If I never type another word in my life, then remember this, “Life is amazing.”
Not because any great thing happened to me today. Actually, I went running and got caught in a downpour. I mean, DOWNPOUR.
I was running on the above pictured trail, only on a day with 2-4 inches of water on the path and sheets of rain. Pretty funny. A 63-year-old woman who ought to know better, trying to sneak in a run between thunderstorms.
The run alone didn’t cause me to think life was amazing. Turning my life over to the care of my Higher Self is what makes life amazing. Knowing for a fact that I am cared for and I can trust my higher self with my life is what makes life amazing. I feel great when I get this trust.
I actually do know what I believe about the universe and how I fit within it. When I left my career, nearly 4 years ago, I stepped outside of the corporate culture and the busyness of salaried life. I faced the chance to experience reality in a new way, free of the corporate culture. I had the ability to pick and choose among society’s cultural offerings. I have been winding my way into more and more sunlight. Sunlight is what life should feel like, even when running in a tremendous downpour.
I woke up at 5 am today, and very soon, I got out of bed. I was thinking of going running very early since the day is to be very hot. I started running around 6:20 am. It was 76F and humid. I came upon this little fawn next to the bike path. There was no mama deer. This one’s eyes and ears were being attacked by bugs. So, I knew that it is not long for this world.
Anguish overtook me. It is this feeling that lets me know I am a normal human being and uniquely a human sentient being. It is to cherish, this feeling of anguish that only a human would have.
RIP little one. I appreciate the presence of life within you and respect that it will be leaving shortly.
God is not omnibenevolent, but the essence of God is The Good.
God is not omnipresent, but the essence of God is The One.
God is not all-knowing, but the essence of God is Consciousness, thought itself.
God is not omnipotent, but the essence of God is Beauty (love and the ideal).
If you take freshman philosophy, you will hear about the three O God: omnibenevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent. Indeed, religion promotes this God. Many people, somewhat unconsciously, believe in this God. I make this claim because many people blame God for bad things saying, “Why did God take him?” I never believed in this God.
Reading Plato’s Phaedo, plus whatever else of philosophy and quantum physics I have studied, I surmised the above statements of what God is not. The statements also hint at what God could be. The essence of God is a magnificent and good feeling meditation, immediately joining me to my soul. Beauty, Consciousness, Oneness, The Good. I can easily join these essences.
“…his (Descartes) system is such that it requires the individual consciousness to be convinced of the truth of what it thinks within the privacy of its own experience, for it starts from a consideration of the contents of its private consciousness, and therefore has to find reason to trust what appears to be conveyed into it, by experience and reason, from an external universe” (Descartes, Grayling, A.C., Walker and Company, New York, 2005).
I have been reading philosophy. I am finishing this long biography of Descartes, a famous philosopher from the 17th century known as the father of modern philosophy. The paragraph quoted above is a kind of summary. I quoted it because it describes my frustration with my spiritual status: I do not know my individual conscious exactly. I do not know the truth of what I think. I cannot seem to grasp who I am, especially since modern neuroscience indicates that I am not really a self anyway. In the privacy of my own experience and consciousness, I don’t know what to trust. I don’t know who or what is the universe that is supposed to be conveying truth into my consciousness.
I have also been reading Plato’s dialogs. I find Plato to be thought-provoking and enlivening. Plato directs me to think for myself and find out what I know of my own accord. Plato is known as the father of western philosophy. Plato lived 429-347 B.C. In Plato’s Republic, it says, “…the study of the ‘one’ would be one of the studies which lead and divert the soul towards the contemplation of real being.” For some reason, I find this sentence satisfying. I like the notion of “real being.” For some reason, I can feel “real being,” but it is indescribable also.
Jesus spent 18 years of his life outside the Gospel narratives. Between the age of 12, when we found him in the temple teaching the elders until the age of 30 when we find him in the desert with John the Baptist. Contemplate this silence. Go into your own silence. My consciousness, or my real being, and my relationship with my own soul are frustrated by input from many spiritual sources. I wonder if I am ready to stop the input and listen only to what is inside.
Sometimes, when things go differently than planned, the results are better. How so you ask?
