Long Walks On Leafy Streets

10/22/2018 C & O canal towpath near mile 2, Washington, DC
I am glad to be able to finally sit down and write again. It has been a really crazy few weeks. Between spending all week on teaching, my parents' doctor's appointments, preparing for our (Nicole, I and Prashant) trip to India, hosting people for Navaratri, volunteering for the midterm election and on top of it all training four days a week for the marathon, it has been hard to do other things.

In early September my friend Alan and I ran in the Parks half-marathon in Montgomery County. This race along the Rock creek has become a tradition for me, along with the Marine Corps Marathon. This time it was cool, in the fifties but it rained hard the whole time. We had to run through a lot of puddles. But it felt good and I am feeling better about my running this year. I have been training a bit differently, using the "easy runs easy, hard runs hard" approach.
I run about 80% of the time at an easy relaxed pace. This makes the running even more enjoyable. I can even think about mathematics! Ran the last few miles of the half-marathon hard. After crossing the finish line ran another mile by myself. Enjoyed the quiet road that stood in complete contrast to the vibrant noisy crowd at the finish line. It was lined by trees and the rainwater was dripping from them.

Apart from the half-marathon I run along the Rock creek and the Potomac for my long runs (12 miles or more) on Sundays. It is one of the best parts of training for the marathon. I keep trying to remind myself to enjoy the scenery and not just worry about how I am feeling and when I would finish the run. This was also the month that Eliud Kipchoge broke the world record for the marathon in Berlin. There was a story about him in the New York Times on the previous day. Truly great, humble and honest man. Some of my favorites lines from that interview are "Pain is just a state of mind," "Let us just run a beautiful race," and "If you are not disciplined you are not truly free." It is very inspiring to have such a wonderful human being achieve one of the most difficult feats in athletics. Running long distance is all about keeping the mind calm and relaxed even as the body is getting tired. In turn it helps you to develop mindfulness in daily life and stay balanced and positive while negative feelings and reactions are arising in response to the circumstances.

Every Saturday for over a month now I have been canvassing in the Langley-Mclean area. It is a completely different world out there. Potomac, MD is probably similar and I have driven through there a lot but haven't been house to house. People in this area of the Virginia 10th congressional district live in enormous mansions surrounded by acres of woods. I must say it was nice to bike and walk in tree lined quiet streets that felt almost like being in a forest. Nevertheless I am happy that we live a more simple life here in Washington, DC. Spending time in Fairfax county has helped me understand the highly affluent cross-section of America a little bit better. I can see why it feels like they are completely isolated from the rest of American society. It is all relative, I guess. To them, people like me probably look the same way that people living in slums or poor urban areas look to me.

Canvassing has also helped me to meet people from different backgrounds in places, mostly in Virginia, outside of my little bubble of life here in D.C. I particularly liked the warmth and friendliness with which a lot of Chinese immigrant citizens talked to me during these past weeks. Most people won't even answer the door, some are irritated especially if they happen to be Republicans, and many simply close the door in front of you and to someone from India that is an extremely rude thing to do. Most are friendly, though, except for one very angry man that I met last Saturday. But the Chinese have been the most friendly.

In such hectic times I have been fortunate to start one good habit that is helping me to stay mindful, whether at home or at work or even while running. I watch a video of Thich Nhat Hanh every night for about ten minutes. He really helps you understand what being in the present moment means. Just watching him sit calmly and speak the truth from his heart as clear as the flowing water in a stream fills the mind with great joy and sometimes brings tears to my eyes. His presence and his words also bring me in touch with what is really true in life and in this world.

One area where I need the most mindfulness is in dealing with Prashant. Not Prashant himself but rather my feelings for him. This morning I was driving to work by myself and as I was passing through the same streets on which I would take him to his daycare everyday I felt the memories pierce my heart almost like a sharp object. I often wonder how he would be as he grows up, whether he would respect me or love me when he gets older, but most of all I wonder if I would be able to be there for him until he is fully grown up and perhaps have children on his own. On the one hand I am beginning to develop a certain perspective on life, and getting a grip on the fact that, as Thich Nhat Hanh says so beautifully, there is no beginning and no end but only continuation. I am beginning to gain an understanding not only in my thoughts but also in my feelings of the interconnected nature of this universe, and of the fact that we are but like waves in an endless ocean of being. But none of it is able to bring me any relief from the worry that I am responsible for certain people and from my attachment for them. Perhaps that is also the beauty of our earthly existence and this human life. Again, to quote Thich Nhat Hanh, there is no light without darkness. We would not be able to appreciate being free from suffering if we did not suffer, and we would not suffer if we didn't feel so much love and need for each other.

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