What goes around, comes aroundThere’s a funny saying about things that go around coming around. Usually it’s karma, an eye for an eye and a sow for a reap—the great spiritual law of the universe that dictates bad things for things done badly, good for that done gladly.

But inspiration goes around as well, and more like a fire than the predictable arc of an arrow—leaping, dancing, taking light as it spreads; a force that creates and multiplies rather than destroys.

A blog comment by a reader inspired me to write an entire post in return, a list of childhood memories which beget and became My First Meme, a charming, illumining anecdote on age, meditation and self-transcendence at Sumangali.org:

Age does not matter. Until his passing at age 76, Sri Chinmoy proved that to me. Through his life of meditation and self-transcendence he showed me that perhaps I am not as limited as I think. I hope to continue forgetting how old I really am. I hope to feel amused, rather than bound, if I do happen to remember, and grateful to Sri Chinmoy, especially if others find it funny too.

The torch is passed, the wheel turned. And so it goes

What Matter Age?

I can relate to the sentiments above in so many ways.

At age thirteen, and in my first year in High School, I would at times be mistaken for sixteen or older, not because of my size, but my attitude and demeanour. I was overly serious and “adult,” something of an grown up trapped in a child’s body, and for the most part related to my elders better than my peers. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless it is making you miserable. It was and then some.

Now twenty years on and thirty-three, I find age to be a bit of a joke. I have reached a kind of dim, twilight zone, like a purgatory between youth and senility, where I have to stop and think to remember my age. I still can not believe I am in my thirties, and for that matter during my twenties I could not believe I was not a teen.

This is only because of meditation.

With the regular practise of meditation—in which I am certainly no expert, but hopefully an advertisement for: a poster-child for meditation’s slow-dawning felicitation to experience life in the ever present, ever lasting now—I again feel as I did before those forgettable, teen-aged years.

Like a child. Like myself once more.

Musing upon the inevitable forward march of age, I am reminded of learning to drive recently—several years ago in fact—in which getting over the insistent feeling that I was an impostor acting as a grown-up—driving seeming like such a grown-up thing to be doing—was far harder than getting a handle on the rules, firm grip of the wheel.

John Gillespie, postmanLikewise my career. After years striding the streets as a postman—a card-carrying job for loners, introverts and others who wish to drop out of the ‘nine to five,’ or in my case, approximate a wandering, meditating monk, composing poetry while roaming up to thirteen kilometres a day, I exchanged hair shirt for one starched, press-ganged into a pre-press job with a design company, and rejoined my last seen at university, career-making peers on the cusp of their thirties, threshold or over of marriage, mortgages and children.

What a joke it all was. Feeling like a child trapped in a far too big body I had to get head around idea of being an “adult,” or at least its outer appearance; joining serious colleagues in serious decisions about heavy responsibilities and pressing problems—not to mention getting in line for performance appraisals and promotion, a necessary evil when regular, expensive overseas trips to supply my meditation habit—or self-enlightenment sanity excursions as I subtitle them—were a necessity.

Throughout my extended tour of the five-days-a-week world of adult duty, I was always keenly conscious of the illusory nature of it all, of its secondary status to the pursuit of my ageless, real identity.

Funnily enough, and this is a very real letter of recommendation for meditation, I find that people value a person who can bring a child’s touch to a serious situation, a person able to laugh and to joke, remain good-natured and even-tempered when others do not. I was genuinely moved by the extent my colleagues showed their appreciation when it was time to move on from that job—their sincere, heart-felt sentiment running to pages on hand-made leaving card. Not to mention all of the hugs I had to dodge.

In feeling like a child still, I in truth should be grateful to my mother, whose raising of me was anything but conventional—I am “old” enough, or at least wise enough to appreciate this now. Now sixty-five and looking barely fifty, she is a guileless, child-like woman, and as far away from adult politics and game-playing as is possible; it is I her child who has to point out the alternative interpretation of occasional, unintentional faux pas. Her youth-like, light of heart qualities I once mistakenly sought to uproot in myself, leave behind in a wrong-headed, head-strong rush to “grow up”—early, regrettable attempts at self-transformation with a labourer’s pitchfork, rather than the meditation’s gentle pruning.

