It seems I’ve been away from New Zealand long enough now that I am beginning to experience New Zealanders as the rest of the world does. That is disarmingly open and friendly — even innocent — and not the less charitable qualities I might once have assigned. My debit card expired, and so I called my Auckland… Continue reading Nowhere Else on Earth
I can’t speak highly enough of meditation. It has truly, irrecoverably changed my life.
If someone told you that you could do something for only fifteen minutes a day that would make you happier, less stressed, have more energy and be more creative, you would do it right? Why on earth wouldn’t you?
Learning to meditate can do all of that for you, and more. Meditation is a wonder drug and cure all, for every ailment and every ill, and best of all, it comes not in a bottle or pill. The birth-right of the human soul; the straight-backed, deep-breathing practise of any where and any time; meditation is one hundred percent natural, and one hundred percent free.
The Sri Chinmoy Centre has been organising meditation classes, lessons in correct breathing and control of mind, free of charge around the world for 40 years, and in Auckland, New Zealand, where I live and daily dive within, the Centre is a pioneering exponent of the cross-legged art, teaching literally tens of thousands to find happiness inside, free of charge for the last 25 years.
Course instructor with more than 25 years experience, Jogyata Dallas, explains meditation so:
I think many of us have had meditative moments at different times in our lives, moments of stillness or peacefulness away from the usual chatter of the mind. These random happy moments are like a little glimpse into another part of our being, and meditation is the art of reconnecting with those experiences, finding that inner space, becoming that other self that is so free of burdens and anxieties. The great teachers down through time all remind us that we are essentially spiritual beings, and learning meditation is almost the art of remembering this, quietening the mind and senses and creating a space and stillness that enables us to experience our forgotten true nature, the inner peace of meditation.
With lessons available literally all year round, there has never been a better time to leap within, take a step towards happiness ever-lasting, and should you wish to do so, visit the MeditationAuckland website for course attendance and contact details.
Vide: The Seeker’s Journey: Sri Chinmoy Centre Instructor Jogyata Dallas discusses meditation
A trip to visit a mysterious uncle, whose sagely, intuitive advice proved to be presciently exact (with apologies to Sumangali).
While still somewhat new to meditation, and some months before becoming a member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre, I discovered to my great joy my Mother’s sister was a practitioner of this new, seductive art, a coincidence maybe not so far fetched in a family of twelve siblings. During the unimaginably long holidays before the start of university, three months which more practical students spent working, more hedonistic partying, I went to visit this meditating Aunt on her semi-rural farm.
The journey north from Wellington to Opotiki —”The place of children” in Maori, and tiny town of several thousand on the south-eastern shore of the Bay of Plenty—was made by thumb, hitch-hiking with a friend more experienced in such matters, journeying home to see his parents in down-the-road Whakatane.
We did pretty well in haphazard transportation at first, securing a non-stop ride to just north of Taupo almost immediately, a small township on the edge of a giant lake that is sole reminder of a massively self-imploding volcano one thousand years ago. Deposited upon the junction where State Highway 1 turns away from Rotorua and then Whakatane, it appeared we would travel no further that day, stranded witnesses to a cool, clear-skied falling dusk, particularly suiting of the musical ambiance created by pocket walkman.
Auspiciously, and in almost complete dark, my companion and I were sighted by a passing couple, intercepted leaving the road to take overnight shelter in an empty field, their back seat coincidentally empty. Almost the age of our own parents, and we their offspring, the husband and wife likely saw in us the resemblance of their progeny, generously inviting and then driving us to their lakeside home in Rotorua; feeding and then offering us welcome rest in absent daughters’ beds until the morn. While not quite as prevalent as it once was—people actually lock their doors here in New Zealand now—you can still find generosity and selfless hospitality everywhere this country, if you persist in breaking through the shy outer reserve.
