How Do You Know You Know?

Yesterday, I was pondering a bit about the results of my 30 years of seeking God and my commitment to continue.

This morning, during my spiritual workout, I realized that if I have even a glimmer of understanding that I live in an atmosphere of total love, then I know that I know God.

Then I went out for a run in fresh snow, 1h52min in 13F/10mph wind. It was glorious to be out there doing that. It can\’t be beat. So incredible.

After that, as I was getting ready for my shower, I flashed once again on the consciousness of love in which I live and have my being. My being is one with this love. I said thank you.


Maintaining the Spiritual Life

Why do people get involved with spirituality?

I began because I felt called by God. No really. In pretty much one day, I went from a person with no interest to a person who thought there might be something to the observed belief in God which I saw in others, plus a desire to know God myself. But that was 30 years ago.

What about now? I want to know God now because I want a consciousness which is not just hate and anger at other people. You do realize that most of us have no consciousness other than figuring out how to supply our own needs without too much bother from others. So if I am going to spend my time on spirituality, then the value I hope to get is a spiritual consciousness, a spiritual awareness which helps me see things differently.

It is hard to remain loyal to the spiritual life if you have no tangible proof that there even is a spirit. It is easier to remain loyal if you are involved in religion. I am sure that St Benedict knew this and that was why he had monasteries. In fact, as I was getting kicked out of the monastery, I was terribly afraid that I would lose Jesus if I left that protected environment.

In the monastery, and in church, we have religion, but not necessarily God.

So after 30 years, what do I have now? I asked myself this question as I was skiing on my Nordic Track this morning. This topic was on my mind because I realize that it is up to my to put the energy into a spiritual program or I won\’t have one. I have no proof of the existence of God. I don\’t even have a great testimonial. All I have is a driving urge which has lasted for 30 years; even without the monastery.

So after 30 years, what do I have now? I really do a great job getting along each day. People like and appreciate me. I feel good most of the time.

I make an effort to plan God time every day. I don\’t want bright lights. I don\’t want to be saved. I want God consciousness, which I do seem to have if I want it enough to both choose it and work on whatever-in-me-blocks it.

This blog is a very hum-drum account of my spiritual life. I think hum-drum is the best spiritual path because I know for sure my ego would not choose it.

Becoming Ultra

You might call me an ultra runner. I have run ultra marathons. But I consider myself just barely qualified for the designation. I probably never will run 100 miles. But as I have mentioned in the past, I fully intend to figure out how to reel 50 miles closer into my training envelope; so I can do them without total body destruction. I don\’t know if this is possible.

This weekend, starting with a 3 hour workout on Friday night, I ran 48.25 miles plus 2 hours of cross training. I spent 12.25 hours total. I did do some suspended crunches and planks and v-ups on the TRX also. I\’m hoping to increase the time cross training next weekend.

Today\’s run was on the levy. It was flat and windswept, so I ran on frozen gravel. Out and back 4 times. Just me and the geese. No other people. No turkeys. No deer. No cars.

As I was running I thought: in the entire world, there are very few actual ultra runners. There are very few women ultra runners. I happen to be one of them. Most people think I should stop pretending I\’m an athlete, and treat my career as the most important thing in my life. Or, stop running as much and do something more productive for society.

If it is not your thing, I can\’t really explain why spending most of the day on Saturday and Sunday running is a good or desirable activity. If it was hiking in beautiful mountains, you might understand. But no, my scenery is very boring. I realized today that I am living in a different world: the ultra realm.  Its not just that I have no friends or family or responsibilities. It is inconceivable to most people that running all day is what I LIKE to do. I think my whole attitude about endurance is different because I\’m not aiming toward a goal race and I have no schedule. So I don\’t do speed work. I don\’t go by proscribed mileage. I just go as long as I can and have time for.

As I approached my 52 birthday, I decided that this year would not be the year I lay down and die. And suddenly I found that I can jog all day every day if I want.

It takes me over 2 hours of running to get to the ultra consciousness. When I get there, my body has no pains. I\’m jogging at a low impact pace which I can carry on for hours. Sometimes I am repeating a spiritual phrase. Sometimes I am empty minded. I sense that my thinking about myself an endurance is changing, growing, going deeper.

ACIM Forgiveness

Yesterday evening, I worked out for 3 hours on my ex-machines. Then today, I jogged for 5 hours. During my jog, I spent substantial time practicing ACIM forgiveness.

Am I ready to discuss ACIM forgiveness? It finally seems clear to me.

