How far can you walk, run or shuffle during 6 hours or 12 hours of continuous forward motion – or way out there on the far frontiers of impossibility, how far in 24 hours? How many miles or kilometres will your legs, lungs and heart carry you, how much determination can you muster in challenging impossible and frightening distances? These questions brought 47 athletes from as far away as Holland, Buenos Aires and the United States to the Millennium Stadium on Auxkland’s North Shore recently, a multinational, cheerful bunch bound by their shared quest for an inspiring and empowering answer.
Held annually around a 400 metre track and hosted by the supremely efficient Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team members, this year’s race started at 9am on an uncharacteristically sunny and windless morning, October 6th, a welcome change from the often fierce winds and relentless rain that visit this event and multiply the challenges facing the long distance runner. Behind this race, the life and message of its founder, the late spiritual master and sports lover Sri Chinmoy is evident, seen in the trackside aphorisms that speak of self-transcendence; the encouragement of the volunteers who themselves have run in ultra-marathons, even multi-day events; and embodied in the very nature of the race itself with its belief in the unlimited potential of each and every human being when body and mind are harnessed to will and spirit.
Newcomers to the world of ultra running start with the 6 and 12 hour event, a manageable distance – each will choose when to run, walk, rest; what type of nutrition and fluids work best; and draw too upon all of the knowledge honed through training. Veterans will come for another go at the 24 hour epic, a more grueling confrontation with oneself, with exhaustion and pain and the effort to pass beyond them into further realms of self-discovery.
In mild, sunny conditions men’s winner Greg Yee from Dunedin completed 188.28 km in 24 hours, and women’s finalist Kim Allen from Papakura ran 167.6 km to become the 2018 Athletics New Zealand 24-Hour national champions.
Rob Robertson (USA) and Joanne Aitkin both race-walked for the entire 24 hours, each covering 161.6 kms – observed by walking judges, they became New Zealand Centurion Walkers, having walked 100 plus miles in 24 hours and joining an elite band of athletes. For many, the experience of the race will be a life milestone, a time when everything else fell away and there was only that single-pointed determination to persevere, to push past the usual constraints of tiredness, the mind and body’s capitulation to comfort and relief, the constant challenge of exhaustion. Few venture to these shadow lands, but those who do are never quite the same again, experiencing very often an exhilaration that might best be described as the souls joy. And realizing that running is a life metaphor, that if one can overcome the restraints and hurdles here, one can achieve anything in any endeavor.
Sri Chinmoy founded the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team in 1977 as a service to the running community and to promote physical fitness and self-transcendence through sports. Over the years the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team has become one of the world’s largest sponsors of ultra-distance running, while also organising short races, triathlons and multisport events around the world.
Reprint with the kind permission of NZ Indian Outlook
‘By Jogyata Dallas
Humanity has always wondered about its future, devising myriad ways to look beyond the present moment to prepare and shape its destinies and its fortunes. Since ancient times, shamans have looked for patterns in the spiraling contours of smoke, taken hallucinogenic plants to unveil the mysteries of life and to access other dimensions; Tarot cards are still widely consulted and interpreted; clairvoyancy has flourished and messages channeled from Ascended Masters and psychics; and there have always been tea leaf auguries, prophecies and visions, gazing into crystal balls, interpreting the flight of birds, the prognostications of dreams.
Prediction is also now a developing science, venturing into the hugely complex world of advanced computers, with algorithmic capacity handling cascading terabytes of data. Researchers may still fall far short of predicting outcomes with the precision that policy-makers long for, but the scenarios that they can now envision are modelling outcomes used in governance and world economies.
Among these arts and sciences, astrology has always enjoyed an undying, even resurgent popularity, and many aficionados of this discipline use it to determine their way forward and guide them in their decision-making. During his lifetime, spiritual master Sri Chinmoy was often asked about astrology and the following excerpts are drawn from his responses to a number of questions about the scope and power of astrology. In a talk titled ‘Astrology, the Supernatural and the Beyond’ he comments:
“Astrology is the song of the stars. That which has been decreed and that which has already entered into the world of manifestation is recorded in the stars. When astrology deals with the past, with what has already been recorded, it is nearly always correct. But astrology also lets us see potentiality, and it seeks to tell the future on the strength of the past. Expert astrologers are adept at entering into the truth of this realm. In most cases, when it is carefully and scientifically done, astrology is absolutely correct for ordinary people who have no faith in God or in themselves.