Sri Chinmoy by Pavitrata TaylorBut most of all, I can relate to Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy of self-transcendence—transcendence of mind, belief, achievement and of age. In this respect alone I have so much to be grateful to my meditation teacher for.

Initially self-taught in meditation—I am something of an autodidact in most things; a good quality when one remembers to be humble, or the much that one does not know—I have come to learn that meditation is so much more than a moment of peace, or a silent mind only in a silent room. Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy of the child-like heart, of living as a child rather than living childishly, has re-invented my life in the most remarkable ways, transformed me in a fashion I once could not imagine.

Compared to my former self, you could say I am re-born.

Photo Credits

  1. Teh Google
  2. Mail model John Gillespie, Post News, Dec 2003
  3. Pavitrata Taylor

Six facts about me as a child, with due respect to Pavitrata.

1. No fast fried pleasures, please

I never spent my pocket money on junk food as a child. Which is not to say that I didn’t like junk food, or to suggest merely a lack of money, but rather that spending hard earned, all too easily lost riches on something lasting but a fleeting moment—the temporary sense pleasure of food—made no sense to me at all.

I remember my early bewilderment clearly, not really understanding my peers as they downed sodas and crisps wantonly, their pocket money flagrantly, and I am not an adult who remembers not his childhood—to a large extent, no small thanks to meditation, it lives and breathes in me still.

It is a great shame this innate childhood common sense became less than innate as the years passed by, a growing worldliness, wisdom of the “ways of men” passing me not.

2. Pop music not so popular

I couldn’t bear popular music as a child. I listened to and owned nothing but classical music until the age of nine, and according to my mother used to cry in my early years if anything less refined was played. I taught myself to play the piano, memorising more by ear than note pieces by the great composers, and used literally to shudder at the sound and sight of punk bands then at their height.

MozartThat all changed with the advent of synth-pop—I skipped screaming electric guitar anthems, safety pins in your nose, furious drum solos, and went directly from Mozart to Madonna; Cyndi Lauper, Howard Jones and Nik Kershaw in between.

I was pretty normal from that point on. As a teenager I dreamed of haircuts and concerts, rather than wigs and concertos, and gave up the piano for the guitar after an intense battle of wills with a piano teacher, who told me on the morning of my Grade 3 exam that, lest my results harm her reputation, she was disowning me.

I did fail, by all of four marks, but more due to the fact that I didn’t feel inspired to practise, than any glee sought in tarnishing a disagreeable piano teacher’s name. I had refused to learn music theory; she had refused to teach me as accustomed “by heart.” I may not have been vindicated by my grade, but they have schools today devoted to the instincts I was following.

3. Football was my life

Football was my life for a number of years. Growing up in rugby mad “God’s Own” I rose at ungodly hours to watch “that other game,” fleetingly available when broadcast from the other side of the world, then spent morning, lunch and evening playing same with friends; otherwise just kicking a ball alone.

I was told by a coach at age fourteen that I had the talent to go to the highest level, if I could but “get the right attitude as well,” but it was meditation rather than football that coached me in the power of self-belief; trained out of me, ten minutes practise a day, my nagging, dribbling sense of self-doubt.

4. Turning Japanese

I was fascinated with Japan from an earliest age. When offered the chance by my mother to buy a book on a special occasion, I chose a children’s guide to this implicitly intriguing land of kimonos, karate and kabuki. Soon afterward I demanded lessons in karate, and attempted several times to learn the language—with more enthusiasm than steel or resolve.

Upon adulthood my fascination has waxed rather than waned; a more than decade-long marriage to the practise of meditation just one example of my un-struck appetite for things Nihon.

“Japan is a country filled with infinite beauty. It has an image of a beautiful flower garden. This beauty is expressed through inner peace. Man has seen many things, but of these things peace is new. Japan is offering this new treasure to the world.

