I grew up in an average home, in an Indian residential township in Durban. Due to the political situation in the country at that time, during my early childhood years I had encountered many challenges, that normally occur in most low socio-economic communities e.g.poverty, domestic violence ,alcohol and drug abuse etc.
My parents played a very active role with doing their level best in supporting us during my childhood years. They did all they could, given with what they had in terms of knowledge, skill and finances, to ensure that we would be most equipped to deal with the real world. Much respect and gratitude goes out to them for doing their best ,especially so, with the little that they had at that time.
It was also in the early years of my life that I ventured into this big real world and moved up to Johannesburg. My adult life had begun after me starting a job, sharing and apartment and having heaps of friends, daily around me. My busy life seemed to have continued ,with lots of partying, booze and good times.
My expectations at the time were not much, I just fell into the ups and downs of daily life especially that everyone else seemed to be okay with, this had to be okay and normal. To me then, this seemed to be all, and I went along with satisfaction at that time.
However after many years later, reality started to surface, and I had heaps of unanswered questions about life and my years ahead. I became aware that there had to be more to my life and, it was then that my journey for self satisfaction begun. Both my parents were religious and growing up at home, helped me to understand and believe in a higher power. Prayer and fasting were the ongoing things we would follow as kids and this also gave me fulfilment at that time.
Carrying this belief with with me all along, was what gave me guidance and I always felt a sense of protection from the higher powers.
Feeling more stressed, frustrated with no direction in life at a that time, I started going through various experiences, lacking a sense of being was my first negative major encounter. I very quickly became aware of how many people around me were living this same lifestyle and accepted this a “normal”.
It was during this time ,that I came across a flyer from the Sri Chinmoy Centre that offered free meditation classes. Trusting myself and sincerely taking this message from the universe I put all faith into contact this meditation centre and followed through by doing the free classes that they offered.
Although there had been a slight concern of doubt about myself doing this, I put all faith and sincerity to this new experience. During the time of doing these classes,I recall having feelings of enthusiasm, eagerness and belief. Committing to complete all these classes I put my most trust into the practice of what I had been taught, and along the time of doing this, that’s when the real effect of mediation started to happen.
Feelings of confidence, trust, and belief were some of my strong experiences encountered. This then gave me a huge boost to continue through. And as this progressed I started getting a sense of relief and understanding in my daily life. A sense of stillness started to reflect in a joyous, warm and comfortable feeling. I started getting more of an enjoyable, and peaceful feeling, towards things I did in my life, with now more of an understanding and purpose. I decided to become a student of Sri Chinmoy.
10 years later
That was 10 years ago. I am happy to say that I have I am still a student of the Sri Chinmoy. My meditation practice has blossomed and now I seem to feel deeper feelings of joy, peace and love to name a few. An element of constant stillness has become a real new friend in my life and this has helped me so much in life, giving me an deeper understanding of others and how to manage difficult challenges.
So how did some of these new experiences help me in my daily life. Just to relate on some:
Joy – having a good moment in my daily duties. Be this my work,helping someone else or just for my own growth. Sharing this feeling with loved ones.
Peace – with the situations one goes through daily be it the traffic, government , or even being let down by friends, partners or colleagues.
Love – no matter what their situation is, just having an abundance of love for all mankind, and all other living beings. Sharing this love with no expectancy.
Living in peace and balance has become more normal for me, even so that others around me started noticing and very often started complimenting me on this. With all the above and more experiences becoming a dominant part of my life I am able to pass this on with no expectations, and get tremendous joy in doing so.
Meditation has also made me a totally optimistic person, and without a shadow of doubt, I can strongly say that anyone, taking their first steps to start doing meditation, following through, hanging in there with their daily practice would most definitely encounter these similar or even more, of these wonderful experiences. Meditation is something that anyone from any background, age, creed or colour can conquer.
Be open to becoming a student of meditation, follow though, hang in there and then enjoy the wonderful experiences.
Was I specifically looking for Meditation? No, but I am glad meditation found me. My first experience and practise of meditation was before I even knew what Meditation was. Having a difficult time at university and having entered into a bit of a depression I stumbled onto a book called Aikido and the daily life. It described a technique to handle anger. Though anger was not what was afflicting me I applied the practice at every moment of my day over a period of months . It helped me during the day and over the long term.
Within 3 months my depressive state was gone and I felt permanently changed . It was only later in life that I realised that the technique I had practised was a form of meditation. I have learnt that with the daily practice of meditation not only can you bring peace and balance to your life but you can also enhance the positive aspects of yourself.
Today I practise heart meditation following the techniques and teachings outlined by Sri Chinmoy. It is both easy and hard at the same time. The techniques are simple that everyone can do, it is maintaining the daily practise that can be challenging over time. Meeting as a group at least once a week helps tremendously in maintaining this practise. Meditation has helped me have a broader perspective of life and to simply be happy. Meditation has turned into lifelong journey that I am truly grateful for.