Astrology is one hundred per cent correct when one is totally in the physical world and is living an ordinary human life. When one enters into the inner life, the spiritual life, it is sixty or seventy per cent correct. If the aspirant is in touch consciously or unconsciously with his inner being, and if his inner being is constantly in touch with the Source, there will be many, many bad things that he can avoid. Finally, when one is consciously in communion with God, astrology does not function at all for that person, because everything in his life comes directly from God. True oneness with God is far beyond astrology.
Even if people have faith in themselves, with this faith they can transcend astrology. That is why we say that faith changes things by an unchanging will. If we have an unchanging will, fate can be changed. True, all our past deeds are recorded in the stars. But if we want to obliterate fate, it is like obliterating something on a tape recorder. I say something and it is recorded, but if I want to erase it, I can.
On a deeper level there is always a higher force called God’s Grace. God’s Grace can change anybody’s fate. This Grace is almighty; it changes the possibilities and transcends the laws of astrology, which are God’s cosmic Laws. Sometimes an astrologer’s prediction is actually true, but it does not happen because of the divine Grace. Furthermore, we have lines in our palms that show how many years we shall live on earth. In some cases, anybody who knows palmistry will say that a person’s life-line is only for, say, thirty-two or thirty-three years, but this person may be seventy-two or seventy-five years old now. How does it happen? Some higher power has been responsible.
In India there are quite a few systems of casting horoscopes. The Bhrigu system is most significant. It was introduced thousands of years ago and now there are volumes upon volumes written about it, with everything recorded. You just give your chart to the brahmin, the astrologer who is dealing with this system, and he will turn the pages in front of you and tell you everything about your life. Very often it is true. In horoscopes we see that many times death is written for a person. Astrologers mention that there will be danger and the person will die. But many of these
people are still alive. There is nothing that cannot be changed by the infinite Grace of the Supreme.
Astrology does not have the power to change our fate, but spirituality or Yoga does have this power. The difference between astrology and Yoga is that astrology only indicates; it indicates the future on the basis of the past, but it does not change it. Yoga, however, can actually defeat the past and shape the future. Astrology plays its role most effectively until one has entered into deeper spirituality. There astrology bows down. Before one accepts spirituality, astrology is very powerful, like a lion. Then when one enters into a deeper spiritual life, astrology becomes a tiny household cat.”
Reprint with the kind permission of NZ Indian Outlook\
by Jogyata Dallas
Auckland’s 17th Diwali festival, colloquially referred to as ‘The Festival of Lights’, will soon be enlivening our city streets and temples and bringing gaiety, color, dance, music, theatre, workshops and a wonderfully irresistible array of multi-ethnic food stalls to our nation. Signifying the triumph of light over darkness and originating centuries ago from the time of Lord Rama’s return from exile, it celebrates hope, life’s spring times and renewals, humanity’s brighter future. The candles and celebrant lights of Diwali also convey the deeper, spiritual symbolism of the festival, reminding us that ‘light’ is an intrinsic property of the soul and originates in the beauty and mystery of an omnipresent Creator.
The late Indian spiritual master Sri Chinmoy answered many questions about Light – below are some excerpts from his responses.
What do you mean by Light?
Light is the power of the Supreme that illumines and transforms ignorance. Anything that transforms our existence is Light. Light, you can say, is the life-breath of the Supreme. Each colour of light has a special meaning. Blue light is Infinity, vastness; white light is purity. Green Light is life-energy, new life. Like that, each colour has a significance.
What is the purest Light?
The purest, highest Light is the Light of the Absolute Supreme. This Light can be seen and, at the same time, it can be felt or experienced. When we have established our constant, eternal and inseparable oneness with the Highest, the experience that we get is purest Light. If we have to define the purest Light, we can say that it is nothing but an experience of the Supreme in the Supreme. When we consciously feel our permanent and complete oneness with the Absolute Supreme, we get an eternal and everlasting experience of real, purest Light, and the purest consciousness of the Supreme is put at our disposal.
