A powerful lesson in overcoming lethargy and resistance

This is one of the stories in our Story-Gems project, a collection of our experiences with our Guru, Sri Chinmoy. Project homepage »


One day, I can't remember which year it was, I was living in New York. This was typical of life as a guard—you're just relaxing, doing this and that. The next minute you get a telephone call: “Guru wants to see you, here, now please!”

Suddenly Guru wanted all the guards down at the track behind the court, his special track. Guru wanted us to build a ramp, an incline so that he could train running uphill to strengthen his legs. Because Guru had serious problems with his knees—his knees were very, very injured—Guru wanted it to be grass on top of earth so it would be softer for his joints.

Sri Chinmoy had a running track behind Aspiration-Ground where he trained frequently; the ramp was built at the end of the track.

We started to build this ramp. It was a wooden structure. I think the ramp was about 30 meters long. I'm not sure about the angle, but it was about 30 meters long. Then there had to be half a meter of earth underneath the grass, inside the wooden structure.

Also, we had to build these big wooden pillars and structures to put the ramp on and they had to go in this very uneven earth. It was a big, big project. One moment we were taking it easy, doing whatever. Next thing, we were working for four, five, six, seven days, morning to evening— wheelbarrows of dirt and big pieces of wood. It was really intense work. There was a big team of boys. We were all working very, very hard.

I remember, when Guru wanted something done, there was an intensity from Guru, and it went all the way through from the people who, like Unmilan and the boys leading the project, all the way down, so we really felt the pressure and the intensity of the job.

After the first day, we had blisters on our hands, our legs were so sore, our body was aching because we were not used to this kind of manual work. Heavy wheelbarrow loads of earth up and down all the way from the front of Aspiration-Ground all the way down. Every time we would do a project like this, after the first day, our body was just dying.

Guru would send food and drinks. There was plenty of food and drink. It was all brought to us. We would just work, work, work, have something to eat and keep working. And this went on for about seven days. The amazing thing is we actually got stronger over seven days. We actually started to get better and better and stronger and stronger.

I remember towards the end of the end of the seven days, me and the boys, we were starting to plan what we were going to do when the project was finished—what we would do—go somewhere and have some fun or do this or do that. We were making plans.

Finally, it was finished and Guru came to see. Guru walked up and down the grass to try it, to test it. Guru said, “Very good. Very good. But can it not be higher?”

We didn't say it, but we were thinking: "What?! Higher?!" To make it higher, to make it a different angle, we basically would have to deconstruct it and make longer pillars. It was like a completely new project. So in just a few words, Guru had created another whole project for us for the next few days.  

So we worked again. We kept working. We made the whole thing higher. We had to take down the pillars, raise the whole thing, take the earth out and put it back in at the higher level. It was three or four more days of work.

This time we were really looking forward to a break afterwards. Guru came again. He walked up and down again. Again he said, "But could it not be higher?" Again, we had to make it higher. We had to deconstruct it and put it still higher.

Sri Chinmoy walks on the training ramp

What's really interesting is, by the end of the third time, we were completely surrendered. By that point. All this idea of relaxation and rest and what we would do afterwards had gone. Now we were just fully committed to the project. It was a great team of boys, a really good team of boys working really well together, everyone working hard together. By the third time we finished, I would have been quite happy to carry on. We actually started to really enjoy working on this project. Of course, the third time Guru was very happy with it. He really liked it.

But it was a very powerful lesson. It really showed me personally, I realised that so much of the time when we work, even for Guru, we're working with resistance, reluctance and we're looking forward to the break afterwards. We're not really completely throwing ourselves into helping Guru, to totally be part of Guru, to do what he wants. This was a strong lesson in learning to really be grateful and enjoy the opportunity to be part of Guru's life, to be part of his work.

Human life is lethargy and resistance, always resistance. We always do the easiest thing, and then we get no joy. But when we let go, when we really surrender—not in a passive way but in a very dynamic and positive way—when we surrender, especially to Guru and his work, then we get real joy.

It was so much fun to be part of a team like that working for Guru, doing something really intense, dynamic and inwardly fulfilling. It was a really big lesson for me, a very strong lesson.

Just work for God,
Even if you work reluctantly.
Eventually your sincerity will pinch you
And compel you to work for God
Soulfully and devotedly.

Sri Chinmoy 1