Long distance running commonly creates a suspension of knee-jerk judgments and creates a sense euphoria that is sometimes also referred to as an “altered state of consciousness.” As an amateur runner who averages only about 10 to 12 miles a week, I still concur with that statement.
Actually there are quite a few religious orders which use long-distance ultra-marathon running (anything over 26 miles) as a tool to transcend the body consciousness, to eliminate the mental limitations and biases, and to open up the mind to a new “floating” awareness which looks at the world from a brand new objective point of view. There are actually reports of out-of-body experiences among some ultra-runners as well.
The Shri Chinmoy Order headquartered in New York City, for example, is well known for the fantastic running feats it encourages its members to tackle in order to transcend the mind’s concepts about “physical reality” and the “body’s limitations.”
The Shri Chinmoy Marathon Team regularly organizes and participates in 50K and 100K races.
The “Running Monks” present another amazing fusion of running ands religious discipline.
In order to gain access to higher levels of consciousness through running, a certain Buddhist sect in Japan allegedly run (are you ready for this?) 100 marathons on 100 consecutive days!
Waking up at 1:30 a.m. in the morning, the monks pray and meditate for an hour. Then they hit the road and run 26 miles. After the marathon they are back to their normal daily chores and prayers, and then to bed early in the evening.
The next day they do it all over again, for 100 days straight.
The monk who fails in the task, is asked to “end his life with the belt of his robe,” according to the Shri Chinmoy web site.
I’m all for pushing my body a little in order to reach a somewhat more elevated state of consciousness, humility and kindness.
But I don’t think I’ll ever reach a stage where I’d be going for the belt of my robe just because I can’t run 100 marathons in a row. I hope not anyways.