After meditation I head down to the track, determined to get some intervals in. It's half seven, yet already the track is filled with people getting the day off to a good start, many of them students of Sri Chinmoy - in addition to runners on the track, there's the usual Frisbee game, an impromptu game of football at one end, and some yoga taking place at the other. It doesn't feel so bad doing the intervals; maybe it's because I'm not going as fast as I should be, but I don't think so.
There's a whole flurry of practices going on at the same time; the Dublin Centre was founded by two New Zealanders, Jogyata and Subarata, and we have a lot of close links with New Zealand so we invariably sit in on their performance also, and then they're joined by the Australians for another performance for which it would be rather rude to leave, and then we also are performing some more songs with the British and French...and that's just the ones we're part of! All around the park there are singing groups from all around the world, their voices mingling in the air.
It's funny how some days are easy and some are hard; a couple of days ago I was having very good meditations very easily, now as I am sitting in Aspiration-Ground, I have to really aspire to get anywhere near the same height. The problem is once you have a good meditation, a little complacency sets in and you don't try as hard for a while, and then it gets a little harder.
After meditation they need help at the printing press - they want to get a very special book out for tonight. February saw the passing away of Ongkar, who was a student of Sri Chinmoy for over thirty years, and whose smile and wit was treasured by everyone who came into contact with him. Just before his passing away, he stayed in Malaysia with Sri Chinmoy and his students. Ongkar was quite ill at that time, and so Sri Chinmoy meditated with him twice a day, reciting a prayer he had written for him each day. These prayers - 62 in all, corresponding to Ongkar's age - were compiled into the book that now lies before us to assemble. The main help required is with the photo pages - there were many pictures taken of Ongkar in Malaysia and we now have to insert these pictures into the right place in the book before the lot can be bound together. I get a lot of joy from looking through the pictures as I am working - Onkgar was someone who brought great warmth to everyone he came in contact with; even now he still does when we think of him.
Then off to help somewhere completely different. Every April, on the eve of the anniversary of Sri Chinmoy's coming to the West, many of his students participate in a 12 hour walking race, starting from seven in the evening until seven the next morning. There's always need for volunteers, from counting the laps, to serving the food or medical tent to the water stops. I signed up late so I got the job of heading out so some far outpost of the course and making sure there's nothing untoward happening. It's lucky I brought my flute. I actually don't know all that many meditative songs on the flute, so I try to repeat each one and stretch it out for around ten or fifteen minutes, roughly long enough so each of the walkers can hear it once. The time flies by. Tomas from Austria is with me, I believe he's trying to set a record for the longest time spent clapping and cheering on the walkers. Cheerfulness is the main ingredient for the walkers as they head late into the night, so occasionally Tomas announces a "smile-checkpoint" and asks to see everyone's "smile-passport"! I take some requests from the runners and promise to have the song learnt by the time they come around again.
The shift is supposedly 6 hours, but they're short on stewards and I don't mind staying on. When I do get a little tired, along come Arthur with his harmonium and Sandin with his tablas; the three of us cobble together some of Sri Chinmoy's mantric songs and the whole thing works surprisingly well. Smiles of mutual appreciation are exchanged between us and the walkers; we're inspiring the walkers, the walkers are inspiring us, the walkers are inspiring each other, it's all one big team effort. I manage to get home and get some shuteye at around 5; tomorrow's a big big day...
(the winner of the men's race, Smarana from Vienna, is a very accomplished ultra-distance runner and has three times finished in the top three in the world's longest road race - the 3100 Mile Self Transendence race held in New York from June to August. He has just written a very nice article titled Why run 3100 Miles? )