Choosing Miles

Here\’s what my morning looked like:

I got up reasonably early, before 6. Then I did my spiritual study. Then I went to the park and jog walked for 14 miles. Two pauses for pit stops and one pause to talk to a friend. Then after the run, I went to the grocery store, so a few steps there.

I know a woman who is 10 years older than me who is totally jazzed because she finally got an entry to a 100 mile race she has wanted to do for years. I know another who is just as old who walks faster than I jog, and competes in multi-day events doing hundreds of miles. Is that not awesome to know these women exist?

Doing miles. What else would life be for?

Today I learned that the Nathan is still quite comfortable with an extra 20 oz bottle in the front pocket. Also that the Camelbak 2L bladder is better than the Nathan 2L bladder; and still works in the Nathan pack. Should I go to San Antonio for a race? Running and racing logistics are about all that is on my mind when I am doing a long run.

Are logistics spiritual? Who cares?

It is silly of me to even ask the question. It is a remnant of my Benedictine formation. See, in monastic formation I was taught about how great monastic life was because it was so focused on God. Then after getting kicked out of the monastery, I tried to continue to be as good as the nuns by continuing to find God in everything I did. So I had to make up stories about how everything is communion.

As I was running today, I again looked at how I feel about other people. I can still see the marked difference between pre-monastic and post-monastic me. So am I broken or evolved?

The nuns eat ice cream on Sunday night; but I did not when I was there.

Choices. No I don\’t want unhealthy and belittling American life. Here is an analogy. This morning, there were numerous people doing laps in the park (8 mile laps). Some running solo, some in twos or threes. The tri-athletes come flying in on their bikes, lock then at their cars and take off on foot. At one stretch near the school, I could see the full parking lot, hear the rap, and know that little guys were playing football. And many parents are cheering; with more than 30% of them diseased with obesity. Everybody is getting into a frenzy.

The runners are quiet. Often lost in their own little worlds for hours. But not alone as we wave at each other and sometimes stop to chat.

The runners are marginalized from the mass of football parents. It is another world. A choice.

I choose to be separate. I choose spirit. I choose a thought arrangement and physical world arrangement which nourishes spirit. I give space and time to spirit. Logistics gives space and time for spirit.

The day after I was asked to leave the convent, I drove to a nearby town to see about a car. I remember crying a pounding on the steering wheel and asking God why I had to leave the monastery. I clearly heard, \”Because you can.\” That is, I can arrange logistics and focus on God. I don\’t need a monastery for that.

I don\’t need to compare myself to nuns anymore. I have confidence in my spiritual journey. I say, \”My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me.\” And I say, \”Into Thy hands I commend my spirit.\”

And then I do miles. And miles and miles and miles and miles.

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Mother\’s Day

For some I guess. I am not a mother and don\’t have a mother; and am not amused by whatever trauma I\’ve observed by those who do have mother\’s but are enmeshed in dysfunctionality.

If I was still in the monastery, I\’d be having a bad weekend. First, the sisters set up a special table and everyone puts a picture of their mother on it; and the liturgy honors mothers. But wait, I really hated my alcoholic mother and wish I hadn\’t been born. So, I\’d be annoyed at the monastic community activity. Then, the sisters are having an auction this weekend. I was there during one of these auctions. I stood in the rain all day and directed traffic and parking. It was very tiring. I\’m more the type of person who takes the unwanted stuff to Good Will, rather than have a sale.

Instead, I\’ve been doing miles. And noticing what my body, mind and spirit can or can\’t do. I\’ve noticed that I\’ve had pain in my left heel so long, that I have difficulty getting out of bed. I can\’t look forward to going running because I don\’t know how bad that heel will feel.

However, it is getting better. This weekend, almost the only pain I experienced was related to the scar (which is right down the back of the heel), but not related to the heel spur on the bottom of the foot. It is very good news that Saturday and Sunday, I tried the \”Miracle\” (brand) insoles and my foot liked them. I haven\’t used them since surgery because they have been too high in the arch. But this weekend, they were perfect.

