Mystic Bagel

Sundays after service, we have a bagel bar. I enjoy chatting with friends while munching a whole-wheat cinnamon raisin bagel with full-fat cream cheese and a slug of Smucker’s strawberry preserve.

“It’s my weekly indulgence,” I sigh. “No way I’ll run this afternoon.” The last thing on my mind is speed.

Still, it’s a December day in paradise – 65 degrees, sunny, and what the heck, I feel like running. “I’ll take it easy – never mind the boiled bread and cow grease in my tummy, it’ll be a relaxed 30-minute jog in the hills.”

Ninety minutes later, I start my run. My plans of an easy growler-gear jog vanish. I’m flying, buzzing on four cylinders, eager for speed. I’m Super Goy, or maybe The Rebbe on Roller Skates.

Now I know how the Jews can dance so fast, and where klezmer music comes from.

After the run, I think, okay, this is an experiment that cries to be duplicated. And so before my next run I repeat the routine, meticulously preparing a toasted bagel and slathering on a thick shmear and Smucker’s.

Two hours later – Bam! My legs are like pistons, hammering the hills. Joy on the flats, joy in the climbs, I’m running like a young man, not an alter cocker.

Are bagels and cream cheese the secret to running super-powers? Or is it all just bobbemyseh?

Boychick, here’s my take.

In a long life, I’ve seen that running improvements from dietary changes can always be easily explained by “I’ve got a deficiency, and the ___ (salmon eggs, vitamins, oatmeal) is filling the hole.”

There are no miracles in running; there’s only the unending search for whatever works. Obviously, my body was verklempt from lack of…well, obviously, something Jewish.

Like any conscientious runner-scientist, I tweaked things to try to identify the reason for the improvement. Before my next run, I ate a bagel with butter and Smucker’s. Nope – ran like an old shlemiel. Bagel with almond butter and jam? Omigod – almonds take 3-4 hours to digest, and it ain’t easy. Rice syrup instead of Smucker’s? Rice crackers instead of bagels? Nope, nope.

So, as cockamamie as it seems, I decided it was the whole package that put the tiger in my tank.

Now, then, the years have taught me that it’s wise, when reflecting on our successes, to consider the big picture.

Running has played a large role in my life. In 1968, a senior monk encouraged me to run, shortly after I’d recovered from 2½-year chest-down paralysis. Very clever, God – I’m no sooner back on my pins, and You’ve got me running 3 miles barefoot on the beach.

My teacher assigned one of his monks, a lifelong severe stutterer, to be a public speaker. After lurching through his lectures for a couple years, the stuttering went away.

When God calls us, he wants the whole loaf. Those who give Him everything are richly rewarded. An Indian master of yoga, Sri Ramana Maharshi, gave one of his disciples the name “Shunyabai.” It means approximately, “Brother Nothing.” Shunyabai had emptied himself of ego, and the Lord filled him with His bliss. I attended a lecture he gave, here in the US. He was 93, and he hopped merrily on the stage. His bliss so saturated the room that I thought, “I would gladly spend whole lifetimes working to get what this man has.” Every cell of my being recognized, beyond any possibility of doubt, that that bliss was what I was seeking.

My teacher exudes that same indescribable bliss. In his presence, I know he has what I’ve always wanted.

About a year ago, I realized it might be a good idea to loosen my self-identification with being a runner. I began doing whatever I felt would serve the teacher’s work, and not caring how it affected my training. Lots of small things began to improve in consequence. I was happier, had more joy to give others, and my running became more spontaneous and enjoyable. Last week, I discovered bagels and cream cheese.

Easy come, easy go.

Shalom. Zei gesund.

4 thoughts on “Mystic Bagel”

  1. I stumbled upon your online book which brought me to your blog. Good stuff! Just beginning to read your book. Thanks for sharing the joy! 🙂


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