First, some Course principles:
a) This world is an illusion of the ego. The ego is a tiny mad idea that thinks it is separate from God. Everything you see with your body’s eyes, including your body, is a projection of the ego.
b) You are innocent. Everything you think you did wrong never happened because it is part of the ego projection. You don’t need to be afraid because you are innocent.
c) You don’t have to use your body’s eyes. You have spiritual sight and you can train yourself to use it.

So, ACIM forgiveness is literally overlooking. This means using spiritual sight to look beyond the illusion and see the Son of God instead. Learning the practice of forgiveness is what removes you from the ego’s illusion. Instead, you begin to experience a reality created totally of love.

I use my litany to practice ACIM forgiveness. When I say “true appreciation” I mean I have seen the Son of God within and loved it. When I say “see perfection” I mean I have seen the perfection God created. When I say “Christ vision” I mean I used spiritual sight, not my body’s eyes. When I say “God’s Majesty” I mean I have recognized God in everyone.

I did not see an annoying person. I did not see anything to fear. I did not believe the ego’s illusion is real. I stuck to my conviction that our minds are light, we are joy, we are spirit; and nothing else.

Here is my litany in total, but divided into movements. The first movement is a defense against the ego. We need this for when we feel fear, hate, annoyance or lack. The second movement is a practice of forgiveness. As I think the thoughts, I also see others in my mind, looking beyond their illusion and seeing Christ within. The third movement is a affirmation of God’s Authorship and my commitment to my identity as a creation of Love.

My ACIM Litany:

Defense against the ego:
Father in Jesus name remind me of,
Your love for me and of my love for you.

If I am afraid I am deceived.
I am spirit. Know this can’t hurt me.
Fear is lack of love Atonement heals.
Expanding Love is my reality.
I am not alone, Jesus is here.
Jesus is the undoing of the dream.
The Holy Spirit is my choice for God.
I hear Him speak quietly in my mind.

Giving and receiving are the same.
True appreciation is my gift.
The innocent see perfection truly.
Christ Vision is their one and only sight.
My mind has only light and shines it out.
I see God’s Majesty in all others.

My Identity:God is not symbolic. He is fact.
His peace cannot be shaken. I am free.
Into Your Hands I commend my spirit.
And so my mind awakens to Your peace.
Truth is my commitment. I am Joy.
Love is my intention. So I bless.
Love based thinking is my one desire.
Inner peace is what I really want. (Amen)

Stand Your Ground…

….on silence and on joy.

Miracle principal 4: \”All miracles mean life, and God is the Giver of life. His Voice will direct you very specifically. You will be told all you need to know.\”

ACIM text 7.IX.1: \”The Holy Spirit will always guide you truly, because your joy is His. This is His Will for everyone because He speaks for the Kingdom of God, which is joy.\”

Have the courage of your convictions.

I believe in silence because that is where I hear the Holy Spirit best. Above all else I want my primary life relationship to be with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is where my guidance and comfort comes from. The Holy Spirit is my connection to God. Above all else, I can\’t go through life without my connection to God.

If you feel joyful, know that you are living the Kingdom, that Heaven has manifested in your heart. Stand by the joy. Don\’t let your ego or anyone else\’s trounce on joy. Gandhi said, \”Be the change….\” Ultra Monk says, \”be the joy…\” The change we need is joy. The world needs people who choose joy.

If I don\’t seem to have joy, know that my ego has trounced on it. But I use spiritual means to return to joy. Joy is my natural state. Joy is my God given life. Joy is what I am in the real world; beyond the dream, beyond the ego illusion we call this world. If I am the joy, I have left the world; but yet I am still available to my brothers in this world to join with me in Heaven.

I have spent most of my life in the doldrums. But now that I have felt joy, I intend to stand my ground there.

Joy is a choice followed up with spiritual action. It doesn\’t matter which spiritual action as long as it is the one given you by the Holy Spirit. Hence, silence. Go to silence and wait there. Listen to the silence for the answers. Stand on silence. Silence gives you the Voice for God, the Holy Spirit. The Voice for God gives you the path to joy. Insist on joy. Follow the path.

I lifted weights this morning; left me quivering. I went early to work. Walking through the parking lot, I felt gratitude. I said thank you. Walking up the stairs, I felt the presence of the Son of God. I said thank you.

Joy is a thing more awesome than words. I am a 50 something mature woman athlete. I firmly state: I get to be a successful athlete because of my spiritual workouts. Yes, I also do worldly workouts; but it starts with spirit. Without strengthening the presence of spirit, I have no mojo for athletics. Mojo is merely a reflection of spiritual joy; which is a far greater commodity. Spiritual joy means everything. Experiencing spiritual joy in this world is the only thing that matters.

