The spiritual life is normal to me

Shankara, and her sister Dipika, are co-managers of Run and Become, an independent chain of running stores that have become well known for the personalised service they give the running community.

I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve the blessings I receive in this life, but I know how lucky I am. Every day I get to work hard, try to do the best I can at work, along with all the other things I’m involved in. I feel fulfilled. My life is pretty simple. I know, too, the only thing that brings this feeling of satisfaction and worth is spirituality. 

When I was younger, I thought the only way you could really change the world for the better was to go into politics or find some way to sway influence on a big scale. I must admit I never really understood Sri Chinmoy when he said the best way to change the world was to change yourself. Hmm … that could never have a big impact on the world, surely? However, the older I get, the more I laugh at my younger self. Now, I’m convinced the best thing I can do is try to change myself; to chase illumination, not world politics!

Growing up

How did I start? My parents joined the London Sri Chinmoy Centre when I was 5 years old, so I grew up with my family meditating together. I find it significant that the very first conversation I can recall as a child was my Mother telling my sister and I that she had found a spiritual Guru and was going to start meditating with him. She said we could join her if we liked. I can still feel my legs swinging on the chair that was too high for me, and see exactly where we were sitting in our house. Although I was so young, some part of me found the conversation very significant.

Shankara and Dipika, with Sri Chinmoy.

Our parents (Ongkar and Vinodini) took us along to Centre meditations. There were a number of children in the Centre and we would play together while our parents meditated. We would also join in the meditation for at least 10 minutes. Sri Chinmoy always involved us children in activities, that were very much part of Centre meetings. Children are always cherished and made to feel important as Centre members.

Sri Chinmoy’s love, care and concern have touched every part of my life and continue to do so. I am no great aspirant, far from it; but I have faith in my spiritual life and in Sri Chinmoy. This faith protects and enlightens me. I guess my love and faith have deepened and expanded over the years. On this spiritual path, you never stop learning, which is so satisfying.

My spiritual practice

Meditation does not give you a predictive experience, because it changes the whole time. Throughout my life, inspiration has ebbed and flowed. At different stages in my life, I have found the need to call on different aspects of the spiritual life for guidance and support. My Pole Star is devotional singing. Sri Chinmoy wrote thousands of devotional songs 1 that I find indescribably beautiful. Singing at my meditation shrine, I am always transported from the incessant drumbeats of my mind to the sweetness of my heart where peace resides. 

Shankara is the leader of the Temple-Song-Hearts music group, which gives concerts all over Europe.

I’ll be honest. Regular discipline isn’t my forte. I tend to buzz around the place trying to do a million things at once, which quite frustrates my long-suffering family! Sri Chinmoy’s path works for me because it’s so varied. If you love meditating soulfully and silently, there’s plenty of opportunity for that. If you like to meditate, but sitting for hours is a kind of torture, then you can meditate first, then go and do “selfless service.” Serving soulfully can be anything from helping out or organising running races, working at a restaurant operated by students of Sri Chinmoy, or getting involved in the many projects the Centre organises. 

However, despite my love of action, I really treasure my morning meditations as they inevitably give me the best experiences of the day. I probably sing more than I sit in silent meditation. My meditation shrine is simple and lovely. It’s the one time in the day no one is asking anything of me, except hopefully, God. The rest of the day, I try to remember my spiritual life, my Spiritual Master, and moments of beauty and divinity. Such as on the bus, as I walk to the kitchen, or as I notice something beautiful, in connecting my inner and outer life. 

Meditation increases awareness and sensitivity to our surroundings. Meditation strengthens our instincts. By which I mean, as our souls come to the fore during meditation, the Soul’s Light and its guidance do not withdraw immediately, but continue into the day. This awareness, I feel, leads me to be more considered and thoughtful in my decisions. The aim is to do the right thing; one’s instinct or intuition is a hugely helpful tool for this to happen. I also believe my meditation, or rather my spiritual life as a whole, offers protection against falling foul of insecurity and other negative forces. Ha, but I have a long way to go on that!

Shankara is also a race director of the many races that Sri Chinmoy's students put on in the London area, ranging from 5 and 10k races to the UK's only 24 hour race.

A life of significance

I’ve never known a life without meditation or spirituality. The spiritual life is normal to me. I perceive my life to date as challenging, very challenging at times, but also wonderfully full and rewarding. My greatest fear as a teenager was to have a life where I couldn’t see the point of what I was doing, of a life with no achievement - and by 'achievement', I mean living a life of deep significance, rather than becoming a big-wig. I clearly remember being so grateful in my late teens that I had meditation and a spiritual life, as I was happier in myself, and less confused or frustrated than some of my friends. When I feel my heart open during meditation – or more commonly when I sing – I taste the sweetness of life (while worries and frustrations caused by politics, confrontation and the sheer hardness of life, lessen their intensity), and I gain perspective.

If I didn’t meditate, my choices in life would be so different, along with my priorities. I want to meditate. I want to live a spiritual life. For me, there is no set divide between the inner and the outer. I just want to do my best each day. I meditate every day and I try to serve in my daily life. My meditation with Sri Chinmoy shows me the way to live, which gives meaning to my life.

  • 1. During his lifetime, Sri Chinmoy wrote 21,300 devotional songs (including 13,625 Bengali; 7,462 English; 180 Sanskrit and 33 French songs)
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