William James Post-lude

I finished the book \”Varieties of Religious Experience\” by William James.

I finished my Sunday workout: 97 minutes of exercise equipment in my one bedroom apartment, and then an 11 mile run in the park. I ran in 36F temps with a strong east wind. As I type now, there is a light snow falling but it won\’t really amount to anything.

You may have noticed that while I was reading James, I quietly put down \”A Course in Miracles.\” Next to look at is several articles by Paul Brunton and \”Metaphysics\” by Aristotle.

At work, I may be in transition or maybe not. I interviewed for a promotion on Friday. The interview went well, but there are forces in the company beyond my control. And so here is the rub, the spiritual connection.

I am dependent on a higher consciousness (to which I don\’t have direct access) to work out the so-called \”luck\” or favoritism for me to get the promotion. I believe in the presence of the higher consciousness. My life seems to go better when I think my life is not my own but belongs to it. This moment in my history could be the end of a trail of delusions which I call spirituality. However, I don\’t believe I will turn off my faith. I can\’t control the volume of the higher consciousness\’s voice speaking quietly (if at all). The best I can do is maintain interior silence, listen to the silence, and then suit up and show up for my exterior life.

Life is either a blessing or a curse. I get the blessing if I put faith in my spiritual delusion and not the world.

Summing Up Religious Experience

I am finishing the book \”Varieties of Religious Experience\” by William James. If you have not heard of it, maybe that\’s cause it was written more than a century ago. I have enjoyed it as it is a great analysis of individual spiritual experience vs institutional religion from a scientific methodology. The book is woven through with ideas from \”A Course in Miracles,\” which was not written until 70 years later. The book clearly shows the foundation of Bill Wilson\’s spiritual theories (Alcoholics Anonymous). The book quotes almost no scripture and does not at all approach the subject of Jesus and his divinity.

Religion or spirituality is about me and who God is to me. Even the societal pressures to conform to the predominate religion has an affect on me personal relationship to God. The conclusion for me: I have sought God for decades. I believe some higher power has been active in my life. I have no proof of the existence of said God. My life is more meaningful if framed in the divine relationship and divine presence.

For some religious people, church is following a commandment of the deity. \”Do this in remembrance of me.\” If they don\’t do it, they are guilty.

For some born-again Christians, God is an emotional satisfaction built on an effective emotional experience.

For atheists, no-God is true because there is no evidence of God; and most if not all God-experiences can be traced to physical properties.

I can\’t say my spiritual study is emotionally satisfying. I can\’t say I follow commandments from God because of fear of guilt and damnation. I\’m one of the ones broken free of the Bible\’s false grip of authenticity. I can\’t say I have any proof of God\’s or Spirit\’s existence.

All I have is a mental tenacity that wants to connect to Spirit and receive help from Spirit. In this condition, any sense of presence fails me. However, I truly find comfort in reciting my spiritual creed. My God is a solid rock upon which I stand. I\’ve never gone down too far nor up too far.

My life is not my own. That is one of the most soothing statements ever.

I create my running out of freedom, not ill health or some doctor\’s advice. So my purpose in it is divorced from the reason why most people take up exercise. For me however, the pursuit of infinite endurance has been a lifelong interest. My running is a constant in my life, a steady state. The energy of endurance and the energy of prayer are one and the same, intertwined as if making love.

I return to what I said above: my spirituality is about me. If I get the promotion at work, its because I let some higher power work out the details and give me intuitive thoughts if I need to know something. I am yet a tangle of negative attitudes and thoughts. This tangle is my unhappiness with life. Supposed spiritual practice has loosened the grip of negativity and allowed for success in peaceful living. I still wander aimless on the earth. I have no final goal unless you call some spiritual mountain top my goal. What I need is spiritual help and I do believe I get it. I admit my belief is a delusion; perhaps even a dishonest and corrupt soul sickness. Part of the reason I seek solitude is to sort through this soul sickness.

And so starts my Sunday workout: 4 to 5 hours of endurance.

