Sri Chinmoy completed 22 marathons, 5 ultras and countless sprinting and middle distance races over a career that lasted many decades. He always felt that running and meditation should go together, and that competitions and races could help one inwardly progress as long as the runner had the right attitude. Here are a selection of his writings on running and competition:
The value of competition
We cannot properly evaluate our own capacity unless we have some standard of comparison. Therefore, we compete not for the sake of defeating others but in order to bring forward our own capacity. Our best capacity comes forward only when there are other people around us. They inspire us to bring forward our utmost capacity, and we inspire them to bring forward their utmost capacity. This is why we have competitive sports.
Before a race
Before the race starts, meditate most soulfully for five minutes. Try to make yourself feel that you are not the runner, but that somebody else is running in and through you. You are only the witness, the spectator. Since somebody else is running, you are at perfect liberty to watch and enjoy. While you are running, sometimes it is very difficult to enjoy the race. Either the competitive spirit or frustration is killing you, or your body is not abiding by your mental will and you feel that you are literally dying. So many problems arise.
But before you start, if you can convince yourself that you are a divine observer and that somebody else is running in you, through you and for you, then fear, doubt, frustration, anxiety and other negative forces will not be able to assail your mind. Once these thoughts occupy the mind, they try to enter into the vital and then into the physical. Once they enter into the physical, they create tension, and this makes you lose all your power of concentration. But if you feel that you are not the runner, if you feel that you are observing the race from the beginning to the end, then there will be no tension, and these forces will not attack you. This is the only way to overcome these forces and maintain the highest type of concentration from the beginning to the end.
This is what I do. Right from the beginning I try to become an instrument and feel that somebody else, my Beloved Supreme, is running in and through me. At the beginning of the race, I offer my gratitude-heart to the Supreme, and at the end, after I finish the race, I also offer my gratitude. If you can offer your soulful gratitude to your Inner Pilot before the race, during the race and after the race, then there can be no frustration, no decline of aspiration. Your aspiration and your power of concentration will remain the same throughout the race.
Coping with losing
To cope with the disappointment of losing, you have to ask yourself whether the mind is disappointed or the heart is disappointed. You will come to 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.
This article is part of the Sport and Meditation series on this website.