If I feel joy, then feel gratitude to the Son of God, then I am sharing my joy and gratitude with everyone. Shared joy and gratitude is Heaven.

This evening I hope to try something new. My new set of micro-spikes should be delivered today (FedEx indicates they are in KC). I will have them after work. I will then go to an easy trail and do a snow run for an hour or two, return home and finish off the workout until I get to 3 hours. Then tomorrow, I need mental fortitude to do another 5 hours of workout. The purpose of this is to reel in that 50 miles of health and happiness, not destruction.

The Purpose of My Life in Particular

This morning, and for the past 3 days, I\’ve had some totally wonderful early morning running. The streets have hard packed snow and it is very cold; but for some reason I\’ve thoroughly enjoyed this time. I\’ve had no pains and I\’ve felt like I could run forever.

My alarm goes off at 3:30 am. I get up and spend the first hour with my spiritual reading of A Course in Miracles (ACIM). I talk to Jesus. I listen intently to the silence. The question always arises in my mind, \”Have I heard anything?\” This question is the ego\’s question; and no, the ego hasn\’t heard a thing. But if I will trust the deeper part of my mind, the something else part of my consciousness, I\’ll find that I have indeed heard and accepted the inspiration which is always given.

But how do I know? I want to know.

Usually when I get to this point in my reflecting, I stop and go work out. This morning, I bundled up and went running (oh so sweet). I ran for 94 minutes.

After the run, getting ready for my shower, my mind flashed on how I had been a contractor for my current employer more than 10 years ago. Then gone off to the monastery for 4 years. Then got kicked out of the monastery and have lived in the secular world for the past 7 years. How I\’m glad I don\’t live in the monastery because I really didn\’t like community life and much prefer being an athlete. How, I now work for my current employer and deal with all the daily ups and downs of that.

I grew up in a difficult parental situation; so I couldn\’t rely on my parents for many of the standard things and had to be self sufficient more than many children. I never got married although I certainly tried when I was younger; my motive was finding someone to take care of me. Then, I picked a stable monastic institution because I wanted 3 hots and a cot for life. But, really, I\’ve been on my own most of my life and that situation promises to continue. But when ever I seem to need a job or another person to help me out, the resources are there.

Then my key thought was this: What if the purpose of my life is to experience God\’s love for me?

What I mean is that I have never been able to build stability into my life (like by having a husband and family who are always there for you, or living in a huge old brick convent where sisters and care givers are always there for you). I have a good career but the way I have obtained jobs and moved from job to job every 3 to 5 years, is very miraculous. I thought about my situation now. I make a good salary but over half of it never makes it into my checking account. I rent an apartment so I am not gaining worth from a monthly payment. I buy running stuff like crazy and am not really saving any after-tax money. This is anti-middle-class-American-consumer to not buy a house if you are a professional with my salary.

But I realized that God will always love me and care for me and give me what I need. That is the point of my life: trust God. I can\’t carry out this mission except by living without many of the social structures others rely on.

The point of my life is not to be rich or famous or a brain surgeon or an elite athlete or a holy vowed religious. It is to trust God. ACIM does say what a persons purpose is. It doesn\’t exactly say \”just trust God.\” So when I say that my purpose is to know God loves me and actually does care for me, I am not parroting something I read or was taught. I am stating a thought which came from the inside. I am stating the bed rock of who I am. The truth of my existence is that I am a well loved creation and as such, I need do nothing. But humans have a very difficult time with the task of letting go and letting God; and believing that it was God\’s love which provided. One again, my purpose is to EXPERIENCE God\’s total unequivocal, unending, unchanging eternal Love for me. Period.

My purpose brings me back to my litany. I try to meditate on that twice a day. It takes desire and patience to do this. But it is spiritualizing my brain such that I identify more with God than the dream of this world. My litany is something of an ACIM creed. Some day, I will get around to explaining line-by-line what this means, but for now, here it is again:

Father in Jesus\’ name remind me of
Your love for me and of my love for You.

If I am afraid, I am deceived.
I am spirit. Know this can\’t hurt me.
Fear is lack of love. Atonement heals.
Expanding love is my reality.

In the holy instant I forgive.
And miracles come forth as love expressed.
Giving and receiving are the same.
Full appreciation is my gift.
The innocent see perfection truly.
Christ Vision is our one and only sight.

I am not alone. Jesus is here.
Jesus is the undoing of the dream.
The Holy Spirit is my choice for God.
I hear Him speak quietly in my mind.