How can we attain the experience of purest Light?
We achieve this experience on the strength of our inner cry. If we work outwardly for material wealth or power, eventually we achieve these outer things. When we want to do something or achieve something, we have to work for it. Right now our goal is purest Light. In this case, our work is to cry inwardly. We have to inwardly cry like a child for inseparable oneness with the Supreme. The child cries for what it wants, and the mother always comes. No matter where she is, she comes to offer the child whatever it wants. But everything depends on the sincerity of our inner cry. If our cry is sincere, God is bound to grant it. If we cry inwardly for spiritual things — for Peace, Light, Bliss — then we are bound to achieve these divine qualities.
What is the source of the higher Light?
This Light actually comes from the soul; it is inside us. The moment we can have free access to our inner being or to the soul, we will see that this Light is coming to the fore to permeate our whole outer existence.
Can you tell us how we can bring down light from Above or from within?
It is very easy. Just invoke light. When you pray, pray to God to inundate your body, vital, mind and heart with light. There is nothing wrong in doing this. It is absolutely necessary to pray to the Supreme to inundate your inner and outer existence with light. Our Upanishadic seers prayed to God for light, light, light. For us also, there is only one thing we need: light. If you want to bring down light from Above, prayer is the answer. Or, while you are meditating, you can invoke God the Light. Through our prayer and meditation, we are growing into God’s boundless and infinite Light and becoming all that God is and all that God has.
What is the purpose of ignorance?
This life, as you know, is a kind of game that we play; we call it a cosmic Game. What we call ignorance is nothing short of an experience which God is having in and through us. If we become conscious of the fact that we are only His instruments, then we are not bound by ignorance. We see that there is someone, the Inner Pilot, who is playing His cosmic Game in and through us. If we know that we are mere instruments, then there is no ignorance, there is no light; there is only the Supreme, who is everything. He is the Doer, He is the action, He is the result; He is everything.
Is there any relationship between the light that the seeker receives and the light the earth receives?
The Light of the Supreme is descending to earth in infinite measure. It is up to the seeker either to accept it or to reject it. According to his capacity of receptivity, each seeker is receiving the Light of the Supreme. Earth embodies the seeker and, at the same time, the seeker represents earth, Mother Earth. When the seeker accepts Light, immediately this Light enters into the consciousness of the earth-mother in him. Again, when earth receives Light, when the mother receives Light, she offers it to her children. When the soul of the earth receives Light, it shares this Light with the seekers, its children. And when the children receive Light, they also share the Light with their mother, earth. One moment the son is earning the salary; the next moment the mother is earning the salary. Then they share their achievements with each other.
Isn’t it necessary to control the mind first in order to receive divine Light?
If we want to control the mind with our will, it will be like asking a monkey not to bother us. The very nature of the monkey is to bite and pinch us. It is impossible to stop it. But we can bring to the fore the light of the soul, which has unlimited power. In the outer world, when somebody is superior in strength or power, he tries to punish the one that is bothering him. But in the spiritual life, the light of the soul and the light of the heart will not punish the mind. On the contrary, the light will act like a most affectionate mother. It will come forward and try to transform the mind. It will feel, as a mother does, that the imperfection of the child is its own imperfection. The heart will feel the obscurity, impurity and darkness of the mind as its own limitations and, at the same time, it will be in a position to offer its light — the light it gets from the soul — to the mind. We have to use the superior power, the light of the soul, to control the mind. If we try to control the mind before bringing down divine Light, we will sadly fail.
How do we bring light into the subconscious?
You should aspire for the light that will transform your nature. Only by bringing light into your entire system can you illumine your inner darkness. No matter how many hours I dwell in a dark room, the dark room will not be changed into an illumined room. But if, just for a second, I can enter into an illumined room, then I may be able to bring light into the dark room and illumine it. When you meditate, you drink the light which permeates the atmosphere. This light will be able to illumine and purify the dark and impure things that you have inside you.
When you start your concentration or meditation, try to feel that you have come from light and that your whole existence exists inside light, that you not only embody light but are light itself. This is not imagination or mental hallucination. Far from it! It is a real, solid, concrete truth. If you can realise this, you will see a spontaneous flow of light from within. First you will feel it inside your heart. Then you will feel it in your forehead — in the third eye; and finally you will feel it throughout your entire being.
