Long Walks On Leafy Streets

9/17/2017 Fenton Street, Takoma Park, MD.
It is dusk on a summery September evening. Prashant just went to sleep after a good dinner that he ate voraciously after about an hour of running around chasing balls, climbing on slides and rolling in the grass. It is all quiet in the neighborhood as people go about resting at the end of the week and preparing for Monday, a bit of time for writing and reflection.

There were some meditative moments during this morning’s run as well. Starting from our home it is about 5 miles to the intersection of the Rock Creek Parkway and Connecticut Ave in DC. That is also where the Navy-Air Force half marathon turned around. The last batch of runners were shuffling along and after about two miles from that point where the creek joins the Potomac river they branched away from the waterside and from then on it was very quiet and tranquil along the river. It was very nice to run along the river enjoying its beauty in such an almost-solitary and peaceful moment.
One is able to appreciate the true beauty of things and see them as they are in such moments.

Running can be almost like a meditation sometimes. It is nice to have a cheering crowd on the sidelines and bands playing and all that. No doubt it gives one a boost, at least temporarily. But perhaps the best way to run is in silence, as if one were meditating. When the mind is calm and relaxed and enjoying the beauty of the surroundings, especially when it is as picturesque as running alongside a river, then the body also functions better and the running is smooth and efficient.

Just as meditation can elevate our perspective of life and help us rise above our own little ego and appreciate the true nature of life so can running. In fact the two reinforce each other. Running prepares the mind, in a way, to rise above its usual preoccupation with worries and petty grievances. One has to rise above the momentary pain and instead of fighting through or trying to “overcome” the pain, focusing on the joy of the rhythmic movement and the intrinsic strength of the body helps to replace the pain with a feeling of fulfillment and fills the body with energy.

Once you rise above the mundane worries and concerns and fantasies you are able to see the world as it is and it is not as threatening or intimidating anymore. Not because it has all of a sudden become very pleasant and has gotten magically transformed into heaven but because you have simply let go of your own conceptions of what is pleasant and what is not. You see that you are part of this cosmic dance of birth and death and expansion and contraction that has gone on for eternity and will continue to go on.

Astronomers and space scientists get to see this dance up close. This past Friday marked the end of the decades long Cassini mission to Saturn. Speaking of its flawless performance and the breathtaking pictures it sent us, the scientists and engineers alternated between rapture and melancholy. It was like a memorial service for a dear friend who had lived a great and wonderful life and enriched the lives of everyone around him or her. How fortunate these scientists are, to spend their lives immersed in the beauty of the cosmos and the knowledge of the vastness of the universe and its cycle of birth, expansion and contraction!

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