The Queens Chronicle, a local newspaper of Jamaica, NY, published an inspiring article on Ashrita Furman who holds the record for having the most records in the “Guinness Book of World Records.” Those accomplishments include balancing the most amount of English pint glasses on his chin, somersaulting for the longest continuous distance (over 12 miles), and running the fastest mile while balancing a milk bottle on his head. Last week, Ashrita revealed the secrets of his success during a presentation at the Oneness Fountain Heart vegetarian restaurant in Flushing, NY. Like the owner of the restaurant, Ashrita is a follower of Sri Chinmoy, an Indian spiritual leader who lived in Jamaica. Chinmoy died in 2007. Prior to the event, the tools of Furman’s trade could be seen scattered across the eatery. From the powder-blue walls to the gentle hymnal chanting in the background, everything in the restaurant aims at providing a soothing atmosphere.
After breaking the ice by jumping on a pogo stick while jumping rope, Ashrita discussed how he transformed from the nerd to one of the most versatile athletes today. The son of a successful attorney growing up in Kew Gardens Hills, Furman came to the realization that there was more to life than having a nice family and a big house. He started studying eastern philosophy and began meditating on his own, but shortly met up with Chinmoy. Their idea of meditating originally clashed. Ashrita wanted to go into a cave and drink strange teas, while Chinmoy was a strong advocate of physical activity. Still, Ashrita said that when they met, he saw a halo around Chinmoy and knew immediately he would be his teacher. His first foray into the world of physical accomplishment came during a 24-hour bike race in Central Park, in which bikers see how many miles they can ride in the time period. Ashrita decided just over a week earlier that he would enter the race and the night before, Chinmoy asked the racers how many miles they would do. The best said they would likely do 300, but when it was Ashrita’s turn, Chinmoy didn’t give him a chance. He said he would complete 400 miles. “I just nodded,” Ashrita recounted. Then he went home and wrote out his will, sure he would die trying to hit the number. Despite his lack of training and unintimidating stature, Ashrita tied for third, cycling 405 miles. “As soon as I stumbled off the bike, I knew I wanted to break a Guinness record,” he said.
The first record he broke was for doing the most jumping jacks. At first he could only do 50. After training, he managed 27,000, smashing the previous record of 20,000. Since then he has broken close to 225 records and currently holds around 91. He credits his success to four techniques: chanting, prayer, meditation and visualization. “Instead of feeling pain, I would visualize God massaging my legs,” he said. “And it works.” The chant that really sums up his situation came to him while he was attempting to travel the farthest distance somersaulting. After reaching mile 10, he had broken the record but was still short of his goal of 12 miles. He wanted to quit, but after some friendly encouragement he persevered, repeating to himself, “I am not the body, I am the soul.”