One never knows quite what to expect when one goes to see Sri Chinmoy. Sometimes one is carried away on a tide of peace and joy, other times one finds one's inner being somewhat shaken up, as imperfections are brought to the fore to be conquered...During morning meditation, I have this sensation of tension just below my sternum, a sensation which has come and gone ever since I started meditating, and which is all-too-probably the result of a tug of war between my heart and my unillumined emotional being (called the vital in Indian philosophy and centred around the navel area). It is probably exacerbated by the knowledge that there is a 2-mile race coming up at 8:30; the unaspiring parts of me have never liked 2-mile races, and there's also the anticipation that (due to the fact that most of the best runners in the Centre aren't here) I might finish among the prizes if the marathon I ran last week hasn't knocked me out too much.
I just try to focus on the quality of gratitude, to be grateful that I'm out running, and relatively unscathed from the marathon: time and time again my inner weather has proved to be a prime indicator of whether I enjoy myself or complain all the way through a race. Plus I make sure to do sufficient warmup, something I often forget, and so I can feel my body itching to run as I line up at the start.
The race sets off at a cracking pace, and I try to keep up with the two boys who have burned a trail at the starting line. One of them pulls back a little, allowing me to forge ahead into second, the other quickly gains ground on me and disappears from sight. The course is just over two laps, and the first lap passes very enjoyably; I am surprised at my speed. I reach the mile mark at 5:34, a rather fast time for me, in the past such a first mile time has put serious doubts in my head as to whether the second mile would go as smoothly, but this time it only inspires to try and resolutely stick to that pace for the second mile. Easier said than done, there are a couple of hills out on that course and I really have to put my head down. However, the only place where I really noticed the impact of the marathon was at the end, I had absolutely no final kick! I still had a time of 11:20 though, much better than my expectations.
Sri Chinmoy arrived. For the past couple of years, he has been inspired to spontaneously compose a prayer or a song at the end of each Saturday morning race. This week it is a song, and we all sing it ten or eleven times to make sure we have it down. Then time for the prizes. The prize for the first three positions might be only a banana, but when it is received from the hands of your spiritual Master then it is no ordinary banana!
Time to go back to the house, stretch, shower, have breakfast and do a spot of tidying up before going to 11 o'clock meditation. It is so nice having these thrice daily meditations just before we see Sri Chinmoy - it means a lot of mental obstructions are cleared by the time he enters. Again, Sri Chinmoy enters into high meditation; I remind myself how rarely I get to sit and meditate with my teacher like this, and try and flood my being with intensity and urgency so I can inwardly climb as high as possible.
The meditation ends and Sri Chinmoy invites us to see a selection of bird drawings - to date he has drawn over 15 million of these birds, each evoking the flight of the human soul. Ever childlike, Sri Chinmoy likes to draw on as wide a variety of media as possible, even objects like plates and clocks! For the drawings we are looking at, he has used black paper, which when scratched, reveals a multicoloured background - the end result is beautiful multicoloured birds on a black background. The intensity of the meditation remains with me as I view the birds, and afterwards as I return to my seat. Sri Chinmoy is talking about a 'morning club' he has set up with some of his oldest students: getting out of bed and meditating punctually each morning is a cornerstone of any meditation practice, and so members of the club recieve at random a phone call from Sri Chinmoy between the hours of five and six. I have to admit I turned my ears to the conversation late on, but from what I can gather, if the person answering doesn't pick up the phone within a certain number of rings, well then the club has one less member! Sri Chinmoy teases some of his students about having very nice answering machine messages!
Then Sri Chinmoy relates some fond anecdotes from his youth in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, and tells a couple of stories about the great spiritual master Sri Ramakrishna and his foremost disciple, Swami Vivekananda , who did so much to bring Eastern spirituality to the West. All this time, I was still meditating, as intensely if not more so than when the function started. Afterwards I felt physically quite strange, but not in a bad way; if felt somehow as if the light I had recieved from the meditation was pushing out against the edges of the inner vessel carrying it.
After the evening silent meditation we were informed that there would be no meditation function later that evening. Instead we would have a short outdoor walking meditation in front of Sri Chinmoy and take prasad. As we file past, we can see Sri Chinmoy seated, leaning slightly forward, hands on his knees, intently concentrating on each one of us. Admittedly I was carrying some rather mundane thoughts in my head at the time; as I looked into Sri Chinmoy's eyes, the power of his concentration was so intense that I actually had to look away! You can be assured that my head was a little less littered with mundane thoughts the next time I passed around.
The cancellation of the function left a couple of hours of unexpected free time; I unearthed myself a copy of Mikhail Gorbachev's memoirs, and my intention was to head down to the nearest 24-hour laundromat and read whilst my laundry spun round and round. Tiredness intervened and downgraded this plan to just reading; a few minutes later it intervened further and told me to go to bed. Oh well.
- Next day: Sunday 12th ...