An international weekend of joy in County Clare
Last weekend, the Irish Sri Chinmoy Centre played host to sixty-five students of Sri Chinmoy from England, France, Scotland, Wales and further beyond for a weekend of meditation and fun - a 'Joy Weekend' as our teacher, Sri Chinmoy, calls it. As the name suggests, the emphasis on these weekends is on having pure unadulterated joy, some time together with friends where we can be free from the worries and responsibilities of life. We were based in the beautiful Burren area of County Clare in the West of Ireland, with its spectacular mountain views and limestone rock formations.
We all met up on the Saturday evening; due to the remote location, some people had to go to great lengths in order to get there, but hopefully it would be worth it! First came a beautifully silent meditation and singing of soulful mantric songs. In particular, we were treated to an ethereally beautiful singing performance by Adarsha Kelly of Scotland, a long-time student of Sri Chinmoy renowned for the depth and soulfulness of his singing. (You can listen to Adarsha sing on Radio Sri Chinmoy) In the previous week, some of the people present had accompanied Sri Chinmoy on his visit to Mongolia , whilst others had been working on a concert of inspiring music at the Royal Albert Hall, so there were more than a few anecdotes to tell from both events.
The next day began with a 2 mile run: rather than competing with each other, everyone instead competes to beat their own previous standard, which makes for a much more enjoyable and carefree race. After breakfast, it was then time to go to the beach for some games! There is nothing like a few team games to restore that sense of joy and exuberance we somehow lose in the transition from childhood to adult life. We started out with a classic sandcastle building contest: two teams and twenty minutes to build the biggest and best structure. In the end, both castles were so good that we couldn't bring ourselves to vote on a winner and called it a draw! We then had a few more fun games like horseshoe pitching, speed nailing and a balancing relay.
Then we went to the nearby Cliffs of Moher, one of the highest cliffs in Europe. Two years earlier, the World Harmony Run , a global initiative founded by Sri Chinmoy to foster friendship and understanding through running, had passed through County Clare and paid a visit to the cliffs. The resulting DVD of the Run featured the majestic scenery of the cliffs quite heavily and many people who saw it expressed the wish to go there someday - this may have influenced our choice of location :) Then we headed back for lunch, followed by another group meditation. In the afternoon we spit into groups to explore the country side.
Naturally everyone was a little tired at the end of such a hectic day, so after the evening meditation we thought of a way to put a spring back in everyone's step! We divided everyone into four teams, handed them a short story and gave them twenty minutes to concoct a fully fledged play. There were some people who wanted to sing some of Sri Chinmoy's mantric songs instead, so we agreed a 'compromise' where each play had to include at least one of Sri Chinmoy's songs (and also some other songs if they wanted). It is really amazing how resourceful you can be given such a short time limit - every single play ended up being very imaginative indeed, not to mention extremely funny.
The next morning after meditation and an early morning run, we all took leave of each other, knowing that we will be meeting up again at another weekend like this in the not too distant future. Our teacher, Sri Chinmoy, has often spoken of how much joy he gets when he hears his students have gathered together for weekends of fun like this - when his students manage to cast off the heaviness and dryness of the mind even for one weekend, this in turn makes it much easier for the teacher to help them make spiritual progress! A spiritual life is sometimes mistakenly associated with misery and self-denial, whereas in fact we make the fastest progress when we are happy. As Sri Chinmoy says in one of his meditative aphorisms:
If you want to make progress, Only think of your heart's happiness And how you can keep Your entire being happy. Wherever you go, Carry happiness with you.