The Real Spirit

I spent 4 years in a monastery under extremely heavy religious indoctrination. And then I spent another year in a parish doing post-monastic-Catholic indoctrination. I failed my post-monastic-Catholic indoctrination.

I\’ve spent the past 6 years (7?) trying various spiritual tools, trying to figure which one would lead me to direct knowledge of God (sometimes called enlightenment). Its possible that it has taken me more time after Catholicism than during Catholicism to let go of Catholic and monastic teachings. I would say that my religious studies are at an ebb right now.

The person who has the initial spiritual experience tries to share or explain or teach the experience. No one gets it. But they do invent a religion based on whatever the initiator said. The religion never even comes close to providing the initiator\’s experience.

Quite apart from my religious studies, I spend a good deal of time in solitude; where I just sit quietly in the presence. This is where I am at now: bare Spirit, no religious clothing. When I stop to notice the quiet presence, it is there. The quiet presence be trusted. The quiet presence really doesn\’t need to be more than that. And, whats been hard for me, is that the quiet presence is not less than someone else\’s enlightenment experience.

It sounds like I have zero confidence in my own spiritual revelations; and so you might think that they must not be the real deal. I don\’t blame you because for years I wanted the more elaborate spiritual experience. I am certain that if I had not compared myself to others, I\’d be perfectly happy with myself. Comparisons and judgments are my real problem; not God.

Aslinger Post-lude

Yesterday, I finished Aslinger 50 miles, and drove home.

Last night, I asked the Lord, “What is the bottom line?” Trust is the word that immediately entered my mind, because I need to trust the Spirit of the Lord to take care of my work life.

Part 2 of the answer was like this. I am reading Varieties of Religious Experience by William James. I’ve read all these conversion experiences and the psychological explanations. Still, last night I said, “Lord, I wish I had the knowledge and love which was heartfelt enough to where I was always attracted to you.” These people with bliss experiences supposedly have such knowledge of safety that they never again feel fear. But then I realized that there is a media bias towards people who have the emotional experience of enlightenment and we are taught to want that. In spiritual terms, however, there is no “less than” associated with the person who has consciously decided to carry out the faith process. I have the gift of conscious conversion, to carry out the process of making the spiritual the center of my life as a decision and plan of action. I’m not doing it by myself. I do have spiritual help. But the Spirit honors my process. My plan or its actions are not important. The faith and the conscious turning to listen to the Spirit is what are important.

So, in a sense, that is a hugely beautiful thing: I walk hand in hand with the Spirit of the Lord because I want to.

So, yesterday, I ran 50 miles and drove home.

This morning, being un-injured though a bit fatigued, I find myself in exercise clothes, stretching, foam rollering, core exercises, free weights and some easy aerobics.

You have to ask: why? What is driving this activity? Shouldn’t I take a day off? I have depth within me. When I am working out, I am going in and finding my core, my essence. I must need to do this.

Aslinger Race Report

I had questions. Here are the answers:

a) yes, my large quantity of training did help me do much better with 50 miles. I did finish; quitter didn\’t rule this time.

b) 50 miles always hurts.

Short report: 50.12 miles, 10h47 min (from Garmin without indoor pit stops, but including on-course aid-station), 11h20 total elapsed.

Splits for 10 miles:

2:01 (all jogging)
2:08 (started some walking)
2:04
2:13
2:21 (haha, barely moving)

Longer but still not very long report:

-On Friday, I slept in until 8:30am and left for Cape Girardeau at 11. Drive was very smooth. St Louis was not a pain. Ate dinner at Panera and got to the race site a little after 6.

-First thing, the RD, Bryan was chowing down a huge sandwich but he immediately said hi. He said he was happy to see me back. He got my plaque from last year (Senior women\’s champion, well I won the women\’s division too, but the open plaque went to the other woman who was only 42).

I changed my clothes and put my shoes on. I was ready about 15 min before start.

