You ran for all the girls

by Sarita Earp
Halifax, Canada

When I joined the path in 1974, one of the first activities our Halifax Centre had was a mini sports day where we timed our 100 metre runs.  When the others saw my time, they suggested I train for the annual sports day in New York.  I saw there was a one mile race and that appealed to me, although I had not run more than a 200 metre race in high school (that was the longest event back then for girls).  I trained myself and ended up winning the race.  

A few years later, Guru encouraged all his students to exercise every day. He especially loved running for its inner and outer value and suggested a minimum of 2 miles a day. In high school, my favorite thing had been sports. At the age of 25, just before I became a disciple, I was inspired to go out and run around the block in spite of being a pack-a-day smoker. Also, during my high school years I used to think if a boy can do something why can’t a girl, so I was always determined to do something if I wanted to, regardless of being a girl.  When I left school I hitchhiked across Canada alone and also spent 5 days in the woods alone, to get over my fear of that.

One year in the 70’s, Guru had a race on the local cinder track at Jamaica High School – 7 miles for the girls and 10 miles for the boys, both starting at the same time.  During one of the laps I suddenly thought, why couldn’t I do 10 miles like the boys? I do not remember if I had ever run 7 miles before but I had definitely never run 10 miles.

The track slowly emptied and then there was one solitary boy sitting as a guard, reading in a chair, and one solitary runner, me, shuffling around the cinder track for a very long time.  I do not remember the mundane details after finishing, except what happened to make this story interesting. 

I was at Annam Brahma, a restaurant in the area run by disciples, when I was called to the phone.  Guru was inviting me to his house and would send someone to give me a ride.  I was very grateful for the consideration of this gesture as I was completely exhausted.

When I arrived, I was ushered into the backyard.  It was full of visiting disciples from Europe and the West Coast of the US. Guru was sitting at the front. They may have been asking questions; I don’t exactly remember. I sat down at the back. When it was time for prasad, Guru gave each person an Indian sweet. When I stood in front of him, with an Indian sweet in his hand, he placed the back of his hand on the top of my forehead and said, “You ran for all the girls.”  

(Corollary: A few years later the distances at our races became the same for men and women.)

The Sri Chinmoy Centre cycling team was started in the late 70´s and still organises events today.

Guru inspired us all to participate in what was then an annual 24-hour bicycle race in Central Park, New York City. One year, four of us drove from Halifax in my car to participate. We arrived the night before the race. The boys took the car to their place and early in the morning picked up myself and the other girl. On the way to the race, I noticed all the stuff was still in the car, which was a hatchback, and everything was visible – camera, large tape player, cartons of books, extra gas because there was a gas shortage. Also in the car was an extra hidden car key, and advertising us as visitors was the Nova Scotia license plate.  When we parked, I wondered what would be safer – leaving everything in the car or in Central Park? I intuitively knew the car was a “sitting duck” but Central Park did not sound any safer.  I did not know that we had our own guarded section for belongings.

Sri Chinmoy with the cycling team members before the 24 hour race

I really had a great time riding for 24 hours up and down the hills, around and around, and of course, Guru was there too.  Early Sunday morning, the race was over.  New York was sleeping.  The street where we parked was quiet and full of parked cars on both sides, except for one empty space.  My car had been stolen.  While the others went to to look on other streets, I knew this was the spot where it had been.  

I was unusually calm and accepting of this fact. In the evening function at Progress-Promise, our meditation place, I sat near the front.  I felt and thought, “They can take away everything I have but they can not take away the most important thing” - which was the feeling I had inside: my Guru, my spiritual life.  I had such a deep feeling of peace, contentment, fullness and gratitude. This was one of the best experiences of my life.

The next day, during an afternoon function, I was called to the back of the room and ushered in behind a curtain.  Guru was standing there and without a word, put out his hand with money in it.  I gestured no, as I had a good job and a credit card, but he continued to put it in my hand.  It was enough to fly home to Halifax.

(Corollary: 2 months later my insurance company called to say the car was in the pound in Lower Manhattan.  I could fly down to get it but they had no details of its condition.  Well, a free trip to New York to be with my Guru again was exciting in itself.  It turned out to only have a blown muffler, although bare of all contents, everything, even my meditation picture. I had a wonderful time there and then drove home!)