A Season of Contemplation – Adult Athletes

Everyday I work out 1 1/2 to 2 or more hours. On the weekend it could be 4 or 5 hours. I am holding the line on weight gain but I still have the oddly gangly body of a 50 something. My abs are rock hard, but I don\’t have the sleek concave flatness of a 20 something. I go in running races from time to time, but I am not fast.

What does it mean to be an older athlete; especially a non-elite level performer? I was thinking about this as I jogged on the tread mill this morning. I know people think life should be a balanced affair with exercise being of hobby status. People might say that being an athlete is not really having a meaningful life; but raising kids or having a career or helping others is. Being an athlete is my life, my ethos, my essence.

I think that everything is a spiritual path. The meaning in my life comes from what is in my mind, not what I am actually doing. It is in the mental and spiritual realm that my life comes forth. It is in the spiritual and mental context that being an older athlete steps up to the spiritual plate and hits home runs out of the ball park of ordinary life.

Life comes from the determination with which it is lived. If nothing else, the middle aged adult who devotes extensive amounts of time to cardio exercise and weight lifting and diet is unimaginably determined. The quality of determination is the life force itself, a theophany, a manifestation of soul and spirit. The life force is the blood and guts of a marathon completed in the hot sun three and a half hours after the winner. The life force is the eight pound dumbbell lifted by a sinuous bone with dried skin hanging in an empty fold. The life force is the abstinence from donuts in favor of the green smoothie.

\”Ugh,\” says the sedentary middle aged peer, \”How can you drink that green stuff?\” I look at them. Their cause is hopeless. The smoothie is nectar of the Gods and they will never know that because it is green. \”Did you run this weekend,\” they ask? What they mean is did I race. I run all the time. Even if I did race, I might not mention it. The meaning of endurance and determination in the character of an older runner is unfathomable to them. They just think all this running is stupid. They never exercised beyond school sports and then only for the sake of winning.

Winning and making a name for your ego is the smallest and most shallow part of the older athlete\’s ethos. Yet the age group award or some type of qualification is all that is understood by the sedentary middle aged peer. My life is lived at the level of the life force, soul, spirit. It is not lived at the level of donuts or career advancement or the kid\’s soccer game. I am in the game myself. Cigarettes and beer in a bar seem the most ludicrous way to spend time. Laying on a couch watching TV is nonsense. Lets go for another 3 hour run. Lets go do situps. Lets be alive!

I seem unable to give up my satisfaction of the life force\’s call to be alive. I was at it again at 4 this morning.

A Season of Contemplation – Peace

It is easy to mistake peace. Silence is hard to cherish because we think it is a failure mode, unloving or unloved. I mean, if we were successful and loved, wouldn\’t we be busy instead of in silent peace? We think something has gone wrong because peace has no attractive (addictive) emotions or adoring minions; nothing to sell books.

To be at peace is to be in love. Love, light, peace and truth are one in silence. This can be known. It is the end of egotism and material illusions.

A Season of Contemplation – Pain

Pain

The extrovert says to the solitary, “Come to our party. Get out of yourself.” The solitary goes to the party, listens to chatter, watches people eat and drink and disappear into private carnal sharing. The solitary goes home to solitude and seeks that inner peace.

Humans are in pain and most of our activities are coverings for the pain. Pain is found behind the building of big houses, having business conquests, going in more and greater running races, being devout in religion and taking the kids to soccer games. The introvert is likely to notice the pain behind social interaction, be conscious of it and retreat from the distraction. Pain is an uncovered and conscious reality for the solitary. The purpose of spirituality is to heal the pain at its root; not by ignoring it in social interaction.

My pain is healed when I connect to my soul. My soul is within and the pain is in fact the disconnection from this inner light. My spiritual work and my athletic work are meant to bring about my joining with my soul and the healing therein. My job, as I see it, is to let the pin surface and turn inward to the peace. As I maintain inner peace, it opens a door for light. I project this light into the world. That is it, nothing more. Peace and light is my truth and who I am.

A Season of Contemplation – Introversion

Yesterday evening I was thinking of my life as a solitary, my experiment in social disorder, dis-integration. Is it a dilemma that I ended up as anti-social? Society acknowledges introverts, but expects introverts to put their feelings aside and get involved anyway. But, I am an introvert who decided to go down the natural path of who I am: stop participating in society.

In silence, I ponder the characteristics of my condition and my thoughts. Looking within, I see that there is nothing. I am a nobody. Without relationships, there is nothing I can call my personality. But that nothingness is also the answer. The inner nothingness is silence. Silence is in everyone and silence is the essence of reality beyond the material world. Silence is eternity. Silence is light and love and joy and peace. Life itself is silent. All higher values are silent. Integrity is quiet. Honesty need not speak. Commitment is ineffable. Not a word need be spoken. Nothing need be done.