Arriving before lunch the next day, life on my Aunt’s farm—more suburban homestead with miniature organic plot and orchard than farm—consisted of activities unremarkable in such places, yet refreshingly new to this lifelong urban dweller. Picking ripe avocados from overburdened trees, chasing chickens out their coups to steal over-sized free-range eggs, and endless games with extremely active younger cousins, our first meeting since Aunt’s remarriage. And going for runs and bike rides with another cousin much closer to me in acquaintance and age, touring inexhaustible sun-drenched panoramas in the neighbouring countryside.
Then in her final year of high school, I got to show off to this cousin a little as “the big cousin,” first of an extended family of now more than twenty to go to university. Always surprisingly good at giving advice to others, (yet hopeless at self-prescribing—read on…), I knowledgeably explained the ins and outs of debated higher education options from a position of genuine experience. In the end she chose psychology as her degree major, much against my protestations and advice, although maybe it should have been self-evident that very few people are receptive to the one truly insightful thing I have to say about higher learning —don’t do it!
The true reason for my visit to Opotiki that summer was neither rural or familial idyll, but to catch up with this spiritually inclined Aunt not seen for years, and also, meet a most mysterious Uncle. Not my Aunt’s recently married new husband though, a kind-hearted farmer of local prominence but in truth little mystery, but her first cousin—technically not an actual uncle, but the term is close enough. They were as close to each other as brother and sister, born but a day apart, and virtually grew up together. They were alike in looks as well as interests—including a shared sense of spirituality.
My Aunt, a former medical nurse, and current member of the district health board, had turned to traditional Maori healing in recent years, describing how she would choose home-made remedies for patients based on experience and knowledge, and intuition—a “voice from within” guiding her to the medicine best to prescribe. Several months before, in knowledge of my new-found enthusiasm for meditation and all things spiritual, she had sent me a cryptic invitation to make this trip north, writing of her cousin and uncle whom I had last seen when I was four years old: “You might get something very special out of meeting him again.”
An enigma before I had even laid eyes upon him, I was regaled with seemingly fanciful tales of his exploits by other family members: “He was a US Navy Seal once”; “He was beaten and left for dead in the Australian desert, found and nursed back to health by Aborigines, who taught him mysterious healing arts and powers,” and, “He can survive in the bush for up to a month without food, drawing life-force for sustenance from trees alone.”
Whatever the truth to such stories, he was undeniably an impressive sight in the flesh: bushman’s leather hat and jacket on powerful six-foot frame; firm, engaging handshake conveying a calm poise and quiet determination. And confidence—he had this quality in spades, self-evident in a tale told about conquering fear: confronting a small town trouble maker with a bullet engraved with bully’s name, telling him to leave town else there would be a second bullet which wouldn’t be given by hand. Even more impressive was his face: youthful and sparkling despite his age—over fifty but ten years younger in appearance—with lively, piercing blue eyes that unnervingly looked right through you.
I asked him about the Navy Seals—”I don’t talk about that” the firm reply. He viewed himself as “only a healer”, going where inwardly directed—where ever he and healing abilities might be of service. He talked discreetly of the state of my aura, and, my curiosity aroused, gave me a “healing”, an experience consisting of broad sweeping movements made up and down self’s invisible energy field, small “male” and “female” crystals held in each hand. I was pronounced “looking better” afterwards, and in truth did feel a little lighter—subtly so, but if anything more was accomplished that day I was not spiritually aware enough to ascertain.
At this point in my life, although having discovered meditation, a path embarked upon with all the vigour and determination one has when convinced of your life’s calling, I was, perhaps contradictorily, in enormous personal turmoil, unsure of my direction beyond this lifestyle choice—a solo, daily practise which in some respects raised more questions than answered. Enormously frustrated, I could envisage a golden future in occasional glimpses, but was stuck within a present that was anything but.
This bushman Uncle might just have sensed some of this, and before I departed homeward, compulsory to attend university lectures soon to begin, offered unbidden three pieces of sagely advice.
“Your time of book learning has come to an end.” An odd statement at the time, the final year of university degree about to begin, but in truth a statement I was not completely unreceptive to, anything but enthused with this current aspect of my life course.
