One unique feature of our meditation group is its enthusiasm for sports and exercise as part of a balanced spiritual discipline.
Sri Chinmoy, our meditation teacher, saw that a meditation practice aligns really well with physical fitness, particularly with running. He constantly encouraged his students to strive beyond their present capacities, a pursuit he referred to as self-transcendence.
“Self-transcendence gives us joy in boundless measure. When we transcend ourselves, we do not compete with others. We do not compete with the rest of the world, but at every moment we compete with ourselves. We compete only with our previous achievements. And each time we surpass our previous achievements, we get joy.”
In light of Sri Chinmoy’s love of sports and his philosophy of self-transcendence, the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team offers a variety of races in the New York area, open to all ages and fitness levels. We have a weekly 2-mile fun-run every Saturday morning at in Jamaica, Queens and we also organise races for the public in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens ranging from 5k to marathon distance.
Question: What is the relationship between meditation and sports?
Sri Chinmoy: In sports we need energy, strength and dynamism. When we meditate, we make our mind calm and quiet. If inside us there is peace, then we will derive tremendous strength from our inner life. That is to say, if I have a peaceful moment, even for one second, that peace will come to me as solid strength in my sports, whether I am running or jumping or throwing. That strength is almost indomitable strength, whereas if we are restless, we do not have strength like that.
Look at an elephant. An elephant has tremendous strength. It is not restless like a monkey, which is moving here and there. It is exactly the same for us. In our inner life if we have the strength of an elephant, then only in our outer life can we be peaceful. A lion is very peaceful. Then when something happens, he starts roaring. But its strength is the peace that it has. It has confidence. But a monkey and other animals that are very, very restless, what kind of strength do they have? Meditation gives us inner strength. Once we have inner strength, we are bound to be successful in our outer life.”
…but wait, how did we get into ultrarunning?
Sri Chinmoy’s first love was sprinting, and in the early days of our meditation group we would have Sports Days with track and field events. As interest in long distance running started, Sri Chinmoy saw the spiritual benefits that it could bring and started the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team to organise events for the running community. As well as helping our own running, the races were also a way to serve the public, and our races introduced new standards of service to the runners that are commonplace today. We originally began with events up to marathon distance, but just as one does in meditation, we started seeking out new horizons and challenges – 24 hour races, and then multiday events such as 5 and 7 day races and our Ultra Trio of 700, 1000, and 1300 miles.
Then in 1997, Sri Chinmoy founded the 3100 Mile race, the world’s longest certified road race which has been taking place in Queens every summer for over 20 years. The runners have 52 days to complete the entire race, and must average almost 60 miles a day to do so. We recommend watching 3100: Run and Become, a recent documentary about the spiritual dimension of running that heavily features the 3100 Mile Race (available on iTunes • Amazon • Google Play – see trailer below)