words by: hakim tafari
photos by: kyle miyamoto

Nirvāṇa (/nɪərˈvɑːnə/ neer-VAH-nə, /-ˈvænə/ -VAN-ə, /nɜːr-/ nur-; Sanskrit: िनवार्ण nirvāṇa [nɪɽʋaːɳɐ]; Pali: िनब्बान nibbāna; Prakrit languages: िणव्वाण ṇivvāṇa, literally “blown out”, as in an oil lamp) is commonly associated with Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism and represents its ultimate state of soteriological release, the liberation from repeated rebirth in saṃsāra.

It also said when one reaches Nirvana, one is free from all Karmas, suffering and of course free from the sense of self. No longer are you held to the notion of life and death, as this is just temporary to true liberation, which leads to being one with nothingness.

Being one with nothingness …….what does that mean?

If you have ever ran a long distance on a road or trail and it seems to lead to nowhere and you’re fine with it, or you just love the idea of running to nowhere for no particular reason because it gives you an unparalleled freedom, you know exactly what I’m talking about when I talk about this practice of finding NIRVANA within the run.

Some would say it’s that threshold that you capture after reaching that runners high; it is when you truly become the run, and when the run becomes something else other than you putting your two feet simultaneously on the earthly plane.

“Long distance running is meditation. When I finish a long run, it’s like my brain has been washed. All the stress and negative thoughts are left somewhere on those long kilometers. At the end, the illusions of the past and future are removed from my mind, and it is set back to zero, so I feel I am totally in the present moment, reset, and ready to restart my life afresh.”

― Robert Black

So what does it mean to find that nirvana in the run? It means that you somewhat lose a sense of self, the pace that you thought you were setting becomes dissolved in to space, you are no longer bothered about the Garmin or the Apple Watch – and now your breath, your body and your spirit are somewhat connected to something that the naked eye cannot detect, but the feeling that one experiences is surreal, tunnel-vision like and can be compared to a meditative state… This is Nirvana, a state in which a kinetic energy is happening and all senses of the body go into “all systems go” mode but with a very auspicious auto pilot.

Adrenaline kicks in, endorphins get activated, endocannabinoids start to go crazy, blood starts overflowing to the brain, oxygen starts to let off steam and this is just the beginning of some radical way out shit that happens to the body when you start to run but then after a certain amount of time there is a dynamic shift in the mind and body, and then something else happens.

What happens is not written about a lot, probably because it’s not easy to put into words and is hard af to explain, maybe people might think you are crazy because you are talking about the existential magic of this thing called running…..

Have you ever felt that feeling on mile 15: the feet are moving in the groove, the breath is in connection with the body, in turn your heart and mind become one – you are no longer thinking. Whether the legs feel weak, heavy or light and soft and gazelle like, the mind kicks into another gear, the mileage no longer counts, it’s now an electromagnetic current that is moving you, you are not thinking about work or who is babysitting the kids this weekend.

Nothing matters, nothing exists, nothing is valuable or invaluable, the energy and vibrations that you encounter on the run are running karma chips, the echoes of the breath are like mini mantras to the soul that are like mini Scooby snacks, nothing else matters, the earth could be splitting in two but in this moment nothing matters.

“These long distance races remind me of our Eternity’s race. Along Eternity’s Shore we are running, running, running. We are running and running with our birthless and deathless hopes. We are running and running with the ever-transcending Beyond.” – Sri Chinmoy

There is a beauty in suffering, for most of us runners we will be the first ones to tell you that there is nothing fun about running and I use to tell myself that, before and especially during a run but a light bulb moment happened one day on a long run where I was contemplating on just giving up running and it was going to happen after this run……

I remember feeling shitty, my time in my mind was garbage and the pace was of a very old person, again in my mind and I just couldn’t shake the feeling of “I’m not a good runner.”

I then started breathing long inhales and releasing a longer exhale – I started doing it more and more. The next thing you know I knock 5 more miles on top of 4 already and completely forgot I had a watch on or really the feelings I had before. My breathing dictated my mood and my movements, and because I was so transfixed in the breathing cadence and how I was feeling, time did not matter, mileage did not matter, there was no stiffness or cramping of the muscles, everything just worked organically and as the breath worked in subtle harmony the cadence of your footwork and heart space are in sync, the mind and ego dissolves into what some would call a “FLOW STATE” … moments of discovery of self-happening and self-realization burst into existence and then what we thought was suffering in those beginning miles are afterthought and small idle thoughts become extinct.

The suffering becomes the fuel, the fuel becomes humility and surrendering to the breath.
The mind surrenders to breath and movement.
The spirit surrenders and the body willingly surrenders to whatever it can hold on to, until it lets go once everything is gone and stripped away.
The ego is no longer a concern, doors become unlocked.
This is Nirvana.

The great bliss state is the state of reality – where we actually are, right here and now. It is not some elaborate place far away from where we are. The wonderful thing about the Buddha‘s revelation, the Buddha‘s insight, is that this reality itself is the great bliss state, that which he first called Nirvana, the extinction of all suffering, which he came to describe as bliss void indivisible. The extinction of suffering and the achievement of perfect happiness, and the reality of perfect happiness, is the reality of our world. This was the Buddha‘s good news. This is what he realized under the bodhi tree, where he first became enlightened. The bodhi tree was the original wish-granting gem tree. To find happiness or peace or enlightenment, we do not have to create some artificial world, a world apart from this world. We have to understand the nature of this world.

“And the nature of this world, when we do understand it, is revealed to us through our understanding, not from some other person just showing us something. Our own understanding reveals the nature of the world to us as the great bliss state of emptiness and openness. The nature of this world is superbliss, intertwined and indivisible.”

― Robert A.F. Thurman

“Please remember that the point of your running is to help you become healthy and wholly you.
Consider also accompanying your breath with a prayer or a mantra or a feeling or a question or a whatever you like …… it’s a private affair, breathing it in and out to your own private running rhythm. Remember, this is your discovery.”

– Fred Rohe

Think about this on your next long run, try not to dwell on the temporary pain and suffering that along with the mind can overshadow everything and destroy your motivation for attacking those miles.

This is the time where you somewhat take the mind through mental gymnastics in order to be ready and to be sharp, prepared, focused for whatever may come.

Remaining calm and peaceful is really the mantra and as the run increases this is where certain shifts take place and now homeostasis, cadence and stability is firing on all cylinders, flow state is now in full action and this is where you lean on the breath work, body mechanics and mental fortitude the most …… these are the things that help you tap into this beautiful but extremely complex parallel of this thing that we call Distance Nirvana.