What I remember most about my first marathon is that the distance was about 10K too long. Like 99% of all marathon runners I was exhausted after 32K and realized I had ten more to go.
They were to become the most agonizing kilometres of my life. The more the finish line neared, the more agonizing they became. My body screamed and begged for mercy, but I just continued putting one foot in front of the other.
And suddenly there it was, glistening in the distance like the shore of a new land – the finish line! Once I crossed it a miracle occurred. The pain suddenly vanished and a powerful feeling of joy and happiness flooded my entire being.
That first marathon taught me an extremely valuable lesson about happiness. I discovered that happiness is the reward for challenging and transcending your personal limitations.
When you transcend yourself in any field, happiness is bound to be there. First-time marathoners know what I’m talking about, but so does anyone who has ever sincerely tried to go beyond what their minds conceived of as impossible.
Perhaps the greatest example of this is Ashrita Furman, an American 58-year-old who is known the world over for holding the most Guinness Book records in the world. He has broken over 500 Guinness records during his life, with over 200 still standing.
Some records are really hard, like holding a brick in one hand while walking 85 miles, others are funny like running a mile with a milk bottle on his head, pushing an orange with his nose or slicing as many apples as possible in one minute with a Samurai sword.
Why does he do it?
His answer is both simple and enlightening: because it makes him happy. “It’s enormously satisfying to transcend my capacities,”he told me a few years ago. “Every day we’re trapped inside a limited space, and breaking a record is like stepping outside that box.”
Ashrita is a student of Sri Chinmoy, whose spiritual philosophy emphasizes on challenging our capacities and going beyond ourselves. Sri Chinmoy calls this “self-transcendence”.
According to Sri Chinmoy the concept of self-transcendence carries tremendous spiritual significance. It is our inner urge to perfect our nature and become the best possible version of ourselves we can ever be.
You don’t have to break records or run marathons to experience the joy of self-transcendence. It can be done in everyday life. All you need is a genuine inner urge to improve yourself in whatever field it is you’re involved in.
If you’re learning to play the piano you will get joy by improving your standard. If you just started running, your self-transcendence will be to run a little longer every day and to become fitter and healthier.
For Ashrita even taking out the garbage was an opportunity for self-transcendence. He timed himself and every time he tried to improve his timing. This is how menial tasks can become challenging and fun.
Try to challenge yourself today. See every activity as an opportunity to bring forward your capacities and good qualities, and practise the art of self-transcendence. Happiness is bound to follow you.
Transcendence is perfection.
Perfection is transcendence.
When we transcend our capacities,
Immediately we get an inner joy,
An inner thrill,
Which is another name for perfection.
No perfection can ever be achieved