Nov 11

11-11-11 at 11:11 pm

The number eleven is in the spotlight with the once in a hundred years occurrence of the convergence of the number 11 to the nth degree.

Have you ever noticed that certain numbers have powerful significance in your life? Have you ever explored numerology? Whether harkening back to Pythagorus or the Kabbalah, the idea that everything can be reduced to a number with mystical significance is an interesting thing to ponder.

I haven’t learned much about numerology but am intrigued by the frequence of the number 56 in my life and its relationship to the number 11. Ever since I received my spiritual name on Nov. 11, 2001 (11/11/01), I resonate with the number 11. Quite often, I instinctively look over at a digital clock as it displays the time 11:11.

The number 56 has been in my midst again and again and 5 +6 = 11. Twice I lived at a street address of 56 and currently I live at a street address of 156. What are the odds of that happening so many times?

To me the number 11 symbolizes that there is one and only one divine reality – that God is all, the one and only one.

Pythagorus said, “Eleven is the number of a cycle of new beginnings.”

There’s some pretty “out there” stuff about 11:11 – one website that says that it is a doorway to ascension into a higher world (, all kinds of mind-blowing stuff.

Eleven has to do with the DNA codes.

Eleven is also considered a master number and has a lot to do with awakening and spiritual psychic realms. In that sense, I guess it’s appropriate that my spiritual journey catapulted to another level in conjunction with this number.

To observe this day full of special elevens which is also the tenth anniversary of receiving a spiritual name “Sharani” from Sri Chinmoy, I traveled to Queens New York and meditated while gazing at the spot where I received this special blessing. Perhaps it is only appropriate that my inner focus soared right towards a yearning for the highest goal of God-realization. You can be sure that most of the time my trajectory is much closer to terra firma than that.

What number is special to you? Do you like the number 11? Or are you already setting your sights on 12-12-12!

p.s. I started writing this post at exactly 11:11 pm on 11-11-11 but have to admit that I finished writing it at 11:47 pm (hey 4 + 7 = 11)

Aug 24

The Forest for the Trees

Flower-Flames ~~ Aspiration-Plants ~~ Service-Trees

Three of the epic series of poems penned by artist, writer and spiritual visionary Sri Chinmoy contain imagery from the plant kingdom in the choice of title for the series. Flowers, plants and trees. Was it a coincidence that three series of poems (comprising 87,000 poems in total and composed in a 24 year time period) looked to the natural world for titles that married creativity and spirituality?

I must confess that I am a bona-fide nature-lover. I find much fascination in taking photographs of birds, animals and flowers. You are usually hard-pressed to find a photo of a person in my online photo albums unless perhaps that person is reading a story to a therapy dog.

That tendency noted, I still surprised myself with what happened to me yesterday as I sat in an outdoor setting filled with beautiful flowers while on spiritual retreat with the International Sri Chinmoy Centres.

I was watching musical performances, absorbing the life messages in moralistic plays based on Sri Chinmoy’s writings and sharing meditation with the hundreds of people surrounding me during an afternoon function.

Slowly but surely, my attention was drawn to the climbing and unfolding greenery that I sat alongside of and up into the sky I was drawn to look at the tree limbs and myriad variety of leaves that dappled the sunlight and shaded us from the hot summer sun.

The more I looked at the greenery right next to me, the more it seemed to pulsate with life and I became convinced that these plants were striving upwards and aspiring in much the same fashion as the people who sat in their midst. The tendrils of the climbing vines and other plants were in various states of unfolding just as surely as those of us gathered together were all embodied in perfect divinity within regardless of how much it had yet to actually blossom. I started to feel that the plants were more than simply alive, but actually sentient and spiritual in some unusual way.

As my own meditation embraced the natural beauty and, spirit if you will, of the plants around me, a sense of contentment and completeness heightened within and I began to feel convinced that if I was ever so lucky to experience Heaven, this is what it must be like.

Later I wondered if it could be that plants are like people and have feelings and strivings just as we do. Lo and behold, the online library of Sri Chinmoy’s writings produced the following question and answer on precisely this subject. I think my sentiments were “barking up the right tree” after all.

Bob: What is our relationship to the plant kingdom in our aspiration-life?

Sri Chinmoy: Our relationship to the plant kingdom should be extremely sweet. The plant kingdom has real aspiration. We don’t see the seed; it is under the ground. But when we see the plant, we see how it aspires to become a tree and then how it aspires to have flowers. The Indian scientist J. C. Bose discovered how plants quarrel and fight for their own existence. But here we are dealing with their aspiration.

The relationship between the plant kingdom and your own existence is extremely important, extremely deep, extremely intimate. First you are a child. Because you are a child, you aspire to become physically strong, tall. You are a seed that germinates into a plant. Then you become an adolescent, and all the time you are dreaming of becoming a tree, a spiritual tree. So there is a child in you, a soul, that aspires to become a spiritual banyan tree. Plant life and human life are like two brothers. One human brother and one plant brother are here together. Your plant brother is reminding you of your aspiration. The plant brother is going upward to reach the sky and this helps to increase your own aspiration. It makes you feel that you also have to grow into your divinity to reach the highest.