God is not symbolic. He is fact.
His peace cannot be shaken. I am free.
Into Your Hands I commend my spirit.
And so my mind awakens to His peace.

Truth is my commitment. I am joy.
Love is my intention. So I bless.
Love-based thinking is my one desire.
Inner peace is what I really want.

(I typed this whole thing; not cut and paste)

Yakking in the Early Morning Snow

Today I feel like total Joy!

What\’s not to love about a run on snowy streets, too early for cars, briskly cold January in the Midwest, yak trax on the shoes. OMG, so wonderful to spend 80 minutes just jogging, being outside, too early for disturbances. Wonderful! A morning like this is part of what I love about running. I had no ambitions, just happy to be out there sucking cold air.

I, Ultra Monk, have signed up for yet another race: Howard Aslinger Endurance Run, in Cape Girardeau Missouri in mid-March: 12 hours of bliss.

Well, when I ran that 3:51 marathon in December, I sort of met my speed goal for the year. So my attention has gone back to ultra distances. My aim is to workout in such a way that 50 miles of running doesn\’t totally devastate my body. That is, I want to bring about 10 hours of running inside my training envelope.

This means that I will start to have extended workouts on Friday nights (since the Aslinger run starts at 7 pm). And I will continue to use ex-machines to increase endurance time. Slowly, the running time should increase too. Eventually, 8 to 10 hours of jogging should be \”no big deal.\”

The 100 mile ultra runners who are at the top of the sport run far more miles than I do. Somehow, having to go to work interferes with my running these massive miles. Many 100 mile finisher-types just load up on weekends; but they have a skill of ignoring pain. I don\’t have that skill. In fact, I\’m not interested in destroying my body because I ignored the pain for long enough to finish a race.

My interest is in building my body more. That\’s the difference. I found out that I can run about 7.5 hours without the destructive feeling I got at 9.5 hours. So I plan to train in order to push that destructive point out further. I have ideas for doing this which may be stupid in the minds of some more experienced ultra runners. But I think they will work for me.


Colleen\’s Fat Ass – Reflection on a Cold January Night

The race, Colleen\’s Fat Ass ultra, began in a house owned by a taxidermist. I ran 28.8 miles, 9 laps, in about 6h50 elapsed time.

Here is my reflection:

Ultra running, for me, is not primarily about speed; not like shorter road races are. Ultra running is completely inexplicable; especially to the non-running public. While some non-runners might say, “Wow, you ran 50 miles. That is awesome.” They actually have no idea what that means or what it feels like or why you did it. The purpose of ultra running, for me, isn’t about a sense of accomplishment or honor or award.

I don’t speak for others, and most other ultra runners are far more accomplished than me. I am barely an ultra runner distance-wise. But in so far as most 50k’s (31 miles) are run on courses much more difficult than a road marathon, that additional 2 or 3 hours and additional challenge to legs muscles, is what turns the run into an ultra for me. Plus the resultant and dramatic physical destruction. Plus the seeming nonsense of the endeavor.

Potential ultra runners think ultra running will solve their sense of boredom with road marathons by adding an additional notch in their belt. For me, the idea germinated and has always grown in a desire to go beyond my rational ego mind by taking the body beyond its training envelope and beyond its logical capability. What I find in this beyond place is almost impossible to have a conversation about. Such conversation always seem to de-generate into a worldly discussion of distance and time and placing and schwag. This degeneration frustrates me because the worldly things mean nothing. However, when I meet another ultra runner, its possible to say nothing but connect on the thought level; where we have an entire sharing of meaning without a word having been spoken. The meaning of ultra running cannot be explained, but it can be shared by connections made beyond words

There is nothing to brag about for me; and that is what my ego hates. In fact, I don’t think I have officially “finished” an ultra in several races. So can I cut to the chase: Why would I value the result of a futile effort so much that I put up with the pain of it over and over? I just spent nearly 7 hours of a cold windy January night jogging in a tiny pool of light, having no idea where I was or where I was going or what for. On the trail, where my legs are far more challenged than on a road, it took me several hours to bring my body to the brink of destruction. The first lap found me lost and confused and angry as twice I lost the trail. I fell down once. I peed in a cold outhouse by choice because I didn’t want to go into the warmer restroom. Each lap I put a mark by my name on the chart.

