In a recent charming, illumining anecdote, Age Does Not Matter, Sumangali wrote:
“Age does not matter. At seventy-five Sri Chinmoy is proving that to me. Through his life of meditation and self-transcendence he shows 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.”
I can relate to these sentiments in so many ways.
At 13 and in my first year in High School, I would at times be mistaken for 16 or older, not because of my size—most definitely not—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 at all of 32 I find age to be a bit of a joke. I still can’t believe I am in my thirties—now at the point where I have to stop and think to remember my age—and for most of my twenties 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—and its slow-dawning felicitation to experience life in the ever present, eternal now, I again feel as I did before those forgettable, teen-aged years—like a child, and myself once more.
Musing upon the inevitable forward advance of age, I am reminded of learning to drive recently—only a year 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 of driving.
Likewise my “career.” After years of 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,’ I began the best part of four years in a reasonably prestigious day job, rejoining my last seen at university peers on the cusp of their thirties, and the threshold or beyond of marriages, mortgages and children.
What a joke it all was. Now feeling like a child trapped in a far too big body, I had to get my head around the idea of being an “adult,” or at least its outer appearance, joining serious colleagues in serious decisions, responsibilities and problems—not to mention getting in line for performance appraisals and promotions, a very necessary evil when regular, very expensive overseas trips for periods of meditation—or self-enlightenment sanity excursions as I view them—are 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 my ageless, real identity.
Funnily enough, and this is a very real recommendation of meditation and human nature, I have found that people value a person who brings a child’s touch to a serious situation, who is able to laugh and to joke, remain good-natured and even-tempered. I was genuinely touched by how much my colleagues, very nice people all, but with whom I constantly— and apologetically—avoided socialising, appreciated me when it was time to move on—their sincere sentiments more than apparent in the heart-felt comments on hand-made leaving card. Not to mention all of the hugs that 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. Almost 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 her child who has to point out the alternative interpretation of unintended faux pas. Her youth-like, heart-warming qualities I once mistakenly sought to uproot in myself, leave behind in a wrong-headed rush to “grow up”—early, regrettable attempts at self-transformation with a labourer’s pitchfork, rather than the meditation’s gentle pruning.
But most of all, I can relate to Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy of self-transcendence—of mind, belief, achievement and of age. 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 realises the much that one does not know—I have come to learn that meditation is so much more than a few moments of peace, or a silent mind only in a silent room. Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy of the child-like heart, of the life of a child but not of the childish, has re-invented my life in the most remarkable ways, transformed me for the better in a fashion I once could only imagine.
Compared to my former self, you could say I am re-born.
Something of a show-off—this childish “quality” remains to an extent untempered still—I was tempted to include a photo of my former, tortured self, to illustrate the from then to now transformation I am writing of. Probably better for the reader’s sake as well as my own, there are only a handful of photos of me between childhood and 20, and in what few that there are, I am surprised to discover I look nothing like the person I remember being. It just took a while for my mind to understand the reasons why...