About twelve years ago a friend had come across a Learn to Meditate leaflet and casually asked if I wanted to join her. Thinking back, I probably went because it meant a night out to try something new. We also made it into a bit of a social event as there were 5 of us that went along to the evening classes. Little did I know then that just by saying a simple yes to going along to that class that I’d embark on a journey of what I can only say as getting to know myself. Thinking back I think the reason for carrying on with meditation is because I remember feeling a sense of joy after each of the evening classes. And I guess that’s something I wanted to maintain. So I practised meditation on my own on a daily basis, with varying results. But after a year or so, my fiance (now husband) Clifford, and I decided to take a gap year to travel and ‘see the world’. So off we went to England with our backpacks on hand. I had visions of finding work picking strawberries or something equally as grand, which would ultimately fund our adventures! And I’d come home to SA having a treasure chest filled with exciting memories. As it turns out things weren’t as idyllic as I’d imagined. Although we travelled several thousand miles for a new journey and new start I realised that I couldn’t run away from myself. By nature I am a bit of a stress pot. Before we set off on our adventures one of the things that Balarka said to me is that once one discovers the inner world the outer journey fades in comparison. It really stuck with me! But it was only when things were seemingly tough in those first few months away that I made a more sincere decision to keep practising my meditation. If you look at me outwardly I’m the same me but I feel that I’m slowly growing into my true self – a me that I like that is not determined by my outer circumstances. Sri Chinmoy says that we all have a spark of divinity in us. And through the years of meditating, I feel a sense of closeness to the part of me, which i like to imagine, is God within which I hold very dear to me. Sri Chinmoy has written thousands of aphorisms and the one that I always remember is, “Everyday there is only one thing to learn, how to be honestly happy.” He also said that if we can imagine ourselves to be 7 year old children that we can solve all our worries. These are my daily reminders to try not to be so focused on my mental worries and stresses of the day but to be like a child who lives in the heart and is full of joy.
When I was about 7 or 8 years old my Mom and I had a bit of a disagreement. I had been studying the piano under Mrs. Thompson, who lived around the corner, for about two or three years and I had got to grade two practical and grade three theory in music. But the problem was that I had now decided that only sissies did music and that I should stop practicing. Also we lived on a 4 acre plot in Bulawayo in Zimbabwe and had no neighbours so there was always something interesting to do outside – riding bikes, exploring the bush, shooting pods with my pellet gun, going for a swim, making wire cars and the about a million other possibilities. Mom said that I would regret it and I said that I didn’t care. Essentially that was the end of that and I didn’t go any further with my formal music training.
Abhijatri aged 9 with a pellet gun
But fast forward about 20 years and I found myself learning to meditate in Auckland, New Zealand as a student of Sri Chinmoy. Anyone who has practiced meditation will know that there are days when you feel like a block of wood and hard as you try you feel like you are getting nowhere. What I now discovered is that music is a short cut that can help you at those times and at other times. In my first meditation classes I was quite surprised that we learnt some meditation songs in the classes. Sri Chinmoy composed over 22,000 songs for meditation. Actually in my third meditation class two girls who were students of Sri Chinmoy did a singing performance while we were meditating and suddenly something happened. I felt a deep peace inside for the first time, something so beautiful that I just didn’t want my meditation to stop. I remember being quite sad when the exercise stopped and my friend Jogyata, who was giving the class, started talking again.
What I found out is that you can also sing yourself as a way to soothe your mind and bring your spiritual heart forward and the deep peace that you feel in your heart. Sri Chinmoy’s songs are particularly powerful in that regard. It is almost 20 years since I started to meditate in Auckland and I still love singing Sri Chinmoy’s songs. They are a short cut that can cure me of my mind’s dryness, a way to bring forward the heart and feel your real self. There are some songs that are like old friends, when you sing them it is if you have renewed your deep friendship.
Nowadays I am part of the Sri Chinmoy Centre in Johannesburg and I often have the opportunity to teach songs to people who come to our free meditation classes. Sometimes I get the feeling when we encourage people to sing in a meditation class that there is a kind of fear that comes forward – many of us have not sung since we were in assembly at school and quite a few years may have passed since then. But when people get over that hurdle then they find that the music is a like a balm that soothes them and helps to wash away the turmoil of the day. After singing it is easier to meditate and the chances of feeling something in your meditation are significantly improved.
Some of Sri Chinmoy’s students have found such an affinity with music and meditation that they practice singing for a few hours a day. I wish that I could say that I was one of them but somehow it doesn’t always seem to happen. I am just grateful that I love spiritual music and singing and when I have time it is always there to lift me up.
