Tag Archives: China

Spirituality: A Running Definition

A sadhu performing namaste in Madurai, India.

Image via Wikipedia

I had hoped we were ready to move past the point of defining terms and such, but I guess we had forgotten the most important term.  This term is actually in title, no it isn’t running or art.  Confused? Well it is actually in the series title – Spirituality.  Keeping in mind that Warren Kay is a Christian, but is writing to a much broader audience I really liked his definition of spirituality.

The way you live your life in light of your beliefs and values is what I call spirituality in a general sense.

This definition actually pulls together several elements of the definition provided by Webster. It is simple and broadly applicable.  Kay comments on the spiritual experience – making it clear that it doesn’t have to be dramatic like Paul’s conversion in Acts or the Angel speaking to Mohammed but that they are “far more common… and are usually something much more down to earth.”  He says that a spiritual experience can be something as “simple as the appreciation of beauty and friendship.”  Again I would agree with his ideas about the spiritual experience.

Kay devotes several pages of Chapter Two to talking about reductionist points of view.  He offers several arguments against reductionism, including a running one. The thrust of his point is that reducing running to a simple biological activity takes away much of the experience itself.  The runner’s high – simply a biological process.  While the biology is accurate it does seem that there should be something more.  I may be a little biased by my WASP point of view but I don’t want anything reduced simply to neurons and microbes.  Every living thing was created for a purpose, every chemical reaction has a reason, including the runner’s high.

Taking a look through history Kay claims that:

Running has been an activity of necessity and enjoyment for thousands of years, and in a number of cultures, running has had a close association with spirituality and religion.

I’ll assume these are correct.  He claims that the Olympic Games were originally created as a religious ceremony.  He also talks about a group of Buddhist Monks in Japan called “Marathon Monks” who were swift and able runners taking on a 1,000 day running challenge, which is quite extraordinary, as their ultimate spiritual prize.  His final example come from the Lung-gom-pa runners of Tibet who often run 200 miles in a day and can run for 48-hours nonstop.   Either of those two groups would be quite amazing to see.

His closing thoughts for this chapter are good so I’ll go ahead and quote them here:

… running, unlike many other sports or human activities, doesn’t need external tools or devices: you have your body, and that’s all you need.

Running encourages simplicity – a principle that tends to foster spiritual growth.

This, [simplicity] in turn, helps you experience a feeling of freedom and joy when you run, a feeling that is different from anything you experience through any other purely human activity.

I can’t agree with that last point enough.  Whenever I slip off the watch and mp3 player and just go out for a run it can be a totally different experience than any other run. My run this past weekend at the Louisville Swamp is a great example of one of these moments.

[tags] Sacred Art, Running, Spiritual, Warren Kay [/tags]

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Athletes for Darfur

The Olympics are officially over now, so this post may be a little outdated. However, the topic is still worth talking about, at least in my opinion.  China had a long list of reasons why it maybe should not have been the host for the Olympics this year, most surrounding human rights issues.  The one issue that I really know about the most is their support for African governments.

You see China has this desperate need for a substance called OIL. Some African countries are rich with oil resources. Unlike the United States, China has a very hands off approach to getting the natural resources it needs to survive.  China doesn’t really care how you get the oil to them as long as you do.  Exploit children in forced labor setting – that’s fine.  Murder thousands of children because they are a little different than you – here’s some extra money – just make sure we get our oil.

Have you heard of the Darfur region of Sudan? It is ok if you haven’t, despite massive media efforts and national and international campaigns a lot of people still have never heard of the genocide occurring in Darfur.  Groups like Save Darfur, Dream for Darfur, Genocide Intervention Network, Investors Against Genocide, and many more have been working for years to end this horrible conflict.  Some people urged the world to boycott the Olympics all together, while others were saying boycott this or boycott that part.

More recently a group of athletes competing in Beijing, formed an organization called Team Darfur.

The mission of Team Darfur is to raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis in Darfur through the voice of professional and Olympic athletes.

The Team Darfur athletes are speaking out on the Olympic stage, showing incredible courage by advocating for the people of Darfur from the heart of China. Driven by the same determination that made them Olympians, these incredible athletes know that it is our resilience and resolve that will end this genocide.

