"We will always be found in the newness-vortex of activities multifarious"
When I first started to explore the world of meditation, I did not suspect for a moment that I would find myself plunging into myriad activities such as learning to sing, playing musical instruments, writing poetry, running marathons...
Sri Chinmoy's path is one of multiplicity - seeking to find inspiration in so many different fields to feed one's spiritual growth, and at the same time bringing the inspiration from one's own meditation and spiritual experiences to fuel creativity in sport, drama, art, music - in fact, any field of human endeavour.
Music is an integral part of Sri Chinmoy's path; for most of his students, devotional singing comes a close second to meditation in their spiritual practice. I had always been a music over, and a keen if very amateurish, musician. Singing, however, was something I had always felt too inhibited to try - even singing along to my favourite tapes was excruciating; I couldn't stand the sound of my own pathetic and off-key voice. Members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre in Bristol were keen to help, and persuaded me to come once a week to the centre to sing. I soon began to get over the inhibition and found that once that was gone, the voice improved rapidly. With spiritual singing, of course, technical ability is not the paramount concern, but rather the soulfulness or sincerity of the singer and the spiritual height expressed by the composer. Sri Chinmoy says of music:
"Music is the inner or universal language of God. I do not speak French or German or Italian, but if music is played from any of those countries, immediately the heart of the music enters into my heart, or my heart enters into the music. At that time no outer communication is needed; the inner communion of the heart is enough. My heart is communing with the heart of the music, and in our communion we become inseparably one."
In my case, I reached a point when, although still a mediocre singer, I was getting real inner joy from my singing. Each haunting melody seemed to carry a different meditative mood or spiritual quality, and to sing them soulfully either alone or in a group was both calming for the mind and uplifting for the spirit. Now I begin my morning meditation each day with a few of Sri Chinmoy's songs and this seems to "clear the path" into meditation perfectly. These are songs of the soul, and they call the soul forward to meditate in and through us. Of all the highest and most inspiring spiritual experiences I have been blessed with over the years, many have happened while singing or while listening to Sri Chinmoy sing.
While music has an important role in the spiritual lives of all Sri Chinmoy's students, some focus on poetry as an expression of their meditation and others on drama. I am no expert in either field, but since joining the centre I have had the chance to explore both in a small way. I regularly write poems, to encapsulate feelings of inspiration or inner experiences, but like many I am a bit shy when it comes to letting others read them! I have managed to send a few of my efforts to Panorama (a Sri Chinmoy Centre periodical) over the years though, and hope to publish more in the future. Drama is not my forte, but like almost everyone in the centre I love the plays we put on at Joy Days and Celebrations. I have taken part in a few, with roles as diverse as "Charioteer at Kurukshetra" (from the Mahabharata) and "irate dinner guest" (from Fawlty Towers; Basil the Rat).
Another surprising facet of Sri Chinmoy's path is his enthusiasm for sport, particularly for distance running and other endurance disciplines. An athlete in his youth, Sri Chinmoy experienced first hand how sport can be used to transcend mental and emotional barriers and further one's spiritual progress. He has run many marathons and ultra-marathons, and encourages his students to do the same. For some this philosophy is expressed with daily exercise such as walking or jogging, while others like to go further and attempt marathons or even longer races. At August Celebrations the "Self Transcendence Marathon" takes place, and in 2004 about eight hundred of Sri Chinmoy's disciples completed the course. A worldwide organisation called the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team organises hundreds of races each year, ranging from one or two mile races in city parks to the Self Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, the world's longest certified footrace, which takes nearly two months to complete! I have written elsewhere on this site about my personal love of running, so to avoid any repetition I will curb my enthusiasm for once and say no more about it here.
I have dwelt mostly here on the activities that we would consider "spiritual practise", but no aspect of life remains unchanged by spirituality. Most of Sri Chinmoy's students find that even their everyday working lives begin to change as they meditate , the outer life slowly changing to reflect the inner changes that are taking place. In my case, my love of running has brought me the opportunity to work part-time in a specialist running shop, "Run and Become". In my previous job I spent the day with friends and colleagues who were very nice people, but who had no interest in spirituality. At Run and Become, we begin and end our day meditating together, and share a common ideal when it comes to really caring for each individual customer. I find running, and runners, inspiring to work with, so for me this has to be the ideal job. Its also great to be able to share Sri Chinmoy's philosophy of self-transcendence with people, and talk about the sheer joy of running.
These are just a few of the ways in which Sri Chinmoy's path brings new and fulfilling activities into every part of life. At the heart of all of them is spirituality and the experience of meditation that provides the source, the impetus, for all our creativity. It may seem strange to anyone reading my account that I have left the most important subject, meditation, until last. The experiences we enter into when we meditate, and the transformation in our consciousness that they bring about, are really too personal to describe. As each of us is unique, our experiences of meditation are unique, so sharing our experiences in writing is not always helpful. My advice to the seeker, or to the simply curious, is to try meditation yourself. Discover your own inner world. See where the journey of meditation takes you. The higher experiences you long for may not come immediately; they will certainly not come without a little effort and practise. When they do come, as they surely will, you will know that they are the truly significant experiences of your life.