Nine birthdays in January are cause for a special celebration.
In the London Centre we go straight from Christmas into birthdays galore – no less than nine of us have birthdays in January. Although everyone gets a special cake on their birthday on our meditation night (recently there were six cakes on the same night!), this year the girls in the Centre decided to celebrate in style with a joint birthday bash. Sri Chinmoy has answered many questions on the spiritual significance of birthdays and he has even written a birthday song, which we sing to our spiritual brothers and sisters on their special day. Sri Chinmoy says, “The birthday is the anniversary of the day the soul entered into the world, making a very special promise to the Supreme. On our birthday, we have the golden opportunity to renew that promise and offer our surrender and gratitude to the Supreme.” Sri Chinmoy recommends that on our birthday we do first things first: pray and meditate early in the morning, and then once we have received some inner wealth from our spiritual practice we can share this with our friends. So on a chilly Sunday after morning meditation, 17 of us piled into a sixth-floor flat in east London to spend a fun-packed afternoon. Once everyone had arrived we tucked into a tasty vegetarian buffet, which seemed to help quieten us down a bit – apart from Hemabha who became even more energetic than usual! You could say she was the life and soul of the party. Lunch was followed by a brisk walk to burn off some calories and on our return we relaxed while watching a video of our spiritual Master. Before we knew it dessert was being handed out and, full of energy again, we threw ourselves into some party games. I don’t know what the name of the first game was, but Shinja (from Norway) managed to get us all kitted out in paper attire – with paper bags on our heads, paper plates over our ears and paper teeth in our mouths. Bhashini was voted the funniest-looking of the bunch and won a prize, although we all looked pretty hilarious. We then proceeded to join Shinja in a sing-song – attempting “Happy Birthday” to the tune of “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”, and other well-known songs. No party is complete without some traditional party games. We didn’t have enough room to play musical chairs, so settled for pass-the-parcel. As there were many of us, we decided to pass three parcels around at the same time, which was definitely more entertaining. No matter how many birthdays we have had – whether we are in our 20s, 30s, 40s, or so on – on Sri Chinmoy’s path we are encouraged to bring forward our childlike qualities, so birthday parties are not sophisticated gatherings, but in many ways resemble celebrations that most of us would have experienced in our childhood. Sri Chinmoy says, “If you feel that you are a seven-year-old girl or boy, every day you will see your life in a new way, and you will blossom like a flower, petal by petal.” Sri Chinmoy explains that to be “childlike” is not the same as being “childish”. While a childish quality is found in someone who acts in an immature, irresponsible way, a childlike person is simple, sincere and spontaneous in their dealings, without being stupid or foolish. As the day wore on we certainly felt like children and rounded off the party with some cracker-pulling and a box of chocolates. As everyone got ready to go home we vowed to do it again for the next set of birthdays – yes, there are quite a few more coming up in February and March. Any excuse for some innocent fun. Happy birthday everyone! Paula Bartimeus