August: Life Lessons from the Woodstock Guru

woodstock GuruAs runners we understand the importance of a strong mind-body connection.

Many runners can find enjoyment and purpose regardless of external circumstances simply through the power of the mind to overcome feelings in the body, which can lead to bliss… sometimes when we least expect it and not necessarily when it is most needed!

Fifty years ago, Swami Satchidananda – the Woodstock Guru – opened the Woodstock Music Festival with a message of peace and love, encouraging everyone to ‘always choose peace by seeking the kingdom within.’ This August is the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock.

Races and runs can present so many challenges that truly the only peace available is deep within, and this calling is the highly-sought after magical trail that many of us seek.

In March, I ran a self-supported 108k trail “moving meditation” at Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville to honor Swami Satchidananda—the Woodstock Guru. During the run, I focused on the hallowed ground beneath my feet; the majesty of Mother Nature that held me and comforted me every step.

I reminded myself of the purpose of the practice of running long distances with every mile. It is not about torture or pain or exhaustion. Rather, it is about finding peace and freedom within the challenge. It is about breathing into the tightness until there is a release. It is about creating a mental and physical habit of always maintaining stillness and ease despite any obstacles. For many truly dedicated runners (myself included), the meaning of life can be found in the experience of running.

Swami Satchidananda’s opening remarks and prayer set the tone for a historic three days of peace and music that the world came to know and remember as Woodstock.

The values of Woodstock—peace, love, harmony—are as important today as they were 50 years ago, yet they have gotten lost in the cacophony of a society that may be in as much turmoil today as it was then.

Swami Satchidananda’s message focused on uniting body, mind, and spirit in a state of equanimity is the pathway to peace, harmony, and love. His teachings offer guidance on how to achieve this connection, and as trail runners we can learn from his wisdom, specifically:

Find Your Inner Ease

Swami Satchidananda recommended finding the ease that each of us is born with and recognizing that disease is essentially dis-ease: disturbed ease. We can use the power of the mind to find the disturbance and remove it and to take care not to disturb our ease, once restored.

Through increased awareness, we can identify muscle tightness, imbalances and weaknesses that could impede our performance or lead to injuries. Identifying how to alleviate these issues can serve as the path toward greater well-being, improved performance and a stronger mind-body connection. Rather than trying to find solutions through the latest tools, tricks or trends… tune inward and listen.

In his words: “Actually you don’t have to do anything to heal the body and mind. If you don’t interfere, the body and mind heals itself. There is a healer within everyone. We don’t have to do anything to put health into the body. We have to stop doing the negative things that disturb the body and mind and then the good happens by itself.”

See the Same Spirit in Others

When we identify with our physical bodies and our minds, we see the differences that make us feel separate from one another rather than experiencing all that unites us. Once we realize that behind these superficial differences there is something that unites us all, we can then realize that everyone else is equally a spark of the same light.

We are all united. Our global community is our collective strength.

Recognizing the similarities in our goals and our individual journeys toward achieving these goals is powerful and uplifting. Celebrating our victories and the victories of everyone in their search for peace and harmony… and of course, more miles.

In his words: “If we want to be happy, we should work for the happiness of all people everywhere. In order to have a better world, a more peaceful world, we must have a universal approach. It’s time to know each other and to live as one global family. With that kind of feeling the whole world will be a haven and a heaven.”

Seek Inner Peace and Joy

There are constantly waves in our otherwise peaceful mind caused by selfish desires. If we realize that these desires will only lead to more disturbance in the mind, we can choose more positive thoughts that will not disturb the mind. By letting go of attachments and self-centered thoughts and replacing them with more selflessness, we can find greater tranquility.

As runners, we have a profound opportunity to disentangle the grasping of the mind to hold onto what isn’t needed. Unraveling this tightness to find greater freedom, can change the running experience from a physical activity to personal transformation.

Central to this journey toward greater peace is setting an intention that will serve what we most need. Identifying the reasoning behind goals can serve as a guiding force for not only achieving the goal, but ensuring that the achievement leads to personal growth and satisfaction. Set your intention on having a great adventure that expands your horizons and the experience will take on new and special meaning.

In his words: “Happiness does not come from outside you. No one ever gives you happiness, but only reflects your own inner happiness. You have the strength, courage, and capacity to experience the peace and joy within and to share it with everyone. If you want to be happy, work for the happiness of all people everywhere.”

Since Woodstock, the message of the Age of Aquarius has gotten drowned out by a loud and busy world. Remembering the message of Woodstock is a gift that we can give ourselves of greater peace, health and happiness.

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