...I have been looking forward to this trip for so long; for some reason, I just feel extremely confident that fate is not going to be cruel enough to me as to make me miss my flight...
12 a.m. My plane to NY is due to leave in seven hours. I’m sitting at my office in college, trying to produce some nice pictures to show my supervisor before I head off. I reckon if I work the whole way through and then sleep on the plane it’ll help a long way with the jetlag. One of the supercomputers is down. That’s right, the one with all the code I had written to get these pretty pictures I'm looking for. Wonderful. Now I have to write a program from scratch in the small hours of the morning. Fortunately, writing code is always easier the second time.
4.30 a.m. I have only generated one picture, but it’s good enough to illustrate the general idea. Time to down tools. Meditate for a half an hour. Just in case I don’t get the chance later.
5 a.m. Phone call from my brother Colm. He’s back at the family homestead in Co. Meath; my sister Louise is dropping him to the airport. Are you on a bus yet?he asks. No, I reply, I’m still printing out this thesis and it’s taking forever. Well get a move on, he says.
5.10 a.m. I am to be found pegging it down O’Connell Street with a 20kg rucksack on my back. No traffic; the bus will only take twenty minutes. Everything is okay. I once read a book about life in a Zen monastery in which one of the monks had been meditating on the same koan for years; the koan roughly translated as “everything is okay”. And it's true: everything is okay.
Conk out in Dublin; wake up in Paris. Just a simple matter of calling at the relevant desk to collect our connection to NY, we are told. It isn’t. Complete lack of signposting, and an airport that seems to consist solely of dead ends. And of course somebody put the flight details in the bag he checked in in Dublin so we don’t even know what time the flight leaves. It is half an hour before we find out that our desk is in a completely different terminal. And the bus there seems to take forever. But I just feel that, well, everything is okay. I have been through a lot these past couple of weeks, and I have been looking forward to this trip for so long; for some reason, I just feel extremely confident that fate is not going to be cruel enough to me as to make me miss my flight. And sure enough, we arrive at the desk just in time. Everything is okay.
Arrive on the plane; fasten my seatbelt. Conk out. Wake up. Movie looks terrible, I don' t even need the headphones to tell me that. They won’t serve us vegetarian meals because we didn’t order them beforehand. Instead, an extra portion of salad and chocolate cake. That’ll do. Drag out a screenplay I was writing but which has lain dormant for months due to the PhD. Will I ever get it finished? I don’t know. I’m not good at finishing things sometimes. Stick it back in the folder. Conk out again.
Immigration. My best smile. We’re here for a yoga and meditation convention. Staying with friends. Good, that was painless. Next. Pick up the bags. Then the train to Queens. Some Australian friends of ours won't be travelling and have kindly suggested we use their accomodation; we need to pick up an email from them saying how we can get the keys, so we stop by the library first. Closed. Veteran’s Day today, whatever that is. Okay. Let’s just walk in the general direction of where we think our house is and see what happens.
Through the park. Sitting at a computer back home, I have missed out on Autumn completely. Fortunately, New York autumn is behind our autumn; leaves are still on trees here. This park is more pregnant with silence than any other green space I have ever known. It’s so beautiful here.
Ah, there’s Rastio from Slovakia walking down the street. He asks where we are staying. Australian boys’ house. But that’s where he’s staying. Yaay! And just a couple of minutes walk away from meditation too. Finally; a chance to get bags off weary shoulders. Good, there’s keys for me and Colm. And the showers are hot! Too hot, nearly scalded me. In the bedroom, I spot a book I have been wanting to read for a long time: The Life of Sri Chinmoy, a biography written by Madhuri, a long-time student of Sri Chinmoy's and an extremely talented writer. In particular, the book has many interesting anecdotes about the early years of Sri Chinmoy’s service in the West, of a time long before I was born.
I take the book down to meditation. Most of the meditations are held in Aspiration-Ground, a converted tennis court. A tent has been put up in the court area to hold everyone during the cold rainy autumn months; inside is decorated with fabrics, floral arrangements, and statues of spiritual figures; the end effect is an atmosphere permeated with peace and soulfulness. I sit down and lose myself in reading Madhuri's book. One passage describes a moment where Sri Chinmoy is meditating on Madhuri's soul...
…his features reflected a repose so complete and a compassion so profound that my only thought was of immeasurable vastness. The bottomless depths of the ocean, the infinite reach of the starry skies, seemed limited by comparison. His eyes were closed, but to my wondering gaze they seemed open, revealing the endless vista that is seen beyond the stars, beyond all points of measurement in time and space. Suddenly his expression changed, and for a brief moment he smiled, his eyes fully open, enormous, stunningly brilliant, radiant with delight…
The room has suddenly gone quiet; I look up. There he is. You know, there were nights last week where I was up with the Ph.D. until ten, eleven o'clock, staring at the computer screen, nothing going right, not making sense of anything, but it was okay, it was all okay, for I my entire being could somehow feel that I would be soon returning to what I consider to be my spiritual home; yes, there was some part of my being, like a dog sniffing the air, sensing that it was soon to return to its place of nourishment. Because it knows, it knows that every time I see my teacher for the first time and meditate with him, I experience what can only be described as a bath for the soul. The surface film of inner grime accrued during the time spent away, the negativities the the world has thrown into me, the negativities that I myself have colluded with, they peel away, they just peel away. Maybe I'm wrong, but I always feel like somehow it's a little like a doctor preparing the area before surgery; here, with the first meditation, the spiritual teacher removes the negativity that collected around you since he last saw you so he can then take on the much more difficult task of removing the negativity ingrained within you.Guru is meditating on small groups of people at the moment; now he calls up two long-time students from San Fransisco, Hiyamallar and Golapendu. Sri Chinmoy jokes about how he is always teasing Golapendu about one thing or another, but tonight he has only praise for him. I am just glad to be here. I look around and see so many familiar faces; each face brings me additional joy, if only that each face drives it further home to me that I am finally here. I don't waste time getting to bed after meditation; tomorrow will be a long day.