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It's mid-day in Auckland on a summer Thursday. The Domain grandstand, a popular landmark for local runners, has been transformed by a bright array of helium balloons. The Auckland Girls Grammar School band are belting out a succession of festive songs and a large body of lunchtime runners are warming up, out to do justice to a new mile circuit of the park.
There are moments, instances of sheer wonder and beauty, capable of kindling and revealing the imperturbable eternity living in our souls.
Instances of eternity filled with splendour, light, love, joy, however manifesting in time and its flow and the discontinual reality of our human, temporal existence, yet oblivious of these self-imposed limits, revealing the true eternal nature of our Innermost.
They live suspended in the spaces of spirit which remain quiet and untouched by the ephemeral and finite, awaiting the receptivity and openness of the human vessel tuning its soul towards its Source.
They are unpredictable, come unexpectedly, unannounced, be it in times of introversion or seclusion or in the bustle of daily activities whose empty torpor and aimless gropings they dissipate and illumine with musings of inspiration, purpose, harmony, light.
The bountiful gift descends, is revealed, opens us to its grandeur, and without expectations, gives us the freedom to be and discover ourselves, with or without itself, whether through awareness or blindness, appreciation or oblivion, gratitude or pride, in the end all different expressions of that unfathomable, endless game of oneness that gives a quality of the unlimited, multiple and infinite to our apparently limited, finite, time-bound self.
A conscious acquaintance with these spiritual realms containing such splendour and beauty irradiates the time-bound which strives for the timeless, keeps my heart afloat in the surrounding ocean of darkness and blindness, in tune with the Light and the Grandeur of my Creator and His reflection in my Soul.
The eternity contained in these fractions of time ignites in me a sense of utmost gratitude, boundless appreciation and love.
I cannot but equate these instances of eternity as vision, intimacy, communion with the Divinity within, around, above.
All is stillness.
All is silence.
All is being.
All is Beauty, Love, Delight.
3100 miles (or nearly 5000km) sounds like an eternity and believe me, it also feels like an eternity. Very often, I have been asked why am I doing such a long race?
This is not a question that you can answer in a few words; it needs a lot of background description. First of all I love any kinds of sports and I started running when I was six years old. Running is so simple, you just need your running shoes, a running shorts and a shirt. When I was 10 years old, I did my first half marathon, just for myself. I was never really a very fast runner, but I liked the movement, the challenge and the feeling of satisfaction, after the training. So I was running with no real goal, but for the satisfaction of running and feeling fit itself.
Things changed rapidly, when I got in touch with Sri Chinmoy, who became my spiritual mentor. A major part of Sri Chinmoy's philosophy is "Self-Transcendence" in every walk of life - that is to say, whatever you do, you can improve and you can go one step further, transcending your previous achievement. That was and still is something for me, that strikes me and inspires me in everything; to go beyond yesterdays achievement. Many restrictions are creations of the limited mind and we think that this and that is not possible, but once we try it, we find that it is not only possible but also attainable - if we believe in it and cultivate patience. One of Sri Chinmoy's students, Ashrita Furman is a shining example of self-transcendence in action. Ashrita has set more than 200 Guinness records and he is still going on.
I think every runner has at one point the dream to finish a marathon. In the beginning it is a far fetched dream, but as you start training, it becomes more and more a reality. Then the big day is coming, you are standing at the starting line and …
Hours later you cross the finish line and you are in ecstasy, you did it; a mental barrier has been lifted. Years back, many people thought the marathon runners to be crazy folk, and now you see 30,000 participants in the New York Marathon; marathon running has become something honorable.
After I did my first marathon, I heard about a 700 mile race in New York and I was thrilled about the idea. The problem was, that I thought that I did not have the capacity to do it. But there was a voice inside me that inspired me to try it and I finished it. Gradually I improved my stamina and my mental capacity to run the 3100 mile race. Who would have thought that one day I would run such a distance? With patience and determination and grace, is there anything that is impossible?
the mental poise we need in every situation of our life
the helpfulness of a positive mind…
What makes this race so special for me is that you can learn so much about yourself in a relatively short time. The distance of 3100 miles has to be done in 52 days, that makes 59.6 miles per day. Everything gets very intense in this race. For 52 days you have to be very focused and endure rain, heat, humidity, injuries and lack of sleep. You are really pushing the limits and you can learn day by day, how to tackle problems in a better way.
Here at this point I have to say that the longer the race is, the fitter your mind has to be. You can create so much energy when your mind is cheerful and poised. When your thoughts are running amok and are becoming negative, you are loosing your energy and you are just seeing negative reasons to continue. At this point meditation is very helpful, it helps you to control your mind and gives it a positive momentum.
I want to tell an incident from a runner. At a 100km race in Vienna a friend of mine was running and he had done already 70km and he felt quite fresh, when his wife came and told him, “You look tired, you will not be able to finish the race.”