There are also other ways of seeing light. One way is through your breathing. Each time you draw in a breath, please feel that you are breathing in something that is feeding, purifying and energising everything inside you. And what is the thing that you are breathing in? It is nothing but light. After a while you will feel that this light you are breathing has totally filled your being. At that time you will see and feel that you are nothing but light itself.
Why is darkness impermanent and light permanent?
Light is permanent precisely because our Source is all Light. We come from Light, in Light we grow and through Light we fulfil our inner task. God is the eternal Source and we are His children. God-realisation, the flood of infinite Light, is our birthright. The more we go deep within, the easier it becomes for us to realise that there is something within us which is everlasting. Right now we are enveloped by darkness because we have been sleeping for a few years or a few incarnations. But a day will come when the infinite Light will dawn in us and make us feel what we truly are. Since our Source is God, who is all Light, eventually we also have to grow into Light. It is the Creator who has created us and eventually we have to grow into His very image. Our inner sun, which is infinitely brighter than the physical sun, will dispel the ignorance-night of millennia. Let us try to go deep within and enter into our inner sun, our cosmic sun. There we shall see the infinite, permanent Light waiting for us and crying for us.
There is a story from India of a farmer who longed to have a great mango tree – he goes to the market and buys a small plant, then for years he tends his tree, nourishing it, watering its roots, tending it with all his love. Slowly the tree grows and flourishes, and finally begins to flower with its promise of the first mangos. Later on, the tree at last begins to bear fruit – but to his great surprise the fruit turns out to be apples – it was an apple tree, not the mango tree he had hoped for! He could have been upset and cursed the tree for having lavished all his care on the wrong tree, but instead he said, ‘Well, it is the same tree that I cared for, why would I not love it because it turned out to bear a different fruit?’
The story reminds me of the recent passing of an acquaintance of mine who never accepted the life path his child had chosen, how far away it had been from his expectations and how, right up until his death, he had harbored and even shared his disappointment with his child.
He was about to farewell forever a beautiful and exceptional daughter who had veered away from her father’s ambitions and expectations for her, and chosen a path of her own. The mango tree turned out to be a tree that bore a different fruit. But human love is often quite conditional like this, and fails to achieve an unconditional love that is wider and free of expectation, unburdening those we care for of our own ambitions and allowing and accepting the children’s freedom to choose their own life path.
At the funeral of my disappointed acquaintance, I read out some writings from the wisdom teachings of the late spiritual master Sri Chinmoy. His words would console the saddened daughter, and remind us that one of the secrets of life is that there is no real death, and that although the body is cast aside, the soul journeys on, birthless and deathless like an eternal traveler. They describe life and death as only like two rooms in a house – they are adjoining, and in one room we move about and play and work, in the other we take rest. But life is there in both rooms, and both rooms are needed. Sri Chinmoy writes:
‘We are all like passengers on a single train. The destination has come for one particular passenger. He has to get off at this stop, but we still have to go on and cover more distance. Now we have to know that this hour of death has been sanctioned by God, who is infinitely more compassionate than any human being, infinitely more compassionate than we who want to keep our dear ones. Even if the dying person is our son, or our father or mother, we have to know that she is infinitely dearer to God than she is to us.
So if we really accept and understand this, then this understanding will truly bring peace, an abiding peace, both to us and to the soul that is leaving the earth-scene.
‘We come from the infinite Life, but our stay here on earth is only for a short span of time, perhaps sixty or seventy years. But inside this earth-bound life is the boundless Life. The soul leaves the body for a short or long rest and goes back to the soul’s region, where it regains the Eternal Life, which existed before birth, which exists between birth and death, and which proceeds on beyond death.’
The daughter would eventually find the strength to free herself from her late father’s failure to accept her for who she was, the tree of a different fruit, and the truths about the impermanence and fragility of both life and love are unavoidable ones and finally bring both compassion and liberation.
Several of our marathon team members enjoyed a snowy expedition in the South Island’s Mt Arthur tablelands recently. Our hopes of hiking across the alpine tops to summit Mt Arthur were dashed by high winds, deep snow that had us up to our armpits in places, and mist.
