As part of a series called Run and smile, smile and run, Sri Chinmoy answered questions from top athletes. Here are a few of the answers:
Craig Virgin (American 10,000 m champion, twice World Cross-Country champion, 2:10 marathoner)
Question: How do I cope with the pressure of winning or, on the other hand, the disappointment of losing, in a sports competition?
Sri Chinmoy: You can cope with the pressure of winning if, a few days before the race or even just before the start, you can imagine the pleasure of rejoicing in your victory. Imagination is not wishful thinking; it is not a baseless reality. Imagination is reality itself in another world. We bring it down to this world the way we bring down fruits from a tree.
To cope with the disappointment of losing, you have to ask yourself whether the mind is disappointed or the heart is disappointed. You will realise that it is your mind that is disappointed and not your heart. The mind creates division; the mind is division itself, and division is another name for pain, devastating pain. The heart, on the other hand, creates oneness; in fact, the heart is oneness itself, and oneness is another name for joy, spontaneous joy. When you live in your heart, even if your worst rival wins the race, you will not feel miserable. To your wide surprise, you will find that his joy quite unconsciously and unexpectedly will enter into you and widen your heart. Then you will feel almost the same joy that the winner feels.
Question: Given an Olympic final, ten competitors are lined up in the race. All are 100% physically fit and prepared. What does it take for one runner to win over the others?
Sri Chinmoy: It is not just a matter of luck as to who wins, for there are two ways to become a winner: one way is to concentrate on each runner and, like a magnet, draw into oneself the will power that each one has and almost empty them of their will power or life energy. This is called sheer determination-power. The determination-lion devours the weaker animals.
The other way is to identify oneself with the sources of the fastest speed and endurance. Here one consciously becomes one with the higher realities that are invisible, yet infinitely faster and stronger than the outer realities or the outer capacities.
If a runner is a conscious Truth-seeker and God-lover, then he will adopt the inner way and not the outer way. The outer way is the way of the lion: roaring and devouring the rivals.
Don Kardon (USA, President of the Association of Road Racing Athletes; 4th place in the 1976 Olympics marathon in Montreal)
Question: Why do you think runners are often able to achieve a kind of meditative state while running?
Sri Chinmoy: Concentration and meditation are members of the same family. When a runner focuses all his attention on a particular race, he is in a position to free his mind from uncomely distractions. Here one-pointed concentration is the path-finder for deeper meditative consciousness.
Franco Columbo (Body-Building: Mr. World, Mr. Universe and twice Mr. Olympia)
Question: How important are yoga stretching exercises to the mind?
Sri Chinmoy: If one is practising stretching exercises thinking that he will be able to achieve peace of mind, then he is totally mistaken. No matter how many stretching exercises one takes, no matter how many hours one spends stretching, one cannot get peace of mind. Peace of mind comes only from one's prayer-life and meditation-life. I have a few students who are extremely good at stretching exercises. But unfortunately, their minds can easily defeat a monkey in restlessness. So if a bodybuilder or weightlifter wants to have peace of mind, then he has to be a God-lover consciously and devotedly.
Dick Beardsley (USA, Winner of London Marathon 1981 with 2:11, 2nd place in Boston 1982 with 2:08:53)
Question: I ran a 2:08:53 marathon with primarily a road-racing background. Would it improve my chances of making the 1984 Olympic marathon team if I partake in training and racing the 10,000 meters on the track?
Sri Chinmoy: Definitely you will improve your marathon time if you run 10,000 meters on the track. Running is a physical subject, a mental subject, a philosophical subject and a subject of the Beyond. In the physical aspect, nobody will be able to tell you more than you already know.
In the mental aspect, if you become used to running shorter distances, it can really help you. When you are running a marathon, mentally try to feel that you are running only thirteen miles rather than twenty-six miles. If you can convince the mind of this, and if the mind can convince the body that it is running only thirteen miles, then it will be a great advantage for you. This is not mental hallucination. A new discovery has dawned in the mind and the mind is passing it along to the body. Both the mind and the body will have to act together in order to reach the ultimate goal.
In the philosophical aspect, you have to feel that your problems are as insignificant as ants and pay no attention to them. You have had problems with cows, dogs, puddles and road hazards of all kinds. You should take these problems philosophically. Although these things are extremely unfortunate and discouraging for a great runner like you, you have to feel that they are almost part and parcel of a runner's life. If you can see them in this way, then when discouragement and temporary lack of enthusiasm attack you, at that time you can also overcome these obstacles.
Finally, if you can think that through your running you are doing something that has a direct connection with the ever-transcending Beyond, which is far beyond the domain of the earth-bound physical mind, then you will get tremendous inspiration. This inspiration embodies added strength, added joy and an added sense of satisfaction.
Mary Slaney-Decker (Athletics: world-record holder and twice gold medallist in the 1983 world championships)
Question: How fair is it to know that other female athletes, because of drugs, have a chemical advantage over their competitors, and how can a natural athlete such as myself justify the use of world rankings knowing that other athletes using chemicals are consistently ranked higher than so-called natural athletes?
Sri Chinmoy: Sometimes it is good and necessary to know what others are doing. If one is a runner, this can encourage one's competitive spirit. Again, sometimes it is a great hindrance when we know what others are doing. It puzzles us and, at the same time, we have no inclination to adopt their methods. In cases like this it is always good to have confidence in our own natural abilities.
