30. Seen from the Train
Meditation can be many things, and over time we each find the one or several ways best suited to us. Running can be a meditation; so too singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument, swimming, sitting on a mountain or in a crowded train. Guru spoke of serving others, washing dishes, selfless acts deepened by mindfulness, and also the everyday stuff of life as potentially forms of meditation, especially when aspiration and understanding are there. Sometimes meditation is simply a gift, the Guru’s touch of grace like the surprise of a sudden rainbow – something random and lovely happens, a little benediction, a glimpse of some almost forgotten joy, and your heart fills with happiness.
Subarata loved to meditate at a particular place on a beach half an hour by car out of Auckland. Sometimes we went there before daybreak and she sat alone on a great log that jutted out of the sand, looking at the sea. There were often tall columns of cumulus cloud rearing up like colossi on the horizon, daybreak transforming the ocean into a molten silver, sky and sea merging in a blaze of dawn light, a sense of endless space. There was an elemental beauty here, Mother Earth in all her finery, and you could feel the soothing way in which seascapes lessen our burdens and troubles, console us with the breath of eternity. Here, a reverence came into her heart and she would sing all of her daily songs at this shrine of the sea.
After her passing I came here sometimes as though to meet up with her, talk to her again, but the place was all sadness now and I only felt her loss and a great silence, the indifference of the ocean. Eventually the tides covered Subarata’s log with sand and it disappeared from all view.
Once, travelling by train to Wellington in the long ago, we saw through the window a lady standing in a field miles from anywhere – she seemed transfixed, gazing at the sky as though God were there before her. We were marvelling at this, at how she came to be in this remote place, the sense of mystery that she conveyed, feeling the wonderment which sometimes seeps into our lives at unexpected moments. I remembered a poem by Frances Cornford – “To a Fat Lady Seen from the Train” – and recited it to Subarata:
“O why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
Missing so much and so much?
O fat white woman whom nobody loves,
Why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
When the grass is soft as the breast of doves
And shivering sweet to the touch?
O why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
Missing so much and so much?”
Curiously, this simple poem and the vision through the train window touched us deeply, the strangeness of the woman alone in the field, the sense of portent and mystery that lies beneath the familiar, and we both drifted away into a thoughtful, mutual silence – perhaps one of the blooms of meditation. We were forgetful of who or where we were, each adrift in our own thoughts, the carriage wheels thrumming rhythmically beneath our seat.