“Japan has some other very special capacities to offer. Japan produces such small, beautiful things. God is infinite and finite-larger than the largest and smaller than the smallest. He is both the ocean and the drop. He is inside me as a human being and, again, He is inside the vast sky and ocean. In Japan I see God the Creator in His small aspect, but at the same time, so beautiful and powerful. Here I see the finite expressing the Beauty and Divinity of God in such a powerful way, and I am deeply impressed. It is like the difference between seeing a child do something and a grown-up do it. When the child does it, I get much more joy. In Japan’s case, the child is Japan’s childlike flower-consciousness-a beautiful flower is reaching the highest in terms of beauty and purity. As soon as I think of Japan, my mind feels beauty, my heart feels purity and my life feels humility. I could write hundreds and hundreds of poems about Japan. In fact, I have already written them in the depths of my gratitude-heart.”

Sri Chinmoy, Excerpt from Japan: Soul-Beauty’s Heart-Garden

5. Altar-ed states

David and GoliathI was raised a Christian. Not that I actually enjoyed going to Church, or Sunday School—in fact I would beg my mother every Sunday to leave me at home to watch “Big League Soccer, yet I studied and memorised the stories of faith, courage and heroism in my Picture Bible unbidden, and would pray most evenings without prompting.My last visit to church was around age thirteen, a time when my local congregation, almost completely absent of fellow teenagers, was split pew and rafters over the siting the altar—two metres this way or that I kid you not.

I don’t claim to be high and mighty but I do have a good eye for low and petty, and my hunger for spirituality and inner truth would from this point seek a different nama-rupa—name and form.

6. Interest in a mythical, mid-Atlantic clime

AtlantisI have always been fascinated by tales of the lost continent of Atlantis. A childhood cartoon, of futuristic cities and technology existing beneath the surface of ocean, caught for only several episodes before sadly it went off-air, evoked hazy, strangely familiar memories that could not be placed; dreams that felt more like memories and that found another flame in stories my mother would tell of her mother, how she spoke cryptically of the existence a long forgotten, long ago buried land—to me a tantalising suggestion that there might still exist a living, breathing link through memories passed to an ancient, mythical mid-Atlantic clime.

Make me a Meme

Write up your own list of childhood facts and I’ll mention you here:

  • Pavitrata: Six Childhood Facts—Pavitrata, the “cheerful fellow” who got the ball rolling
  • Sumangali: My First Meme—Mummy, mummies, cheese and the reading of minds make for a quite outstanding list of childhood facts
  • Sharani.org: The 6 Childhood Facts Meme—Tutus, patent leather shoes and the forbidden fruit of chocolate feature in Sharani’s walk down childhood’s memory lane.

Sri Chinmoy by Pavitrata
Sri Chinmoy by Pavitrata TaylorOne normally apologises when one has been inadvertently amiss in something, and recently I have been very amiss—my writing here at A Sensitivity to Things literally missing in action, very much to my own regret—for in its absence I miss writing like near nothing else.

But how does one say sorry, sincerely and originally, when “I’m sorry I haven’t posted for a while” is officially the most common opening sentence in blogging? More fittingly by writing something new in my opinion, making amends and righting wrongs by writing, jumping back on the horse instead of moaning its distant, departed form.

For a while I had a Comment of the Week™ feature, a device which delivered a dependable, near ready to eat, half to fully baked with only a little heating or writing on my part, blog topic each week, but such a feature requires not just commenter but author too, the hen house absolutely necessary before discussion of chicken or egg can begin.

Ex nilhilo nihil fit. Nothing comes from nothing.

Well, the goose has laid a golden egg this week. A magical comment delivered to me, quite unexpectedly, out of the internet’s magic ether.

A Cheerful Fellow

Pavitrata Taylor, self-proclaimed, self-evident “cheerful fellow,” is a photographer who recently started a fine site dedicated to his photography (including personal favourite pictures of meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy), and he revealed himself to have more than just a talented eye, talented pen leaving a comment of epic proportions in response to Thirteen Facts About Me As A Child.

Well done Pavitrata, Commenter of the Week™—you can take it from here.