“You will soon need to learn how to make money quickly.” Advising me to begin buying and selling items for profit, he gave me $500 to get started, as though I was doubting of his sincerity, and to my complete jaw-dropping amazement.
And the final advice? “I don’t know who God is, but if He made all of this,” a broad gesture made to entirety of surroundings, “He’s a pretty nice guy.”
Two weeks after this conversation I had added an unforeseen option to my educational curriculum, meditation classes at the Sri Chinmoy Centre —beginning of the end for most part forgettable academic career, or “time of book-learning,” and early beginnings of full-time meditation occupation, tutelage embarked under the guiding hand of teacher Sri Chinmoy.
Within months I found myself engaged in an assortment of odd jobs and money raising schemes, “making money quickly” to see Sri Chinmoy for the first time in New York, air fare from New Zealand no joke on modest student income.
And likewise, I don’t know who God is, not in any final, definitive sense at least, but as the years pass by I do have some inkling as to what He is—love, peace, wisdom and beauty—the presence of which grows stronger every day.
Here in New Zealand, where real men eat meat and real men are all you meet, vegetarianism remains the practise of people “with a sheep loose in the top paddock.” Or to lose the colloquial, in a game of marbles, the vegetarian would be missing a few.
Wooly in the head myself for the last thirteen years, I have lost count of the times carnivores have looked at me blank, uncomprehending; the queries of “but do you eat chicken, or fish?” constant.
About vegetarianism in New Zealand, the penny has yet to drop, and ends are yet to meet.
So it was about as surprising as a sausage wrapped in bread that the Christchurch Vegetarian Centre found themselves under the grill in trying to fire up a fund-raising sausage sizzle with non-meat sausages this week.
New Zealand needs meat
The selfless sizzle was booked several months in advance outside a large hardware store, a much sought after location, and management were told the sausages would be soy, yet on arrival a staff member informed the meat-free merchants of an unforeseen emergency—the public of New Zealand “needed meat.”
Meatless and proud, the group were only allowed to stay on the proviso they erected large signs warning of their vegetable contamination.
Frying up a storm in front of a sign proclaiming “Vegetarian Sausages Only,” Christchurch Vegetarian Centre co-ordinator Yolanda Soryl expressed her meat-free beef at their treatment:
“I was really shocked they (the hardware store) were so ‘anti’ trying something new. They told us customers would be really irate if they didn’t get their meat but we’ve had no complaints from customers and some people told us they came down especially to try some.”
- The Lotus-Heart Vegetarian Restaurant, Christchurch, New Zealand
- The Blue Bird Vegetarian Café, Auckland, New Zealand
- Vegetarianism and the Sri Chinmoy Centre
- Christchurch Vegetarian Centre, Christchurch, New Zealand
- Vegge sausage sizzle hits a snag by Kim Thomas, The Press, 15 Sept 2008
Quarter acre sections; a sky tower that doesn’t really go all the way to the sky; spotlessly clean suburbs; rolling, semi-green, semi-bald hills covered in sheep and mountain bikers; speedos for fashion rather than the beach; xylophones; a calypso beat, and druids in a city where almost nothing is older than 150 years—just some of the eccentricity galore in this irrepressibly happy, undeniably strange music video from Auckland, New Zealand band Bressa Creeting Cake—the only group with a truly awful pun for a name to win a national music award.
Or to describe Palm Singing in the words of the band:
“A very happy holiday song full of gaiety, summer, and love for one’s fellows.”
Strange backyard rituals around a bonfire aside, who on earth could possibly bad-mouth that?
My friend “Krazy Karl” was once a member of this band—before he made a stand for sanity. I need no longer wonder where the “Krazy” came from…
In New Zealand, the concept of “six degrees of separation” may not have been invented, but it always applies, and my crazy musician friend and Bressa Creeting Cake are just one example:
- I work with the guitarist from semi-famous rock band Garageland;
- I went to school with semi-notorious rock band Shihad;
- Jemaine of HBO comedy show Flight of the Conchords was in my film classes at university;
- A workmate was trying to sell a concept for a board game named based on this very concept—that you can connect one person to another through six degrees of separation or less.