You may have heard about Team Darfur, becasue China revoked the entry visa for the organization’s co-founder and 2006 Olympic Gold Medalist Joey Cheek. While this was very frustrating and disappointing for Cheek, it brought a lot of media attention to the organization and their efforts. You can visit their site and send a note of encouragement to the almost 100 athletes who stepped up and said something must be done to end the senseless killing of innocent women and children.  Here is the most recent news story about Darfur.

Two great stories out of Sudan and this year’s Olympics are the story of Lopez Lamong carrying the US Flag during the opening ceremony and Ismail Ahmed Ismail winning the silver medal in the 800m.  Ismail is a Darfuri who ran for Sudan, winning the country’s first ever Olympic medal.

How does all of this relate to World Vision and my goal of raising $2,000 in honor of my friends in Africa? Well Darfur is located in central Africa and World Vision is doing work with Darfuri refugees in the region.  But more importantly, it is through World Vision that I first learned about the genocide in 2004.

If you have some free time I would encourage you to check out some of the various links listed above.  But if your time is short I would recommend these two actions:

1. Visit Save Darfur and take action.

2. Make a donation to World Vision in support of my goal to raise $2,000 for Africa.

Team World Vision

Team World Vision is a fund raising arm of the organization which uses ordinary people like me, to get ordinary people like you involved in ending poverty and injustice across the world. I have decided to commit the 26.2 miles of my first marathon to the memory of and in honor of the children I have met during my international travels. I can’t remember all of their names, but I have many pictures and stories.

On the right side of my blog there is a widget that will allow you to support me during this race or you can visit this secure page. I have set a goal of raising $2,000 which will help children have a chance at living to become adults across Africa.

[tags]  World Vision, Team World Vision, Africa, Darfur, Team Darfur [/tags]

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True Olympic Spirit

So far there has been a lot of great competition in the 29th Olympiad. For me this is the first Olympics where I have seen any controversy or even thought about boycotting the Olympics. Ultimately, after reading comments from both current and former Olympians about the decision I think the world has made the right choice to not boycott.

Yes, China has a lot of policies that are really messed up and harmful to many people around the world. Every country has some policies that someone would vehemently disagree with, but the Olympics are about overcoming.  Overcoming adversity to triumph.  Overcoming fear and getting personal goals.  Overcoming politics and creating peace and unity.  The theme for this year’s Olympics is One World, One Dream.

Yao Ming & Lin Hao

Yao Ming & Lin Hao

I’ll step off my soap box and highlight some great stories about the Olympics and Olympians.

1) Opening Ceremony was pretty sweet – lots of colors, emotions, and powerful stories about the flag bearers. Including the story about Lin Hao, one of the students in May’s deadly earthquake in China.  According to the reports, this little guy pulled 2 classmates out of the school building.

2) Lopez Lomong has an amazing story. He was selected by the US Olympic Team Captains to carrying the red, white, and blue into the Olympic stadium.  You probably have heard this but he was a “Lost Boy” from Sudan. He literally ran for his life to flee the terrible violence that has killed millions.  He arrived here and has built a great running reputation.

3) Sudanese Athletes are competing and trying to overcome the violence in Darfur. Training with logs, boulders, and paint cans several athletes are in contention for medals, including Abubaker Kaki Khamis in the 800m. From the Washington Post:

“We see this as an opportunity to bring us together and lift up the country,” said [Abdullah] Nyala [Sudanese 1500 meter runner], whose parents are farmers in Darfur. “We have all tribes on the team, and there is no problem.”

“I’ve got nothing to do with the government,” Nyala said. “I’m running for Sudan, I’m running for the whole country, and I’m also doing it for myself.”

4) Ryan Hall has an amazing story and I am a big fan.  I’m sure you have heard about him! Runner’s World recently did a great spread about him. As did The New Yorker. He is a solid athlete and a medal contender in the marathon.

Lots of information is available at NBC’s website. Track events start Friday, Aug 17. The USATF has a lot of information at their site as well, including a complete roster with bios about most of the athletes.  The Final Sprint has and will have more information and stories about athletes and “live coverage”. Finally, Down the Backstretch, a Minnesota focused blog has a list of some great links to follow Olympic coverage (the links focus on more than just Minnesotans!)

[tags] Olympics, Sudan, China, USATF [/tags]

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