A few years back I read that cryptic little book called The Secret. It supposedly unlocked powers or energies from the universe based on intentional thinking.
But this morning while headed out for a run through a fog-shrouded world, it occurred to me that long before reading that New Age treatment on how to build a better life, I’d learned to engage in something just as powerful as The Secret. It is the Real Secret.
Clarity from fog
Moving down that foggy road this morning, I recalled the feeling of similar days spent running on foggy August mornings. And more specifically, I recall that foggy first day after a freshman cross country practice. After five or six miles of running, I felt stripped clean of all unnecessary thought. My body was tired from head to toe. Yet I still needed to find a way home that day, for my mother was off at work and there were three miles still to cover to get back home from the high school to our house in the little town of Elburn, Illinois.
The fog had by then had burned off. Now the sun was bright in the morning sky. The heat rising from the road edge was stifling. On exhausted legs I trudged homeward. I’d made that trip many times before by car, so I knew it well. But it seemed so short while riding in a vehicle. I’d also ridden my three speed Huffy bike along parts of that same road. But now I was walking. Every. Step. Counted.
And every muscle in my legs was quivering because I’d just run more miles in one session that I’d ever run before. Yet even though I felt tired, I also felt empowered by some deep strain within myself that felt like an entirely new me. This was an all new sensation to me.
It would have been easy to complain in my head that the walk home was so difficult. After all, hadn’t I just proven myself on a new field of battle? Why should any proud warrior like myself have to suffer the ig·no·min·i·ous insult of such circumstance? But that was the me that did not know the secret I was about to discover.
Because before I knew it, I was back home. The time had passed and I’d survived. Somewhere along the way the fatigue in me gave over to focus. That time on foot had been transcended by necessity and release from fears and conditions I might otherwise have imposed on myself.
After that experience, the fear of fatigue in running no longer maintained such a firm hold on me. Nor did other difficult experiences hold the same grasp on my psyche. That was the secret I learned that first day.
A literary journey
Then in college I read two books, one that challenged my newfound perception and another than confirmed it. The first was a book titled Ambiguous Adventure by Cheik Hamidou Kane. It told the story of an expatriated African man who moved to France and struggled to find the connections to the world that he knew back home. Eventually, the realization came over him… that experience is something we grasp, and that while doing the things we love, even difficult or challenging efforts…we find that time expands to accommodate our endeavors.
Within that book was a quote that I have applied to life as best I can. I consider it the real secret to existence.
“The purity of the moment is made from the absence of time.”
Then two years later I entered a course on the Philosophy of Existentialism. We read works by philosophers such as Jean Paul Sartre. Along the way we encountered a depressing concept called the irreversibility of time. That is, no matter what we do in life, the present always presses us forward and every moment is essentially a lost cause.
That was a depressing damned thought. It took me time to work past that nihilistic thought pattern.
Burning to live
My son is about to embark on a trip to the Burning Man event in the desert southwest. He’s been there several times before. This time around he’s engaging with the event in an entirely new way. Rather than attempt to escape from reality, he will be seeking to find what he needs through living in the moment.
That seems to me the real secret we’re all pursing in life. To be present in the moment is a remarkable gift that wise men, sages and zen masters all try to teach. Yet those of us who run and ride and swim may indeed have a special portal to this insight. We can be moving along in our pursuits and it opens our minds. We suddenly realize, “My God, I’m right here. Doing this. I feel so alive.”
Have you had that feeling before? Been riding down a lonely country road or running down a quiet back street while realizing, “What should I be seeing? Thinking? Dreaming?”
We should not let those moments pass unacknowledged. We risk losing the secret to insight and richer existence when we ignore those entry points. We might even consider them a form of time travel.
What if moving within ourselves is truly a portal to transcendence? Jesus went to the wilderness to commune with God. But why? There is something honest and true not just in letting the mind wander. But there is also virtue in actively wandering the mind to see what emerges in terms of thought and insight. Then that too must be explored. But this is not about self-absorption or taking selfies of your imaginings. It is about working through the fatigue of life to find out what lives beyond. That is the most difficult journey, and one that I felt on that road home from cross country practice all those years ago on tired freshman legs and a previous will to complain.
Then I was liberated.
“Seek and see all the marvels around you. You will get tired of looking at yourself alone, and that fatigue will make you deaf and blind to everything else. – Don Juan”
― Carlos Castaneda, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge
The presence of fog
The counterintuitive is often the most revealing source of truth. Because sometimes the source of clarity is pressing on us and we neglect to understand it.
Then along comes a foggy morning when the world is shrouded and feels closed in. Encompassed in that shrunken world, we suddenly feel tiny particles of moisture landing on our skin. Our footsteps speak to us from the bottom of our feet. Our eyes grow dark and focused on the road ahead.
We are alive. The world itself is touching us. The universe is opening through every tiny raindrop floating in the air. That is both living and dying in the same moment. And that is liberating.
That is the secret to existence. To transcend reality by truly absorbing it. That will take you places you never imagined you could go. And back again.