Maintaining mental peace is essential; a truly worthy life achievement.

I ran 20 miles yesterday morning and lifted weights in the evening. Today, I worked out on the ex-bike and treadmill for 2 hours and then went to run 8 miles. I hope to do a core workout this evening. I got my hair cut really short: no waiting today.

A Season of Contemplation – Rainey Friday

So let us get clear: my goal is to experience another plane reality; one different than the ordinary material one experienced by most people. My goal is to move to an extreme of the continuum; and see the heavenly lights. Mystics and metaphysicians, monks and witches, have all told us of other planes of reality. Even Jesus lived in another world.

I wasn’t born in Tibet as a man who could enter a Buddhist monastery. I wasn’t born in India with access to a guru or a yogi who could teach me his secrets. I don’t have access to a Sufi. I am an American woman, living in a mid-western city, who was raised without one shred of spirituality. But in the course of my life, I became determined to attain “enlightenment.” Given the circumstances of my life, I totally believe that God has provided the means.

Currently, I am a process safety engineer in the pesticide and herbicide business. My job is to help keep the nasties inside the plant. You can see, I am not engaged in any sort of touchy feely new age career. I am single and daily becoming less and less a participant in the social life around me. One way I hope to attain knowledge of another plane of reality is to stop participating in the ordinary one. Thus, I provide space in time and thought for “something else.” I don’t spend my thinking time on family or religion or TV or eating or sex. I spend it on contemplation. I am a physical fitness fanatic and long distance runner. As an extremely fit and slightly underweight 51 year old, I am living in a body which is distinctly outside the norms of my peer group and society in general. I am a student of A Course in Miracles. Through the Course, I hope to re-program my thinking in such a way that I remember God.

The reality of God is the reality I seek. I totally believe that a God of love would not be inaccessible or unremembered. I totally believe that it is human ego programming which takes us out of a reality of love and deludes us into thinking the material reality is real.

I got up this morning at 3:35 and spent an hour on spiritual study. This morning, I pondered several passages from the text for The Course:

“The world you see is the delusional system of those made mad by guilt…Adam\’s \”sin\” could have touched no one, had he not believed it was the Father Who drove him out of paradise. For in that belief the knowledge of the Father was lost, since only those who do not understand Him could believe it. (ch 13)

This world is a picture of the crucifixion of God\’s Son. And until you realize that God\’s Son cannot be crucified, this is the world you will see. Yet you will not realize this until you accept the eternal fact that God\’s Son is not guilty. He deserves only love because he has given only love. (ch 17)

It is still up to you to choose to join with truth or with illusion. But remember that to choose one is to let the other go. Which one you choose you will endow with beauty and reality, because the choice depends on which you value more. The spark of beauty or the veil of ugliness, the real world or the world of guilt and fear, truth or illusion, freedom or slavery – it is all the same. For you can never choose except between God and the ego. (ch 17)

Only the Thoughts of God are true. (ch 17)

Every special relationship you have made has, as its fundamental purpose, the aim of occupying your mind so completely that you will not hear the call of truth. (ch 17)

The holy instant is a miniature of Heaven, sent you from Heaven. It is a picture, too, set in a frame. Yet if you accept this gift you will not see the frame at all, because the gift can only be accepted through your willingness to focus all your attention on the picture. The holy instant is a miniature of eternity. It is a picture of timelessness, set in a frame of time. If you focus on the picture, you will realize that it was only the frame that made you think it was a picture. Without the frame, the picture is seen as what it represents. For as the whole thought system of the ego lies in its gifts, so the whole of Heaven lies in this instant, borrowed from eternity and set in time for you. (ch 17)”

My spiritual pondering continued for another hour and a half as I did my workout. This morning, I did my workout on machines. Yes, it was pouring rain. But also, I am working on strength using the ex-bike. The treadmill is somewhat softer on my legs than road running and I welcomed a long but non-damaging workout.

I could see myself being more interested in fitness than the glories of racing accomplishments. I have no goals and my running is divorced from grandiosity. I am attempting to use running as a spiritual tool.

My contemplation today at work is on defining critical operating parameters. It seems that I am the only one at the site to understand what these are. So I have been pulled off all other work and assigned to defining critical operating parameters for all of our processes.

This weekend, I will continue my experiment in solitude. In solitude, I cannot hide from the blackness within. There are no distractions from who and what I think I am combined with The Voice which tells me the truth of my Being.

