It felt homely to be back in Wales, if only for a weekend. I’d forgotten how fond I am of the atmosphere. There’s a magic about it, a friendliness, a deep self-certainty in the people that I’ve not noticed anywhere else.
Carmarthen is a long way into the heart of Wales and thus a long way into the magic of it. There I met with members of the
Sri Chinmoy Centre for an evening’s meditation and music. I treasure these times to share inspiration, news, and – especially important to our community – food. (Eating a Krispy Kreme strawberry-shortcake doughnut for the first time could almost be called a spiritual experience IMHO).
But this was not the main reason for my trip. It was four years almost to the day since I visited Wales to meet the Peace Run and to witness the unveiling of a statue dedicated to peace – that time in Cardiff Bay, alongside the National Assembly. Further still into the heart of the country is the National Botanic Garden of Wales, now the site of a similar statue.
The Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run – to give it its proper name – is a global relay. I find it hard to describe, as it has no meaning or agenda other than spreading the message of peace, inclusive of all cultures and regardless of politics. The runners take turns to carry a flaming torch: in groups or alone, on main roads and rural lanes, from one country to the next. Others join for brief stretches or simply hold the torch to make a wish for peace. The European leg of the run will cover 24000km through 49 nations this year – a pilgrimage of 7 months.
Pilgrimage is the best word I can find to conjure up the simplicity of it. In his life of 76 years, Sri Chinmoy offered countless talks and published hundreds of books on peace, meditation and other aspects of spirituality. In public interactions, as his life progressed, he turned more towards performing meditative music, demonstrating feats of weightlifting, or simply offering meditations. Sometimes, as the old adage goes, actions speak louder than words.
Like timeless pilgrims, the runners give up their homes and jobs for a few days, weeks or months, and take whatever food and shelter is offered along the road. Their reward is in the journey itself rather than the destination. Its source is entirely inner, like a prayer in action. I’m not much of a runner, so was glad of the chance to make my own little pilgrimage by train and to offer my prayers.
How does it help to stand in some far-flung corner of Wales when humanity is sick, hungry, volatile and vulnerable? I do so often feel my heart crushed under the idea of all that suffering, but what use am I to anyone crushed? There is ample good in the world too, so I just try and add what good I have to it. In the end, the only person one can change is oneself. And honestly? That’s more than a lifetime’s work in my case 🙂
We have to go to the root-cause of world-problems, and the root is human ignorance. If we can go to the root and remove this ignorance in just one human being — ourselves — then there will be one rascal less in this world. Today if there is one rascal less, tomorrow there may be another rascal less, and in this way it will go on.”
– Sri Chinmoy, AGDF 22
Nature in Wales seems supernatural. Though trees and shrubs were bare in the Botanic Gardens, emblems of St David’s Day were strewn across the green still – daffodils in all sizes and yellows. The Peace Runners arrived – a team from 10 countries, all smiles and flags and bubbling enthusiasm, holding the torch aloft. A male voice choir sang in their native Welsh, people dressed up as flowers for the occasion and ran a short race. Lord Elis-Thomas unveiled the statue, and the sun reached through the clouds at last.
Once we had each made a silent wish and sat awhile in quiet reflection, there was time for exploring. The Great Glasshouse was designed by Norman Foster – he of London Gherkin fame – and earns its name for being the largest single-span glasshouse in the world. It harbours rare plants from California, Australia, the Canary Islands, Chile, South Africa and the Mediterranean. Though their homes may be scattered around the globe, they all enjoy similar climates and share similar traits.
In a glass-covered café, in the company of sparrows, we gathered for more of our treasured pastime – sharing meals, stories and laughter. While my closest friends may be scattered far from me most of the time, still we enjoy the same inner climate, and their outer company is all the more valued for its rarity.
Peace does not mean the absence of war.
Peace means the presence of harmony,
Love, oneness and satisfaction.
Peace means a flood of love
In the world-family.”
– Sri Chinmoy, HRPC 16
More photos of this event at peacerun.org and tejvan.co.uk