A few years ago, myself and two close girl friends decided to run a half marathon that was taking place in San Francisco. The track we followed took us around Golden Gate Park, along the ocean’s coast and back. 13.1 miles. I enjoyed running at the time but had averaged five to six miles at most, and now, I was going to more than double that. We were all so excited for the experience itself, that we didn't think much about preparing or training for the big day.
Race day was upon us and it became clear that doing this thing cold turkey might not have been the smartest idea after all. But here we were, ready to run as far as we could. Ready to have the experience. Ready for whatever was to come.
Around mile eight everything hurt. Begging, pleading, screeeeaming for a hot bath without ever looking back. But we continued moving forward, one foot in front of the other. Hips, shins, calves, knees and back, all aching, wondering who the hell decided to do this and why?
Finally, the last mile was ahead of us. Groups of people who had already finished the run lined the track, cheering us on. Everyone was rooting for us to close the race. To give it all we had and make it to the end. Speed increased, mood increased, adrenaline increased and like I never ran before, with the biggest smile on my face, I flew across the finish line. Like a bird spreading it’s wings to fly, lifting off into the sky.
I’ll never forget that moment. It was one of the hardest experiences, physically, that I’d ever endured and I realized while running that I hadn’t anticipated any of it. The pain, the endurance, the stamina and, the euphoria. I couldn’t of planned for it. And often, that’s how it goes with experiences. We have an idea of what it might be like, what it could lay out to be, but really, we have no idea.
This past week I spent some time in Vrindavin, a city in Northern India said to be rich with spirituality and consciousness. Tied to this “mood of Vrindavin” was Hinduism and it’s many traditional, religious practices. Open to the experience of taking in new places, people and practices, I was enthused though cautious, of what was to come. Open mind, open heart. Open mind, open heart. This mantra became my melody through the days.
The experience in Vrindavin mirrored my journey through the 13.1 miles I ran years ago. I stayed present, aware that the experience and all that it encompassed, was what I was here for. That I didn’t get to choose it. That as a whole, I received what I needed to and that my choice came into play when deciding how this experience would mold, shape and grow me. Stronger in compassion. Stronger in humility. Stronger in listening and at my core, stronger in love.
Any experience has the potential to gift us insight and inspiration. Challenges will be plenty with anything that is brand new. We run from what’s uncomfortable because we often can’t make sense of it. As I grow, I realize that rationalizing things doesn’t do me much good and usually leaves me more frustrated by doing so. The best I can do is to observe it all for what it is. Taking with me what makes me better and leaving behind what I don’t need to carry. For this, I am thankful for my journey to Vrindavin.