Who am I? This is the main question that has led me to the spiritual life...
I was born in England at the beginning of the 1970s to a loving family of mechanical engineers. After traditional education in the UK and the USA, a Diploma from Art School and a Degree from Business School, I meandered through myriad occupations. It seemed I had not inherited the engineering genes, so I went from lead singer in a fairly unsuccessful band, to teacher of English for a Japanese motorcycle company in Thailand, to computer programmer for a phone company, and many other diverse roles in a catalogue of locations. All this probably taught me more about who I am not, than who I am. Wherever I went, I always felt there was something missing, and I was constantly looking for it outside of myself.
I was introduced to meditation at age sixteen, and if I am honest I always somehow knew it would bring me the answers I was seeking. However, I never made anything straightforward in those days. I continued for ten years, practising irregularly on the whole, and with not much sincerity. Without the support and encouragement of a spiritual teacher or spiritually inclined peers, my journey certainly lacked momentum. I used to think that the spiritual life is only for those who are ready to live in isolation from the world. I therefore never considered it a route open to someone who loves the world and loves to be in it.
After I seemed to have exhausted my outer search, I finally realised it was time to look within! I was sure meditation would help me discover some truth at last, and that’s when I found a meditation course offered by the Sri Chinmoy Centre. Here were people who seemed ready to accept themselves and the world in a light, unencumbered way. Not stopping there, but trying to transcend their own limitations, while searching for a higher and deeper truth. I immediately felt an affinity with Sri Chinmoy’s teachings on spirituality, and this affinity grows constantly the more I learn. To me it seems I always knew these universal truths somewhere inside myself, but I just didn’t know how to access them. I can at least now start to see them being revealed through my meditation and through Sri Chinmoy’s inspirational guidance.
Practising meditation every day brings benefits I would never have imagined. It provides a wealth of inner strength, which can be drawn on in any situation. This kind of inner safe harbour is something I can carry with me regardless of where I am or what I am doing. It has been a great comfort to me in difficult times, as well as being a source of joy, creativity, energy and confidence.
Music was key in kindling my initial interest in this spiritual path. I had always been a great lover of music, but Sri Chinmoy’s music, composed and performed directly through meditation, was beyond anything I had ever experienced. Though I always knew meditation was simple, I had never found it easy. This meditative music opened a new door for me and showed me a route, free from obstructions, to a higher realm of consciousness. Whether alone at home, or performing for others with a group, singing plays a significant role in my own daily practice.
Sri Chinmoy expresses the essence of meditation and spirituality through his art and writing, which is a constant source of inspiration to me. I am always finding a variety of outlets for my own creativity in the Centre. There is always a lot of scope for channelling creativity here, and always a chance to enjoy the creativity of others. My favourite form of creativity is writing, so I have included a few essays and poems here. I write about whatever inspires me. It seems the longer I try to lead a spiritual life, the more I observe the beauty and happiness in the simple things around me. I write about nature, about people, and about ordinary things that happen in my life, from which I derive extraordinary value. I have also written a book called Auspicious Good Fortune about my life with Sri Chinmoy and in the Sri Chinmoy Centre.
My name, Sumangali, is a spiritual name given to me by Sri Chinmoy after I had been his student for a few years. A spiritual name is like a mantra, reflecting the essence and purpose of its bearer at a very deep level. The root of my name, ‘mangal,’ means ‘auspicious’. To me this is an answer to my initial question, as well as the beginning of a new question: how to find that quality in myself, and put it into practice? The end of one journey is the beginning of a new one in this great adventure!