Saturday 19th - Pipped at the post

...I literally feel as if a giant lotus is spontaneously unfolding within me, spreading allwhere this near-tangible fragrance of gratitude...

Meditation is very, very nice indeed. I grab my runners and prepare for the two-mile race. It’s amazing the difference between this year and last year. Last year, I was quite nervous before every race, whereas this year I suppose I just look forward to it. I suppose I’m learning that if I do my best and have joy in the process, that’s achievement enough. Arpan reckons my knee is just down to tightness in my quads; I’m not so sure, but I take his advice to do a lot of warming up anyway, he’s been around the block running-wise somewhat more than I have.

The race starts and I find myself out in front with Asidhari. Gyula, the Self-Transcendence Marathon champion, overtakes after a quarter of a mile and disappears into the distance. After a mile I'm feeling very weak. I'm giving myself a stern lecture mid-race on how I'm only feeling weak because I'm telling myself I'm feeling weak. Funnily enough, it works, and I find myself feeling a little better. Around we go again; I struggle up the hill at the back of the course to find a gap has opened between myself and Asidhari. Oh well. I'm a minute away from home, I look behind; no-one. I reckon I'm fairly safe for third. I'm not taking any chances though; I reckon Rastio is behind me and I remember the last race we had when Rastio visited Ireland and he pulled a final kick to draw level at the finish line. I round the corner at full tilt. One hundred metres to go. Fifty. Thirty. Out of the corner of my eye, I spot this encroaching shadow, and immediately I know it's Rastio. He has the momentum with him; I haven't a hope. I practically walk across the finish line, I'm that deflated. In true vulture journalist style, Igor takes the picture you see on the right; yes, I'm as exhausted as I look. What's really surprising is that I don't feel anyway bad about what happened, indeed I'm very surprised at myself at how good I feel. No jealousy or resentment or anything, it's a bit weird frankly, no resentment at all.  If anything, I'm just full of admiration for what Rastio has just done. He was at least thirty meters behind me; most people would have given up and settled for fourth. Plus I was ten seconds quicker than last week. One really can't complain.

Guru has arrived, gives the race prayer and prasad. I jog back and get myself showered and fed. Tomorrow's flight is leaving from Newark, which is miles away, I need to check out the details of how to get there. Once all that's done, it's time for meditation. Like last week, this morning's exertions has triggered off a bout of coughing. At the gateway, Rupantar is telling jokes, I'm sure it's just to hear me splutter when I laugh. Guru arrives and meditation begins; at the start I'm not really in the mood for meditating at all, and another stern internal lecture is required to tell myself to stop dithering and enter into the heart. Then Guru calls up those of us who have been less than three years under his spiritual guidance. Yes, that would include me. Each of us is to say a divine quality or a spiritual word and Guru will spontaneously compose an aphorism containing that word. Immediately the quality 'gratitude' comes to my mind. The practice of being grateful for everything that's happening to me has been a big theme in my inner life recently, especially as I've been doing the Ph.D. I'm third in line, so there's a fairly high chance someone won't take it on me. And they don't. As I say the word, and wait whilst Sri Chinmoy brings out an answer from the depths of his meditation, I literally feel as if a giant lotus is spontaneously unfolding within me, spreading allwhere this near-tangible fragrance of gratitude.

More aphorisms followed, about 30 in all. Then, at the other end of the scale, Guru called up those who had been with him for over thirty years. This time, he had a stuffed bear for each person into which you could record a message and play it back; for each person, Guru recorded an inspiring message inside the bear.

Preparations are still being made to close down Aspiration-Ground over the winter; we help take down some of the decorations and put them in storage. We are on our way home when we spot a friend getting into his car. He invites us for a meal, but we decline; our funds are quite low, and we need to have enough for the airport bus tomorrow. He offers to subsidise us, but we jokingly explain that we're way beyond the level of subsidy! But gracious soul that he is, he offers to take us out to dinner. We drive up to the Oneness-Fountain-Heart, a lovely little eaterie operated by some students of Sri Chinmoy located about a mile up the road. Our meal fairly quickly turns into a joke-swapping session; here's one I remember: what do you get if you cross an elephant and a rhino? 'ell if I know! (get it? look, just say it out loud). And the food is very, very good; I'm not going to get into a debate as to whether the food is better than in Annam Brahma, because I do plan on going back to both of them very soon.

Back to the house and get ready for meditation. I also have to proofread an article for Igor, who does a lot of work on the Sri Chinmoy Climbing Team site. Sri Chinmoy recommends to his students that they should meditate for protection before setting out on a journey, and on my way out, I get a sudden feeling that I really should meditate. I begin, but then someone is coming up the stairs and I'm blocking their way, and I start thinking about something else. Well, thirty seconds later, I'm walking over a rough section of pavement when my ankle turns and nearly sends me flying to the ground. No permanent damage, luckily, but it was painful, I tell you. I get to meditation in one piece and sit down. There is a big crowd tonight; many people have driven great distances over the weekend to see Guru. First off, Anneshan from Canada has prepared a very soulful slideshow with music exploring ancient Indian writings on the student-teacher relationship. There is a play by Databir's group which somehow ties together a group of ascetics meditating in the mountains, a Bengali news reporter, and Guru's 256lb wrist curl; for me, this play really evoked Guru's talk on Tuesday about his path having two wings. That play is followed by another dramatizing a story by Sri Chinmoy about an incident in the life of the great spiritual Master Gambhirananda.

We watch the latest edition of Inspiration News - inspiring stories from around the globe. I'm quite tired this evening, and I've largely let tonight's events go by without making any attempt to meditate. But now there is a gap in the programme, people are toing and froing, and I momentarily catch Guru's if unexpectedly bumping into a friend in a swarming crowd, I fall into my heart, ah, there you are...

A birthday cake is being brought out, for a friend of Guru's. There's not enough cake to go around, but I manage to angle my way to getting one of the last slices. Then prasad, and a quiet walk home under the streetlights to reflect on tonight's happenings. I bump into Parichayaka, and have a nice chat about our Centres, New York and Dublin.