Self Actualization

It is Saturday. I\’m about to head out to the park for a few miles. But first, I was doing my spiritual studies and pondering A Course in Miracles. I am reading a book by Marianne Williamson on that topic and that is where the \”self actualization\” came from; as I need to clarify exactly what I want from the universe.

I\’ve been in conflict my entire life about my career. It has always been just a job and source of money; not something I\’m devoted to. Yet I work amongst people who give every appearance of being devoted to their work. I do hold up my end of the productive output at work but I do it just because I do, not because I love it. And the rest of my life has always been my interest: spiritual studies and endurance athlete.

So, I need time to live my life and I continually protect myself from time at work overtaking the daily training. This tension of time causes a mental conflict. This topic came up in a conversation with my boss this week who notices that I am always protecting my life from work. So now I am afraid of him. Today is the boss\’ Christmas party and I know I would only go in order to please him.

But as I pondered this tension in relation to A Course in Miracles, the thought struck me: either stand in your truth or continue to play games. How powerful. I don\’t think I\’d lose my job over this because I am a productive team member.  Accepting average-ness at work is ok because the vast majority of the engineers stay at the level I\’m at for decades and then retire.

But my line in the sand says something.

I need to choose a path: self actualize as an endurance athlete and ACIM scholar or self actualize as an engineer. I need to stand in my truth and give a clear answer to the universe about it. But I also need to ponder my truth more deeply. It certainly is not framed in form but content; and each day can deliver content regardless of form. What is it I really want?

The conundrum continues. I need to go running now.

True Identity

This morning I was on my treadmill for a couple of miles. I have there index cards with quotes from A Course in Miracles. This morning, I was reading this from chapter 31: \”The savior\’s vision is as innocent of what your brother is as it is free of any judgment made upon yourself. It sees no past in anyone at all. And thus it serves a wholly open mind, unclouded by old concepts, and prepared to look on only what the present holds. It cannot judge because it does not know. And recognizing this, it merely asks, \”What is the meaning of what I behold?\” Then is the answer given. And the door held open for the face of Christ to shine upon the one who asks, in innocence, to see beyond the veil of old ideas and ancient concepts held so long and dear against the vision of the Christ in you.\”

I was inspired by \”It sees no past at all\” and \”to see beyond the veil of old ideas.\”
See, in the past week, I\’ve poured another pile of money into somewhat helpful theraputics for my left heel; but was still left with annoyance of the practitioners or the business model they adhere to. In appointment number 3, the therapy was pain producing; and the practitioner was suggesting I spend more and more money on various things.
No matter my spiritual aspirations, I can\’t sustain endless expenditures. And then I said to myself, \”it would be much cheaper and probably just as effective is you cut back on running.\” Except for I wanted to go in a marathon in Utah on September 8, I have no qualms about less running/more cross training. Logically, the cross training is better for me physically.
This phase of my development means that I have to let go of old identities: I am a runner. But, as a Course in Miracles student, I know I need to identify with Spirit. And to the door is open to once again take a step away from delusional reality and step further into Spiritual Reality.
There is a great deal of inner peace in my cross training. It is not attached to the world. It has no goals. It is symbolic of becoming and \”inner athlete.\” Running is a hobby. Being an inner athlete is existential. And so I am free to choose from various endurance options. Endurance, no matter how it is achieved, is still a result of my inner being. In love with the energy, I allow it to express somehow.
During my vacation last week, I felt that spiritual pursuit is not a hobby, not a game, not an option. That other people have no spiritual connection does not mean I have to quit because mine seems so feeble even with the effort I put into it. Quitting God is not an option for me.

Body Odor

These are the musing of a struggling athlete who is also successful.

Last night, I slowly jogged around Bremmerhop park 20 times, thats about 5.3 miles. The point of the run was to get outside despite heat and humidity; and it is not really even hot and humid yet. But I have plenty of daylight. If I get in this habit now, it will be easier this summer.

Bremmerhop park is half swamp. I shared my run with a white bird who had long red legs and a long red beak.

This morning, I got up and pulled on yesterday\’s shorts and bra; then went downstairs for my coffee and spiritual study. It is a pretty ugly scene, not holy at all: a smelly sleepy person with a dull mind. I sit there. My thoughts are split between Jesus in A Course in Miracles and troubles with my Texas running.

I\’ve had to concede that running on concrete is much harder than running on asphalt; hence more time on the treadmill and the attempt at afternoon running which can be on \”hard\” dirt. But also I don\’t understand, despite mileage reductions, plantar fascitis has been plaguing me. I had sort of a chronic case, ignored for years, in Missouri; but it now requires more time off from running.

On the other hand, I knew when I moved here that I would increase my cross training and reduce running. So I work out at higher calorie burn rates on the elliptical, nordic track, ex-bike, versa climber and treadmill. This does not necessarily bother me. Walking uphil on a treadmill with ankle weights seems a necessary part of training for someone who loves 12 hour ultras.

