Happiness is not necessarily how many things we have--happiness is the ability to share what we have with others.
--Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Running with the Mind of Meditation
We stood there at the top of the climb, the sun painting pinks and oranges on the wisps of clouds to the East and a dense layer of fog covering the houses to the West with the tops of hills poking through as islands covered by this thick, soft blanket.
The decision was whether to push on for a few more miles, or to head home and start the day. I had told my daughter that I would print her paper for class, so my vote was to return, and there were a few others that needed to be home to get ready for work, or take kids to school.
This trail goes by a couple different names, the Paul trail, or the Cindy trail, named after the runners who have been lost here, and the name depends on whoever is absent on that particular day. The land is owned by a church that at various times has been described to me as a yoga retreat, a meditation retreat, a cult, a vacant insane asylum with guards or ghosts who haunt the trails at night. I hope it belongs to the peaceful, hippie variety of cults as opposed to the crazy, git yer gun and drink your kool-aid kind of cult.
As we stood at the top of the hill, catching our breath and deciding whether or not to return back through the trails, past the rusty barbed wire fence, a couple No Trespassing signs, across a pit of mud and through two streams, back to the families, and the sanitized neighborhoods where you get a home owners association letter if you have a basketball hoop on the sidewalk, or dead spots on your lawn, I took a deep breath in, looked around and was grateful.
There is a cross at the top of the hill, a large one, maybe 15 feet tall, probably not placed there by the ghosts of the vacant insane asylum, and I realized as the sun was coming up, bouncing the colors off the hills and the clouds, that this is my church.
It sounds dramatic for such a simple exercise that really requires no skill, but running has saved me. Running is where I find peace, strength and courage. Running is the place where I share this with friends, whether it be a group of ten of us and three dogs as it was this morning, or just a couple, and if you added up the miles that we have all run together, it would be in the thousands by now, maybe tens of thousands.
One of my friends is Israeli and on one of our runs, he told me that there is a slang saying in Israel, that you never break palavra, you don't ruin the mood when a bunch of people, usually guys, are hanging out and talking shit, you don't start getting all serious. So, while we stood there at the top of the hill, catching our breath under the giant cross and the sunrise, I wanted to thank this group, to acknowledge this moment, but I didn't say anything, just took a deep breath, and started back down the single track, feet landing in the soft dirt of the trails, jumping the streams, breathing hard, mouth open, and mind clear, another morning shared with friends, outside, free, and joyful.