Monday, February 24, 2014

3 Koans and a Growler: 10 miles on the path to Zen (2/23/14)

Finishing straight
photo by Joe O'Leary
Race: DH Jones 10 Miler
Location: Amherst, MA
Goal time: 1:08:37
Actual Time: 1:09:19

This is the second year I have run the DH Jones 10 Miler.  After last year's battle through the hills, I feel perhaps I have learned something:

The Muddy Road
Shaku and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling.

Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.

"Come on, girl" said Shaku at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.

Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. "We monks don't go near females," he told Shaku, "especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?"

"I left the girl there," said Shaku. "Are you still carrying her?"

Miles 3.5-5 are on a dirt road.  It's the first time you can actually step into a comfortable pace.  The first 3.5 are such roller coasters.  One moment you are running up such a steep hill that you think it'll take all day; the next you are on the backside thinking you are fast enough to qualify for the Olympic Trials.

The clock is ticking here, while it's generally uphill, it's less steep than other parts of the course.  I was passed around mile 4 by Mike McGrane - a much faster BAA runner than I.  But, for some strange reason, I thought I'd stay with him (or, try to beat him).  This of course failed and through miles 6 and 7 I was on this chase - still carrying him...

Great Waves
In the early days of the Meiji era there lived a well-known wrestler called O-nami, Great Waves.

O-nami was immensely strong and knew the art of wrestling. In his private bouts he defeated even his teacher, but in public he was so bashful that his own pupils threw him.

O-nami felt he should go to a Zen master for help. Hakuju, a wandering teacher, was stopping in a little temple nearby, so O-nami went to see him and told him of his trouble.

"Great Waves is your name," the teacher advised, "so stay in this temple tonight. Imagine that you are those billows. You are no longer a wrestler who is afraid. You are those huge waves sweeping everything before them, swallowing all in their path. Do this and you will be the greatest wrestler in the land."

The teacher retired. O-nami sat in meditation trying to imagine himself as waves. He thought of many different things. Then gradually he turned more and more to the feeling of the waves. As the night advanced the waves became larger and larger. They swept away the flowers in their vases. Even the Buddha in the shrine was inundated. Before dawn the temple was nothing but the ebb and flow of an immense sea.

In the morning the teacher found O-nami meditating, a faint smile on his face. He patted the wrestler's shoulder. "Now nothing can disturb you," he said. "You are those waves. You will sweep everything before you."

The same day O-nami entered the wrestling contests and won. After that, no one in Japan was able to defeat him.

The last few miles were bits of survival up steep hills, peppered with blasts downhill.  Briefly, I thought I might have a chance at a personal record.  This fight for speed was driving me up hills that maybe I should have backed off and saved for the down hills.  In fact at mile 9 I charged up one of the last hills.  On the way down that same hill back to the school, I was being passed by people.  (My 220 lbs usually isn't passed down hill.)

Instead of travelling with the waves, I was a Boston Lobsterman trying to fly into the teeth of a hurricane.  Risking tomorrow's catch for a little cash today...

Nothing Exists
Yamaoka Tesshu, as a young student of Zen, visited one master after another. He called upon Dokuon of Shokoku.

Desiring to show his attainment, he said: "The mind, Buddha, and sentient beings, after all, do not exist. The true nature of phenomena is emptiness. There is no realization, no delusion, no sage, no mediocrity. There is no giving and nothing to be received."

Dokuon, who was smoking quietly, said nothing. Suddenly he whacked Yamaoka with his bamboo pipe. This made the youth quite angry.

"If nothing exists," inquired Dokuon, "where did this anger come from?"

Robert mentioned that this race is not for a big guy like me.  Yet, it's still hard to not run what you think you are capable of.  Between the ice and the hills, I will be slowed down.  On top of that racing has not been a priority for the winter, so my training has yet to get to a point where I want it.

It turns out I ran faster than even last year's race.  Without training for this race and tired from last week, this should be a moral victory if not a real one.  If I am not training for racing, I should not anger at a race that means nothing to me.

But, is that enough for me?  I hope to one day to chop down the entire forest of attachment.  One day, I can become Shaku and O-nami and Dokuon.  One day, I can remove myself from the attachment of time in a race - absolute of training and terrain.  But now the clock still ticks and I feel its glare like the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg: "dimmed a little by many paintless days, under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground."

SRR Shoutouts

Kath was 3rd overall
Robert won his age group
SRR Open and Masters' women each took 3rd in the Team...

Finished up taking home a growler of Amherst Brewing's Cascade IPA -
in the end I preferred their Saison I had with dinner.

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