On Friday, I did 23 laps of a 0.46 mile loop in Pine Gully park. This was jog/walk and I got 10+ miles in the middle of a sunny day. My heel was not feeling great as I think the shoes were tied too tight and pressing on the heel too hard. On Saturday, I did 55 laps of a 0.37 mile loop in Brummerhop park. This was jog/walk day and I got 20+ miles in 5 hours. On Sunday, I power walked for 4 hours and 14+ miles; in Meador park on a 0.7 mile loop. Sunday was heat test day. I didn\’t start until pretty late. I wore my \”Solumbra\” (brand) SPF jacket and hat. I think that it does help to keep the sun directly off the skin, even in humid Houston. I also drank \”Clip-2\” (brand) drink. I think that helped also.

Think about it: 4 hours speed walking in the sun. What does it take to do that? Body, mind, spirit.

Walking for hours is not that easy. One time in a 3 day ultra, a 65 year old woman walked my young ass into the ground. She never ran at all; but man could she speed walk.

Laps. Yes, laps. Laps are boring. But I\’m not running for entertainment. I\’m running for introversion. I\’m doing laps to train my mind. When I get to a real 55 hour race, I want my mind to be able to handle laps. You can forget yourself doing laps. You have to get past a certain point, which take a few hours; but then You suddenly lift your head and realize 40 laps went by and you didn\’t even see them.

Some people pick their 100 mile races based on technical difficulty of the trail. Some people pick them based on popularity. I pick mine based on inward potentiality. After hours and laps, it is not about the running but the dregs of who you are.

Today, I watched a boy completely scream at his big brother. I completely understand the rage. I haven\’t screamed at anyone in years, but in my silence, I know there is rage. I think we all have it but most of us don\’t let it out. A Course in Miracles can address the rage.

Endless Miles

Yesterday I went in a 25k race in this park.

Today I walked 24.5k in a different park.

Yesterday, being in an actual race, I was trying to keep my speed up and practice for the Calgary marathon. So in my mind, I kept running over the numbers and figuring if I could finish in less than 6 hours.

Today, I was thinking 55 hour race. I only walked, but kept running over the numbers of how many hours to get to 100 miles.

But, 100 miles can\’t be the goal. This goal definition has been wrasseled out of my mind finally. My mind has already determined that 100 miles is just a number; its meaning wrapped up in what other people think. So my mind has rejected it as a goal. Also, what other people think has been relegated to the dopamine reward cycle. So doing what others praise me for can\’t be the goal and also the praise itself is rejected by my mind. I can\’t describe the massive disgust I feel when I say, \”I ran 96 miles,\” and \”they\” reply, \”too bad you missed 100.\” This is why I can\’t make 100 the goal. I can only make doing what I can my goal.

So I decided to do what I have to do but not tell anyone. Right at that point, another runner in the park (whom I\’ve seen but not talked to before) came up to me and asked me what I was training for. So much for my secrecy plan.

My goal is the depth of my being. My goal is to throw my heart (slowly) over the bar. My goal is downward mobility. My goal is giving my all, drinking my dregs, ego deflation at depth.

I honestly don\’t think I came to this world to achieve stereotyped approval. I came here to finish my realization that this is a delusion; and seek only Ideal Form (see Platonism).

Sounds depressing right? Well, if the choice is \”Ideal Form\” , then a worldly goal will never work for me. It is more important to me to find my truth than your truth.

I did miles this week. I will do miles next week; and that is all there is to it.

What it Amounts to

50 miles and 2 AA meetings. That is about it.

Recently, I purchased the complete set of Harry Potter and read them straight through. Last night, I started again. I find them symbolically fascinating. They compare well to 3 other sets of books I frequently read: The Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time, The Dune Chronicles. See, I compare the magic, the women, the saviors, the fathers, the social groupings, the role of good and evil. I lay it all down against my own spiritual studies and find I can learn more about how I feel about life.

Why is AA so important for someone with 27 years of sobriety? Well, just that: I am still sober. This morning I talked for an hour and a half with an old colleague. He had nice things to say about me. He wouldn\’t have been giving me his time if I wasn\’t sober as there would not have been a good impression.

