Paula Bartimeus is a member of the Sri Chinmoy Meditation Centre in London. She is a freelance writer specialising in nutrition and healthy eating, and creates vegetarian recipes for cookery books..
When I was a child I longed for a world that was filled with joy, where people lived in harmony and where humans and animals were equal. I was a day-dreamer, a bookworm and an idealist, and spent many long hours immersed in a make-believe land where everything was beautiful.
I came from a Jewish background and was brought up in a moderate way with the Old Testament. Although I grew up a “believer”, in my adolescence I started to doubt God’s existence, and by 13 became a self-confessed atheist. After all, how could such a great power exist when there was so much suffering on Earth?
By my late teens, I had already had my fill of hurt and sadness, and in disillusionment headed abroad for a few months in the hope of finding something new. Stuck on a Kibbutz in Israel with a group of strangers and not much to do, I had second thoughts about my journey into the wilderness. One day, feeling very alone, I went for a walk in the Negev desert, where I desperately tried to console myself. As I walked, feeling utterly lost inside, I suddenly felt an all-pervading sense of love. It was as if someone or something was cradling me in their very core and although at the time I had no idea where this love came from, I knew that everything was going to be alright.
Shortly afterwards I flew back to London knowing without a doubt that returning home was paramount. Although still a non-believer, a series of events occurred soon after that prompted me to question once again God’s reality. A strange out of body experience, a chance reading of a novel that mentioned the soul, vegan cookery classes that happened to be run by Seventh Day Adventists, and more … These events triggered further enquiry – what is the real purpose of life, who am I, and what am I supposed to be doing on this planet?
At the time I had got a job in a health food shop and with these questions hovering around in my mind I one day put them forward to a colleague that I barely knew but somehow knew well. Unbeknown to me, she was a student of Sri Chinmoy, and very sweetly she told me about her teacher, his philosophy and the meditative way of life.
A completely new world opened to me and within a matter of weeks Sri Chinmoy became my teacher and I became his student. Through reading his books all my questions were at once answered and through my meditation I realised that my childhood dreams of a perfect world were not so far-fetched after all.
At last I had found a teaching that wasn’t based on ritual or scriptures but on someone’s first-hand experience. God the finite and the infinite – rather than this large, bearded man in the sky – made sense to me. So did the premise that we have many lives, and with each incarnation we progress until one day we attain divinity – man’s ultimate goal.
Over the years, with Sri Chinmoy as my guide, I have found that my strengths have got stronger and my weaknesses are gradually being transformed. For a start my disillusionment has been transformed into optimism. My doubts have been replaced with faith, my fears with courage and my hurt with happiness. Although there is a long journey in front of me, I know I am heading in the right direction towards the Light.
On a more practical level, Sri Chinmoy’s guidance has been there just as much in my outer life as it has in my inner life. Work, financial and health matters always appear to fall into place, and when problems do arise they are usually easily resolved.
Looking back to that day when I walked alone in the desert in Israel, I now know that I wasn’t alone at all, my Master was there too, only he had not yet revealed himself. I am eternally grateful to Sri Chinmoy for finding me and taking me under his wings – and for showing me the true meaning of life.
By: Paula Bartimeus