6 Childhood Facts by Pavitrata Taylor

  1. My first school was next to a graveyard in Malaya. Nothing the teacher had could match the passing funeral corteges.
  2. My first teenage school was a Catholic College in Belize. My RE teacher was the Head of the College. He had me down to burn in hell for not being a Catholic, as I was allowed to skip Mass. Later he ran off with the school secretary and a large chunk of school funds. Interpol caught up with them living the high life in Hawaii.
  3. The Catholic College was next to a small busy airport. Ask me anything about Cessnas or Pipers or Dakotas – the best plane that ever flew. Bar none. Nothing the College had could match that!
  4. My next school was a Methodist School in Belize. I got beaten for getting into an argument with a teacher as I said Australia was not the same thing as Australasia, she said there was no difference, I disagreed.
  5. I got thrown off my bike by a skull on the way home from school. Riding high speed across the mud-flats I hit a bump – the top of the skull embedded in the hard mud – and went flying. I dug it up and took it home; t’was a miraculous thing, I contemplated it for so long, put flowers and a candle by it, and gave it a name. I planned a burial with some wise words by Geronimo from my Niehardt book of Great Indian Chiefs, but my dad found the skull and it was taken for forensics. I never saw it again. I guess that first school in Malaya got me thinking early about stuff.
  6. Even Dakotas have their limits. One crashed into a river bank five minutes after take off, overloaded with a massive cargo of cucumbers. The pilot vanished. They thought he had survived and run off, as some suspicious plant substances were also found in the wreckage. A few months later a farmer killed a big alligator up-river. The pilot’s watch was found inside the alligator.
  7. I was a cheerful fellow, for all that. Still am.

The musical beginnings of British popular artist, vegetarian, practising Buddhist and master of 1980‘s synthesiser-pop Howard Jones were auspicious, although he probably didn’t recognise it at the time. A piano player and teacher from an early age, he was involved in a car accident which left him injured. One of his students—and later wife—Jan Smith, who was in the vehicle at the time, claimed compensation on his behalf, and used the money to buy him a synthesiser—a Moog Prodigy. He was actually sent two by mistake, and liked their combination so much he paid for the second. Thus a synth-pop legend was born.

Howard Jones would appear initially on stage with a mime artist named Jed Hoile, performing improvised choreography whilst doused in white paint. It seems the world wasn’t yet ready for New Wave synth-mime, and Jones made the big time sans improvised mime artist—although Jed was brought back for a special 20th Anniversary retro set in 2003.

The mid-eighties saw a frenzy of albums and top 40 hits in both the UK and the US for this so called “respectable” face of pop, and the single Like To Get To Know You Well, an unofficial anthem to the Los Angeles Olympics, was huge around the world. Jones also had one of the best haircuts in the business, described by one authority as a peculiar early 80‘s combo of mop-top and dyed spikes.

Despite sudden fame, fortune and eight million albums sold, Jones remained true to his ideals, promoting strong feelings for animal rights and and against human excess. His first album, the platinum selling chart topping Human’s Lib, is both a reference in title to the animal liberation movement and the moksha of the Buddhist and Indian religions.

Look in better places gonna look inside
Gonna get higher something is pulling me on
Breaking down the old ways feeling no regret
Gone are the shaky sands Ive been building on
Hunt The Self

Jones’ second album, Dream into Action, also successful, continued a long-standing advocacy of vegetarianism, with the track Assault & Battery pulling no punches:

Children’s stories with their farmyard favourites
On the table in a different disguise

Another song from the album, Hunger For the Flesh, was a lyrical treatise on the Buddhist Noble Truths, Jones singing from the heart about karmic attachment and rebirth:

They came here for to dance
To learn and not to cling
Holding onto life
As if it were the important thing

Is There A Difference continues the album’s strong Eastern theme, lyrics based upon Chapter 20 of the Tao Te Ching (The Way of Life).

A former Christian, Jones was introduced to Buddhism by a friend and never looked back. A devotee of Nichiren Buddhism, a thousand year old Japanese off-shoot noted for it’s focus on the Lotus Sutra and the belief that realisation of the Buddha-nature is in the present life, he chants daily for an hour in the morning and thirty minutes at night.

Twenty years since the peak of his fame, Howard Jones continues his musical quest for enlightenment, releasing Revolution of the Heart in 2005 with a strong lyrical message for inner human change, or to quote the musician himself, “in fact a revolution of the heart.”

[kml_flashembed movie="http://uk.youtube.com/v/XD3qA54Fn_Q