Why are miles so important? Well, this weekend, all my miles were done in heat and humidity. I can do miles despite Houston summer. I thought alot about races I want to go in. I wish I could walk for 24 hours, but alas, I can\’t. But walking in the hot sun does bring me out of myself and into a transcendental state. Maybe not the smartest thing to do, but I like it. I really like walking around Brummerhop Park and sweating for 5 or 6 hours. Me and the lizards and the rabbits and the squirrels.

A Fork in the Road Passed

This is where I was on Sunday, finishing a half marathon. The plan had been to go to a 50 mile race in Kansas this coming Saturday. But I\’ve been watching the weather for that area. It looks wet (snow, sleet, rain) and cold (30F to 40F) and windy (13-18 mph from the north) for that day. A 50 mile run takes me over 12 hours. I realized I have no desire to be miserable for 12+ hours. So I cancelled my trip.

I still have 3 days off work, so I might run a private marathon or two at home. Its part of my downward mobility project (see below).

Downward mobility is not necessarily a Christian value for me (since I am not really Christian), but de-constructing my ego and not-going-along-with-society certainly are my values. Do you know how hard it is to be of service at work and make sure not to brown nose about it?

This morning, riding my elliptical, I was thinking about how my colleague R was standing in for boss while boss is on medical leave. I realized clearly that R is the one being groomed to move up (and not me). But it also occurred to me that I had been honest with boss about how I didn\’t want to climb a career ladder but be a technical expert. I also know in my heart that I am more interested in my life activities more than my career. When I think about it consciously, I\’m perfectly willing to support R in his career.

That is the fork in the road. I passed it, maybe long ago.

My ego loves to compete at work. So dealing with the emotional urge is hard; partly because the ego goes under ground. You don\’t know how many resentful failure messages it sends out. Well, in the quietness of my morning meditation, these failure thoughts are easier to spot. And then I can re-center on the choice I made and decide if I still want that choice.

I am part of the massive American eating machine. I\’m only skinny because I work out alot. Like many Americans, I have no idea how to eat only as much as I need. It is true, I might be slightly better a food discrimination than most people but only by a fraction.

Pretty soon after waking up this morning, I thought 2 words: joy and happiness. That is a new thing for me to come up with those words before I even got out of bed. They are energy words for me. That is, just thinking the word gives me the feeling of the word. I feel energized without any change in my physical world.

Awesome! Energy!

On this side of the fork, who am I? I know I\’m on the road less travelled. I know I hear a different drummer. (re M. Scott Peck books). But what really does it mean in abstract non-material terms?

For most Americans, the downward mobility choice is a choice to stagnate and die. Is that the road I\’m on?

Life is momentary for me. I felt it on my elliptical this morning. I felt it in the word \”joy.\” When I run endless miles, it is seeking the eternal value of life. The road after the fork has nothing on it. It has no experiences because it is egoless but eternal.

Sounds boring right? That is how I\’m gett\’en out of here.

Tuesday, Richard Beck posted this:
http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2013/03/downward-mobility.html

It is about Henri Nouwen\’s The Selfless Way of Christ.

For some reason, it touched some deep part of me that was the reason I became a spiritual seeker or tried Christianity. The life of the monk is a hidden life; hidden in Christ. It is quiet. It is deep communion with spirit.

Here are some excerpts:

We are taught to conceive of development in terms of an ongoing increase in human potential. Growing up means becoming healthier, stronger, more intelligent, more mature, and more productive. …. In our society, we consider the upward move the obvious one while treating the poor cases who cannot keep up as sad misfits, people who have deviated from the normal line of progress.

 …

Three temptations by which we are confronted again and again are the temptation to be relevant, the temptation to be spectacular, and the temptation to be powerful.

Who am I when nobody pays attention, says thanks, or recognizes my work?

I think that question sits at the root of our spiritual malaise and weakness. We want people to pay attention to us, to recognize us, to give us our due. This is how our identities, worth and significance are grounded. We want to be relevant, spectacular or powerful. So we go through life fishing for such things, a grasping that keeps knocking us off center, spiritually speaking.

I\’m mindful here of something St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 4.11):

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.

 Nouwan observes, \”There is almost nothing more difficult to overcome than our desire for power.\”