One of the really wonderful features of our spiritual path is the focus on physical wellbeing, especially running. I’m truly grateful that here in Auckland we have so many wild and remote places – rough and edgy mountains, indigenous forests, lovely stretches of coastline – that offer peace and solace and a refuge to the spirit. Cradled in this spirit of place, these landscapes and seas and skies, how can we not feel gratitude on some morning run when we venture down a wilderness of beach that stretches out to a far horizon.
This week has been ‘aspiration week’ in our centre in Auckland, an invitation to each of our members to set and reach new goals, enjoy open nights and new activities and generally rekindle our aspiration. This morning two of us met up at 5:15 am and drove through a wet and rainy pre-dawn gloom to a large area of forest on our west coast – a tract of pines and native forest inhabited by deer, the odd wild boar and lots of small wild life. We ran along the blackness of roads, the sound of the sea in our ears and light rain on our faces, then as darkness receded ventured into the forest, on to the narrow game trails that wind for miles through these hills. We felt like indigenous man, exulting in an almost primeval sense of well-being, all the artifice of civilization gone, jubilant in the simplicity of life itself and the joy of being.
I like these hours wandering in a garden of ridges and valleys and effortless beauty, hearing the water in the streambed below and the language of the forest all around. In the early light the air is filled with teeming embryonic life, millions of tiny spores drizzling from the green fronds of the mamaku and the waist high thickets of ferns – I breathe them in joyfully.
We need whatever it is these sanctuaries provide. Untamed nature can be a harsh learning place but also a great schoolroom of self-knowledge – and here where the wilderness of nature and the wild places of the mind intersect, we are often undone. Life and death experiences, moments of fear, a day or two lost and alone and far from help – such things that our modern world so carefully shields us from are treasures that never leave our memory, moulding us without gentleness or pity. Our ‘self’ is pared away and we are opened up to the capriciousness of life and death, only a moment of chance apart, and to the primal fears and trapdoors that open in the wild places of our minds. Nature is a repository of many potential experiences that ground us and make us better, more complete – and here, as in meditation, all our sensibilities converge toward new insight and discernment. Cut off from all this, we become less human, less civilized.
This ‘aspiration week’ Guru’s writings have provided a wealth of illumining insights into the benefits of running. One recurring theme is the principal of holistics – the inter-relationship between mind, body, spirit. The runner can enhance his or her physical achievements by tapping into an inner power source, while the meditator can achieve a greater proficiency and stillness by first establishing a foundation of well-being, and of clarity in the mind, which running confers. In “Endless Energy”, a compilation of his remarks about sport, Guru comments:
“When it is a matter of running, all the members of the family – the body, vital, mind and heart – have to work together. It is like a family party. The head of the family has invited all of the family members to come and eat. Through running, the soul wants to offer a feast to all its children. What running is doing is keeping the body, vital, mind and heart fit so that the soul can get complete happiness. The soul is happy when it sees that all it’s children have come to enjoy the feast…….”
“The body’s capacity and the soul’s capacity, the body’s speed and the soul’s speed go together. The outer running reminds us of something higher and deeper – the soul – which is running along Eternity’s Road. Running and physical fitness help us both in our inner life of aspiration and in our outer life of activity.”
Here is another unusual insight: “Running has its own inner value. While you run, each breath that you take is connected with a higher reality. While you are jogging, if you are in a good consciousness your breath is being blessed by a higher inner breath… each breath will connect you with a higher, deeper inner reality.” (ibid)
Guru encourages his students to run every day, in so doing maintaining the body-temple as a perfect vehicle for the inner journey. Running cultivates aspiration, dynamism, physical excellence, clarity of mind, happiness, will power and determination – exactly the qualities needed for the inner running toward the goal of God realization. In one charming analogy he comments:
“Unless you touch something everyday it does not shine. Often I have told people to touch the furniture in their homes everyday. As soon as you touch something it gets new life… If you have good health, if you touch your health everyday it gets new life. By giving attention to something you give new life to it.”
And finally: “How I wish all human beings would run faster than the fastest, with unimaginable speed towards Eternity’s ever-transcending Goal. Once we reach the highest transcendental Height with our fastest speed and consciously begin serving our Supreme Pilot at every moment, at that time we can and we shall create an absolutely new creation. At that time there will be only one reality, one song: the song of self-transcendence.” (ibid)