Not in the Cave

The Lake DistrictI creep in at the back five minutes early, but my shoes squeak on polished wood, damp from the squalls outside. A stillness has arrived before me and sits like a living presence in the room; the arching roof higher, the golden wood warmer, the white walls purer because of it. Many have followed its silent lead and sit within it, hems soaking above boots from their assorted journeys.

The stage is in the air, it seems, or is it in a tree? The churchyard yew cradles a view to absorb my eyes for the next hour and a half, through a wide bay of glass. A half-dome of starry blue lights pressed into the ceiling above hangs like a child’s dream of Heaven.

But we are asked by our host to close our eyes first, immersing ourselves in a flow of breath, emptying the hubbub of our thoughts from the waiting universe within.

Then the music comes—a warm familiar joy—and I jump headlong into the ocean of it. Each of Sri Chinmoy‘s songs is a fond friend, but each dressed in bright newness; a rousing drum here that I have never heard, a sweet player there whom I have never seen. A golden smile is growing from inside me like many suns rising at once: the chuckle of a delighted infant, the Bravo! of a sister, the sweet slow nod of a mother, the vast silent pride of a father. The music is mine, his, hers, theirs. Ours.

Outside, mist runs fast along the mountain’s base like a hungry flock, climbs to show another green band of height and gallops down again, swallowing the roughness of the ground under its pure white hooves.

Adarsha sings Madhavi Latar (translation from Bengali):

“Sweet, soft and translucent creeper
In silence steals away my heart.
Above me, the vast sky.
Under me the wind blowing.
Today I dance in ecstasy supreme.”
–Sri Chinmoy

Does the mountain listen too? Its slow dancer’s petticoat of mist rises to its own rhythm, drifts down with the fall of unseen feet below.

Inside, clear strings, little bells, white lights, listeners a choir of silent faces, canvassing assorted worlds of meditation.

Were crows always beautiful? I had not noticed. They play at rough-and-tumble with the wind, black wings in fast precision like Chinese ink on a painter’s page. They will never seem the same again. Can music open the eyes?

The last song performed stays with me until the next morning, more a suite of five songs, all to the words “I fly in the Heart-Sky of my Dear Supreme.” If there must be an end, then let it be this perfect one.

We listeners move gently so as not to shake up subtle inner worlds. We are back in the outer, but bring a draught of Inner with us. Gradually we are a joyous crowd of smiles and re-unitings.

What of Rydal Cave, I ask? Why is the Concert-In-The-Cave Not-In-The-Cave this year? Stones were falling from its roof. Such scant facts were enough from which to fashion a legend over the past twelve months: that Adarsha’s mighty voice brought down the cave last year and it is now no more than a trembling pile of shale. Still, the Ambleside Parish Hall is a fine backup, and if one is going to fashion a legend then let it be sensational, yet suspiciously credible.

We drive out through a woolly cloak of roughness. Rusty scrubs of heather peer into wind-ruffled water. Aggressive grey sits on the air beside a sweet hopeful green. A waterfall elbows its way between two crags and runs to tell its secrets to a lake.

Then all is soaring majesty. The mountains stretch to see who’s taller.

Everything is different now… yet just as it always was…

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To sample the inexpressible:

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