As time wore on and my body wore down, I lived a very simple and elemental existence. Alone in the dark, my thoughts ranged as follows: I hope I don’t trip this time (I tripped 7 times at the exact same spot over something I never could see, but on the last 2 laps, I used an extra hand held light at that place. I never saw what I tripped over, but didn’t trip on the last 2 laps); I hope I don’t get lost (well after 2 laps, while the pink flags were still my security blanket, I was guided by the landmarks of the footing, various rocks and such); Should I eat my Power Bar now? (too late, it is frozen and I hope I don’t break a tooth trying to bite it); Is it time to pee? (I hate stopping, but oh well, it must be done).

I have NOT thought about the ego’s world: work, co-workers, money, retirement plans, health care plans, Boston qualification, age group awards, why I am not rich or famous or a vowed religious.

I did the journey to the ultra runner’s nether world and the secret of the ineffable. The nonsensical infinite timelessness of the intangible formlessness calls me over and over.

I keep answering the call.

50k Fat Ass – Prelude

Tonight, I am going to a park in Kansas where I hope to run 50k. I don\’t know if I will run 50k. That depends.

I am about to enter a long dark cold night. I am about to go against the grain of my comfort zone. I am about to be antithetical to ordinary society\’s penchant for sloth and gluttony.

Friday night: most of society will be having large dinners, maybe a few alcoholic beverages, maybe watching TV, maybe dealing with the kids, maybe snuggling in a warm bed. Most of society will be immersed in comfort and complacency; slowly dieing in their living rooms mesmerized by TV.

I don\’t like being cold. I don\’t like missing sleep. I don\’t like being shaken out of my routine. This is a fat ass race. That means there is no schwag, no results, no awards, no winners. The ego gets nothing. Basically, ultra-running is about stripping the ego of its control and identity so that you can find out who you are really.

In the night, there is a spot of light from my headlamp, a bit of trail, my water bottle and some gel. I am swathed in fleece and gortex; filled with whatever warmth I can generate from my own existence. I become a bubble of life in a cold dark void. As such, I am reduced to mind, to elemental being-ness; thoughts and feelings and the urge to live. It is a void ripe for negative ego attack. The ego always asks why. It is a journey through darkness to light. It is a practice of endurance, commitment and hope. The spirit never doubts. If I become what I am, Life, then the hope is fulfilled.

There are no illusions in the darkness. It is a nebulous world, an existence of raw oneness. It is either peace or fear, love or hate. I\’m going to be 52 in a few days. I\’ve decided that this is not the year when I will lay down and die.

I get to choose. Choose Life.

Resolute Decision

No, I have not made a New Years resolution. Who has ever seen one of those succeed?

Resolute decisions always succeed. Decision making is powerful, the greatest power that I have. Strong decisions made with conviction are impenetrable. I have made a resolute decision.

So what I am I getting at? In about 9 days I\’ll be 52 years old. I have decided that this is not the year for me to lay down and die; or be comfortable and complacent like most 50 somethings I know.

So what?

OK, I have been on a 5 day endurance holiday. Yesterday I ran 27 miles. Today, I ran on trails for 4 hours. During this week, I have run 94 miles, done a few hours on the ex-machines, a few strength workouts and learned to use my new TRX suspension trainer. 2 weeks ago, on December 19, I ran a 3h51min marathon and qualified for Boston, beating the qualifying time by 15 minutes.

My decision is not to lay down and die now. If I go down, it\’ll be fighting.

I heard that there is an all night ultra-race in a park south of here next Friday night. Besides running the race on a trail in the dark, it has creek crossings. So my feet would get good and wet on a subzero night. I was thinking about this race and the problem of cold feet as I ran the trails of Parkville today. After about 2 hours, I realized that I was running right by a creek. Why not get your feet wet right now and see what its like?

Ok, so I left the cute little wooden bridge and dunked my feet in the cold water. I was wearing the two pairs of smartwool socks I would wear for the race so this was a good experiment. Well, your feet warm back up almost immediately and I noticed no signs of blisters even 2 hours and more dunkings later.

So, having faced the fear of wet cold feet, I pondered whether to go to the race. I realized that I was facing a series of mental road blocks; fears which are complete projections. And, I was praying my ACIM Creed, hoping to hear the Holy Spirit\’s guidance.

That was when the conviction struck me. I CANNOT let fear stop me now. It would mean death.

The race I plan to go in on Friday is by comparison with many adventures a very tame affair. Perhaps only a shy and conservative mature lady would think twice about it. But here I am faced with fears. So I am resolved not to die yet. Even if I only do 10k, or even if I walk half the night; I need to get out of my comfort zone. Here is my opportunity.

Say bah! to cold feet. Get them wet and realize it is nothing! Don\’t die.