-Biggest happy face : Runningsister (aka Angela)!!! http://runningsister.blogspot.com/2011/02/black-warrior-50k-21911.html

Runningsister has cancer, but she still goes to ultras. I met her last year and have been following her blog. So I was INCREDIBLY happy she came. (she was in it for 24 hours, not like sissy me only doing 12, and she had done an ultra last weekend too)

-It was cool (50F, about 10C) and a tiny bit drippy. We started at 7 pm (about 35 of us, most of them doing 24 hrs as the \”normal\” 12 hour entrants were doing it during the day but cheap me didn\’t want to spend any money on a hotel).

-I ran the first 2 hours with Mike, a big young guy (really cute, but I didn\’t see his face until morning).

-For the first 3 or so hours, I was trying think up an excuse to quit and save face. I was totally discouraged when they posted that I ran only 18 miles in 4 hours. Cr@p, at that rate, I won\’t even make 50 in 12 hours, let alone in the 10.5 hours I really wanted to finish in. I was certain I couldn\’t last for 50 miles and kept thinking my right foot was going to howl pretty soon and end the matter (it never really did as I finally got that shoe right).

-At around 4 hours, I suddenly remember my mantra: Spirit of the Lord remind me to…accept your grace full love and present peace. \”Things\” started to go better and before I knew it, I realized I had finished a marathon and 50k seemed do-able.

– There was a sudden downpour around 15 miles. I was right by my car so quickly decided to get the pvc rain coat. It stopped pretty quick. and it rained 2 more little times so I wasted some time with coat putting on and off (I might have been the only wuss who did this)

– It seemed like a race of the gimpies. Everyone, even the young guys, looked at little ouchey from time to time. Some of the older guys looked positively listing and lame. But, dang, these people kept on (I would\’ve quit).

-Ultra races have a tendency to strip away the big talk and flashy dreams that the training leaves you with. Its all a matter of truth. Either you keep going or you don\’t. There is no glamor. Everyone pretty much runs in their own little hell, wondering how they\’ll make it. Its all mental. My brain never seems to want to do it, and I have to somehow get past my own thoughts. Somewhere along the line, all your numerical idealisms fall away and your only hope is to keep going.

-At about 35 miles, I was down in the dumps again and asking for help, saying, \”You do this, I can\’t.\” Then, I thought of a new prayer: Spirit of the Lord run with me…Teach me I am light and set me free. Things started to go pretty good again. Around then I walked a bit with Runningsister. She asked how my goal was coming. My answer included this gem, \”I\’ve only been walking on that hill over there.\” She laughed and said, \”You know things are bad when you think there is a hill on a completely flat course.\”

-About 3:30 am, the sky looked sort of bright and I heard a bird tweet. I first thought, how can it be getting light already (and in the western sky to boot). It took me a long time to realize the brightness was from the moon, which was full, but I never got to see until it was about 4:30 am.

-At 47 miles (how the F*ck did that happen) I informed the lap counters that I was stopping at 50 miles. We agreed I had 3 laps; and Bryan the RD heard this conversation.

– At 48 miles I said, \”If there is a God, thank you.\”

-When I got to the counters to start the last lap, I made a big deal out of it being the bell lap saying, \”ding ding ding ding.\” The last lap, one blister finally decided to start yelling.

– At 49.5 miles, I said, \”God, I\’m not taking my will back. I still don\’t think I can finish on my own. You are still in charge.\”

– I finish 50 laps. The Garmin says 50.2 miles. The counters suddenly say, \”Bryan said you wanted to run 50 miles but that is on 49.2 miles.\” I say, \”I don\’t care what you say. I did 50 laps and my Garmin says 50.2. I get the buckle for 50 right?\” \”Yes.\” So into the building I go. (Bryan came over later and apologized for the counters. He had heard the 47 mile conversation and passed me twice on the course since then so he knew I ran the laps. He said it should have been about 50.18, which is what my Garmin got)

– I get my buckle.

– I didn\’t quit! (even though I passed my car 50 times) I think this is because prayer took my mind away from me and I was running on a higher power.

