Paris Joy Weekend (or an excuse to write about trains)
- A consider myself a bit of train buff. Not a train spotter, but I do quite like travelling by train. When I was young, I would get on trains just so that I could say I'd been on lines like the old `Dearne-Valley'. No-one really has the slightest interest if you've been on a little used railway between Doncaster and York, so I largely keep my love of trains to myself. But, when there is an opportunity to travel to a Joy day by train, it seems a double win. The Joy weekend can start at the station, not at the destination.
Of course, in reality, train journeys can be a little disappointing. You always hope for a journey of peace and quiet an opportunity for some meditation and reading, but if you're unlucky you can be stationed in a carriage seated next to a couple of boisterous talkers, sharing their family woes in a depressingly loud and familiar fashion. But, before I fall into `grumpy old man syndrome', trains are still a marvellous way of getting from city to city. Fast, smooth and quick; less hassle than the airport, more fun than the car. And there's always that wonderful modern invention a great pair of headphones to drown out any rogue personal stereos and family squabbles.
- You can even take a laptop and write away at how marvellous train journeys are.
Recently, we had a very nice Joy weekend in Paris, near the great Palace of Versailles. The train journey from Oxford to Paris on Eurostar was great. However, negotiating the Paris metro is daunting even for a guy who reads train maps and timetables for fun.
Disembarking at Paris Nord, you soon realise your schoolboy French is of little help in negotiating the mass of conflicting signs, and bewildering array of options. If you get on the right train, at the right time, with the right ticket you really feel a sense of achievement.
Even for a dedicated `line basher'  this was always going to be an uphill struggle, - the French SNCF decided our joy weekend would be the perfect date to close the line to our final destination near Versailles. With my very limited school boy French, it took quite a while to work out what was wrong and even longer to determine a plan of action. On the bright side, it proved to be an opportunity to tick off travelling on a few more railway lines than I expected, but after spending 40 minutes stranded on a non-descript Paris train station, even I, the eager train enthusiast, was relieved to finish the railway expedition and arrive at the welcoming joy day.
It's somehow easier to write about train journeys than it is about joy weekends. But, I can definitely say the joy day proved even more fun than negotiating the myriad lines and zones of a partially closed French metro system.
Joy weekends are a special part of our path. You're always glad you went. Suffice to say: welcome friends, good music, beautiful environment, French cooking, British humour and a delightfully French approach to organisation. (And unlike a train journey - no one to irritate you with talking about the shocking price of bread these days - don't you know .)
Sri Chinmoy always encouraged us to have British French weekends together. He said that when disciples from both countries came together it was very significant and gave him a lot of joy.
I remember quite vividly a time when Guru visited Paris, several years ago. I was quite a new disciple, and he gave a very intense talk, encouraging us to higher standards and greater dedication to the spiritual life. Guru made it very clear how happy he was when the British and French had joy weekends together.
In the history of Britain and France, there is a long history of conflict. I'm not sure if the one hundred year war really lasted exactly 100 years, but suffice to say, there must be plenty of bad karma lurking around somewhere. So even if the Paris metro may temporarily frustrate, I was very conscious of being glad to be participating in this British-French joy weekend and being part of a very different type of British French relationship.
The beauty of joy weekends is that you can spend most of your time travelling and the accommodation may not be quite five star, but you can always feel that precious joy that always seems in abundance at these weekends. It's also nice to think that such a simple action of sharing time with people from another country is symbolic of a greater inner harmony between the two countries.
Before, arriving at the joy weekend, I couldn't help think of the great joke about European heaven:
But, European Hell:
Sometimes, these stereotypes don't always match reality; but it's more fun when we have different qualities and strengths. And, sometimes a laissez faire attitude to organisation has its own charm and potential for humour. Everything works out well when the good intentions are there.
Vive La France!
 A line-basher is a slang phrase to denote a railway enthusiast who tries to travel on as many different railway lines as possible (often in concentrated short periods of time). This is to distinguish the enthusiast from the more typical train spotter (who is primarily concerned with seeing as many trains as possible). You can take my word for it - It's more fun being a line-basher than a train spotter.
- Hi, Tejvan!
We are indeed fortunate to be able to share time in spiritually constructive activities such as meditation, sports, games, music. Sri Chinmoy emphasized over and over the importance of innocent joy. I remember, as a new student in 1978, how we were invited to a Joy Day. And many of us did not go, partly because we had no idea what a Joy Day was! So what did Sri Chinmoy so? He organized another one and invited us again!