When I came back to South Africa there were no “good” musicians in our Centre at the time so it forced me to resurrect my keyboard skills. I didn’t go back to the piano but started playing the much more portable harmonium. The harmonium is a small hand pump organ like instrument that is quite common in India. As long as it is not too difficult a song I can read it off the music but I could be much better. I should have listened to my Mom all those years ago…
If you are interested in experimenting with music and meditation then one thing that you could try is singing along with Ananda. They are a group of very talented musicians from the UK who did a CD specially to help beginner meditators a few years ago. You can download the sheet music and recordings of them singing each song for free from their website, www.anandamusic.co.uk. There is also all sorts of meditation music on www.radiosrichinmoy.org and www.srichinmoysongs.org.
Or if you live in Johannesburg then you are very welcome to come to one of our free meditation classes – we always cover music and meditation in the classes and give you a chance to have a go yourselves. Info on our current class program can be found at www.johannesburgmeditation.co.za. If you are not from Johannesburg look for a Sri Chinmoy Centre near you. They all do music in their meditation classes!
One thing I have always loved about South Africa is that it is made up of such a variety of different landscapes, beautiful faces of nature that somehow join together to form such an exquisite natural tapestry. Each one on its own seems perfect, but when you bring them together that standard of perfection seems to rise to a new level. Of course, we all have our favourites and for me the ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park of Kwazulu-Natal is one of those places.
Some of us might only know of the Drakensberg as that far off line of mountains just visible from the N3 as we zoom down to Durban for sun and waves, or perhaps glimpsed from the air as we jet across the country. From a distance they can seem cold and obscure, from closer up they often appear immense and foreboding. Yet when you really start to explore the high and remote places of the Drakensberg, the overwhelming experience is one of sacred beauty and purity.
For me, the natural world, the world of untouched and remote landscapes has always been a sanctuary for spiritual rejuvenation. I do love to meditate and meditation is at the core of each day of my life. However, I don’t always meditate as well as I would like to. Sometimes I find that the chatter of my mind destroys my initial hopes of deep inner calm and poise. Yet, in spite of this, whenever I bow my head to end my meditation, as if by some kind of magic, I somehow feel inwardly replenished.
Over the sweep of time, spiritual masters have often spoken of the mystical phenomenon of grace, a spiritual power that a seeker or devotee attracts into his or her life just by virtue of a sincere longing for the spiritual treasures of inner peace, inner happiness and divine love, to name a few. Sri Ramakrishna, the great 19th century mystic of Calcutta once said that, “the winds of God’s grace are always blowing, it is for us to raise our sails.” And amongst a very large collection of aphorisms entitled, Seventy Seven Thousand Service Trees, Sri Chinmoy writes:
When I pray and meditate,
I feel that I am only
There is some other power
That is coming to help me,
And that power is God’s Grace.
When we first begin our journey of meditation we sometimes feel discouraged because it seems to require such personal effort and discipline and appears to yield so little peace. Yet, when we persevere, our perseverance is often rewarded by inner blessings, divine inner gifts that we intuitively know are far beyond the realm of our ordinary human successes and achievements. The secret seems to be not so much in whether we can master the art of meditation with our mental capacity or intellectual power, but rather in the depth of our sincere hunger for the inner spiritual treasures.
This is just how I feel when I head out into the wilderness, that temple of nature in which my seemingly insurmountable human worries and anxieties seem so petty and insignificant. Each time I melt away into that vast landscape of the Drakensberg, no matter whether for one night or several nights, I always come away feeling that I have been unconsciously blessed by an inner grace – as though I have truly entered into a temple and received a tiny portion of the spiritual energy that dwells within that sacred space. There is such divinity in the mountain landscapes – rivers of pure silver, hillsides cloaked in green and decorated with tiny wild flowers of all shapes, sizes and colours, sheer rock faces reaching up towards the sky and views that literally take your breath away – such power and majesty on the one hand and such delicate simplicity on the other. It humbles me and reminds me of that idea that was once expressed to me when I first embarked on my journey of meditation, that we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.
Balarka Robinson is a member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre in Johannesburg. In May 2012 he was part of a team that carried the World Harmony Run (a global relay for world peace) Torch to the summit of Mafadi, the highest point in South Africa. He is shown here (left) with his brother Abhijatri, also of the Johannesburg Sri Chinmoy Centre.
Once the great Mughal Emperor Akbar asked his minister, “Birbal, for a long time I have been thinking of one question. I am sure that you will be able to answer it. We see everything clearly in the sunlight but, is there anything that cannot be seen even with the help of the sunlight?”
“Yes, Your Majesty” Birbal replied. “There is something that cannot be seen in the sunlight. Even the sunlight fails to illumine it.”
“What is it Birbal?”
“Your Majesty it is the darkness of the human mind.”
Birbal’s answer is absolutely correct. The only question that Birbal may not have been in a position to answer is whether there is anything that can show us the ignorance of the human mind and illumine it. We illumine the dark, unlit, obscure, impure mind by bringing to the fore our inner sun. Our inner sun, which is infinitely brighter than the physical sun, will dispel the ignorance night of millennia.
Excerpt from “Wings of Joy” by Sri Chinmoy
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