– My gear was parked near the nurse. I asked her if she had something clean to pop a blister. Ummm, no (after a frantic search through a kit). Ok, you must have an alcohol wipe? Oh, yeah, I\’m sure I have that. Ok, the nurse seemed appalled at my feet. But I actually think they look very good, I mean really good. I\’ve seen them in much much worse shape. But she did help me carry my stuff to the car and filled my coffee cup.

-On the road home. The first 100 miles was a little tough on keeping the eye lids open. But after that I was fine and made the drive with only 2 stops.

Thats my story and I\’m sticking to it. Ultras always hurt, but they hurt less the more milage you do.

Aslinger Pre-lude to 50 Miles

In about an hour, I\’ll get in the car and drive 5 hours to southern Missouri for the Aslinger Endurance run. I hope to complete 50 miles.

Here is my romantic notion of today:

I feel like the unknowing hero sallying forth into an unseen adventure. Today, my inner Jason will step forward to overcome challenges, my inner David will step forward to battle enemies, and my inner Jesus will step forward to be crucified.

This is the intensity of the hero which I seek to set free anytime I go in a long distance race. This hero overcomes my normal inhibitions and impels me to go beyond the practical. It is not the holy grail which is the object of my quest; but within the pain, exhaustion, darkness and aloneness, I hope to find a moment of freedom from my ordinary logical rational mental framework. I hope for a tiny opening where one ray of spiritual light touches my heart.

Sudden and Spontaneous Conversion

I\’ve been reading William James \”Varieties of Religious Experience.\” He gives many examples and makes it quite clear that God\’s pattern of individual enlightenment, or conversion as he calls it, is this: desperate deep despair of sin, surrender, spontaneous salvation. Most of his examples are not of people who spent years in monasteries, or in self study, and achieved God\’s favor. In fact, most of his examples are of the ungodly.

And so yesterday evening, as I spoke quietly to what ever voice speaks to me, I expressed my disappointment and resentment. I have wanted enlightenment ever since the moment on a Jerusalem street when I first desired God-at-all (more than 25 years ago).

The voice replied, \”this does not negate your simple practice of listening and waiting.\” In other words, \”Be still and know,\” as the Psalmist said, is a valid and real thing to do. The embodiment of inner peace is a real connection with God. It doesn\’t carry the emotional liberation of spontaneous enlightenment/ conversion. As I write this blog, I realize that the listening practice carries cosmic implications of which I am unaware.

I live on faith alone, practicing the silent waiting. I continually offer up my resentment that I have not received spontaneous conversion. I have not reached the depths of despair which seem necessary for conversion. I realize that I cannot self generate despair. But I accept the grace full life and present peace given by the Spirit of the Lord to me today. Its possible I view the quiet continuously present inner connection with Spirit as a \”better than nothing\” option. That sounds terrible to realize that I resent God because God is present to me, but not giving me special experience.

I slept late today as I am going to a workshop. Today I enter a new relationship. I am to officially become a mentee. Yes, my company is having a day long workshop with a group of us entering these relationships. My fellow mentees are an awesome group of individuals. Several of them will also be part of the Passport Leadership Program which starts in April. I am among a great group. I am humble because I don\’t feel worthy.

So, on the one hand is resentment for lack of enlightenment. On the other hand is a great gift of relationship and learning experiences. I sit still in the middle, waiting and listening.

Tomorrow night is the Aslinger Endurance run. I am resting from workouts today and tomorrow I\’ll drive to the race site. Who knows what a night of running will hold. Races are always holy environments for me.

Aslinger – Pre-Prelude

Today is Wednesday. The Aslinger Endurance run starts Friday night at 7 pm. I\’ll run all night. I hope to get to 50 miles, and stop there.

I thought alot last night and this morning about my fitness lifestyle. My time commitment goes far beyond what is needed for health or even marathon training. I realize most people can look at me and think, \”well she doesn\’t have a life.\” In addition, I am continually trying to explain that my training and racing is not about the speeds or distances or accomplishments.

