Grease Spot Runner

I wrote this several months ago but hesitated to share it because of its spiritual content. On second thought, what the heck, here goes.

I spent most of Friday in the ER waiting room.

I had a shamefully good time.

Here’s how I told it to a friend. She’s a physician and a minister in our church.

I had chest pain Thursday and on Friday morning I went to the ER at Valley Medical. I spent 7 hours in the waiting room between initial tests and being seen by doctors. Which was fine, as it turned out, because it was like Master gave me a 7-hour meditation. I meditated and felt Divine Mother’s love and joy going out to the people who were waiting.

Something that surprised me was that a lot of love went to a gangbanger who seemed like a leader type – he was white, married to a Latina, with two daughters. How did I know he was a banger? Well, the bold tattoo of his gang affiliation across the shaved back of his head was a hint.

I felt that Divine Mother’s love for him and his family was boundless. I suspect it was because he had found a faith – he wore a beautiful carved wooden cross. I told him, “I’m an old monk and I pray for everyone. It makes me feel that they are friends.” Very impressive how courteously and sincerely he responded. Since then I’ve felt Divine Mother sending him and his family Her undying love.

When I was finally seen, there were two physicians with very different manners. The first was a young Jewish fellow who sat beside me, put his hand on my shoulder, and was instantly in tune with my reality – within 10 seconds he had learned that we are both vegetarians, etc. The second doctor was more rational and analytical. (In his defense, he was head of the ER, a demanding job.)

The docs wanted me to stay overnight because there was an irregularity in my EKG. I said no, and the second doctor told the nurse to check me out AMA (against medical advice). He fairly stormed out of the room.

I told the nurse, “I’m leaving WMA – with my approval.” I was praying to my teacher to get me out of there – I wanted to go home to familiar food, meditation, and a good night’s sleep. It all worked out fine, of course. I’ll return for the tests they wanted to do.

At every point when I went into the heart, Divine Mother was there helping others. Back home in my meditations I’ve felt Divine Mother giving the gangbanger and his family more and more love. She seemed to be more interested in him that in some of the other people who were sick, although I felt Her blessings go out to others as well. I thought it was because he had energy and was caring for his family – his daughters were happy and well-behaved, his wife was obviously loved and respected, and he was the soul of manly dignity.

I saw him behave expansively when he talked to a young Latino banger with a beat-up face, giving him strong counsel and encouragement. Later, a touching thing happened. He wanted his youngest daughter to sit in a chair – he spoke in his usual voice, which was gruff, but he toned it down a little. She then fell on the floor – it looked deliberate – and started crying. He immediately picked her up and in a wonderful loving daddy way distracted her and made her laugh. I thought, “Divine Mother, You are looking out for him, teaching him through those three women in his life.” It was very sweet.

When I interviewed you, I told you how, as a young devotee, I did something that I was not proud of, and how I went to my meditation that evening and said, “Well, Divine Mother, I guess You’ll have to accept me the way I am.” Instantly I heard Her voice, as of an efficient, bustling mother: “I am not interested in your faults. I am interested only in your continual improvement!” I’ve tried to live by that ever since.

All day long I kept going back inside and just felt Divine Mother’s love going out to people. It was a lesson, because my mind wasn’t focused or steady, yet my heart was able to be filled with Divine Mother’s love. The mind doesn’t count; God watches the heart.

There are injuries that humble a runner. Glitches in our legs make us instant has-beens. When the physical heart breaks down, running becomes dangerous.

Sometimes our most humbling experiences as runners are the richest. I’m absurdly reminded of the scene in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure where Pee-Wee knocks over a row of Harleys outside a biker bar. The enraged Satan’s Helpers drag Pee-Wee inside and slam him down on the bar, leaning over him and shouting.

1st Biker: I say we kill him!


2nd Biker: I say we hang him then we kill him!


3rd Biker: I say we stomp him!


3rd Biker: Then we tattoo him!


3rd Biker: Then we hang him!


3rd Biker: And then we kill him!


Pee-Wee Herman [tiny, squeaky voice]: I say we let him go!

Bikers: Noooooooo!

The ego doesn’t like to die. Yet the best experiences of a runner happen when we kill off a bit of our small self and make way for something larger and more fulfilling.

In the ER, I was reminded that the best spiritual experiences come when I quiet my heart, find its core, and commune there with God, as His child, then offer my heart to send His love out to others. The ego must go. God wants us to meet him in that most honest place in the heart.

My spiritual teacher said that we don’t always have to pass our tests as if riding down a broad avenue on a white stallion to the cheers of the multitudes. He said it’s often enough if we can barely crawl forward and extend a single quivering finger over the threshold.

Another time, he said that it’s only after we’ve been reduced to a grease spot that we can truly begin to do something useful and meaningful.

Life is like that. Running is like that. Life tests us until we break. Will we break toward an expansive direction, making our hearts larger? Or will we crawl into a narrow shell?

Where are the grease-spot experiences in running? Obviously, they’re in the extremes. Years ago, Gary Cantrell, aka Lazarus Lake, well-known ultrarunner and the RD of the infamous Barkley Marathons, wrote a guide to running a first 50-mile race. He described how, in the latter stages, you feel “like a very old, frail person.”

That was my experience. Forty miles into a “fifty” my mind was no longer capable of chattering, and my heart was neutralized, free of restless emotion. I grew still, and I realized how rare that state is. I was a completely simple person, and it was deeply enjoyable. I had given my all, I had nothing left, and I rested on the bosom of life.

I stopped running ultras when it conflicted with higher priorities. My experience in the ER reminded me how much I enjoy those end-state experiences, where the ego shrinks to nothing and the soul is free to be a transparent vessel for God’s love.

I will never recommend the books of Hunter S. Thompson (he’s the author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), but this quote is worth sharing:

“THE EDGE, there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”


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