Last October 2021, I signed up for three marathons in three states in three days. This was not so unusual as I have done multi-day marathons before. I signed up so long ago because prices for events go up the closer to the event you get. The event itself was this past weekend. I have been anticipating the event for months. In the meantime, I have gone in a 50k race and dealt with a sore hip (from work), which restricted my training. But going into the weekend, I felt completely good in my hips and legs.
Day 1 marathon was in Miami, Oklahoma. I drove down the night before and stayed in a hotel. The race took place at a park near the Neosho River. To complete a marathon, we had to do 14 laps of the course. I started off running because I felt rested and good. It was not a hot day, but very humid. I was doing well for about 9 miles. Then I realized that if I was going to do three marathons in three days, I needed to slow down and put in walk breaks. I did put in the walk breaks. At which point I began to get bored and wonder why I was doing boring laps in a park. I got up to around 16 miles and realized that I was thinking of cheating in order to get done quicker. I realized that I cared nothing about notching my belt with another marathon. Then I thought, “Don’t cheat. If you’re not in this game then just quit.” After 9 laps/17+ miles, I realized that I didn’t want to do any more laps. So I went to the timing table and told them I was quitting. They gave me a half marathon medal without blinking an eye. It turns out that the half marathon medal was the same as the full marathon medal. So I got the bling and went home. I was quite happy to begin my 3 hour drive 2 hours sooner than planned.
Day 2 race was in St Joseph Missouri, a short drive from my home. I woke up before the 4:30 am alarm and enthusiastically got out of bed. I was prepared to run a half marathon as fast as I could. No plan to try a full marathon suffer-fest. Just run the half and enjoy yourself. It was turning out that I much more enjoy a fast half marathon more than a slow full marathon, at least when the course is 14-16 laps of boredom.
Day 3 race was in Hiawatha Kansas, a short drive from my home. I woke up at 3am, a full hour before the alarm, and couldn’t go back to sleep. I checked the weather because thunderstorms were predicted. Depending on how bad they were, I knew I wouldn’t go to the race. There were storms but they didn’t look that bad. I would have to run in the rain, however. I was interested in getting my body to the race start and not in laying in bed. I knew I wasn’t going back to sleep regardless. So I made a bargain with myself. I said, “Get in the car and go to the race. If it is miserable, then just run a 5k, get your medal and go home.” That is, just get going and see what happens. I did it! I made it to the race and began running. I felt tired from the previous 2 days of racing, but not injured. It was raining so I wore a jacket. All the other racers were out there in jackets and ponchos, toughing it out. And there I was too, getting the miles done. But my brain wanted to cheat and go home. I was conscious of my brain trying to talk me out of what I was doing. If the rain had been worse, maybe I would have obeyed. But the rain wasn’t that bad and it did let up after I had run 10 miles and only had 3 to go. I finished! I didn’t cheat! I’m incredibly proud of myself.
What is all this about cheating you ask? Well, these races are very low-key. The timing is pretty loose. They have a start time. You tell the timer when you are done. Each lap you pick a rubberband off a table to keep track of how many laps you have run. Nothing stops you from picking up two rubber bands. Heck, you don’t even have to show the timer how many rubber bands you have when you say you are done. So really, it is up to the person to be honest with themselves. Some part of my brain strongly wants to cheat, but I never do. I think I endure my cheater brain every marathon I try to run. My brain is much more peaceful when a racecourse is a loop where you can’t cheat in order to get to the finish line.
What was the most memorable part of the 3 days? All 3 days there was a woman on the course who had both legs in full-length braces and used crutches. She was out there doing miles. I didn’t talk to her, but I watched. Why was she wearing braces and how strongly motivated she must be to get out there and do miles? Interesting. Here I am completely healthy and thinking about cheating, and I’m sharing the course with someone in leg braces. After I finished my race on day 3, the woman happened to be in the finish area, getting ready to start another lap. She asked me if I was done and was I coming to day 4 (it was an 8-day series but I signed up for 3 days). I said I wasn’t coming to day 4. She asked if she could take my picture. It turns out she wanted a selfie with me. I moved into position behind her shoulder. I could see myself in her camera. I look like a little kid in my ball cap, happy. She must have been watching me run miles while she was hobbling along. She wanted a picture with me. How special. I keep thinking about how I felt in that moment. It gives me goosebumps to think of it but I can’t explain why.