Instead we climbed the lower mountains and explored the limestone sink holes, ‘tomos’, that are scattered about the landscape and link up to a maze of underground caverns and rivers. There are over 33 kms of tunnels and river systems one km below the mountainscapes, deep inside the Mt Arthur range, and explorers have camped for up to two weeks in the labyrinth of caves to chart their course.
Inside one of the tomos we found the ancient bones of a giant moa, an intact skeleton probably thousands of years old. In New Zealand we’re so fortunate to have an abundance of beautiful places to restore the spirit, challenge our capacity, inspire us – and humble us when we are confronted by the frailty of life if we err and fail to understand how quickly a warm day can become a cold and frozen night.
I have always felt fortunate to be a member of “Oneness-Dream”, an acapella male choir featuring students of Sri Chinmoy performing selections of his songs based on various spiritual themes and messages. We have toured to many parts of the world, performing in monasteries, Buddhist temples, ancient castles, iconic sites, famous cathedrals and places of pilgrimage in over twelve countries. Most recently, Oneness-Dream toured during April 2018 and went to 15 churches and monasteries in the Zlin and Prague areas of the Czech Republic. The clips mentioned here highlight some of our performances.
The choir’s first tour, in 2011, was offered in Iceland – ten concerts in the space of a week – and it became clear that what the choir had to offer was something very special – a beauty and simplicity, an intensity that went beyond performance into something deeply inspirational and uplifting. Over the next few years the choir regrouped to undertake similar tours to different parts of the world – Myanmar, Scotland, Ireland, USA, Italy – culminating in this year’s visit to the Czech Republic.
Sri Chinmoy regarded music as a unifying and universal language accessible to all, and a powerful medium to encourage a more peaceful world. He commented: “The universe itself is music. Unfortunately, most of the time we do not hear the music of the universe… But in everything, if we can become aware of it, there is music. Everything in God’s creation embodies music. We can hear it only when we dive deep within.
God is the Supreme Musician. It is He who is playing with us, on us and in us. We cannot separate God from His music. The universal Consciousness is constantly being played by the Supreme Himself, and is constantly growing into the Supreme Music. God the Creator is the Supreme Musician and God the creation is the supreme Music. The musician and His Music can never be separated. The Musician Supreme is playing his Music Supreme here in the universe.”
Auckland’s active interfaith movement was recently on show when the Sri Chinmoy Centre organised a memorable and inspiring evening of music on Monday, May 28, 2018. Ten local performing groups representing various spiritual traditions came together for a free concert of peaceful, meditative music at the Fickling Centre in Mt Eden. Singers and instrumentalists from Sikh, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Tzu Chi and various other musical traditions shared an evening highlighting both the diversity of Auckland’s cultures and their spirit of co-operation. The evening concert – ‘Sounds of the Sacred’ – was filled to overflowing and offered an experience of inner peace through music.
Interfaith initiatives have a long history. The 1893 Parliament of World Religions, where the great Swami Vivekananda spoke and came to prominence, is often regarded as the birth of the modern interfaith movement and the most inclusive gathering of people of all faiths and traditions in history. Yet initiatives go back much further, even to the 16th century and beyond when in Mughal India, the Muslim Emperor Akbar promoted and encouraged tolerance and respect for other faiths and controversially married a Hindu princess.
Encouragingly, in our modern world there is a growing accommodation and a widening acceptance and goodwill towards the many faces of religion, and sporadic extremism and religious wars only remind us of their folly and cruelty.
Sri Chinmoy, who for four decades led the inter-denominational ‘Peace Meditations at the United Nations’, spoke of the need for ‘oneness’ and of the loving quality of the human heart:
“In religion, just as in all other aspects of our life, the feeling of our oneness-heart has to prevail. If we live in our oneness-heart, we will feel the essence of all religions, which is love of God. True religion has a univ
ersal quality. It does not find fault with other religions. Forgiveness, compassion, tolerance, brotherhood and the feeling of oneness are the signs of a true religion.”
