Monday 14th - How Not to Build a Tent

...there is a time and a place for everything; Sri Chinmoy has often spoken of what he calls God's hour, that progress has its own pace..

Morning meditation is not great, again. These past couple of days have been pretty intense, and replays of them still reverberate through my mind. I sing a couple of Sri Chinmoy's mantric songs; marginally better, but the mind is still wandering. I have found that sometimes the best thing to shake off an insistent train of thought is to change abruptly what you're doing; and so I make a beeline for the nearby park. I bring my thesis with me; hopefully I can get all the revisions out of the way today. I arrive at the lakeside just as the sun is about to yawn and stretch its rays. The few auburn leaves that have not yet fallen from the trees are starting to glow from the reflected light. Ducks waddling around, minding their own business. This is one of my favourite places in the whole world. The stillness is punctured by the groups of kids hanging out before school, shouting across each other, trying their best to impress the girls; girls doing their best not to look impressed. Still, I'm not bothering them, and pretty much nothing can bother me, not here, not in this heavenly place. 

I finish off the revisions just as a police van is patrolling through the park, telling all the kids via loudspeaker to get to school. There are some things in America I guess I'll never get used to. I need to ring my parents. After some toing and froing, I get hold of a phone and, to my surprise, find my parents relaxing on a gondola in Venice. I thought they were home from their cruise, but they're leaving tomorrow. Having the time of their lives, they tell me. Brilliant.

Right, another trek down to the library to type the revisions out. The sun is really coming out now, you can feel the heat against your face, in mid-November, imagine. In two weeks time you'll need cross-country skis just to nip down to the shops. No queue for computers in the mornings. Frenzied display of speed typing; well, at least as much as two fingers can allow. There's an hour limit on computer usage, and I only get half of it typed out, I'll have to come back tomorrow. 

Okay, I think to myself, all the rendering onto Caesar has been sorted out; now it's time for the other bit...

I arrive at Aspiration-Ground quite early before meditation. Many people like to just arrive early and read or meditate, but there are also many jobs to be done in order to keep the meditation functions going smoothly, and more often than not I volunteer for that instead. This kind of work for me (and for others I'm sure) is like a dynamic form of meditation; you can feel positive qualities like enthusiasm and self-giving rising to the fore.

 The forecast for tonight and tomorrow is fifty-fifty as regards rain, so we need to put up a tent to protect the prasad (and the people who are putting it all together) just in case. Poor Igor. He was sitting down, minding his own business, until I gangpressed him into helping me with what I'm sure future generatians will come to call the Great Construction Debacle. No instructions, idea where anything goes; our first attempt is too wide and too short. Our second attempt leaves us with five unused poles, which we optimistically regard as spare parts. Anyway, Guru has arrived, we'll sort it out later.  Everyone is filing past him in single file, he meditates on each one of us individually for a few seconds. He reminds us to look at him as we file past - "God-realisation is written in my eyes and on my face, not on your fingertips" he has said in the past. Guru announces he is leaving in ten minutes, and he would like some of us to come up and relate some inspiring stories. Unnatishil from France has the goal of running 42 marathons before April; he just finished his fourteenth this morning. To reach his goal, he has to do one every five days. Guru is encouraging him like anything. It's funny the way things work. Unnatishil wanted to perform a similiar feat two years ago; Guru's response was to declare that he didn't have time to visit Unnatishil in the hospital and to please do thirteen instead. There is a time and a place for everything; Guru has often spoken of what he calls God's hour, that progress has its own pace. Guru gets up to go. It was a very short meditation function, but very very sweet.

Okay. A tent to finish. It's taking shape now, just needs something to weigh it down, like these concrete blocks. There we go. Another fine job by Shane and Igor Associates.

Time for a snack now methinks, and I wouldn't mind playing my flute either. I retire to where I won't annoy anyone, eat an orange and pay a few tunes. Hmm. Perhaps I can go to the library and get the rest of the thesis revisions typed; there is a limit of once-a-day on the machines, but perhaps they won't recognise me from this morning. It's worth a try. In the queue, I take off my glasses and adopt a generally perplexed disposition; a master of disguise.  I am allocated a computer just before the girl who was on duty this morning comes back to the desk. Success! Again, some breakneck typing; I am finished with ten minutes to go.

On my way back, I recognise Colm's cough coming from down the road. He has spent all day on the subway trying to find a shoe shop that Rupantar had pointed out to him. He never found it, and it was driving him nuts, but he's wisely made the decision to put it behind him. 

Time to eat. Annam Brahma. I don't feel like eating all that much; I've felt very light of stomach all day and it feels very nice. Sometimes I instinctively just know what my body needs; right now it's a bowl of dahl and a glass of mango juice. I've had this absolutely insatiable thirst for juice lately, I've been downing a pint carton of the stuff every morning since I got here. Can you believe that mango juice in Annam Brahama cost only $1.65? It's almost the same price as if you got a similar sized carton from the deli next door. Some friends join me for company. I remind one of them about a funny workplace story he told me when we were in Paris earlier on this year; I posted it on the Sri Chinmoy Inspiration Group. He then proceeds to flesh the story out in some detail for the benefit of everybody at the table, sending us all into knots of laughter. I get back to the house; minor argument with Colm over something or other. It will be forgotten in ten minutes, as sibling arguments usually are. I head to meditation, still smiling, recalling the story in Annam Brahma. "What are you laughing at? It's Colm, perched up on a chair, laughing. I smile and walk on. "Shane?" I turn around. "Saved you a seat." Into meditation. I pass by the stall, laid out with books and CD's for sale. I'm on a tight budget, but I'm in a fiscally irresponsible mood tonight, so I go up and buy three books from him: a recent collection of short stories that Sri Chinmoy wrote about the life of the great spiritual Master Shyama Charan Lahiri (popularly known as Lahiri Mahashoy), a collection of inspiring stories written by students of Sri Chinmoy, and a book that is part of a series called "The World-Experience-Tree-Climber" which gives an insight into the experiences of a spiritual Master as he goes around doing everyday things, shopping, running and so forth.

I sit down; everyone is reading, meditating or listening to music.  I'm writing notes for this diary; might as well do something you're inspired to do, I reckon. In hindsight, it may not have been such a good idea; I'm not in the ideal frame of mind for meditation as Guru enters.  We hear 10 minutes of Guru singing  some of his songs, as aired on radio earlier today. Many radio stations around the world have embarked on a 16 week tribute to Sri Chinmoy in honour of his achievement of writing 12,000 songs in his native Bengali. Sapal haibe, Shudhu seidin; some of my favourite songs. Guru sings them with such intensity, such aspiration to break through the crud and mediocrity of the world and establish something meaningful in the heart of humanity. Listening to these songs, it feels as if he is doing the aspiring for all of us sitting here.

Some TV stations have aired footage of Guru's recent 256 pound wrist curl; one weatherman says admiringly "I wouldn't like to shake his hand, he'd probably break it!" It's really nice to see this footage: Guru is detached enough that he can just offer what he has and is to the world without worrying whether the world will be receptive or not, but for us, it does help to know that these efforts are inspiring people from all walks of life.

It's going to be an early night, apparently; prasad and home. Balavan has a job lined up for me; I feel bad about saying no, but there's only one of me (fortunately or unfortunately, as Guru would say), and about two day's worth of diary notes to fill out. I make the decision to write in bed. Closing lesson of the day: horizontal writing is just as destined for failure as horizontal meditation. Eyelids droop. Good night.