Sure enough five kilometers later he had to quit; the power of the mind.
During the race it is like a roller coaster, you have your ups and downs. Is it not the same as in day to day life? There are days we do not want to go out of the house, and life seems like a barren field. But if you continue you see that even after a very long tunnel you are going to see the light again. You just have to hang in, look for the positive and you will be rewarded. Here in the race you get plenty of opportunity to practice this experience and overcome it again and again. After such a race so many problems seem to be negligible, non-existing.
I simply love the opportunity to get this intense training of problem-solving drills. At the race you can not back off; you are confronted with the problems and you have to find a solution, or it will haunt you the next day and the following day.
In normal life you go and watch a movie or do something else to escape of the problem. Not at the race - "Face the problems and solve them!" is the motto.
You have to start the 3100 miles with your first step and many are to be followed. If you always think of the whole race, your mind can not take it, so you have to break it into smaller portions, laps, hours, days… so it becomes digestable. Similarly, in our life if we think of everything that we have to do, then it looks like an impossible task, so we also have to start with the first task, the second…until everything is done. Is this race not a great teacher for our life?
Sri Chinmoy took a very personal interest in this race and came nearly every day to encourage the runners. Everytime he came to the race I feel my spirit lifted and it gave me additional physical power.
Al Howie, an ultra-running legend in the 80's who became the first person to finish the 1300 mile race organised by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team. He said, "Every time I am coming here and I am running a race, I am leaving as a better person." Yes, that is why I am also running this race - to become a better person.
“Where will I come out if I go through the park?” asked an old man, so softly I almost didn’t notice him. I thought for a moment and offered my conclusion. “Are you reading music?” he asked. My coloured notebook had caught his eye. I have many such books, pasted full of Sri Chinmoy’s well-known songs. I often carry them with me as I walk, to ensure these precious songs stay well-known to me.
“Yes,” I replied, tilting the page with a smile.
“What sort of music?” he asked, hushed, leaning gently over as if discovering something scarce and sacred.
“These are all spiritual songs, written by Sri Chinmoy.”
There are many long Bengali songs in there, but the page was open at a simple English one. He touched the book lightly as he read, captivated. “Could you sing it for me?” he asked earnestly, but frowning as if half expecting to be refused.
Wales is known as the Land of Song. Although I live in the capital city, people are warm and inquisitive, in a childlike way that is rare in this age. It is natural to be trusting and familiar here, where people seem to assume the roles of distant relatives.
Before I gave myself a chance to be shy, I sang right there on the street corner to this complete stranger, “Many, many lives ago, God taught me how to love Him, and how to serve Him, unconditionally.”
Gripping my hand and looking into me in silence, he was visibly moved by the song’s message. “It’s beautiful,” he said in time, as if he had never heard the like of it.
He introduced me to his granddaughter, a sleeping cherub in a pram. Her name is Welsh for “lovable,” he said, proudly explaining the Latin and English equivalents. He has dedicated his life to preserving Welsh heritage, especially language and music. He works in a museum, and on Sundays he feeds the homeless at church.
“I write poetry,” he said, as if the fact itself needed no adornment.
“So do I!” I said delightedly. “Writing is my favourite thing!”
“Really! Have you published?”
“No, no! I’m only just beginning. Have you?”
“Yes, thirteen books in Welsh. I was a composer for a while too.”
He asked me about my life. I talked about Sri Chinmoy, about Run and Become, and a little about what our Centres try to offer to the world. He seemed profoundly heartened to find that there is a whole spiritual community that he had never heard of, loving God and trying to be of service to humanity.
He took my hand and shook it with feeling. “Such a surprise to see a young woman walking along our streets learning spiritual songs. God bless you.”
“And you.” I said, smiling, although we were both evidently blessed already. “What a beautiful life you have.”
He taught me a prayer from the Romany language he studies in his spare time. I can’t remember it now, but his goodness I remember, and his parting words: “Of course the most important song is the song in our heart.”
“Yes!” I said, my whole being in thrilled surprise and affirmation, “We must listen to it more and more.”
I lucked out this time when the maps were divided; I got my favourite area of the city, (or maybe I kind of wangled it). In my part of the world we publicise our meditation classes mainly by posting leaflets through letterboxes. There is satisfaction in the simplicity of the task itself, but also in its motivation: to offer to others the opportunities of meditation. Considering the countless transforming benefits meditation has given me, it would seem almost rude not to make its treasures available to my neighbours.
The little orange invitation might well be bundled into a ball the instant it arrives on the other side of the door. It may become a scrap on which to scrawl a telephone number, or serve as tinder for the fire. On the other hand it may have its recipient running down the garden with raised eyebrows asking with some urgency, “Can you spare one for my friend?” and “Do we have to book ahead?” There is no accounting for taste as they say. Not everyone wants to meditate, let alone lead a spiritual life, and even those who do, may not be interested in our particular route. There is no knowing in this intricate tapestry of cultures and lifestyles who will want what we have to offer, but there is satisfaction in offering the same invitation to all.