You would not believe how happy I was with myself about the results of this weekend: 3 races done at pretty good speed and no cheating. No laying in bed when I could have gone to a race. No useless suffering just to notch my belt. So this is what life can be about: how you feel about what you are doing, not what you seem to be doing.
Outside my window is a bush. The bush only recently received its summer coat of leaves. Today I noticed that two robins are building a nest. The nest is hidden inside the bush. I can see the robins with bits of material in their beaks climbing into the bush from the bottom. I can see the bush rustle a bit as the bird climbs into its nesting location. Then I see the bird come out the top, minus the nesting material.
The universe can be contemplated in the silence of my room. I can see the bush go through its seasons of life and death as spring leaves turn brown and fall off in the fall. Then the bush sits in our frigid winter, waiting for spring. I can see clouds cross the sky. I can see the sun come up and go down. I can see other humans walking their dogs.
I take myself on a contemplative journey without leaving my table. I have become as nothing and nobody to the world. Yet the universe knows I am there thinking and observing. I accept that I have spent my life seeking my higher self. I get glimpses of this Self, sort of. The knowledge of my higher self is like the knowledge of the robins in the bush. I can see the bush shake, but I cannot see the bird. Hidden in the bush, new life will spring forth. Is this knowledge enough? It must be. Further knowledge is beyond my senses. Further knowledge can be known with my non-physical senses. Humans have this strange intuitive sense of knowing. Humans have this strange experience of the world through the lens of consciousness. Contemplate. Let go of everything else.
I accept that I am off grid from the world of achievement.
I ran an ultramarathon yesterday, but only 31 miles.
The day began auspiciously as I woke up one minute before the alarm at 3:45. Sometimes, I don’t sleep or can’t make myself get out of bed. But this time, I bounded out of bed eagerly. The weather is another reason I sometimes can’t make myself go to a race. But the weather for this race was near perfect: sunny but coolish. It was windy but the temps were warm enough that the wind could be tolerated. It was cold enough that I could wear my lightweight cargo pants. A big advantage since I could put the nutrition in the pants pockets and keep my phone in the front of the hydration vest. The race was only an hour’s drive, south of Kansas City.
The course was a rails-to-trails trail, pretty much totally flat. You can see from the trees that spring is only starting to spring in Kansas.
Ultramarathons and marathons are two different animals to me. I might train for and race a marathon. I did that last October, finishing 26 miles in about 5:22. An ultramarathon? I just try to survive. Sometimes I don’t survive, quitting instead. But this race was an out and back course. That means that the outbound 15.5 miles were easy. Then the way back must be completed, survived, because that is where the car is. My overall time was 7:32, but that includes five stops at aid stations and three bathroom stops. Moving time was 7:18. I was traveling faster than it appears overall. Pretty happy with that.
I got interested in ultramarathons after leaving the monastery in 2003 because people were writing about the transcendence aspect of ultramarathons. Going into the pain cave and exploring the mental state. I don’t think I have ever accomplished a transcendent mental state during an ultramarathon. Sometimes I cry when I see the finish line, however. I have been amazed at myself. I wonder how I did that. As a 63-year-old, I continue to wonder how I do endurance races.
I didn’t necessarily train for this race. I trained to make it to the turnaround very easily. I knew that the way back would be a struggle. Since I have been working at a grocery store, on my feet for 20 hours a week, I thought that I didn’t have to train that much for an ultramarathon. That assumption proved to be wrong as it leaves your feet in the wrong condition, not ready for the pounding. I jogged the first 12 miles and jog/walked the last 19 in a 3×2 pattern. I kept the pattern going to the end, but the jogging part got slower and slower. Slower because my legs were tired and my feet were a bit in pain.
Around 23 miles, I wished that the race had only been a marathon. My feet began to hurt. My stomach didn’t like the Heed drink that I got at the aid stations. It was becoming warmer. I was wishing I had trained more. I told myself, “just keep going.” “Even though it hurts,” was implied but I tried not to think about that part.
