This isn’t about an ultra. It’s not even entirely about running. But it helps me recall attitudes that help me get through any race. – G.B.
I ran the Bidwell Classic half-marathon in Chico this morning, four weeks after the half-marathon at the Davis Stampede.
It was a very different experience. After the race at Davis, I felt ashamed for having run too fast and finishing in a brutal, heartless excess of will. I got swept away by a desire to pass “just one more runner.” It was a useful experience, but not one I’d care to repeat.
I was determined to run today’s race more sanely, so I started slowly, which was hard, because even the 60-year-olds passed me.
I tried throughout the race to tune in to Yogananda’s guidance in the moment. I prayed for X, who doesn’t like me, and felt my heart open. There’s such overcoming power in that. She or anyone else can’t touch me when I feel God’s love.
I got the idea of not passing anyone unless I prayed for them. At Davis I simply hadn’t been able to pray for anyone–I’d been completel absorbed in beating them. As a result, I finished feeling self-absorbed, alone. It was awful. I felt no connection with anyone.
It was wonderful to pray for the other runners I passed, pouring into my prayers all the energy and enthusiasm that gets awakened in a long run. I also sent them supportive thoughts, like “That man looks like he has a lot of heart quality.” “That guy looks very reliable.” And then “Master, bless that soul. Give him (or her) the wisdom to make the decisions in his life. Draw them forward on the path that leads to joy.” Or “Give that soul your great, generic blessings. Give that soul love for his/her heart. Give that soul wisdom and concentration for his/her mind and life. Pour out to that soul your great streams of golden joy.”
During the race this morning, I came back again and again to the thought of X and prayed sincerely and deeply for her. I visualized her, and after awhile I could feel Yogananda’s love flowing in my heart, very genuine and real. It’s quite interesting, this dimensionless love that flows out to a person from God through you when you pray for them with great intensity, and it’s God’s will that you do so. It’s a love that’s not particularized–“Well, I’ll now love their goodness as an efficient office worker, and now I’ll love them because they’re kind to dogs.” It just flows out all over them. Best of all, they just appear to your inner sight as completely lovable. When you can see that, there’s such a feeling of release. Release from the narrow, self-scarring thoughts of feeling hurt and wanting revenge.
Kriya Yoga helps tremendously with that, because it raises energy into the spiritual heart, which is incapable of holding hateful thoughts. (Kriya is described in Paramhansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi.)
Lahiri Mahasaya certainly had it right when he routinely addressed his disciple’s problems with the simple advice, “Do more Kriya.” But no meaningful victory is a piece of cake. I remember a close disciple of Yogananda’s, Gene Benvau, saying, “The spiritual path is very simple–but that doesn’t mean it’s easy!”