In the Sri Chinmoy Centre, we certainly don't believe in long hours spent in meditation away from society. In addition to meditation, there are plenty of activities we can do to make spiritual progress, and one of the main ones - perhaps the main one - is having lots and lots of joy!
That's why our teacher Sri Chinmoy encourages us all to meet up every so often for weekends that combine meditation and having fun.
This March, all the meditation centres in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France gathered together in Marseille for one such weekend. Some of us arrived a little earlier and toured Marseille and its environs. Considering the time of year, the weather was very pleasant, so much so that we took the sunshine as an excuse to go swimming in the Mediterranean sea. The sea was indeed cold but absolutely revitalising. You could feel the body filling with a new life energy.
The weekend took place a short distance from Marseille, right on the shoreline of a small bay. It encompassed a beautiful pebble beach with hills rising from the sea on both sides and an impressive bridge towering in the backround. The set the scene for two days of swimming, walking and sightseeing.
On the Saturday evening everyone gathered with warm greetings for lovely meal. Having fed our appetite it was then time to feed our aspiration with some meditation! Some of our French friends had decorated a cosy function room with two large bouquets of blossomed lilies adorning the meditation shrine. Following a peaceful meditation we saw some inspiring videos of recent activites undertaken by Sri Chinmoy and his students: one video described how Ashrita Furman - one of Sri Chinmoy's students and the current holder of more Guinness World Records than anyone else - and a team of volunteers set about building the tallest popcorn structure ever constructed. Quite a few people who helped set this record were in the room watching the video and it brought back nice memories.
After an early meditation the next morning it was time to stretch our legs and widen our lungs and to feel good and healthy in general as we gathered for a two mile run. A somewhat improvised running track added to the sheer fun and joy of the race. It was early and the air was crisp and cold; however, everywhere you looked you found smiles and laughs of an amazingly energetic bunch of runners and joggers and walkers and helpers. Needless to say the bit of exercise worked up an appetite and everyone was grateful for a grand continental breakfast.
At noon, we returned to meditation, where we where delighted to receive a phone call from Sri Chinmoy. There were 74 of us present and with great love he offered a soul-stirring blessing to each individual in turn as he meditated with them. He then expressed his sincere joy for seeing such a remarkable display of oneness between all nationalities present. He commented on the fact that Englishmen and Frenchmen, who for many years lived in the world of competition, could now sit in the same room and meditate together in harmony; if this is not a victory of spirituality, then what is? With warm words of joy and appreciation the phone call ended.
Afterwards we gathered for a huge multi-course meal put on as only the French know how, and then another meditation. Some of us gathered for around the volleyball net trying to keep the ball up with our heads and feet, this evolved into a spontaneous game where we made the rules up as we went along. Many people had to return on the Sunday; about ten of us had another night however, so we could spend the evening meditating on the beautiful sunset, followed by a hearty meal in a local eaterie. Such weekends are of enormous value; they give us the chance to meet up with old friends, and rediscover an element of joy that might have been pushed to oneside by the grind of daily life.