by Shirini Zöchling
My name is Shirini. I am 73 years old and have been retired for many years. I have been a student of Sri Chinmoy for 14 years. How it happened that I started a new life near the age of 60 and decided to follow a spiritual path, I will tell you now…
I was a bank employee, but when I retired I started looking for a new hobby. I wasn’t sure what exactly I was looking for, but I knew that it had to be something fulfilling. The courses at the adult learning centre did not satisfy me, so I kept searching until I saw a poster that attracted me. All of a sudden, it became incredibly important to me to attend this lecture about Yoga & Meditation. Even though I was raised Roman Catholic and felt close to Christ all my life, I went without any prejudice to this lecture.
There, I flipped through a book by Sri Chinmoy and thought: "These are words just like from the Bible." I became curious to know more about it, so I attended the follow-up classes as well. Above all, I was inspired by the music, although I myself am not a musical person. Spiritual music in particular deeply touches my soul. Through the music, I found an approach to Sri Chinmoy and decided after a while to become his student, to accept him as my meditation teacher, my Guru, and was also accepted by him. The people around me were sceptical at first – one hears quite a bit about sects and so on – but I never doubted for even a second that Sri Chinmoy is a true Master. It was clear to me. It was the perfect "hobby" – something I had unknowingly been looking for all my life.
Nevertheless it was initially hard to find my place in the Centre, because my mind had a lot of doubts. There were many young people in the Centre and I thought: I don’t belong there, I am too old, I don’t speak English, and New York, where the Master lived, also seemed quite scary… I was constantly afraid at first, but I tried to overcome my fears because I felt that I belonged there, even though my outer existence and my mind were having trouble adjusting to it. I also realised that all these problems were my own and not anybody else’s.
When the time finally came to fly to New York for the first time to see Sri Chinmoy, I arrived at the airport in New York and felt at home. This feeling I still have today, and all my fears were dissolved little by little.
My whole life I had a strong connection to Christ, and therefore it seemed to me in the beginning that it was a sort of betrayal to all of a sudden accept an Indian Guru. I prayed to Christ: "Please lead me into my Guru’s heart." I felt Christ’s approval and his guidance on my new path. Christ never disappeared from my life, and today I love Christ the same way as before. Intuitively I felt: Sri Chinmoy is for me the link and the path to God. When I read the Bible now, I feel that I am finding the same messages as in Sri Chinmoy’s writings. The words and the ways of expression may be different, but the goal is the same.
I had never meditated before, so it was not easy for me in the beginning. For a long time, I felt that I didn’t know what meditation meant altogether, until I became aware, in the physical presence of my Guru, that I was standing in front of effulgent light. I finally realised what meditation is, and Sri Chinmoy inwardly taught me my personal way of meditation.
Practising meditation on a regular basis gave me strength and tranquillity. For me, this path is a journey towards myself. Of course, I still have imperfections. We are all trying to be better members of society. Now I am much more concerned to make sure I deal with others in a loving way.
Personally, I value this path because Sri Chinmoy’s clear, simple and at the same time deep words help me tremendously to be able to live spirituality in today’s world. Therefore I am most grateful and blessed to have met such a great living spiritual Master and to have been accepted by him as his student.
Every person following a spiritual path undergoes transformation. I changed a lot – to others’ advantage! I used to be very impulsive, but with meditation I have become much calmer and more balanced. Quite often there is still an inner battle – it always goes on if you want to change! After all, it is not easy to give up old habits or behaviours, but you receive so much help from Above that your own big problems become smaller and smaller, and finally, insignificant. I have learnt to simply "hand over" all my problems.
My faith has grown immensely and has become infinitely stronger, because I realised inwardly that we have a direct relationship to God if we have a Master. The first question my son asked me when I chose this path was, "Do you become more tolerant as well?" My husband was quite sceptical at first, but he realised very soon that I was doing something that not only gave me joy but was also useful. He slowly changed. Now he accepts Sri Chinmoy and really likes him.
'Impossible' – this word no longer exists in my vocabulary. My self-confidence has grown immensely; there is nothing that I would consider impossible even if you would think so looking at it from an outer perspective, since I am old and sick. It is mostly a matter of the mind. The mind is the first one to say, "No, you can’t do this, you are too old, too weak", or whatever. But I have learnt not to listen to this doubting mind any more. I push it aside, and that is not even as difficult as you would think. For example: at the age of 60 I started practising sports intensively. Over a long period of time, I ran every day for one hour – among other reasons, because I realised how important it is to have a healthy body. Here on earth we need the body to live, and I think it is our duty, as much as possible, to keep the body in good shape. This includes for me a vegetarian diet. It is also more pleasant to have a healthy body.
Even today, at the age of 73, I fly to New York by myself, happily and fearlessly. Thirteen years ago this seemed impossible to me, and even the thought of it provoked endless fears. I even flew to New York when I was seriously ill and had no fear because I inwardly felt strong guidance. This is something you learn on a spiritual path: how to conquer fear. Fear is the biggest problem. I have learnt that it is not the illness that you have to conquer, but the fear. I used to have a lot of fear, like everyone. We all have thousands of fears; sometimes we are afraid of the tiniest ant. With my faith and confidence in the Highest, I simply learnt to go beyond fear.
One time when I was in the hospital again I had a very strong heart attack at 3:30 a.m. I intuitively felt that I was in critical condition. I didn’t know what to do and I was terribly afraid. The doctor and the nurses came, gave me injections and did everything possible to help me. But suddenly I felt completely calm. Like a mere onlooker I was able to observe the activity that now seemed like a game to me, and the story had a happy ending.