Australia 24 November: Canberra, ACT

Closing and a Dream of Peace in Canberra

A veiled figure by the lake this morning ...

... held the promise of a secret prayer, a dream of peace.

Today our team came together for one last time to run to the Closing Ceremony of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run in Australia for 2014. We met at the flagpole at Regatta Point.

To think just five short weeks ago we started our journey from Uluru into the great unknown. Those first few days we introduced ourselves to each other, and now each of these team members is a treasured jewel inside our hearts.

Our journey this year has taken us to so many places the Peace Run has never been before: to some very small and remote areas that sometimes took days to get to!

Each place we visited, offered us an experience we will never forget.

Australia and Australians truly opened their hearts to the clear and simple message of the Peace Run. The goodness of this country shone forth in each person we met.

Our run from Regatta Point took us past some of Canberra's famous landmarks.

Running together for the last time, we gathered the treasures of this journey inside our hearts.

Each person on this planet of ours – no matter what language we speak, belief we cherish or upbringing we have had – yearns for the same thing.

As one young lady we met in Shepparton said: “I cannot live without peace. Peace is really important to me, without peace for me everything is nothing. I may be rich in the future but without peace in my heart everything is meaningless to me. I can just declare that being a poor person but having peace, is more important than being rich without peace.” Grace had come to Australia as a refugee from Africa and when we heard her speech, her words rang true for all of us.

We all want peace and we all know that we can only get it from deep within ourselves. Rich or poor, black or white, atheistic or devoted God-lover – if we cultivate peace inside ourselves and then draw on that inner peace to live with our fellow human beings, our lives will be so enriched.

These five weeks on the Peace Run may have what Grace said made me a ‘poor’ person in lost wages. But this experience has made me rich beyond my wildest dreams!

This Peace Run has given me the opportunity to cultivate a little more peace inside my heart, and feel a greater appreciation for the good and kind people of this great country.

The media may highlight the big topics of the day, but away from the limelight there are countless good, kind-hearted people who through their humble goodness offer so much to this world. One person’s goodness can and does inspire and kindle the yearning for peace inside our hearts.

I wish there were some way to share with the world the experience of being a team member on the Peace Run and the lessons we have learned through the people we have met.

I now look upon the people around me with such love and oneness and hope and pray this feeling stays with me for the rest of my life.

Our run this morning was only 3.5 km, but in these strides were compressed countless memories, hopes and promises.

Today was an exciting moment for the team as we were invited to be a part of the unveiling ceremony of "Dreamer of Peace", a statue of Peace Run founder, Sri Chinmoy, at Yarralumla Bay. This would be thrilling for all of us, seeing the statue of Sri Chinmoy unveiled in the nation's capital a fitting conclusion to our journey.

As we assembled waiting for our cue to run in to the ceremony, you could hear the happiness and laughter amongst the team, each having grown from our time together and enjoying these last moments as the 2014 Australian Peace Run team.

We didn't have long to wait, as a small crowd had gathered by the veiled statue at Yarralumla Bay.

ACT Peace Run Coordinator and MC for today's event, Prachar Stegemann previewed the proceedings.

On cue and with flags of the world unfurled, our team ran in to the ceremony.

Amalendu Edelsten presented the Peace Torch to Shane Rattenbury MLA, representing the Chief Minister of the ACT, Katy Gallagher, who as ACT Patron of the Peace Run was unable to attend today's event.

Mr Rattenbury has participated in the Peace Run both as a runner and a public official on many previous occasions.

Standing behind our Peace Run banner we felt honoured to be a part of this special occasion.

A choir sang Sri Chinmoy's "Peace Run" song, an anthem we have sung on countless occasions these past five weeks.

Prachar spoke a little about the Peace Run and its history, and introduced the "Dreamer of Peace" statue.

He spoke of how the Peace Run organisers had sought to honour the 50th Anniversary of the arrival of Sri Chinmoy from India to the West, with a gift to the ACT Government and the people of Canberra.

"We sought a peace monument that itself embodies peace, and captures the spiritual dimension in the quest for peace. The 'Dreamer of Peace' statue is an everyman figure: it stands for all the great peace dreamers, and for the peace dreamer in us all."

