Monday 13th

Aspiration-Ground at 7am

Aspiration-Ground at 7am

Meditation is not going well at all this morning; thank God for the singing of soulful songs I do afterwards; singing has rescued many a morning meditation of mine from being a total waste of time. One thing my teacher always emphasises, however, is not to be discouraged if our meditations are not going well. As long as we are trying and do not give up, that attitude in itself is progressive and has lasting benefits despite the perceived result. Like our meals, some days it's caviar, more often it's peas and potatoes. But if we take each attempt as an earnest step forward, we feel that we are satisfied just to be moving towards the goal.

I get up from my meditation shrine at 6.25am and head down to the first of the three daily meditations; at these meditations, instead of just placing myself in the flow of my heart as I am accustomed to do, we are instead asked to use our inner aspiration to push or yearn in a given direction. This requires a lot of concentration from me at the best of times, and at this meditation it just is not happening. The best thing to do afterwards is just to go out running, and try and wear those rampant mental and emotional horses out! So off I go, towards where Sri Chinmoy is doing his morning drive.

It is only when one is out there, running and meditating, meditating and running, that one begins to appreciate how Sri Chinmoy uses every inch of his time - even such an innocuous thing as driving - to be of service to whoever he can, and especially his students. In April and August, Sri Chinmoy will sometimes drive around the floor of Aspiration-Ground in a small motorized cart meditating on all his students seated in the surrounding bleachers; now I realise this is the same principle, only spread out over a city block. As I run around in the opposite direction to where Sri Chinmoy is driving, a slight sense of connection, of balance begins to seep through the chatter; even a small change from this morning's tumult is extremely welcome.

Some nice roses outside the house where I am staying

Some nice roses outside the house where I am staying

As I return, it occurs to me to pray, pray to let go of some long and dearly-held baggage. Let me explain. From an early age I was regarded as a somewhat precocious child, and much praise would be lavished upon me as I performed this or that intellectual parlour trick. I suppose subconsciously I quickly learned the necessary tricks in order to gain attention from those around me, with the result that even today there is an attention seeking monster in there somewhere waiting to pounce. But one quickly finds that with a Master of Sri Chinmoy's calibre, those tricks do not work, have never worked and never will. Other people may buy your bag of tricks to a certain extent, but to Sri Chinmoy we are so much more than the persona we try to project: we are infinite, eternal and immortal portions of God, and the urgency with which he tries to make us realise that leaves no room for accepting these paltry proud self-definitions; you don't cure an alcoholic by plying him with wine, do you? When I enter the house, I meditate for ten minutes or so, aspiring for the strength I need to cast off these destructive habits for good.

Now, I don't want to give the impression that that's it, problem solved. The process of internal transformation does not make good script material for Hollywood movies; beginnings, middles and ends are hard to come by. The inner sky is still overcast for some reason. I don't know. Frankly, I'm not all that worried either. I've been through things like this before, all spiritual aspirants go through them, and I've gotten over them, sometimes realising the reason why, sometimes not. Fine, I'm not exactly floating around in the spheres of bliss, but I am by no means unhappy, and indeed I am grateful for the fact that I have progressed to the stage where I can stay cheerful through these changes; let me tell you, it wasn't like that a couple of years ago! I can only guess my teacher is 'stirring the pot', as it were, shaking up my inner being and confronting me with the things I need to transcend and overcome. At times during the day I get this sensation of curiously observing this inner flux, as if it is happening to someone else.

At noontime, Sri Chinmoy is having another walking meditation outside. As one sinks into meditation, one looks at all the trees, silent in the face of the wind, and sees how even the nature seems so much more tranquil and still when it is in the locality of a spiritual Master.

Back at the computers, I decide to change tack from my technical work and instead try to write down as many of these experiences as possible so they are 'fresh out of the oven' - I felt my April 2006 diary of my visit to see Sri Chinmoy had a slightly stale feel to it because I took down bulletpoint notes and left most of the actual writing until a few weeks later. As I type I realise, wow, I have had some rather soulful moments these past few days, have I not? I'm just grateful to have something to keep me occupied, and stop me from brooding over and analyzing what may or may not be happening to me.

I arrive back for half-six meditation, which is markedly better than the previous two meditations today. Sri Chinmoy has been extremely busy today sharing his inspiration with some important dignitaries, and so we will not have a meditation function tonight, but another walking meditation. The prasad that people will take during this meditation still has to be packed, and I help with that. Then back to the house where myself and Colm practice a few tunes together, him on tabla and me on flute. Again, we cut it very fine as regards leaving the house, it is a ten minute walk to where the meditation is. I arrive to be told to wait in a queue, Sri Chinmoy has asked that latecomers don't disturb the walking meditation and instead pick up prasad at the end. Well, I can't think of any better way to deal with a bad habit than that: one hopes against hope that that will make me arrive early for everything in one fell swoop, but at least I'll be on time tomorrow.

Sri Chinmoy and Mikhail Gorbachev

Sri Chinmoy meets with Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev in 1994

Again I have a couple of hours before bed, and so I pick up where I left off with Mikhail Gorbachev's memoirs. When reading an account of the life of a great soul, the tendency is always to nitpick through the book for some moment or event or driving force that made them the person they are; but I think some people just have a luminosity that shines from beginning to end of their life story, and Mikhail Gorbachev is certainly one of them. Both his own life story and his political appraisals are told with great Russian candour but also tremendous humility; he doesn't shy from approportioning praise or acknowledging mistakes where they are due, whether to himself or others. Anugata tells me the chapters dealing with the 1991 coup where he was ousted from his position are very sad reading indeed; I wonder will I get around to reading that part before I leave New York.