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Heroic Journey

Today I ran my second long race. A half marathon. I ran my first in April of this year and wrote about it here.

Since my run in April, I’ve continued to train. I was consistent except during weeks when I traveled and found myself in meetings and classes daylight-to-dark.

It was a good race. I improved my earlier time by 10 minutes or so (official times aren’t posted yet). I felt elated and not nearly so exhausted as the first long race last spring. Training and persistence paid off – not just with a better time but also with a more enjoyable race overall. There were moments of pain and not being totally in my groove of course. Mentally I have endurance and fortitude that my body tries to keep up with. That’s why training matters for me . . . trying to embody what my mind can imagine.

Running has become another form of solitude for me. And most of the time it is a great gift. The best t-shirt I saw in the expo yesterday was “I run so I don’t kill people.” I laughed when I saw it. Should have bought it. But I don’t really want to scare people when I’m running.

The honest reason I want to kill people occasionally is because I want to kill off parts of myself, which I don’t really like. I mean parts I really don’t like. So when a despised part of myself shows up somewhere else, I see it and hate it in that someone or something else. It’s way easier than hating it in myself.

“Such strong language!” you say wrinkling your nose.

No, just real language. Real in terms of my inner life. I don’t rationally contemplate killing anyone. And I’m clearer and clearer about the sources of that split deep in my being. It goes way on back before there were words. And I am not the only one. And you know it.

We human beings are prone to defending ourselves, our deep vulnerabilities by disavowing the parts of ourselves we don’t like and getting rid of them. Blame someone else. Despise the bad habits of others. Scoff at the fools in politics. Ridicule the idiots on reality TV.  Hate the pastor, president or store clerk. Yell at the driver who cuts you off.

We need healing from this. I do. We human beings need to find reunion within our selves. Bringing together our best and worst impulses into more honest and vulnerable living, talking and relating. But let’s face it: this is one hard task.

Partly it is hard because everything around us supports the split. Churches and world religions split the sacred into smaller gods and ideals and rules and laws. Nations split the world into ours and yours, in and out, war and peace.  Corporations split the world into haves and have-nots, chic and passé, rich and poor.  Schools split people into levels of achievement, hierarchies of grading, tracks of tenure. Culture keeps people in classes, genders, races and orientations. Human beings get lost in this mess. And so does God.

It is not that the world has no real differences. It is that we have missed the underlying unity and connection of all things from the pervasiveness of sacred presence, to the basic oneness of our selves, to the wholeness of the earth and universe, to the unavoidable similitude between us and our neighbors, our fellow human beings, even our enemies.

I cannot and will not try to offer any simple solutions to this brokenness. It runs deep in the world and in my own heart and mind. Yet running is one way I reach for healing. It reunites in me, in my body, splits I can’t even fully grasp.

Dreams do this for us every night.* The split up and disconnected pieces of our days, our lives, seek integration in our dreams. The movement of energy in the brain literally goes back and forth across the right and left hemispheres of our gray matter.  It makes non-sense stories, images and feelings in our dream world. Yet in the dreaming we release the tensions and splits and come to a new greater wholeness, which integrates our lives and gives us rest.

Dreaming is often the work of the heroic journey. It is a reunion of the world and the self that is manifest in many stories, myths and religions traditions. The back and forth of dreaming, the back and forth of running, bring together parts of our lives and our selves which all the rationalization we try cannot achieve.

My favorite sign along the race course today was “Run like the wind!” Not original, but just what I wanted and needed to see.  My own journey to healing is in part a need and desire for reunion. I need the back and forth integration that running embodies, moving me to someplace new.  Hopefully someplace more whole, connected and in the flow of life. Running like the wind. One with it, with myself, with the sacred and with all of creation.


* There is no single theory of dreaming. It seems to have a variety of functions and purposes for human well-being. Here you’ll find a simple introduction if you are interested.