or ordinary human outlook. I want something more; and I’ve been on a determined quest for the reality beyond for decades.
There is a series of doorways through which I’ve ventured. In each one, I found interesting things and useful tools, information, pain, disappointment and growth. Despite a long series of seeming failure, or at least only partial success, I seem to have a limitless supply of energy for the quest. Do I keep on? Or do I try to find something different?
I already did: dysfunctional family, world travel, therapy, alcoholism and recovery in AA, career, Harley Davidson, being a girl friend, fasting, meditation, cloistered monasticism. I reject status, titles and identifying logos.
My something different idea, my change to procedures, is to take an active role. I plan to be the conscious projector, and not be dissociated from my projections. I am going to dream the meaningful content and then perceive it materializing.
I have the tools and the energy. I’m not sure of my raw materials. I don’t think I have a blueprint, a design. Or perhaps I do have a design but I don’t understand it. Or perhaps everything needed is lying at my feet, but I am afraid of pain so I haven’t sat down with the instructions and really tried to understand them and put the pieces together.
As I wrote that last paragraph, I strongly thought that A Course in Miracles was the instructions and that I have been piecing things together. I’m just not done yet.
Different. I’ve got to be different than the unconscious people I see. I don’t want what the other people have. I want a unique pattern and I want to continue to evolve. I imagine the unlimited and endless possibility for life as an ego-less person. I can live a transcendent spirituality. I have truth, character, integrity and depth.
I am totally thrilled by long distance running and weight lifting; though I cannot explain its transcendental qualities to the non-runner. I cherish celibacy; though hardly anyone has any conception of what this means. The ascetic life is like water to a dehydrated person. A Course in Miracles is still my treasure trove, my secret box of gems. As I write this, I feel a piece of acceptance fall into place. I cannot share the things most important to me with others on the physical plane of reality; but what is wrong with having a secret way of perceiving?
I actually do dream of running forever…Taking the long way home…
Supertramp, “Take the Long Way Home”:
“Does it feel that your life's become a catastrophe?
Oooohh, it has to be for you to grow, boy.
When you look through the years and see what you could
have been oh, what might have been,
if you would had more time.
So, when the day comes to settle down,
Who's to blame if you're not around?
You took the long way home
You took the long way home
You took the long way home
You took the long way home
You took the long way home
You took the long way home
You took the long way home
You took the long way home
Long way home..
Long way home..
Long way home..”
- "To be in the Kingdom is merely to focus your full attention on it."
- "Reality is yours because you are reality. This is how having and being are ultimately reconciled, not in the Kingdom, but in your mind. The altar there is the only reality. The altar is perfectly clear in thought, because it is a reflection of perfect Thought."
- "God has lit your mind Himself, and keeps your mind lit by His Light because His Light is what your mind is."
And so I pause, close my eyes and listen to the silent light of God within. This pausing to connect with God is how I stay alive, how I stay sober, how I stay off anti-depressants, how I keep cool around others.
It is a little chilly and wet and windy outside, but I plan to head out for my long run soon.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
WB 41: “In the morning, as soon as you get up if possible, sit quietly for some three to five minutes, with your eyes closed. At the beginning of the practice period, repeat today's idea very slowly. Then make no effort to think of anything. Try, instead, to get a sense of turning inward, past all the idle thoughts of the world. Try to enter very deeply into your own mind, keeping it clear of any thoughts that might divert your attention.
From time to time, you may repeat the idea if you find it helpful. But most of all, try to sink down and inward, away from the world and all the foolish thoughts of the world. You are trying to reach past all these things. You are trying to leave appearances and approach reality.
It is quite possible to reach God. In fact it is very easy, because it is the most natural thing in the world. You might even say it is the only natural thing in the world. The way will open, if you believe that it is possible. “
WB 44: “God is the light in which you see. You are attempting to reach Him.
Begin the practice period by repeating today's idea with your eyes open, and close them slowly, repeating the idea several times more. Then try to sink into your mind, letting go every kind of interference and intrusion by quietly sinking past them. Your mind cannot be stopped in this unless you choose to stop it. It is merely taking its natural course. Try to observe your passing thoughts without involvement, and slip quietly by them.
While no particular approach is advocated for this form of exercise, what is needful is a sense of the importance of what you are doing; it’s inestimable value to you, and an awareness that you are attempting something very holy.”
I’ve been listening through the wall to my co-worker; who was on the phone several times this morning. He gets very heated when someone doesn’t agree with him.
As I finish my lunch (a couple of pieces of bread and hot tea), I decide to stop and think for a moment; reflect as it were, listening to the inner voice. What are the critical operating parameters for my life? What life process are they parameters for?
One critical operating parameter is spiritual sobriety. I thought about this a lot during my 90 minute run this morning. I don’t drink alcohol for spiritual reasons. One of the critical operating parameters for my spiritual life is physical sobriety. The decision to drink is an act of spiritual death. The presence of alcohol, subsequent to taking a drink, is actually a post-mortem on the spiritual death.
The decision to drink is not the only decision which causes spiritual death. I need to look within my own thought /belief system and see what thoughts are killing me spiritually. I look for thoughts which God would not have thought or placed in my mind. The non-God thoughts are mine. I am responsible for putting them there. They are killing me.