I feel the pull before any workout, \”I wish I could go for hours.\” As I think about my desire to workout for an endless period of time, I realize that the quality of endless peace and self transcendence is what I am really after.Actually, my whole foray into ultra-running began with the idea of self transcendence thru running, as promoted by Sri Chinmoy. The endlessness offers me escape from myself (my restless personality) and the world, and draws me like a drug. Working out and the hope of transcendence of my ego are the center of my life. I revolve around the breaks from the ordinary work-a-day world. This is my prayer. This is my pathway to higher mind. My whole life has been about the pursuit of higher mind and working out is part of it for me.

So as I look at my upcoming race, I know what will happen. It is a one mile loop and it will shortly become dark but lit with street lights. I will just peacefully go around and around while my rational mind loses is grip. I\’ll stop at 50 miles (if that), because I want to be able to work out again soon. I go to the race environment to do this because I don\’t stick it out for 10 hours by myself; and the race environment provides needed support for my quest.

Paul Brunton said, \”The Quest not only begins in the heart but also ends there too. It is an endeavour to lift to a higher plane, and expand to a larger measure, the whole of his identity. It brings in the most important part of himself–being, essence, Consciousness.\”

At the end of the day…

Its positively un American, un modern day, but I am going to stand up and say it: I have a melancholy personality. I will feel depressed quite a bit. I don\’t inflict it on my colleagues; in fact they like me. But inside I am usually a bit down.

This could be fixed with drugs. But I refuse. I think I will keep and explore this state of being, now that I have admitted it. It cannot be \”bad\”. It just is. I will now stop trying to fix myself and instead try to understand my deeper nuances.

Continuous Prayer

This morning, I woke up with a peaceful and positive mind. One of my first thoughts was, \”See my life as grace-full and enjoy it.\” This thought was sort of an intuitive command. My life is grace full in the sense that I have abundant time to seek God, and I do turn to Spirit for direction.

I can not explain why some days, maybe even most days, I wake up with a head full of self deprecation. I do my spiritual work in order to dig out of the mental crap. Some days, I don\’t seem to make it. The defeatist attitude is what I call \”melancholy,\” which is an old fashioned term but seems to fit me better than the more modern \”depression.\” Why am I melancholic? Was it the way I was born, or my horrible parents, or God? I guess it doesn\’t matter how it came to be. I have the tools to improve it. In fact, melancholy has driven my entire spiritual practice; and so I should perhaps be grateful. If I was of benign emotional consistency, I\’d probably not pursue the spiritual life at all. I\’d go to the car show and eat hot dogs.

Today, in my happy state of mind, I composed a new litany, or spiritual creed, or spiritual life line.

Spirit of the Lord remind me to
Live your grace-filled life and present peace.
You created me. I am your love.
Living here and being one with you.
Eternal silence lives its life in me.
Still and quiet love has set me free.

And during my 20 mile jog, I repeated this alot. In the past 30 years, I have basically devoted several years of my life to about 4 theological systems: 12 Step spirituality taught in AA; Benedictine monasticism; Roman Catholicism and A Course in Miracles. Except for Catholicism, I find many overlapping and helpful spiritual concepts. At this point in my life, I seem to want to integrate what ever was good about these things and strike out directly into God. I want to live directly in spirit, not through someone else\’s propositions.

And my spiritual life line is something short and quick to grasp at some times; and slowly ponder at others. It is my \”practice of the presence,\” my continuous prayer. This particular litany is closer to what I actually think and farther from what I read in books.

Today, running and repeating my creed, I finally made the connection between spirit and leadership at work. At work, I am embarking on 3 leadership programs. I\’ve been afraid that leadership means setting my ego about the task of complying with company norms and working hard to get ahead. But I know that this attitude is not sustainable and not fun. In so far as work is about money and position and beating out my colleagues, then it is an ego motivated achievement and makes me UNhappy. In so far as it is creativity, mindful matters, facilitation and break through thinking, then it is a spiritual achievement in harmony with my true existence as a creation of love. If I re-frame the leadership activity as an invitation from spirit to go and live my true existence, mean while trusting spirit to provide whatever opportunities come my way\’ then the endeavor is sustainable, happy and fulfilling on the spiritual level.