Interfaith efforts are evident in many world forums including the United Nations, where the promotion of tolerance, peace and mutual respect is enshrined in the UN Charter and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United Nations also has interfaith breakfasts, sports competitions and cultural programs, and includes spiritual activities as well, such as the ongoing ‘Peace Meditations at the United Nations’ bi-weekly program for UN delegates and staff.
Speaking of the inner, spiritual dimension of world peace, Sri Chinmoy writes:
“There must be a great synthesis between the inner life and the outer life. The inner life wants love, and the outer life wants power. Now we are all exercising the love of power. But a day will come when this world of ours will be inundated with the power that loves. Only the power that loves can change the world.”
‘Sounds of the Sacred’ was also supported by the Auckland Interfaith Council, and included among the performers were local Mt Eden duo Monk Party; an instrumental/vocal women’s group from the Sri Chinmoy Centre; choirs from St Marks church groups; Sikh Youth performers; the Sathya Sai International NZ organization; and musicians from the Family Federation for World Peace.
If your idea of pure joy is a trail race involving a lot of mud, rain, stream wadings, steep and seemingly endless hills, inching through a pitch black 300 metre long limestone cave, and navigating 22 or 35 kms (depending on your degree of insanity) of slippery farm tracks, you’d have loved our recent April 28th adventure competing in the Waitomo Caves Trail Run in New Zealand’s North Island.
Five runners from the Auckland Sri Chinmoy Centre recently competed in this great event and enjoyed themselves immensely, traversing the amazing limestone studded hills with their outcrops of wind sculpted stone.
The spirit and power of place was overwhelming and humbling – the landscape seemed like an ancient battlefield, filled with giants and Titans and strange Beings turned to stone. Across the green landscapes and ridgelines the fists of rock reared up into the sky, resembling fleeing invaders lurching back to the sea after some mythological battle, now frozen mute and turned to stone by some fatal curse. Were they stranded there at daybreak, a raiding party from some barbaric underworld undone by the sudden dawn, or defectors from the faraway mountain fortresses seeking refuge in the dark forests? It was Lord of the Rings stuff! But the mute limestone features would not soften or speak as we passed.
Mother Nature threw everything at our brave few – rain, wind, cold – but our runners relished the challenges and placed well in the event. Movement and meditation belong together. We were exulting in the freedom of wellbeing, the beauty of landscaps, the wonderful camaraderie of the running fraternity, the silence of the hills, the dance of this wonderful life.
Because you are greater than you know. Meditation gradually introduces us to a hidden, deeper and remarkable part of our nature that is usually veiled by the endlessly busy mind and our immersion in the dramas of everyday life. Regaining control of the mind, learning inner stillness and silence, is the beginnings of a whole new self-discovery. We have a mind, but we are much more than mind. Our deeper spiritual nature is a source of great capacity and power.
Because you can be happier than you are today. One of the early-on benefits of meditation is a growing happiness – you’ll wonder ‘Why am I feeling so good today?’ Outer happiness is always dependent upon people and circumstance, and thus changeable; inner happiness is one of the lasting fruits of meditation, and is unaffected by outer circumstances entirely. Happiness is really an inner achievement, a rediscovering of the soul’s joy in existence itself.….
Because inner peace is your life’s most enduring treasure. Peace is another of the fruits and benefits of regular practice, like the fragrance of an inner flower. It comes in different forms – inner calm, equanimity in the face of life’s challenges, egolessness, a widening capacity for love and kindness. Peaceful people are very powerful people.
Because you’ll find your life’s deepest purpose. Every human being is unique, with different gifts and purposes – inner stillness won through meditation reconnects us with an inner wisdom, the heart’s intuitive intelligence, a clarity about our own special direction in life. Meditation is a life-navigator, shows us where to go, gives us the courage and freedom to follow our own unique path through life.
Meditation will upgrade your health! Stress, tension and negative emotions silently erode our life-force, but as we decrease these negative influences through our meditation practice, the positive health benefits become very apparent – increased vitality, a greater sense of general wellbeing, better sleep. Happiness and inner peace are powerful health factors and restoratives.
