Question: What do you think is the best attitude for an athlete to have during training and during competition?
Sri Chinmoy: The athlete, during practice, should feel that he is preparing himself to become a beautiful flower. Then, at the time of competition, he has to feel that he has grown into the beautiful flower and now is all ready to place himself at the Feet of his Lord Supreme. But I am talking about the seeker-athlete. If the athlete is not a seeker, then he has to feel that there is a special day for each and every thing in life. To observe that special day, we have to prepare ourselves for a long time. It is like a final examination. At the time of the final examination, we see the results of our preparation. An athlete cannot maintain his seriousness, his willingness and his enthusiasm at the same level throughout the year. So on one particular day, the day of competition, he can maintain all the good qualities that are needed to prove to the world at large that he is an excellent athlete.
Question: How can we sustain enthusiasm and freshness in our training and keep it from becoming tedious and boring?
Sri Chinmoy: We can prevent training from becoming tedious and boring if we keep in mind that running is nothing short of a newly-blossomed flower which we are placing each day at the Feet of our Beloved Supreme. We have to feel that this newly-blossomed flower is our soul's daily awakening, a self-giving reality that each day we are offering to our Beloved Supreme. If we can maintain this experience while running, then we will never find our training tedious or boring.
Another way to sustain freshness and enthusiasm in our training is to have a sense of a clear, meaningful and fruitful goal. If we keep in mind this meaningful and fruitful goal, then enthusiasm and freshness will automatically dawn. If we value the goal, then the goal itself will give us enthusiasm and freshness. We are not aware of our goal's conscious eagerness to help us reach it.
The mother will stand at a particular place and wait for the child to come crawling or running toward her. But the mother is not only passively waiting and observing; she also has tremendous eagerness for the child to reach her. If the mother sees that the child is trying but not succeeding, she will come running toward the child. Similarly, in the inner world the goal actually comes toward the runner. If we value the goal and feel that the goal is something worthwhile, if we feel that it has boundless things to offer us, then naturally the goal itself will inwardly help us. The goal does not want us always to feel that it is a far cry; it wants us to reach it.
Question: Sometimes I feel like going out for a run, but something inside holds me back. It's like an inner battle going on. Yet when I do run I feel very happy.
Sri Chinmoy: We are composed of the body, the vital, the mind, the heart and the soul. These parts are members of the same family. They are supposed to go together. The eldest brother is the soul. Then comes the heart, then the mind, then the vital, then the body. If they stand in line, one after the other, then the soul will be able to pull them - like string. If they are lined up in this way, then it will be very easy for the soul to pull them along.
Unfortunately, it does not happen this way. The soul will go first, but the heart will not be there. Then with greatest difficulty, the soul will run to find where the heart is hiding. Meanwhile, the mind becomes rebellious and revolts. It says, "No, I won't go behind you." Then the vital becomes absolutely stubborn. It says, "No, I am not going at all!"
What will the body do? The poor body wants to go, but it is not getting any inspiration because the vital and mind are not supporting it. The body wants to go with the soul, so that the outer running will go along with the inner running. But the body sees that the mind does not want to go, the vital does not want to go and the heart does not want to go. Then the body starts doubting if it is doing the right thing. The body says, "If I am doing the right thing in following the soul, then how is it that the heart and the mind, my elder brothers, are not doing it? Perhaps I am not doing the right thing. Perhaps the soul is not telling me the right thing."
If the soul says to pray and meditate, it will be very easy for the body to believe. That is because as soon as we say 'soul', we think of God. We think that inside the soul is God, or that inside God is the soul; the soul and God go together. God has given the message of the inner and outer running to the soul. Now the soul is trying to bring the younger members - the heart, mind, vital and body - along with it. But when the heart, mind and vital do not join with the soul, then suspicion starts in the physical consciousness.
Early in the morning, first the heart says, "Why go out and run? It is time to pray and meditate." Then, after a few minutes, this same heart will have no more energy left to pray and meditate. It will say, "Let me go back to sleep." Then the mind is such a rogue! Whenever the heart is not in tune with the soul, at that time the mind listens to the heart and fully supports the heart. When this kind of separation starts, it is extremely difficult for the body to achieve anything here on earth, on the physical plane.
Question: How can I go faster? I find it so uninspiring to run slowly.
Sri Chinmoy: To a great extent, speed in running starts with the mind. You have to develop more imagination. Imagine that you are running fast and appreciate your speed. Then let the thrill and joy that you get from your imagination inundate you. This joy will increase your speed. You can also think of some people who really do run fast and try to identify yourself with them.
In your case, you do not have to look very far. Your husband runs much faster than you do. You have seen him running fast many times, so you can identify your legs with his. The next time you go running, as soon as you start, feel that you have borrowed his legs and from then on, whenever you want to run, feel that you will be able to use his legs.
