A miracle in Jamaica, New York
Sharani Robins from Rhode Island visits the Oneness-Heart centre in New York for a meditation. This is her impressions:
I slowed the car to a stop under the shade of a tree on the residential street lined with houses that were typical for this Jamaica, Queens NY neighborhood. It was a perfect spring morning with sunny skies, trees awash in blossoms and flowers blooming everywhere within the well-manicured yards. I was about to attend a group meditation with students of spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy. Because I myself am a long-time student of Sri Chinmoy, I undoubtedly qualify as an old-timer at many of the activities of the Sri Chinmoy Centre held in this Queens neighborhood. Yet I walked up to the house with a sense of anticipation for what the morning would offer at this gathering comprised mostly of new students of Sri Chinmoy. My eagerness stemmed from the fact that I had not attended a meditation meeting at this first floor apartment, now transformed into a spiritual oasis, since the fall of 2005. That first and only visit found me delighting in a social gathering filled with games, food, meditation, singing and video watching -- affectionately termed a “Joy Day” by Sri Chinmoy.
Today I came as a guest for their regular Sunday morning group meditation.
Upon arrival, the foyer inside the front door sparkled with neatness. Gleaming white cubbies lined the wall to hold our shoes in the tidiest of fashion. Then I walked in the door and was instantly mesmerized by the elegance of this apartment turned meditation mecca. The walls themselves and everything inside seemed to sing a cheerful and harmonious tune for the onlooker. Light blue carpet and furnishings created a peaceful aura and several striking framed photographs on the wall of Sri Chinmoy in a serene gaze added to the meditative atmosphere.
In the main room established and decorated for meditation, the shrine table for candles and flowers perched underneath a large window draped with sheer white curtains. The sunlight streamed in through the window creating a symbolic reminder that we would seek inner light during our meditation together.
Just past the area for meditation is the kitchen and a small art gallery of sorts that had been created with numerous abstract paintings by Sri Chinmoy arranged on the walls. The paintings offered a palette of cheerful primary colours combined in harmonious fashion inside similarly colorful frames. Beyond that a library of numerous spiritual books could be found and another smaller room currently in a state of remodeling but seemingly also intended for group meditation.
Once I finished looking around, I joined in the flurry of activity to prepare for the meeting. Cuttings of flowers from the yard were brought inside and vases were emptied and arranged for adornment of the meditation shrine table. Candleholders were diligently emptied of old wax. The shrine cloth was whisked off the table and a new fresh one was quickly in place. A row of candles inside exquisite votive holders were lit and flickered in welcome.
I was put to work washing cherries for prasad. We would take this prasad, an Indian word for blessed food, at the conclusion of our meditation. As additional people arrived, so too came more food for prasad. Pastries were artfully arranged on platters. Oranges scored for easy peeling. Together we hand-lettered invitations on artsy note-cards to announce an inaugural book discussion meeting of the group later that week.
By the conclusion of these preparations, this already beautiful and inviting atmosphere now additionally glistened with the care, concern and dedication permeating every loving touch of readiness. When we finally sat on chairs and cushions on the floor to begin the meeting (which themselves were also elegant yet simple), I felt as if the intensity and dedication of these shared preparations set the stage for a meditation all the more cherished as a special and sacred inner journey.
Our meeting included reading aloud, group chanting of mantric words such as aum, silent meditation, walking meditation, meditating upon a short video of Sri Chinmoy himself in meditation, and singing. Afterwards we took prasad and shared news and conversation.
This small gathering impressed me deeply. Humble and heartfelt, it inspired me in the core of my being. In the space of only a couple of hours, I felt as if my inner existence had risen to the surface and been sumptiously fed in a realm of beauty, simplicity and harmony.
From the outside this miracle haven looks like an ordinary house on an ordinary street. Inside a doorway to the soul waits to be discovered. Reaching and passing through that doorway is quickened by the treasure chest of soul-stirring tools found in Sri Chinmoy’s contributions as an author, teacher, musician and artist coupled with the peace-elevating interior décor. By the time I left this shared meditation, a tangible and palpable sense of spirit pervaded my awareness. My soul, previously hidden underneath the ordinary routine, entwined itself in the forefront of my consciousness. I left feeling like spirit is the main fabric of life – not just in theory but in concrete and current reality.
I find this transformation to be nothing less than a miracle, even if eventually tarnished by the return to my daily outer-world responsibilities. Inside this house on a regular-looking street, I mingled with people from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds (representing the Ukraine, Scotland, Guyana, Bangladesh, India and America) in a spirit of harmony and community. And this despite meeting half of them for the first time on that day. Breaking the bread of spirit together melted away our differences and fed our souls. No wonder the name of this meditation group is called “The Oneness-Heart-Centre.”
This quality of unity is a central tenet of Sri Chinmoy’s teachings and the ease in which we shared the gift of spirit across cultures, age, religion and race proved to me it is attainable. Remembering the beloved holiday movie, I contend that 34th street in New York is not the only place to find miracles. In New York, miracles can also easily be found on none other than this humble street in Jamaica, Queens. I found a miracle there and hope you find your own miracles on any street address anywhere across the globe simply through cultivating the purity, beauty, simplicity and peace inside the ever miraculous meditation.
Rhode Island, USA