Joy weekends are always just that - a weekend of Joy - but somehow when the British, French and Irish Centres come together there is somehow an extra special energy there.
I work in a Divine Enterprise – Run and Become – which is open for business on Saturdays. So this meant that for myself and my fellow Run and Become workers the weekend started after closing time on Saturday evening. We had missed the plane, but definitely not the boat!
We drove from Cardiff to Poole and took the overnight ferry to Cherbourg. This is a really fun experience, and one which we had done once before. You can book a cabin at very little extra cost, and these cabins are extremely cute with 4 berths, enough space between the bunks for two people to stand at the same time (as long as they are at opposite ends of the cabin), and a tiny ensuite bathroom complete with a-bit-more-power-than-I'm-used-to shower. Very homely.
The ferry company wake you up about an hour before docking by playing mellow classical music then jolly folk music at gradually increasing volume through the loudspeakers. This makes for quite an interesting and unusual morning meditation, especially when the baah-ing of sheep and moo-ing of cows comes in!
We then had about two and a half hours to drive to meet up with everyone else. They had had an evening function the night before (meditation, singing, exchange of news and stories, and of course the all-important dinner), and were now due to be sight-seeing at Le Mont Saint Michele. This is a beautiful monastery which dates back to the 10th century and is built on a high rocky promontory. It is cut off from the mainland by the sea at high tide (although nowadays there is a causeway so this no longer applies). It's really large, and still has a few monks and nuns living in part of it. We had enough time to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the chapels, refectories and cloisters as well as the beautiful views across the bay. The sky was totally blue and it was very sunny, but very cold. It was absolutely perfect, and there was even time for coffee and crepe at one of the cafes at the base of the mount.
Lunch was back at the hostel where everyone had stayed the night before. We then had a short function with meditation, singing and plays, followed by a video of a fantastic play, 1 ½ hours long, which a group of Sri Chinmoy’s students had recently put on. At 4.30pm most of the British had to board the bus for the airport. Quite a few of us were staying a while longer or even until the next day, so we headed into the nearby picturesque town of St Malo to get something to eat.
By the time we were finally parked and out of the car the temperature had dropped even further and it had started to snow. There were plenty of enticing-looking places to eat - the dilemma was which one to choose. We finally settled on a small creperie and the waiter immediately ushered us upstairs, and there to our surprise we found the rest of our centre members. In a whole town of eateries both parties had ended up in the same place. This was somewhat of a miracle, and also very good news because it meant we didn't have to go through the comedy of trying to meet up with travelling companions in a town none of us knew - "I'll meet you by the city gate". "OK, where is it?" "I don't know"......etc.
Finally it was time to head back out into the snow and start out for the ferry port. The crossing back was a tad rough and we were all thanking our lucky stars for the invention of anti sea-sickness pills. It's a strange experience to try to sleep when you are constantly tipping backwards and forwards from head to foot and side to side.
We arrived back in port in Poole just after sunrise and drove back up to Cardiff just in time to open up at Run and Become. You could certainly never say that the spiritual life is boring! As well as being outwardly great fun, a Joy Weekend always leaves you feeling inwardly uplifted and brings an inspiring, dynamic and, yes, joyful quality to your life of aspiration.