Nature embodies the cosmic energy. This cosmic energy is infinitely stronger than any man-made chemicals. This energy comes from the ultimate Source and it leads us to the ultimate Source while fulfilling and satisfying us along the way. Chemicals and other artificial things will ultimately fail, for they are unnatural. Anything that is unnatural is like a balloon. For a while it will dazzle us and puzzle our human mind, but eventually it will burst.
Greg Meyer (USA, Winner of the 1983 Boston marathon in 2:09; US record holder for 15km and 20km)
Question: Why do I get more satisfaction from training than from running?
Sri Chinmoy: You get more satisfaction from your training than from your racing because when you train, you have more oneness with your inner life, which embodies infinite satisfaction. When you race, you are competing with the others because you want to defeat them. The challenging spirit that comes in competition quite often suffers from anxiety, worry, doubt, hesitation and despair. When you are just practising, however, you are performing before the most intimate "members" of your family: body, vital, mind, heart, and soul. In fact, these intimate members of your own being are practising with you. It is totally a family entertainment. While practising, you are consciously working to transcend your capacities. At that time, you are listening to the message of the ever-transcending Beyond, and the message itself is complete satisfaction. But when you compete against others, you are more concerned with victory than self-transcendence. So naturally hesitation, anxiety and doubt have free access to your heart and mind and you do not and cannot have satisfaction.
Rod Dixon (New York marathon winner, Olympic Games 1972 1500 m bronze, 1976 Olympics fourth place in 5000 m)
Am I being unreasonable to expect my family to understand my physical urge to pursue my running life? I want to please my family, yet I also want to please my running career.
Sri Chinmoy: You are a great runner. Already you have achieved astonishing glories in your running career. In order to achieve such sublime heights in the running world, you have made tremendous sacrifices, and the members of your family also have made tremendous sacrifices. This kind of mutual sacrifice is in no way an indication of your negligence toward your family. In the course of thinking of the Ultimate or meditating on the Ultimate, along the way you make apparent sacrifices. You have to know that ultimately these sacrifices themselves become a source of illuminating satisfaction. Or they pale into insignificance when you are repeatedly crowned with Himalayan success.
With their human hearts, the members of your immediate family want to possess you and have you all the time around them. Your affection and love for them and their affection and love for you mean everything to them. Perhaps your running laurels are secondary to them.
But again, these same members of your family each have a divine heart. Unlike the human heart, which wants to possess and be possessed, the divine heart wants only to give of itself, widen itself, receive the vast world and be received by the vast world. These are the messages that the divine heart receives from the higher worlds and offers to the outer world at large.
Those who live in the divine heart are meant for the whole world. The messages that this heart gives them they do not keep secretly or sacredly inside their immediate family. No, they offer these messages to all humanity.
So if any want to possess you or want to claim you as their own, very own, they should try to live in the divine heart, just as you are doing. If you and also the members of your immediate family can all live in the divine heart, then your commitment to your dear ones and their full understanding of what you were, what you are and what you are going to become will eventually and unmistakably bring boundless joy and boundless satisfaction to you and also to them.
John Savage (American tournament tennis player)
Question: Why is it so difficult to progress or excel in sports?
Sri Chinmoy: In life, fortunately or unfortunately, nothing is easy. If things are easy, then we will be satisfied with our self-complacent life. Like a frog, we have to jump, jump, jump! If things are easy, if we always succeed, then we won't value our capacities or appreciate our achievements. At every moment we must value not only our successes and achievements but also the efforts we make. We must value at every moment not only what we become but what we are doing in the process of becoming. We cannot separate the effort from the result.
Unfortunately, we do not appreciate our efforts. We admire and adore only the result. for years and years we practise hard. Then, in a short time, the tournament is over. Afterwards, the world only remembers that there was a champion at Wimbledon or the U.S. Open or in France. But for that, how many years of preparation did it take? Four, eight, ten, twelve years! This the world doesn't appreciate. It only appreciates the victory, not the preparation.
Channel-Swim-Team '86 (Swimmers of the SCMT who in 1986 attempted to swim across the Channel (33-42 km; 12-22 hours; water temperature 14-18 C)
Question: This year about half the swimmers have swum the Channel. How can one prepare oneself better inwardly in order to be more successful next year even with bad weather conditions like cold water, high waves and unfavourable current conditions?
Sri Chinmoy: As soon as you jump into the water, you have to imagine that behind you is fire. If fire does not frighten you, then think of any kind of animal that frightens you most - a lion or a tiger or an alligator or a jelly fish or anything. As soon as you enter into the water, feel that the animal is behind you, chasing you. So you have to go forward and not backward. At the same time, always feel that something most beautiful is beckoning you. Try to imagine a most beautiful garden or golden shore in front of you. That is another reason why you are going forward.
While you are in the imagination world, you will definitely feel less tiredness because you are in the dream world. Only be careful that you are still swimming. Otherwise, you will enter into trance, and your trance will take you downstairs.
Imagination is reality in its own world, and imagination has strength in it. I have written thousands of poems and thousands of songs all from imagination. When you swim, you should sincerely pray to the Supreme in you. In my weightlifting, before I attempt each lift, I pray and meditate for three or four minutes. I go to this side and that side to pray and meditate. So you also should pray and meditate before you swim, and not only on the day that you are going to swim the English Channel.
For us, the physical is just a vehicle for our soul's expression. The body itself can do nothing. When I see that my wrist has held 2,000 pounds, it is unimaginable, unbelievable. But I did it.
Even if you are healthy and in good form do not depend on yourself. Depend 100 per cent on divine Grace and feel that some higher force is pushing and pulling you forward