Here in the land of four million people and forty million sheep, everybody really does know everybody…
Already at work, early morning here in New Zealand and trying to do a spot of writing before the day proper begins, I had half an eye on the World Cup Rugby, a live game being played between Scotland and Romania—I, the world’s most lukewarm rugby fan snatching a few seconds here and there, eyes raised whenever loud cheering or excited commentary crowded past the corner flag of my awareness.
What do you suppose then did I suddenly hear?
“I don’t think they respect the ball enough. It’s got to become your friend, something you cherish and really look after…”
By which I was reminded of something in character parallel, but form and shape entirely different, tangential flight of imagination embarked, as is often my wont.
I am not infrequently reminded to respect meditation more, to make it my friend, cherish its practise and really look after the positive fruits it bears. It is too easy to let meditation become just another part of the day, to sandwich it between sleep and waking, but never snack in between. To not give it it’s due—due respect, gratitude and devotion. To not see the bigger picture that meditation is painting every day, one slow brush stoke at a time.
It is a slow and steady process. We are in the process of consciously becoming in the outer world that which we have always been in the inner world. But this process of growth has no end; we can grow eternally. We need never stop.
We have sown the seed, and right now we have a tiny plant. If storms of doubt and hurricanes of jealousy come, then naturally the progress can be very slow. But if there is implicit faith and devoted oneness, the plant will very soon grow into a tree. Previously there was only a seedling, but now it has germinated into a tiny but healthy plant. So there is every hope that it will weather all the buffets and blows of human doubt and weakness and grow into a huge tree.
Excerpt from My Meditation-Service At The United Nations For 25 Years by Sri Chinmoy.
Respect the ball?
Of course, a case can be made that some people “respect the ball” a touch too much.
In the following (admittedly cool) video, several New Zealand All Blacks discuss what the “haka” means to them (a traditional Maori war-dance performed at the start of each match).
Boys will be boys as they say—grown men as well. On holiday and playing a game of frisbee, a casual sport some friends are rather partial to, innocent fun soon degenerated into competition and intense struggle—a loser takes a dip in the ocean game of“Donkey.” For those not familiar, the object in Donkey is to make it as hard as possible for your opponents to catch the disc—whether by throwing it with force sufficient to break bones (normally noses in fact), or far enough away to struggle for a clean catch. Drops and poor throws earn a letter of the titular word, the first to spell the animal surely being one. Why a donkey? Said animal is hardly renowned for it’s intelligence or speed…
By the end of the game, played on a precipice with spectacular views of Christchurch’s Lyttleton Harbour, all of the players tied, or close enough because score keeping was taken less than seriously, it came to a single, final throw for redemption, hopefully dry clothes as well. A ‘Hail Mary’ thrown high into the air above, all five of us scrambling to be the catcher.
It looked good for me for a while, with extra incentive as a non-swimmer since ear trouble in childhood. Leaping up to catch the frisbee, admittedly not as high as I might imagine since in stature I am lacking, I came within an inch of clasping the disc, victory as well, glory thwarted only by a mid-air collision of spectacular proportions. Hit from behind, more blind-sided really, I was thrown empty handed to the ground then side-swiped, a brain-shaking, dazing blow to the side of my head by another player as I fell.
Like I said already, I can’t be sure if what followed was concussion, but the fact that my head hurt in two places—where collided with and where brain hit skull—is probably a certain sign. There was little time to ponder the finer points of a sore head however as I headed towards the water…
Which got me thinking. A sportsman since the time I could hold a bat in my hand, I have twisted, strained, pulled and bruised just about every single part of me possible to injure, yet touch wood of changing room wall have yet to break a single bone or get knocked out. Sitting here nursing a residual headache, and substantially warmer than when in the water, I am reminded that lack of injuries are truly a blessing, and physical pain, while heroic in the enduring, is not lightly to be invited.