I return to the woman sitting in smelly shorts and pondering Jesus. Maybe she is holy. She is happy in her work. She is happy with her co-workers. Her athlete ethos is alive and intact. In the silence, she listens to the Greater Silence.

If I let go all is peace.

Working on hazardous chemical safety is at least as holy as doing the dishes.

This weekend is Seabrook Race weekend: two days of races. I am entered into two half marathons. I am excited about the 3 shiney medals I\’ll have hanging in my house by Sunday night. Here is a look at the Pelican Challenge medal for doing 2 half marathons and the two finishers medal for 2 half marathons.

Post Traumatic Knee Disorder

lol!

In November, in a fluke walking incident, I strained my ACL. I didn\’t know what was wrong, and running wasn\’t affected too much. I didn\’t know if it was something that would heal on its own. But finally in January, I decided to see a sports med doctor. The guy didn\’t know alot, but I did get an MRI. Then this sports med doctor said I had a mild ACL strain. But go see a knee orthopedist.

Yesterday, that finally happened. The ACL is healed. There is another problem with my knee cap, which is damage from when I was growing up. Nothing to do about it now except stay off stairs as much as possible and don\’t do anything like squats or lunges or wall sits; or ride a bicycle with the seat down too far. The ortho doc asked if I was a runner, then didn\’t bother to tell me to stop running. He knew I couldn\’t do that.

Well, if I\’m to have this problem, it is a good thing I now live in Texas where there are absolutely no hills to run on.

So, as an endurance athlete, I continue with my life of working out. Today, I jog/walked for 4 hours. This is the longest time I\’ve done in a month. As I lay on my bed this afternoon, I was contemplating my afternoon workout and my run tomorrow. It is impossible: my legs are a bit sore, my left heel is screaming as usual and I am planning more.

What is wrong with my brain? Why do I do this? Why do I sign up for 12 hour races when I know full well that my legs will be painfully tired from it?

After much contemplation, I can\’t say it is for glory as it used to be. It is not for a spiritual reward as it used to be. It could be for the experience of camaraderie I feel in such lap type endurance runs. It could be just to be. It could be for nothing. It could be a retreat into peace.

Post ACL, I feel more tentative; even as I watch the force of my will inexorably drive me forward.

Love

My spiritual creed starts with a prayer: Father in Jesus\’ name remind me of

Your love for me and of my love for You.

And so, if God is love, then this prayer is answered. In every way my life becomes about remembering His love for me and mine for Him.

If I think He answered with a painful difficult situation to teach me, then I am seeing it wrong.

So, I have a problem with my knee which is probably a torn meniscus. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Did God send it as a difficulty for me to learn or is it an expression of love which I am seeing incorrectly?

I have no neutral thoughts. I see no neutral things. All the meaning I see is what I decided. So, do I choose a loving God or a tyrant?

What is the content of a torn meniscus? Not the form, the content. Am I filled with fear? If so, then I didn\’t choose a loving God but a tyrant.

You realize that society, history and the Judeo-Christian tradition teach that God is a tyrant.

I am forced to change my ideas of what I will do. I am an athlete, but the ego of running and racing is torn from me. Fitness becomes a quiet manifestation with no meaning in the world. Something which has no worldly aspect (ie, not where others can see and react), cannot be of the ego. Hence, it has the potential of being love.

Does it make sense that God is a choice? Yes. If I decided he is a tyrant, then that is what I think. If he actually is love, he wouldn\’t attempt to change me. He would wait until I wanted him; at which point He would send immediate help. Even so, it takes awhile for me to change my choices and beliefs, at least from my perspective.

No, the enlightened or special religious don\’t have an edge because of their position or religious validation. We all have an equal chance to live in God\’s love or not.

I want the content of my life (mind) to be love. And so, that is the help I am given.

The Task – Listening

It is Saturday in the middle of a hot summer. I slept in, so no early morning coolness for a run. I don\’t know if I will go outside at all.

As I did my evening reflection last night, I pondered the great silence and the frustration I feel as a human being. The best answer is just to kneel in awe at the great silence, realizing it is so much more magnificent than me; and the ceasing of my activities and thoughts produces the best me.

This morning, having slept late, I also took my time with morning spiritual study and inner listening. I wonder if a trek in the hot sun would be an enactment of a Saharan quest. Like many, I have the desire to trek through the desert, as Jesus, coming out with some greater wisdom or higher consciousness. But we cannot trick God. An hour on the treadmill in my living room might produce just as much. But if I go outside, the fat people in their graden will see me and wonder. The guy who always weed eats will see me and wonder. The guy who runs with a younger stud on roller skates will wonder. The two people who walk their dogs will wonder.

In a practical sense, I am taking it easy this weekend because next Friday night I have a 50k race. This race is a trek: under the full moon in northern Kansas corn and soy bean fields.

Running in the sun won\’t produce God. It could reduce ego.

