Friday, October 14, 2011

Into the Mystic

Cue the Van Morrison music (...we were born before the wind...)

We, as lemming students, were asked to write about these three words:


The first two don't really resonate with me, at least not immediately, not at this point in time.  Nonetheless, I will jot down my thoughts on them because I'm one of those color-inside-the-lines types of people.

The last one, well, shoot, I think I write about that all the time.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Om (aka Aum)

Honestly, I'm still mildly (ok, possibly even more than mildly) unimpressed with the whole yogic fascination with the sound of Om, the repeating of Om, and the apparent spirituality of the sound of Om.  Maybe that will change over time.  I'm not really sure.  Part of me has difficulty with this because it almost feels like worship of a pagan god to have a room full of Oms even though the rational side of me realizes Om is not intended to represent devotion to a spiritual being.  Part of me thinks my mother would not approve of me Oming.  Part of me thinks it's just a childish and silly noise.  Part of me is just bored by it.  All of those parts probably don't really "get" it, but each of us arrives on our own timeline, and I guess I'm not moving so fast on those points.

But, OK, forget about the sound.  That's not what Om is really about, what you hear is just a tiny little piece of Om.  And while I don't necessarily associate the word Om in my life directly, I have opened up my thoughts to explore the concept of "the fabric of our collective existence."  This concept seems to line up fairly well with some of the definitions and descriptions of Om.  So, OK, I accept you, Mr. Om, even if I choose not to call you by your name.  And before I get off on a horrendous metaphysical slant, let me try to bring this all back down to earth.

Up until maybe a year ago, maybe even more recently, I would tune out when I heard people talk about "putting energy out into the universe" or "meditating and waiting for divine inspiration".  It all seemed so passive, and in many ways anti-American to sit and do nothing and maybe ask for guidance without any human nearby to help you.  And while I wouldn't say I've had anything resembling a complete turnaround on that subject, I have been blessed with an opportunity to tune in more, to take the time to observe myself and my reactions, and also to observe others and their reactions to life's events.  It's easy to think of each decision, each action, as isolated in time and space.  But the reality is that every interaction we have affects each of us and alters all of our paths.  For a fun journey down that rabbit hole, check out "The Butterfly Effect".

Specifically, I'll describe one personal anecdote which illustrates the interconnectedness that exists when we tune in.  There are many more I could discuss, so many different angles on this concept, but the most recent concrete example in my life seems like the most fun to share.  To tell the story requires me to go back in time, way back to 2004.

I wound up unemployed for most of 2003, and I used that opportunity to indulge in a year long fury of dedicated training.  I got pretty fit and hit some goals, but the real payoff came in 2004 when that cumulative yearlong effort was fully absorbed.  I kept training pretty hard despite my work schedule, wound up finishing 222nd in Kona feeling entirely satisfied with myself.  Thanksgiving arrived and I made the annual pilgrimage to Dana Point for the Turkey Trot, since the Oceanside TT had not yet been established back then and I needed to justify the mountain of food I planned to consume that evening.  I started off running what I thought was a decent pace, and wound up in the middle of a pack of guys, near Michael Collins and Steve Chrapchynski, both of whom I knew from other triathlons.  As we stretched out towards the first turnaround, I noticed a young woman in her race briefs and tank, with long arms and legs and a seamless stride.  Lauren Fleshman sailed right by and proceeded to put a minute into me by the finish.  I went home with my tail between my legs after that one, not fully realizing that she would wind up on the cover of Runner's World after a 7th place at World's in the 5000 once 2011 rolled around.

So, fast forward to 2010, when I started reading a bunch of my friend's blogs for inspiration to dig myself out of a 3 year slump.  It was such a great way to stay in touch, somewhat of the antithesis of facebook status updates and twitter/text's abbreviated language which irks me so much.  You write your story once and everyone has a chance to read it, those who are interested can do so on their own schedule and those who really don't care aren't bothered by it.  I started writing my own blog and found it extremely cathartic, it was something I wanted to continue doing.  I added more and more blogs to my list to read and eventually stumbled across Lauren's blog.  I couldn't help but get excited with her descriptions of the preparation surrounding worlds and her writups of the experience after her race.  A little bit of comment surfing brought a few new entries into my blogroll, something Charisa had said would happen and would be one of the coolest parts of the effort.  One such addition was a med student in NY named Meggie who shared a background in competitive tennis and I found her thoughts struck a chord for that reason.  Meggie wound up blogging fairly incessantly about her love of the Believe I Am training journal that Lauren and her business partner had produced and which recently came to market.  From my cursory analysis, there seemed quite a bit of overlap between the training journal concepts and the suggestions in Matt Fitzgerald's book about the mind body connection of running, a book given to me by the Goddess, Alyssa Godesky.

Meanwhile, my Teach Challenge coaching gig was rolling along and I began to understand and explore the personalities of the participants through disjointed discussions.  One of my athletes, Lindsey, told me about how she really likes the structured training plan, that she puts each week's schedule up on the fridge, writes in her workout once it is complete, and holds herself accountable in front of her family and to herself.  Immediately, the light bulb went on and I felt compelled to connect the dots.  I wouldn't have been coaching these athletes without my friendship with David Volk which evolved over many years prior.  I wouldn't have met Lindsey without coaching her.  I wouldn't have been reading Lauren Fleshman's blog without her giving me a whooping back in 2004, and I wouldn't have known about the training journal without reading Meggie's blog.  All of those things happened, and then the universe decided to hammer the point home when it delivered a freak rainstorm to San Diego on the night of our next group workout.  Lindsey was the only participant to show up that evening, and she performed her very first ever interval workout valiantly and fearlessly despite the sogginess.

Now, granted, a journal is just stuff, an inanimate object, but for Lindsey I suspect it will be a positive framework for her overall health, a subject that is especially important to her.  And while I don't suspect that a journal alone will bring any dramatic transformation to her life, it felt like it was such an obvious and easy way to add a spread the joy of life around from Lauren, through Meggie, to Lindsey.  By watching it all play out and unfold, I inch closer to being a believer in the conceptual silent Om's taking place around me every day, and I renew my intention to listen more to the rythm of nature.  And within that context I see beauty in life that I had spent 34 years ignoring or taking for granted.

Next up, Dharma.  And then, yep, you guessed it, Mantra.  Oh I worry that Mantra will be a looooooong entry, but maybe I will find the right words to make it concise.

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