Sri Chinmoy, Father’s Day: Father With His European Children, Agni Press, 1976.

And I can further console myself that this unusual sentiment towards plants is explored in a May 2011 scholarly publication from the State University of New York in a book titled, Plants as Persons: A Philosophical Botany by Matthew Hall, a conservationist affiliated with the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. He explores many religious traditions and their attitudes towards plants as well as scientific studies that posit plants have feelings and are sentient.

The next time that I think about the natural world as a symbolic and tangible aid to spiritual practice, I will have to remind myself that the plants themselves could be part and parcel of the process. Think twice before you step on that plant. It is a living, breathing organism in the interconnected web of life.


In the case of the Flower-Flames, ten thousand of them were composed over a five-year span begun in 1979 and completed in 1983. In the spirit of transcendence so central to Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy and life, the next series of poems called Aspiration-Plants numbered twenty-seven thousand in all and started the same year that the Flower-Flames  were finished (1983) and continued until the 27,000th aspiration-plant was composed in 1998. The final series of poems  called Service-Trees began immediately after the Aspiration-Plant series completed and the final poem composed in this series was the 50,000th and was published posthumously in 2009.

Jul 23

Self-Transcendence Personified – Surasa Mairer

The race is called “The  Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race” and to run that distance in 52 days says it all. I can personally attest to witnessing the runners in action with my own  four eyes (yes I wear glasses) on several occasions during the last 15 years that this race has been held in Queens, New York.

The notion of running 2 marathons a day from 6 am to midnight for seven weeks leads one to imagine that the participants must be superheroes who have secretly leapt off the screen of the Captain America film opening today in the U.S. or perhaps they snuck out the back door of the Comic-Con Convention going on in California.

As a fellow female, I derive the greatest inspiration from following Surasa Mairer, the only woman in the field of runners this year, now back for her second attempt at reaching the 3100 distance before the end of the race on August 3rd.

Talk about improving with practice! On Day 40, July 22nd, she is 336 miles further along than she was a year ago on day 40 of the race.

A little more than a week ago, blogger Utpal Marshall interviewed Surasa while she was out on the course and compared her achievement to Derek Jeter with his 3,000 hit over the course of his baseball career. Utpal blogs most every day during the 3100 mile race, sharing photos, interviews and quotes from conversations he engages in with the runners, helpers and observers of the race.

Read and listen to Utpal’s post on Surasa here: “July 13: Just a Dream

Read my post about Surasa from a year ago here: “Surasa Mairer: Ultra-Running Pioneer

With only 12 days of the race left, it will be a special day indeed if Surasa reaches the 3100 mile distance by the race’s end (last year she achieved the amazing distance of 2760 miles).


Apr 08

New Memoir Benefits Christchurch

Ushasi Jill Thompson
Ushasi Jill Thompson
“You have a destiny. You have a role to fulfill in your community and in the larger context of our country, and in the world. Each individual has a guiding light and a voice deep within that will direct you to become all that you are here to unfold in your life. Be in touch with that voice. Be in touch with that direction. Be in touch with your destiny as an instrument of healing touch. “
-Ushasi Jill Thompson offered the above words to students of Swedish Institute upon their graduation from the massage therapy program.

Currently Director of Academic Support Services at Swedish Institute, the oldest continuously running school for massage therapy in the U.S., Ushasi shares her own guiding light and journey to destiny in her newly published memoir Thy Will Be Done.

The book is a fascinating account of her life experiences which includes her coming of age in New Zealand at the age of 18 and conversion to born-again Christianity.

Thy Will Be Done book cover
Thy Will Be Done book cover

It follows her through the world of Esalen, Divinity School, the Metropolitan Community Church in New York, teaching massage therapy and finding her spiritual home in the Sri Chinmoy Centre as a disciple of the spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy.

Her faculty profile nicely sums up her varied experiences:

Ushasi’s 20-year practice as a massage therapist focused on massage therapy for medical conditions, as well as providing massage as part of the integration of bodywork with psychotherapy and spiritual meditation practice.
Ushasi holds a Massage Therapy Diploma from Swedish Institute. She has a B.A. in History of Religion from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, VA, and a Master of Divinity degree from the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. She is a long-time member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre, and has studied bodywork and gestalt therapy at Esalen Institute.

Because her spiritual journey began in New Zealand and the memoir includes her return there again 30 years later with the International Sri Chinmoy Centres, Ushasi has decided that all proceeds from sales of the book will be donated in support of Christchurch Earthquake relief. First for sale this April 2011 in New York, copies may be obtained by contacting the author at: thywillbedone(dot)ushasi(at)gmail(dot)com.