Sept Multiday – Friday

I slept late today, 7:30. Then I had coffee and spiritual study until 9:30. When I headed to the park, it was still only 64F! I ran 8.1 miles at a steady 10 m/m pace, even though my quads felt tired. My achilles was not in pain from yesterday. Then, I switched to the Sanctuary trail and ran another 1h50. I did 3 laps today (about 7 miles) before the legs were totally tired.

All during my running, I was realizing how I must be in transition. Most of the summer, I was driven to get up early and complete 5 and 6 hour training days on the weekends. Looking back, I think my race plans (hot July ultras) were driving the endurance effort. But as I’ve switched to some trail running, the emphasis on strengthening my quads is taking over. I feel fatigue like I’ve not felt before, but no injuries. However, the question of why was in my mind. I\’m not particularly interested in racing at the moment, so why do I train?

This afternoon, after my deep tissue massage (I hate massages), the answer hit me. I am an athlete. That’s why I train. I don’t care if I never go in another competition. I am an athlete. I am a spiritual athlete and long distance runner. These go hand in hand. My spiritual sport requires just as much time and effort as running. I must grow in both and that means work. But, I\’ve never wanted to stop either; not spirituality after I failed at the monastery, and not running after I became so unimpressed with races. I am an athlete so I carry out my life like one, no matter that it does no good in this world.

I am an athlete in the depth of my soul. I have purified the motives of my sports. I don\’t train to race and I don\’t study spirituality for this world.

Now, time for free weights. My LMT verified that my traps are much stronger than they used to be.

Normal Friday at Home

Tonight feels like the first normal night I have had in a week (actually it is): came home from work, ate, napped, and worked out. I have come home to the dimensionless, infinite solitude of my one bedroom apartment.

It is not that I cannot socialize or am not good at it; it’s that I seek something beyond the material world. Seeking the Beyond in solitude is not disrespectful or arrogant toward other people. Spiritual solitude is just a choice to serve all by attending consciously and directly to the Presence. As one person remembers God, they do so for all; since minds are joined.

The world does not understand the need to change false beliefs and silence worldly thoughts for the purpose of remembering God. I am following a spiritual course of action because the awareness of God is the top of my priority list.

My trainer nixed my idea of the Maryville Marathon. So now I need to hunker down and just steadily work out until July 23: Lunar Trek (40 mile ultra, at night on the Kansas prairie). It’s back to the silence and the pondering of the Presence. I love being consistent. I love turning right into health and fitness; while the world jabbers away but takes no action.

Tomorrow I will head out for a long ultra pace run. Nothing will be proved. Time will be spent. It will be sweaty. It will be monotonous. I will be just a girl, jogging along with a thought of God playing over and over in her head.

One of my favorite things I learned in monastic life:
St. Romuald\’s Brief Rule

Sit in your cell as in paradise;
put the whole world behind you and forget it;
like a skilled angler on the lookout for a catch
keep a careful eye on your thoughts.

The path you follow is in the Text — don\’t leave it.
If you\’ve come with a novice\’s enthusiasm and can\’t
accomplish what you want, take every chance you can find
to sing the Text in your heart and to understand it
with your head; if your mind wanders as you read
don\’t give up but hurry back and try again.
Above all realize that you are in God\’s presence;
hold your heart there in wonder as if before your sovereign.
Empty yourself completely;
sit waiting, content with God\’s gift,
like a little chick tasting and eating nothing
but what its mother brings.

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.

Poem of the Solitary Runner

A silent athlete in a silent world.
A muscle twitches, hardens, tightens, holds and lets go.
No one knows.
The count goes to 15; 15….15.
Tighten the laces.
Foot fall after foot fall on the wet pavement.
The swish of nylon plus husky wet breaths.
I can’t see. Slashing arms grip air. I get by.
Another lap, another hill, one more time.
Raw.
I don’t know why I am out here doing this.
Stamina, endurance, endlessness, driven by madness.
Energy unchanneled, lavishly expended, flung uselessly.
For nothing.

A cocoon of core. A cocoon of distance.
A funeral pyre of objectivity.
Rising, emerging, a chi floating on new fallen snow.
Through the silent woods. Footfall after footfall. I’ve forgotten what was.
I’ve been freed of who was.
Eternal presence, quietly alone.
Nothing, nobody.
Free.
Identity crucified by the endless distance and north wind.
Mystery strides forth coated in sweat.
Power shrugged at.
Another lap, another hill, one more time.
Solitary, mindful, obstinate unbelief, persevering belief.
Nothing to say, a sneer unsubsumed.
Uncalled for arrogance, prostrate, gasping.
Pushing, pushed.
Sacred, holy, an eruption of thought unbridled.
Love unchecked, let go, sprinting.
Phenomenon whispered by the sunlight.
Sheer awareness.
Alone, unlimited, annihilation of identity.
Unqualified existence, being untwisted.

A snowflake soon melted. Silence continues.