A new relationship with the world. The way we feel and function in our outer life is determined to a very great extent by our inner life – our happiness, our confidence, our moods. We often have little power to change events in the outer world, but we can change the way we react to them - our whole experience of life is colored by our own consciousness. Meditation balances the inner and outer worlds and brings out the bright colors of our nature – joyfulness, serenity, loving-kindness, strength. These emerging positive qualities reshape our very experience of life, for everything starts within.
A ripple in the pond. Our own daily meditation also has an effect upon the world, since in the vibrant web of energy everything is connected. Every thought and action spreads out into the world like a pebble tossed in to a pond. If you are able to achieve a calm and quiet mind, you will be bringing peacefulness, calmness, tolerance and beauty into the world around you. Your own deepening peace is the highest thing you can do for our troubled planet. “Be the change you want to see in the world” as Gandhi put it. This is also the teaching of quantum theory – consciousness is the ground of all being, the universe is a single conscious entity, we are its ongoing architects and creators.
The concept of soul. ‘What did your face look like before you were born?’ asks a Tibetan master of his disciple. To the mind the question is nonsensical, but not so for the instinctive intelligence of the heart. The puzzling inquiry reminds us of some essence of ourselves that is neither body nor mind, something birthless and deathless that never ceases to exist. The teachings of all the great sages and pathfinders over the centuries also share this belief in the reality of the human soul – and it is in the silence and stillness of meditation that its wisdom and guidance can most easily be felt and experienced. In everything of life – decision-making, problem solving, the search for fulfilment and happiness – our access to our intuitive, deeper Self is the key to showing us our way forward, with meditation training us to reconnect with these deeper capacities.
Making friends with the universe. We start meditation with self-effort, but over time we come to understand that all effort – like the law of attraction – seems to attract grace, as though everything needed is gifted to us by a benevolent universe. Spiritual masters call this ‘grace’. The direct experience of this can shunt years of skepticism and agnosticism to one side and open our minds to a mysterious and beautiful and responsive universe, to the idea of a creator or presiding intelligence behind the appearances of what we call reality. Here a whole new science of meditation awakens – ‘bhakti yoga’ – where the finite is now conjoined with the Infinite.
Meditation as sacred quest. From cradle-rock to last breath we live in a busy, enchanting and all absorbing world – the ability to stay in touch with our spiritual purposes, the quest for happiness and enlightenment and God-discovery, is rarely uppermost in our lives. Meditation is a reality check, reminding us of what is truly important in our lives, and equally, what is not. It lifts our lives above the everyday necessities and needs – eating, sleeping, working, surviving – and reminds us of a deeper truth and purpose, the great quest that lies at the heart of all human life, and the great happiness and liberation that will be won at the end of all striving.
Fitness has been a theme in the Sri Chinmoy Centre over the past month or two, with a number of us having a shot at some great trail runs – the Tarawera trail race near Rotorua with distances up to 50km, the recent Riverhead Rampage multi-distance run out in Woodhill forest near Kumeu in Auckland, and then again last weekend’s Motutapu/Rangitoto island event. This last one had us in the half marathon option, a fairly tough course that included the highest climbs over the trig points on both islands, long hills, rocky lava fields along Rangitoto’s foreshore and some great fast downhill stretches through the narrow forest tracks.
It’s great to have challenges, and I remember Eleanor Roosevelt’s comment that to live fully, every day we should attempt something that scares us. So I’m looking ahead next to April’s Waitomo ultras down in the Waikato, the longer distances being 22km and 35 km. If that sounds easy, take a look at the topography and the elevation profiles for this event – the hills are endless!! Eleanor would be proud of me.
Some of our keen trail runners are having a bash at Mt Ruapehu’s Ring of Fire threesome relay earlier in April,2018, three person teams covering some 22km each around the mountain’s flanks, and one or two doing the whole distance solo. Our youngest runner likes the other quotation about challenges: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for”.
So we’re all heading out into the uncharted open seas and exploring what we’re capable of.
Running offers these insights along with many other benefits conferred. And as a meditator, I always notice the relationship between fitness and training and the flow-on effects into my spiritual life, the greater ease of cultivating a still mind, still body, slow breath.
Not to mention how the disciplines of training and eating really well take us up to a level of wellbeing that’s really amazing – energy, self-belief, inspiration to take on other kinds of challenges and to live life as fully as we can.