Wednesday 16th - The Book of Bad Laws
...one thing I have learnt today is the difference it makes if you were in a very good frame of mind just before something upsetting happens...
Another good meditation, then out to try my hand at some intervals at the local high school track. I haven't run since Sunday; I've been trying to go easy on my knee and let it recover. I've spent enough time out with injury over the last couple of years to be wary of running too fast too soon, especially when there's no major races coming up. There is invariably an early morning game of Ultimate Frisbee with students of Sri Chinmoy taking place on the field, and today is no exception, all the players are out there chasing after the frisbee. A quick meditation and I launch into the intervals. I plan to do eight 400m laps, with 30 seconds give or take in between. After three laps, I'm dying. Runar comes over from playing Ultimate Frisbee to say my head is tilted back too much. Physically, he's right, it means you can lean forward and let gravity do some of the work, but psychologically it's a killer, because then your eyes are on the track and you can see all the distance you have left to cover. My usual tactic is just to stare at the sky and try and bury myself in its infinity until it's all over. I do it all the time during marathons, and so far I haven't run into anything. Towards the end of the intervals I can feel my knee a little bit. But it's a very good feeling when it's all over. I stretch myself out on a bench and watch the game for a while. Databir, a long time student of Sri Chinmoy famous for his energetic theatre pieces, is trying to marshal his troops. I marvel at the energy he has, he must be in his late 50's at this stage, yet there is so much constrained energy inside him you feel like calling the army bomb-disposal experts to carry out a controlled explosion.
Home and shower. Whilst getting changed I fall victim to a particular weakness of mine: getting distracted by any piece of printed matter that happens to be lying around. Since early childhood I have been an avid reader of anything and everything; meditation has taught me the benefits of discrimination, but only to a certain extent. The book in this case is a compendium of hilariously bad laws: for example, in Oklahoma, it is illegal to take a bite out of another person's hamburger, and in Australia you have to have a licence to own certain types of mattress. However, I believe first prize goes to Pennsylvania: if a driver sees a horse driven carriage coming towards him, he has to pull to one side and cover his car with a blanket that has been painted to blend into the scenery. If, after all that, the horse still refuses to pass the car, the driver has to take his car apart and hide the parts in the bushes. I kid you not.
It's a short book and so I see it through to the end. By the time I'm ready, it's time for meditation. Sri Chinmoy has brought his exercise bike; his legs are pedalling away, but his face is an expression of serenity as he surveys the room, meditating on those of us assembled. Again, I feel such a feeling of sweetness as I meditate. Prasad is called; afterwards Guru wants a singing group to come up and practise; The prasad tables and boxes have to be put away to make room for them, and I volunteer to help.
Unfortunately I am a little over-zealous in this department; I take away one box too many. I am carrying a pretty unstable load to the back of the tent and walking pretty quickly at the same time. At the same time there is a girl walking down the aisle, and whatever awkward way I was carrying these boxes, I came that close to knocking her down with them. It's hard to describe, but I was very lucky that no-one was hurt. When something like this happens, my instinctive first reaction is usually 'look, just carry on'; I check that she's okay and do exactly that. It is only a couple of minutes later when I put away all the boxes and make my way to the back of the singing group that it sinks in how bad it could have been. Guru is composing the song in honour of another dignitary he would like to honour; I am singing along but my heart isn't in it, I'm still thinking about it. It's done now, I tell myself; mental post-mortems aren't going to help with anything. Fortunately, there's a spot of work needs doing, someone has to get themselves up onto the roof of the tent and clean up all the leaves. Good, that'll stop me feeling sorry for myself. It's nice up here actually, the tent is all white and it only takes a minor exercising of that overactive imagination of mine to imagine that I'm in a valley between two snow-white peaks; well, sort of. There's a bit of the tent that's unsafe to step on, and so we have to dislodge the leaves using a twenty-foot stick; it's a bit like one of them challenges they set in adventure centers. Enjoyable work.
I go home and meditate at my shrine for a little while. One thing I have learnt today is the difference it makes if you were in a very good frame of mind just before something upsetting happens. I'm able to look upon what happened today quite philosophically, and actually be grateful that the lessson has been learnt without more serious consequences. This is not to say I am quite fully returned to the meditative state I was in before it happened though. I arrive at meditation to find the singers practising Vidyutonnnati's musical arrangement of the song Guru composed earlier that afternoon; the singing part which Vidyutonnati has given some of us sounds suspiciously like the opening bars of a well-known funeral dirge, and in my slightly unbalanced mood I derive some rather undignified humour from this fact. Parichayaka, friend that he is, has to remind me that for some people it is their only chance to see Sri Chinmoy in the week and to please be a little bit more soulful. When the singing finishes, I make my way up to my spot and try and meditate on that theme of being grateful that I was talking about earlier. Then Guru enters, sits down, and starts to meditate. Immediately I feel myself pulled above those thoughts that I had been struggling against just moments earlier, pulled directly into the meditative state where I should have been in the first place. We start practising the arrangement of the song; it's good, except for some of the instruments aren't making themselves heard properly. Guru suggests that the singing and instruments can be done alternately; we try it and it works out a treat.
After the recording, we listen to excerpts from a CD that has recently been made of Guru's 170 instrument concert performed in Interlaken in the Swiss Alps two months ago. We also see a video taken in Sri Chinmoy's house in the very early hours of the morning; Guru is cycling, singing and drawing birds on a note pad all at the same time, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to be doing. There is a determination to squeeze as much output in to one lifetime as he can, a determination not to waste a single moment. We take prasad and depart into the cold winter night. The meditation started late and ended late, so we waste no time in getting to bed.