This is my fifth year of keeping an official journal. Along with meditation and marathon running, daily journaling is one of my main spiritual practices.
My daily experience can often feel like a roller coaster of soaring highs and crashing lows.
But after recently reading four years worth of entries, it looked more like a steady barge traveling in the night.
Why is that?
One entry in particular brought me back to a near-death experience that shed light on this question. It emphasized the fundamental and fundamental role that meditation plays in my life.
So while our memories are marked by moments of peaks and valleys, our true story is an unbroken cosmic continuum.
I want to share my insights into this mystery through journaling, meditation, and a near-death experience.
A few months after my husband survived the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing (he was a few feet away from the first blast) and my life was basically in shambles.
It has and continues to help me tap into my deeper inner resources and express thoughts that I am afraid to admit to myself.
As I’ve mentioned before, I died a year later at the 2014 Boston Marathon. The organizers of the marathon gave my wife an invitation apron as a sign of respect and souvenir.
He passed it on to me so that I could officially participate in this prestigious race, even though I did not meet the qualifying time required for most runners to participate.
A symbolic leap
I wanted to make my running performance in this marathon a personal breakthrough. Many things in my life were in a precarious balance.
While I was finally finding some traction in my role as a salesperson for the consulting firm I had just started, my wife had just become pregnant—a tragic and painful ordeal that is not talked about enough in our culture.
A co-worker at my firm, someone I loved, overdosed and died. I spoke in his honor at his beloved alma mater, MIT.
This Boston Marathon was also the first since the terrorist attack, and the spirit of this world-renowned race and the city itself were at stake.
Perfect Weather – For Spectators
The weather on race day was perfect for the spectators, but not for the runners: hot and sunny. I was determined to run my fastest marathon.
I took off at a high clip and continued to jam for miles. I thought that if I could keep up the pace I was on, I would surely achieve a pretty amazing personal best.
But of course, after the tenth mile, the fatigue started to set in. I skipped the water stops to make up for lost time.
The sun and heat started to get me down at mile 16 as I entered the 4-mile assault of the dreaded Newton Hills. My steps bled in the shadow of what I had started.
I was left grinding, half-blind with exhaustion, praying for a miracle to carry me through the last six miles.
Suddenly, I heard the crackle of two-way radios in a complete distraction, like changing the TV channel. I saw the white sunlight glinting and the green of the trees breaking the windy canvas caps and big bodies in uniform all around me.
Is that what I remember?
where am i
Your temperature is 107. We need to get it down to at least 102.
They put me in some kind of metal tub, my arms dangling by my sides. Bury me in ice cubes. The water splashes on them and makes my body shiver with cold.
I’m afraid your marathon is over.
How long do I have to be here?
I do not know.
The ice water is getting colder and my teeth are starting to move. The neon blue synthetic fabric of my sleeveless running shirt runs through the crystal surface.
At some point, after I was frozen alive, they lifted me out of the ice tub and put me on a stretcher in the medical tent. My muscles begin to spasm and then close like an electrified tension wire.
Unspeakable pain squeezes my whole being from everything I do to my chemo running until it’s 107 degrees.
Panic and Fear
Fear overwhelms me through images of my damaged brain, unable to function as it once did.
And then the possibility that I might be unprepared for the moment when the adventure of a lifetime comes to an end.
Obviously, I can either panic or not. It doesn’t seem like an easy choice, but I’d rather find a way to stay calm. Like a ghost in a movie, I watch myself meditate in the weeks leading up to the race and then witness years and years of diligent practice come into action.
I need all of these now…
…Every time I sat down on the cushion, all the intention and effort I put into it was not wasted. It never went anywhere and was alive while I lay there.
As I meditated on the different stages of my life, I whispered like an angel on my shoulder, connected at this moment.
I rediscovered this journal entry I wrote a few days before the marathon:
A sudden shadowy thought arose in me that I was foretelling my own death. But if it was, if it was or if it will be, I would like to write it right now.
If I could clearly imagine that I would die in a few days, what would I do differently?
Love Connects One Moment to the Next
I have no scientific evidence or philosophical rigor to support what I write. I believe it is love that expands ourselves over time and connects one moment to the next.
How love resolves and transcends our past, present, and future experience is an existential mystery I am constantly working on.
Meditation opens my mind and heart to this inquiry, and journaling is my personal laboratory for data collection. I have been in intensive research for over four years and look forward to sharing future findings.