Solitary Reflection

I am faced with an evidently useless life. Solitude can do that to you unless you engage in some holy activity like prayer or scripture reading (and these people are fooling themselves). I am allowing myself to be nothing and facing the truth that no amount of accomplishment or achievement fixes the futility of human life. Not being a stellar employee or business woman. Not having children which are brain surgeons or astronauts. Not being an astronaut or brain surgeon. Not being a monastic. Not attending Eucharist. Not an elite runner.

I run alot and I qualified for Boston with a 3:57 time. But I eschew the Boston marathon as a group specialness experience. What do they do as soon as they get there? Buy the jacket. Why? So they can prance around and brag about running Boston. Big deal! In the marathon I ran last weekend, the top three women in my age category (50-55) finished in 3:30 to 3:45. Now that is impressive. My Boston qualifying time means nothing compared with a 50 something who can run 26 miles in 3 and a half hours.

I am and I am not. I have eschewed ordinary human life. I have not transcended it or made my self into anything. I have discovered I am nothing and my vow is to face this dirty secret behind all human lives. None of us are anything. The result is to just get along. No big deal.

When I was in religious formation in a Roman Catholic monastic contemplative order, I learned how special vowed religious were both to the Church and to God. The monastic profession made a person special, irrevocably different. I bought this dogma hook line and sinker. I wanted to be special to God more than anything in the world. I hung in there for three full years.

Then on an 8 day silent retreat, I had a dream. The dream told me that love was the predominant mode of existence. I was kicked out of the monastery the next day. A day later I was hustled away with a box of clothes and an incensed ego.

In the past 7 years I have continually diminished in status and notoriety. I discovered the secret. I don\’t mean anything. There is some life force within me that probably does mean something but since it does not speak, it cannot help the poor human ego and its quest for specialness.

What am I trying to say? Why have I written this? Just an expression of my thinking. The solitary must face that inner emptiness. I look at it. I stare into the abyss. I seek the peace of utter quiet. I will not yet run away from this journey.

Exodus

This is a picture of me somewhere on the course of the Olathe marathon last Saturday.
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My thought today from my early morning run: Exodus, exiting from slavery to freedom. That is the point: migration from one state of being to another one. And that is my life\’s plan.

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A Course in Miracles is a guidebook to exodus: from the ego reality to the real world. Running is an exodus: from sedentary prison to freedom.
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I am leaving society bit by bit. Each bit that I break away from the ego goes off into the desert for further purfication, and eventually crosses the Jordan into the real world.
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I know there is a larger consciousness. I intend to migrate my thinking from the ego consciousness to the larger one. I do this by a) denying the ego any reality or power or truth; and b) by sitting quietly with an open mind listening to the higher Voice of God. In my migration, I take my mind and I sit, bodiless, on a small white cloud in a world of light. There, on my cloud, I am able to be quiet. I am in the presence of that higher consciousness; yet it is quiet. I just do this. I don\’t know where it will lead, but it is certainly not of the ego world.
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I visited with my trainer today. She is the closest thing to a spiritual guide I have. She gave me some new exercises and a method to build speed muscles without doing running intervals. Sweet!
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It is the weekend. I spend the weekend alone, running, doing work work, getting groceries, reading, meditating and reflecting. The solitude is time in the desert. It is part of the migration.

Marathon Metaphor and Metaphysics

I went in a marathon race yesterday. I ran very consistently at 10 minute miles with a couple of pit stops so my overall time was 4:24.

This morning the marathon experience wandered into my spiritual study. I wanted to invite God into the picture as this race was really not an ego inflating experience. So I ask the Holy Spirit, “What for?”

The marathon experience is symbolic of my life ethos and journey away from metaphysically unconscious masses and into an enduring solitude of spirit. Instead of chattering away life in a mirage of weddings, soccer games, TV shows and overeating, I choose the silent reflection, listening to the spiritual song, quietly doing my spiritual work. You might say, “In the world but not of it.” As time goes on, I find that the substance of my life is truly on a different experiential page. I am dedicated to being a spirit. In so far as any other person notices me, I have taught them about spirit.

So to have God instead of ego, I need to look for God. On one level, the marathon experience was totally annoying because of the tons of people and the way they hindered my running. This annoyance is the ego’s material world. But if I remain with that outlook then I have chosen to accept the ego’s story and deny the presence of God. I actively chose now to deny ego and look for God.

To find God, I look for love. Love was in the volunteers; so easily missed. Love was in the families cheering on the sidelines; including the three year old kid who high fived me. He didn’t care if I was actually his sister. Love was in a friend I met up with who is also an ultra-marathoner. It was a brief oasis. Yes, the ultra-marathoners are sometimes mixed up in the maddening crowds of half-marathoners and marathoners. Love was in the runners attempting to run farther than they had before; even if that was only a half marathon. Love was in the many people who were sweating; although I thought it was somewhat cool and hardly sweated a drop. Love was in the marathoners who hit the wall and were reduced to slow shuffles for the last 5 miles; but they persevered.

