Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fight the Good Fight (Spirituality of Place)

Throughout my life, there have been many places that embodied what spirituality meant to me at that time. For a long time, that place of spirituality was on the pitch. Soccer was how I expressed myself and I was good at it. It was where I could be all the things I dreamed of myself being. It was also a place where I had to face many fears to achieve excellence.

As I have gotten older, that place has changed. I spent a month in the hills and mountains of Nepal. In the months before that I spent a lot of time hiking the trails available in the gorge and in Central Oregon. They have become a place of peace mixed with turmoil, camaraderie and isolation, happiness and despair. My travels to Nepal really nailed home the idea of the mountains being a place of spirituality. For starters, they are geological formations that people in the United States can't even imagine. It was hard enough for me to imagine them while walking amongst the giants. Their foothills are our mountains and to be in such a place where grandeur, glory, fury and a feeling of being utterly small, has left me near speechless about the wonder those alluring mountains possessed.

Again, my place of spirituality has changed. It has been brought to what I would consider a concept of infinite; my mind. I am best able to experience this place when I run. It is through doing the motions of running, where my body takes control via a rhythmic cadence taking me from point A to point B that my mind is allowed to "let go" and transcend the wiles that are experienced every minutes of our lives. It is almost as though I am regressing to more basic and primal emotions emitted from the lower brain. Whether it be a 30 minute jog or a 3 hour epic, the only word to describe what I bestowed with is "oneness." Not clarity, not discernment per se, but oneness. Where I again feel the connection between my physical body and my infinite, ethereal mind.
Imagine a journey to a mountaintop. On that journey, a pathway must be made. Life experiences whether good or bad cause landslides that choke the pathway with rubble and chos. Every step I take while running, is like removing one rock from my pathway. Each stride brings me closer to clearing my way so that when I stop running, when I get back to my life, I can walk clear and open. Not just in body, but in mind as well. Because for me, those two concepts, body and mind, are viscerally connected to the point where you can't be healthy in one without being healthy in the other.

This spirituality that I have described, probably is not what one would typically describe as spirituality. But it is the closest thing that I have found on this planet that can come anywhere close to a truly authentic, spiritual experience. True, I am in the city with cars to dodge and streets to cross, but when I hit my stride, all that fades away like as if into a mist and all I am left with is myself, my legs and my head, slowly clearing my pathway one rock at a time.

My spirituality does not come from overused devotions or from the words of other men. It comes from a connection that I have with God or whoever, that brings a clarity to my path. What I learn about myself every time I put my five-finger shoes on is that I can do it. I can go out and back. I can do what other people can do and I can do what other people can't do. Beyond that superficial attitude, I can do what is me. I can do what allows me to appreciate this body I have been given and to appreciate the place I have been put. Because without me, this place would not exist. Without this place, I could not be.

Someday in the near future, I intend to mix my love of the trails, with my need to run. To put my mind and body against all the might and majesty of the earth and stone. To test myself against the universe with my strength of will. Some days I will pass the test, some days I will only pass by a gasp. What is important, is that I strap my shoes on, and be willing to fight the good fight.

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