Monte Urgull

This is the view from just outside our hotel in San Sebastian - although it's fading into the sky a bit in this photo, you can just make out the dramatically placed Christ statue on Monte Urgull, the hill at the end of the bay that overlooks the sea on one side and the old town (hidden behind the modern buildings from this angle) on the other.

From our place at Punta Monpas we headed into town along the seafront, a great walk as you get to see the surfers in action at pretty much any time of day, from dawn until it's totally dark (they seem happy to surf in the half light). From the end of Zurriola beach it's a short stroll into the old town, so we headed in and found a place that was open for breakfast. Most of the old town haunts are bars and a few are quite posh but we managed to find a pretty basic cafe where we got something veggie - an omlette inside a fresh half-baguette - which was just what we needed.

The old town itself is hectic in the evenings but serene during the day, a great place to wonder around or take a coffee in Constitution Square (formerly a bull ring - the balconies are all numbered as they were rented out like boxes in a theatre to watch the "action"). We couldn't pass the Santa Maria church without a visit so although there was a charge we coughed up and went inside. It had a very powerful atmosphere and an interesting museum of statues and paintings through the centuries. Many came in while we were there - a party of novice nuns and quite a few Camino pilgrims as well as tourists. The church has an amazing facade but it's in the old town with high-sided narrow streets all around so the only way to photograph it is from down the can see the wooded slopes of Monte Urgull behind.

Next we started the climb, taking a road just to the left of the church that wound up the hillside past the convent of St Theresa then zig-zagged around Monte Urgull. There were numerous signs to forts, gun emplacements, even the English Cemetary, but none mentioning a statue or church. We were a bit surprised but we just kept hiking up the hill until we finally came to the fort at the top. Here we discovered that the statue that dominates the view from down in the town has actually been built right on top of the old fort - the scene of bombardments and bloodshed is now covered by a "sacred heart" image of Christ and you can feel the difference in conciousness that it brings.

I was brought up as a quaker but didn't really feel any connection with Christ until I became Sri Chinmoy's disciple and began to lead a life of prayer and meditation. Krishna, The Buddha and Christ were all sources of inspiration that Sri Chinmoy drew on in his teaching so I began to make that "connection" with all three - and other more modern spiritual masters such as Sri Aurobindo and Sri Ramakrishna - through following the path of yoga spirituality. It culminated for me at one of Sri Chinmoy's Peace Concerts in the Riverside Church in New York, where I vividly felt the presence of Christ in the church while Sri Chinmoy was playing the pipe organ. An experience I had never expected to have in this lifetime!

Here on Monte Urgull it was another chance to feel that Christ-Consciousness in the statue, to briefly meditate at the hilltop before we rested on a bench overlooking San Sebastian before heading back down to the old town. The statue is a "sacred heart" image, Christ opening his chest to reveal the living heart within, at the same time making the sign of benediction with His other hand (two fingers upward, two downward, which to me means "as above so below"). I was reminded of our hike at Buddhanilkanta where we felt a life energy entering into the statue of Lord Vishnu as the devotees washed and garlanded Him - also of the trek up to Doi Suthep to see the temple filled with golden Buddhas. None of these compare for me with the feeling I get at our own "temples" of Aspiration Ground and Pujaloy, but they are reminders of the universality of the spiritual life, the immanence of the Supreme in all things (especially where human devotion calls that consciousness forward and makes it more tangible).

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