It had rained the day before my birthday, and the rain clouds blew away with the strong winds. Everything was new and wet, cold and fresh. In the morning, I went to my special spot in the Arroyo Seco to do my annual birthday run – dressed in running shoes, regular pants and sweatshirt, I carried my little notebook and pen in my pocket. Simple. Just run, I told myself. Get to the point of remembering.
The birthday run is all about remembering, turning back the clock to year one and running a lap for each year, and letting the memories flow.
I felt a tingle of anticipation as I drove to the arroyo, and walked to the run site. No one else was there, which was better, because it allowed me to focus on my inner mind and inner seeing.
As I began my first year, a new memory emerged that wasn’t there in previous years (I’ve done this annual run for about the last 30 years). I became aware that a process exists whereby I was being “fitted” for a life, with a particular family, at that particular time, in that particular town. I’d presumed that this would be the life that I earned for myself, and I recall at the earliest age, expecting greatness. I was born expecting complete honesty and honorability from those others around me, and I remember that I expected this absolute honesty to be a very normal and natural thing in this world into which I was born. I assumed that everyone would work hard to aspire to greatness, that it was just the way this world flowed.
This memory helped me explain why I cried so much as an infant, and why my parents thought I was autistic. It was as if I knew of a world where greatness, and beauty, and grandeur, and cooperation, and goodness for the sake of goodness were normal.
But something was very wrong. I was obviously not in the world which I expected for myself.
These insights came quickly as I ran – it took me much longer to write this explanation that it took to run the half-lap in which this memory flowed.
So my insights and memories were of the big picture, not the little daily details that I’ve reviewed during most of my past 30+ years of doing the birthday run.
I realized that I was born expecting greatness, and sadness enshrouded me by kindergarten when I sensed that no one Knows, and that schooling was boxing my mind into neat categories. As the years of school moved forward, my ideal of living life for higher goals was wiped away, as it became painfully clear that nearly everyone makes all their life decisions based upon money and monetary considerations. I felt pain, and learned to be quiet, as I was taught in school how to think small.
And though it was never stated explicitly, I was taught that the only activities worth pursuing in life were those which had a monetary pay-off.
I once asked my father, “He does that all day long?” referring to a man who did the same job over and over, every day, every week, year after year, and never seemed to rebel.
“Of course,” my father told me. “He has a family to support. Any job has its ups and downs. He may not like it every day, but he has to do it. Anyway, you’ll understand when you get older.”
I did find a few exceptional teachers and mentors, but I could still not help but note that even the best of them who helped me to “break free” in my thinking were still very much imprisoned in the world of money. It isn’t that I don’t understand the role and function of money. It’s just that I could never understand that anything is OK and justifiable because it pays the bills. What about growth? Or fulfillment? What about finding one’s purpose in life? What about spiritual evolution? I saw that art and truly artistic endeavors were one form of salvation in the prison-world in which I found myself.
As I ran on my birthday morning, lap by lap through the memories, it was clear that we are all already “lost” by first grade. I once had the acute awareness of the fact that I was a spiritual entity who was simply occupying this particular body.
But then, my society and peers taught me to worry about everything in life that conspires against us, things like sickness, accidents, disease, homelessness, divorce, bankruptcy, etc. And all of life was then a mad rush to overcome all those things, but we all die anyway. I’d seen way too many who died wealthy but no further along their spiritual path.
During my run, I saw that I succeeded and failed at my various attempts to do things that are fulfilling and uplifting, which could also support me. Additionally, I saw that there is no dishonor in 8 to 5 jobs, working for someone else. Everything is how we do it, and how we uplift others while living our lives.
I reviewed my many projects and endeavors, and at the end of my run, I came back to the very knowledge that I instinctively knew as a baby – we are spirit beings, here temporarily in bodies, to learn and to evolve. Everything else is fluff and time waste.
I walked back to my car, ready to continue with a busy day. I laughed at the beauty and newness of the day, and I gave thanks to my parents and teachers.