I think it is the display of individuality in my particular leafleting plot, which charms me most. It’s the sort of place one would imagine explorers would live, or inventors, or people who write for journals of some Institute or other, or those who teach music. Indeed, there it is: a Beethoven sonata open at the piano in the very first terrace, and in another someone is singing scales. One displays a window of painted wooden toys. The path of another parts the wiry limbs and dazzling blooms of cornflowers. One has a storey of midnight violet, above a storey of alarming orange - where one would even buy such paint I have no idea. At another, three sets of wellingtons, returned from adventure and covered in mud, are neatly graded by size by a wrought iron mat. A lady calls in Welsh as her sons mount bicycles. There are few things more enchanting than a child’s reply in that fairytale language: music to my baffled English ear. Perhaps I will never see these people again, or perhaps we’ll one day be firm friends. For now I enjoy just being amongst them.
Once I’ve found the gate, and then the latch, and come to terms with its technical idiosyncrasies, I am quiet and careful so as not to disturb the garden blooms, or distress the dog. If I am unsuccessful, the latter may just say “Oh hi!,” or it may use less savoury language, chucking its full weight at me so I am glad there is a strong enough door between us. Minor perils abound in the letterbox itself, if it can be found at all. It may be very small and stiff, and nip the fingers as it snaps shut; it may have bristly brushes on the inside; or it may be polished so brightly that I do not want to mar it with my fingerprints.
After a while I’m a little cold and tired, and think I’ll call it a day, but look up to see a familiar face grinning from a window. It’s a Run and Become customer whom I know well. I’d served him a couple of days before, on his return from a Marathon Des Sables debut. I remember being stunned by his reply when I asked him how he fared in this notoriously gruelling event. “It was wonderful,” he said with effervescent smiling eyes. “Just one tiny blister, that’s all.” There he is now waving at me from his window with dauntless energy and cheerfulness.
“Maybe I’ll do one more street,” I think to myself with a renewed smile and a spring in my step, suddenly remembering my initial inspiration for the task in hand, and its worthy purpose.
My name is Devashishu and I live in London. When people ask me what I do, I find it difficult to give a concise answer. Currently I teach English (TEFL), I promote music and sports events, I write plays and perform in a music group, I do security work, I conduct surveys, I assist in the instalment of sundials and water features and on top of this I spend a third of each year travelling the globe – a jack of all trades and master of none. The one activity that has been a consistent part of my life for the past twenty years is the giving of meditation classes, through which I have earned not one penny but have discovered wealth of a different nature.
In fact, when someone asks you ‘What do you do?’, they are actually asking ‘Who are you?’ They hope that from your response they will have a better knowledge of who you are. But in my experience, we know very little about our own existence, let alone of those around us. I grew up with meditation, and due to its capacity to imbue the journey of self-discovery with tremendous joy and strength, it has remained an integral and constant element in my life.
I give meditation classes on the authority of my teacher, Sri Chinmoy. I am a seeker, and as part of my spiritual discipline, I have been given the opportunity to share my experiences and my limited knowledge with other seekers. That ‘sharing’ plays a vital role in my own journey of self discovery.
When we start to meditate we soon become conscious that we are dealing with an infinite source of energy, an infinite intelligence. Through the regular daily practice of simple techniques, we develop our capacity to conduct that energy. This development of capacity is an expansion of consciousness. If you imagine a vast lake then through our meditation we are creating a passage or a river. But for there to be a river and a constant flow of water there needs to be an outlet to the sea. That outlet is vital to the health and vibrancy of the river. In the silence of meditation we discover a profound source of peace, light and bliss and we need to offer these qualities to the world around us. This can be done in a number of ways and for me the meditation classes have provided the perfect way.
I have been fortunate to see many countries and to date I have given classes in the UK, Ireland, France, Austria, the Czech and Slovak republics, Poland, Greece, Romania, Russia, the Ukraine, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, the Bahamas, Brazil, Mexico, Canada and the United States.
Despite what we see and hear on our daily news programmes, I have discovered a world of astounding beauty. In each and every place I was greeted with the warmth and hospitality that I have come to know as the universal hallmark of the human heart. The ideals of compassion and friendship are valued by the majority of the people with whom we share this planet. There are many cultures, races, religions and political viewpoints, and in spirituality we find a common ground that far transcends the illusion of separation and limitation. In all human beings there is a profound thirst for satisfaction and it is in meditation that we can find a true and fulfilling way to slake this thirst.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to give meditation classes. When I am standing before a class I feel the tangible joy and satisfaction of my teacher and am reminded that I am, indeed, the eternal student.