Real ultramarathoners keep going even if it hurts. Just because their Youtube video shows them having a great time and running fast, I know from other sources that their feet hurt too. They keep running despite the pain. I sort of fail at the pain part. 31 miles only brings one to the entrance of the pain cave. In a longer race, I might have cut out the jogging and only walked. During this race, I knew where the end was so I kept going. In 2017, I did a 50-mile out-and-back race. I was able to persevere with that because I had to get back. In a timed/lapped race where there is only a timed end, I often quit. I run out of jogging and start walking. Then I begin to wonder why I am continuing to walk. What am I accomplishing by walking around a course, destroying my feet? Soon after that, I quit. To me, pain means physical distress that could turn into physical debilitation. For real ultrarunners, pain doesn’t mean a real problem. And, I always want to be able to train again within a short period of recovery. Real ultramarathoners accept that they won’t be running again for a few weeks.
At the end of the race yesterday, I think I decided that I don’t need the pain cave anymore in this life. Marathons are long enough for me. I may try 50k again. We’ll see. I realize that 50 miles would be too much for me. I’m glad I did this race because I would never be able to make myself do a training run of more than 22 or 23 miles. Now I know what it feels like to do 31 miles. I know what I am capable of. That said, I have no idea how I will accomplish my next endurance feat. Feet literally. Based on how my feet feel today, how will I do 3 marathons in 3 days next month? Three marathons in three days, in three states, is a different type of mental challenge. It includes a lot more driving. It includes better nutrition for three days. It includes getting out of bed three days in a row. I’ve done this before, but I don’t know how I will do it now. Many people older than me do multi-day marathons. I’ve seen them first hand. I want to do it too.
I taped my toes for this race. Neither toe has blisters today. I taped my knees. Both knees are fine. My hip doesn’t hurt at all. I will go for a walk today to loosen up my feet. I don’t think they are injured, just a little strained. It is a mystery why working at a grocery store can injure a hip while running 31 miles does not. Starting this week, I have cut my hours at the grocery store and shifted departments to reduce the amount of kneeling and squatting I was doing. Hopefully, I won’t re-injure the hip. I just read my own race report from the 4 marathons in 4 days that I did in 2016 (linked above). Wow! I had some lofty thoughts and wonderful meditations on why people would do something like that. Next month, I have the opportunity to rejoin the family of marathoners.
I got out of college with a Master’s degree in 1984. The above picture is of the S&P 500, but it is also a history of my life. I remember where I was when these things happened and how I felt.
But also, I get to choose my thoughts now. I get to decide what I want to think about now. For sure, we can add Ukraine to the above chart, but I can add hope. Humanity grows and evolves. I grow and evolve. I can look forward to expansion. I can look forward to greater clarity and alignment with my Inner Being. For example, I got sober in 1985. My emotional and spiritual life has only grown since.
This upward trend is really my personal growth chart.
How am I spending my afternoon off? Nothing scheduled, no books being read? I am sitting here playing free cell on the computer and thinking of all the people I know, all the people I have ever known, all the people I have ever seen and maybe those I will never know. To each one, I think, “You are loved very much.”
I live in a complex, but the complex is surrounded on three sides by Missouri-style hay fields and scrub. A few weeks ago, coming home from work at 8 pm, I noticed a man walking on the sidewalk with a bag of groceries. I wondered where he was headed because he had passed the complex and he looked like he was carrying a bag of food. The next night, I noticed him again. A week later, I noticed the beginnings of a camp in the bushes near the entrance to the complex. A day or so later, I noticed more things added to the camp. Like I saw a full half-gallon of milk sitting on the ground, a tarp tied to bushes, a bag of apples hung on a bush, some clothing. There had been like a bedspread with something bundled inside laying in the bushes a mile away. Then the bundle disappeared from that place, and the bedspread could now be seen in the little camp.
All this to say that a homeless person had made a little camp to live in. I never saw exactly who was in the little camp but I suspect the man I had noticed. I wondered more about homeless people and I wondered what would happen to this one.
The camp disappeared a couple of days ago. All that remains is a path of trodden grass leading into the bushes. Dear homeless man, you are loved very much.