After meditation, I'm out for a short run taking in a few stops along the way - we have to move our accomodation today and there are a few things to be sorted out first. Upon my return everything immediately gets stuffed into my rucksack; it's the only chance I get to do packing today.
Then I'm off to help set up the 6 and 10 day race in Flushing Meadows. This race, organised by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team is one of the largest races of its kind in the States. This year will be the largest event yet with top-class runners arriving from all over the world. The race doesn't start until Wednesday, but there's so much to do that the organisers hands will be very full until then.
We arrive a desolate spot in the middle of the park, hauling the underfloor boards on top of which everything will be built, and put them into position. Within two or three days, this desolate spot will be transformed into a veritable village, with tents for counters, food, massage, everything the runners could possibly need; the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team has been setting the standard of ultramarathon race care for the past 20 years.
I have to break off from that - I have a stint washing dishes at half eleven. Just as with serving food a couple of days ago, we all have to pitch in from time to time in order to keep costs down and keep the trip here as affordable as possible. This time we had do battle with some particularly stubborn trays of baked tofu, but the whole lot was done within two hours.
We then hurried to meditation. We had just missed a very special meditation that Sri Chinmoy was holding for the many people who had to leave today - they all walked past him as he gave them one last blessing. We arrived just as Guru was honouring four of his students who spend long hours helping him in his fitness activities. He had composed a beautiful song for them too, highlighting all their best qualities - I went to the back of the singing group, peered over someone's shoulder at the music and sang the song with everyone else. I have to be back at for the final rehearsal for tonight's performance by half six. By this time I've decided that playing the flute for two of the five songs doesn't add that much to the performance, and to stick to the three where it can be really efffective. We go through it a few last times and it does sound pretty sweet. We reckon we're ready for tonight.
Unfortunately for us, tonight's schedule is pretty packed. Naturally, people who are leaving tomorrow get priority, and that isn't us. There's some girls groups at the beginning, followed by performances from students from all the countries of the former Soviet Union. As with other countries who were once together but have now gone their seperate ways, Sri Chinmoy asks students from these countries to perform together. Russia alone is home to more of Sri Chinmoy's students than any other country, and even though only a tiny fraction of them are able to come to New York to see Sri Chinmoy, theres still enough people here to take up a sizeable chunk of today's evening programme. Sri Chinmoy has always remarked how aspiring his students from these countries are, and indeed he has given the affectionate name "Oneness-Dream-Boat-Shore" to these countries in light of the fast progress they are making inwardly, inspite of the problems they face on the outer plane. The entire group sing together, and then there are a few individual performances, including one amazing arrangement of Sri Chinmoy's song Gan Likhi Ami (Songs I write) performed by two girls on keyboard and violin.
Earlier that afternoon, Sri Chinmoy asked Udar, one of the students he honoured for helping him with his fitness activities, to put his own melody to the words of the song he wrote. So now Udar comes out, guitar in hand, and entertains us all with a very sweet rendition. There's more than a hint of Woody Guthrie influence in there, which is not surprising to those of us who have heard Udar perform Woody Guthrie songs before.
Then we sit and watch a very inspiring video - Sri Chinmoy and many of his students spent three monthe in Malaysia at the beginning of the year. During that time, the girls musical group that performed for us last Sunday week was invited into the television studios for a one and a half hour special to be broadcast on prime time Malaysian television. There was also an interview in which the power of music to unify everyone from all backrounds was vividly described, and how the singers hope in their singing to to give people some taste of what a spiritual experience is, so that they can then be inspired to find their own path.
With all that going on, there really wasn't any time for us come on, but we weren't really sad; we know that were ready to come on any time in the next couple of days. After all, the spiritual life is all about being flexible and reacting to situations in the best possible manner....