I spent the first 9 miles or so attempting to position myself away from crowds of people running together. That behavior is symbolic of my life where I have passed into and out of various groups but then left them as their speed or destination was not mine. At 11 miles, the course splits. Half marathoners are directed off the course. In these races, less than one in ten runners is a full marathoner. I am running next to another woman at this point, but I don’t know what race she is in. A volunteer points and her and says, “Half marathoners to the right.” He points at me and says, “Full marathoners to the left.” The woman looks at me and says, “Good luck full marathoner.” Ummm, this comment struck my heart like an arrow.

Thus I am sent off on the road less travelled. Surprisingly, it is this part of the course which is on a bike path away from roads and is the most beautiful. As time goes on, I pass more and more people who have hit the wall and become strugglers in sweat, heat and pain. I breeze past them and eventually, by the finish, I am totally alone. I can’t see anyone in front of me or behind me. I wonder if I am off course even though I ran this course last year. A photographer is my touch stone that this must be the right way. I have accomplished the journey away from crowds and into solitude. I am in the experience of myself, alone with my own inner energy and life force unrelentingly pushing me forward. This experience of the unrelenting life force is my experience of spirituality, which moves forward everyday and never lays about in bed. The journey from crowds to solitude is a metaphor. I started my spiritual journey in the religion of the masses but my dedication to spiritual truth led me beyond them. The choice to see this experience as spiritual instead of annoyance is the choice for metaphysics instead of the material as the predominant mode of my being.

Today, no serious injuries happened so I will go off now for a short run.

A Season of Contemplation – Silence

Today is a day of silence. It is a silence which I have placed before motion, a pre-monition. I decided to take 2 days off running because I have signed up for a marathon race on Saturday. When I signed up, I thought I\’d do the race as a long run with chip timing. But the weather is perfect. Do you know how rare a perfect day is? So, I decided to rest up and let a few nagging pains subside. That way, if I feel like \”racing\” I can do so without fear of injury.

So, I had extra time for spirituality this morning. I find, after 2 1/2 years of study of a Course in Miracles that I am getting good at denying my ego\’s voice and listening to the Voice for God. In the denial of the ego voice, I find a great deal of inner peace, which is silent.

This morning, in the ACIM test (ch 10) I read this: \”The miracle is the act of a Son of God who has laid aside all false gods, and calls on his brothers to do likewise. It is an act of faith, because it is the recognition that his brother can do it. It is a call to the Holy Spirit in his mind, a call that is strengthened by joining. Because the miracle worker has heard God’s Voice, he strengthens It in a sick brother by weakening his belief in sickness, which he does not share. The power of one mind can shine into another, because all the lamps of God were lit by the same spark. It is everywhere and it is eternal.\”

I liked it because in my skill at denying my ego\’s voice, I am letting go of idols and unifying with God. This leads in to my meditation on silence for which I started this blog:

Silence is truth because it is peace, nothing else. Silence is more real than this world. There are no idols in silence. Silence is allowing the balls to drop, allowing the illusions to fade. In silence, I drop my games and idols and projections; and step into the Silent Presence, Eternity, Love Alone, nothing else.

I no longer hate the people who have better, more successful idols than me. I contemplate: part of my brain (ego) interprets silence as failure rather than succeess. Part of my brain wants idols and fears silence. Without the hate, I see people as sparks of light, not as bodies doing things I don\’t like. What freedom to be able to immediately dismiss any ego opinions of others and just see light.

My value system is adjusting. I value the spiritual more than the material. I am willing to see my grievances as things my ego cherishes but which I am willing to give up. Now that is awesome. Yes, my grievances are not true. I only think they are true if I want them more than God. I get to choose whether to see others as enemies or friends; that is the gift of spiritual work and time in silence.

Running Free

I study A Course in Miracles because it gives me a way out of my ego and a way into God. It is something I can study and do. There are no impossibilities like: need to be ordained or need a guru or need to be a man or etc. etc.

I came away from my studies this morning with joy. I can run a marathon as spiritual grandeur instead of ego grandiosity, as spiritual blessing instead of ego competition, as spiritual magnificence instead of ego littleness, as an idea in the Mind of God instead of an ego delusion, as peace instead of attack. Each moment is a holy instant. Each person is my partner in holiness and the presence of the Holy Spirit. In this commitment to the truth of God, I achieve happiness.

Ha, as I type this out, I see it is my personal prayer of St Francis ala A Course in Miracles.