In their submission, the Peace Run organisers had noted that this peace-monument statue would best be situated where it would look out upon the beauty of nature, thus enhanced by the surrounding peace; with space for observers to sit and experience their own peace-meditation.

Yarralumla Bay sumptuously fulfills these criteria: a picturesque bay looking over to Black Mountain and the Telstra Tower, which was dedicated as a Sri Chinmoy Peace Tower in June 1995.

This bay has also been the starting point for Sri Chinmoy Triathlons for over 30 years.

British-Indian sculptor Kaivalya Torpy, who created "Dreamer of Peace", stepped up to assist Mr Rattenbury unveil the statue.

We enjoyed a minute or so of collective silence to share the ardent peace-dreams of the heart ...

... which this statue so eloquently expresses.

Each person took these quiet contemplative moments to heart and you could tangibly feel a powerful peace all around.

The statue in one sense seems so humble with folded hands looking out over the bay, shaded by the trees, but drawing near the statue you felt such a powerful sense of peace that you could really see and feel in those few moments how the presence of this simple but powerful statue will offer so much to those who will take a few quiet moments near it.

The silence gave way to the tuneful strains of Sri Chinmoy's "A New World of Peace."

Next Prachar introduced Shane Rattenbury as a true friend of the Peace Run, long-time participant in events of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team ...

... and one who played a significant role leading to the installation of the "Dreamer of Peace" statue here today.

In 2013, when the Peace Run team ran all the way around the continent of Australia, Shane had been at both the Opening and Closing Ceremonies here in Canberra. He had even run the first 5 km out of Canberra with us, so it was like welcoming an old friend to speak.

Shane acknowledged the traditional owners of this land, the Ngunnawal people, and welcomed us all here for this important occasion of dedicating this significant statue.

On behalf of the Chief Minister Katy Gallagher, he also welcomed the Peace Run team back to Canberra and expressed how the Peace Run is offering peace for humanity, and thanked us for sharing that message.

Shane spoke of how he felt it was very appropriate that we were unveiling this "Dreamer of Peace" statue here at Yarralumla Bay, both for its association with Sri Chinmoy Triathlons over the years and its natural beauty, in particular its proximity to water, which he described as wonderful and powerful.

He hoped that this would become a place where people can take a moment out of their busy schedules to relax, contemplate and escape from the day, which is something we all need to do.

Shane related how he had been involved in many of the Sri Chinmoy Races over the years, including running the 100 km Trail Run held in 2013 to honour the Centenary of Canberra: and how in these endurance sports you are forced to explore the deeper areas of oneself. He saw and felt great benefit from this experience.

Addressing the runners, Shane thanked us for our own personal efforts in carrying the Peace Torch across such vast areas of Australia.

Shane then read out the inscription on the plaque at the foot of the statue.

Prachar thanked everyone for for their contributions and brought the formal proceedings to a close.

Guests were offered roses, some of which were placed respectfully at the feet of the "Dreamer of Peace".

Shane chatted at length with the team about our experiences, especially running along the Oodnadatta Track.

A final team photo.

As a spiritual figure, Sri Chinmoy’s life was lived on the premise that inner peace is the source of all our outer happiness, freedom and accomplishments. The statue itself embodies and evokes feelings of peace.

Through the statue’s silence we become aware that inner peace is real. This seemingly fragile and elusive treasure of treasures is already within us: we ourselves are the hope and promise of peace in the world.

We all stayed around to have our photo taken and meet with everyone there.

Les, who we had met in Renmark: he is paddling the length of the Murray River but had to take a break for heart surgery! He was in Canberra and along to see the team make those final few steps. It was great for the whole team to catch up with him and his wife once more.

John and Dawn Wilson were honoured guests.

Many of us stayed longer to enjoy this beautiful spot.

Throughout the day there was light rain, something to enjoy.

Such a perfect end to this extraordinary journey.

After the crowds dispersed, photographer Prabhakar Street stayed with the "Dreamer of Peace" for several hours. A gallery of his photos follows...