In 8 days, I will drive to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and participate in a 24 hour running event. I’m terribly curious to see what this experience will be like. How far I go and how long I stick with it are big question marks. Distance and time, symbolizing perseverance or enduring desire, have their parallels in the program of spiritual sobriety. The question for spiritual sobriety is “How bad do you want God?” Spiritual sobriety is a lonely business because hardly anybody wants to go to any lengths to know God intimately.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
The spiritual text I study is of dubious background. It comes NOT with any authorization. The denominational religious and the atheists both are aghast. They ask how I could be so dedicated to such unprovable and outlandish proposals.
Yet I am grateful that yesterday, I took an affirmative action in denying both the ego and the world. I decided that I was going to stop listening to the ego, especially as it attempts to defend or attack based on what others say. I decided to stop these thought attacks and listen only to the Voice of peace which I am able to hear whenever I stop for it.
So I reached a point of extreme buoyant happiness in gratitude for The Course. The Course has helped me with the continuously punishing inner beast, my ego. AND it gives me a way to look at the world which extends spirit into every person and situation I encounter. AND it gives me a way to connect with my hearts desire: that ineffable, intangible, higher order consciousness, present throughout the human mind. It goes by various names: Christ, Atman, Tao, Buddha, etc. It is much squabbled over by those who have never realized it. Those who have realized it merely watch and wait, speaking only to genuine listeners.
This weekend, I was challenged in my dedication by 3 different people. I am astounded at my own newly found confidence in my decision. Without anyone's approval and in the face of disapproval, I know what's best for me and I am doing it. Ultimately, it is my inner being which is deciding what I should study, how I should see things and what I should do. I stand on firm ground, strongly faithful to this inner quiet thinker.
I am the Christ woman. The Christ woman alone, lifting weights in the living room, is the Tao. The Christ woman, eating austere as a way of life, is the Sunnyasa renunciate. The Christ woman, running on the levy and nodding at the other runners, is part of a great Sangha community. The Christ woman at work is distributing aid to the poor. The Christ woman studying her text and reflecting is a deep listener. My life is founded on listening, nothing more.
Ye Ha! Go Girl! I am free!
Listening is my act of love and my way of loving Love. Selah.
Friday, March 5, 2010
That paltry faker, enlightenment, the fools gold of the new age, can be thrown in the dirt. I will take the abundance of Silence, the rich beauty of peace, the holy instant of eternal life.
The silent song of my soul gushes forth into that infinity of all; the eternity of an instant. I was there. I am here.
Who needs a mountain, a pristine wilderness, a forest, a private island. Here, wrapped in freeways and jet airplanes and other people's rap, I exist; and nothing more.
The footfalls of the runner slapped against the wet pavement. How far had the ghost of a woman come? Where was the shadow of a person going. The soul's sleight of hand never stops running.
My Course in Miracles lesson for the day is: My mind is part of God's. I am very holy.
This morning, I read in the ACIM Text (6.II):
- ...the Holy Spirit is in your mind...
- ...the peace of God lies in you...
- Each of us is the light of the world...
I need to pause and give these thoughts some consideration. How difficult it is to allow my mind to leave its worldly bondage and think of itself as in God.
The major spiritual practice of ACIM is forgiveness; expressed as looking beyond the worldly illusions and seeing everyone as one thought of God. As I think of today's lesson, I think it for or in the mind of everyone else. In this way, we are joined in my thoughts and the frightening illusion of the ego world loses its grip.
When I go out into the world, I face others. Relationships are like hot stoves to me. I seem to always get burned, yet I go out each day and attempt to get along. My help is in the thoughts which ACIM gives me and the practice of forgiveness.
What a difficult time I have achieving peace in solitary confinement. I feel my fears and the judgment of the world. What good am I alone in a spiritual cocoon with spiritual texts and meditation? What good is it really that my professional work is praised?
My soul is forlorn, like a leaf blowing along a sidewalk, underneath the ego's punishing attacks. My soul is eager, like the first song bird to awaken the morning. Sometimes my soul is a wet cool fog; or sometimes an unseen humid swelter.
I run down a road in pre-dawn darkness under a full moon. My identity is lost in my unseen passing. A ghost of a woman, I am the soul's sleight of hand.
Running expresses what cannot be explained.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Yesterday, I was visiting with the lady who did my taxes this year. I picked her because I know she is experienced and knows what she is doing. I worked as a preparer in the same office for one year and that is how I met her. But, then I met her at church. So yesterday as we were chatting, she changed the subject to church. She knows me as Catholic. I pretended to be what she thought because it didn't seem necessary to ruffle her up.
I do this alot: hide behind identities. Identities are my safety shield because I am afraid of recriminations. That is, as long as people think I am one of them, they treat me favorably; but if they think I am strange, they treat me another way. The insiders get the privileges. Can you see that I accept privileges rather than be true to myself? How sickening?
First, what I see in the world is my projection and my decision. I am responsible for the world I see. Second, I cheat myself when I do not be myself. Third, I must be afraid of who I am.
These statements are huge. They provide a good touchstone for contemplation. I need to change my projections by changing my thoughts. I need to look inside and see who is really there and be that. The identities are my ego protective devices. Hence, I can't use my ego consicousness to correct the problem. I need spiritual help. I need to use a higher consciousness. The consciousness which is not ego is in me. If I give that consciousness a space to speak, it will.
I begin merely by sitting quietly and listening with non-ears to non-words which flow continuously from that spirit who I really am.