This is all based on imagination. Of course, you can take quite a few exercises to increase your speed. Limbering and stretching exercises will help a little. But imagination plays a great role in increasing speed.
Question: Some days I run much better and faster than others. How can I remain cheerful about my running on days when I cannot run my fastest?
Sri Chinmoy: Your running capacity changes every day because every day you are in a different consciousness. One day you feel light. One day you feel heavy. One day you feel inspiration and another day you feel no inspiration. But once you have been running for a while, you will have developed a basic running capacity, and this capacity will determine how fast you can run even on your slow days. If you can run a seven-minute mile, then one day if you are not in a dynamic mood, you will go at a nine or ten-minute pace. You will not go at a fourteen or fifteen-minute pace. Even on your worst day, you are not going to run slower than a nine or ten-minute pace.
On a slow day, if you want to maintain the same joy that you have when you are running well, you can play a trick on yourself. Imagine that instead of being forced to run at a ten-minute pace that day, you decided to run at that pace. If you feel that you are compelled to run slowly, then you will feel that your freedom has gone away, and you don't want to be anybody's slave. But if you feel that it was you who commanded your body to go at a ten-minute pace, then you won't feel miserable. Right from the beginning, if you feel that it was your decision to run at that speed, you will be as happy as if you were running at a seven-minute pace.
Question: Sometimes when I start to run I get angry, even furious.
Sri Chinmoy: See if you have had enough rest. Perhaps you are compelling the body to run, but the body is not cooperating because you have not had sufficient sleep on those days. You have a very mild and kind nature, so I think that you are not getting enough rest at night. Then the following morning you curse yourself and ask yourself why you are running. You need more rest to calm your nerves.
The divine meaning of competition
Is the manifestation of soulfulness In the outer life.
The supreme meaning of competition
Is the perfection of oneness In the inner life.
Question: How careful should I be about choosing a running coach? What qualities should I look for?
Sri Chinmoy: Some coaches know many things worth learning, but they lead a very undivine life. If a coach has some spirituality in him along with his coaching capacity, then consider him. However, even if he is a good coach, if he is also full of aggressive, lower vital qualities, then be careful. Indirectly or unconsciously you will invite his undivine qualities into your own life.
We unconsciously try to emulate people. Many, many students ruin their lives when they are learning something from their teachers. A teacher may be good in his specific field, but when students become enamoured of the teacher's capacities and the teacher is not spiritual in the vast sense of the term, then unconsciously the students suffer. They lose their ideals. That is why very often I do not advise my students to take special instruction.
You have to be very careful and determine how much you can learn from a teacher without affecting your spiritual life. If you are very good in the spiritual life and start learning from a coach who is not very spiritual, even though you may start shining in your outer running, your life may be adversely affected. It may happen that your goal in life becomes totally different and you start to ignore your spiritual life. That would be a bad mistake. But again, you may be lucky enough to get a good coach. He does not have to be a disciple of a spiritual Master - far from it. He may be a spiritual person and not even be aware of his spirituality. There are many like that. If he has goodness, kindness, a clear mind and a sympathetic heart, then he is more than spiritual.
A runner may develop a very strong inner relationship with his coach. Then what happens? At the start of a run, or even during the race, if the runner invokes the presence of his coach - his style, his encouragement, his inspiration and dynamic push - at that time the runner can draw extra energy and extra force from his coach. Again, suppose there is some great runner that you look up to and idolise. Even if he is not your coach, if you consciously invoke his soul during the race, you can get added strength and added inspiration from him.
Competition is good,
Provided it is the competition
And not the competition
Question: How can our outer smile help our running?
Sri Chinmoy: Your outer smile can help your running considerably. When you smile, you disarm your opponent. Take running, for the time being, as your opponent. While you are fighting or struggling with your enemy, which is running, if you give a smile, naturally your enemy will lose some of its strength. So play a trick on your enemy by smiling. This may sound absurd, but I assure you it is true. Just think of the running world as an enemy and weaken the strength of this enemy by giving a smile.
Question: Why is a short run sometimes less comfortable than a long run?
Sri Chinmoy: When you do a long run, you can go slowly and steadily like an Indian bullock cart. But when you run a short distance, in ten seconds it is over, so naturally you will feel uncomfortable. In a short distance, as soon as the gun is fired, you have to reach the goal. The starting point and the goal are at practically the same place. But in a long-distance run, the goal remains for some time a far cry. During the time that it takes you to reach the goal, you can discover your own way to be physically more comfortable during the run. You can measure your distance mentally and calculate your capacities in your own way; you have the time. But for a short distance, in only a few fleeting seconds you have to reach the goal. You have to give your body, vital, mind, heart and soul most forcefully, if not willingly, to the goal. Therefore, it becomes most uncomfortable.
There are only three winners:
The one who competes with himself,
The one who crosses the finish line first
And the one who finishes the race.