by Linda Ayres
Meet Suprabha Amy Beckjord of Transendence-Perfection-Bliss of the Beyond
On June 7th, Suprabha Amy Beckjord of Transcendence-Perfection-Bliss of the Beyond will celebrate 35 years of having a gift shop in Cleveland Park.
Born in Schenectady, New York, she moved with her family to California, then Pittsburgh and Belgium. Her family finally settled in Northwest Washington and, after graduating in 1978 from Bennington College where she studied painting and printmaking, she moved here, too.
The Early Days
At first, she worked in a frame shop and then had a small studio on the grounds of the Washington Cathedral where she could immerse herself in her painting. But she missed spending time with other people and got the idea of opening a gift shop in 1983. The original location of her first shop, Visions of Beauty, was a block north of her current location on Connecticut Avenue, within walking distance of her home. The shop was in what is now the dining room of Laredo’s (on the corner of Ordway), with a gallery and a private meditation center on the upper floor. The gift shop allowed her to continue her artistic pursuits in the items she selected for the store and the displays she created. She has always loved cards and paper and is especially attracted to items related to Asia.
Mrs. Mazza (for whom Mazza Galleria is named) owned the entire block. Suprabha remembers her as a wonderful, petite, and stylish woman. Mrs. Mazza sold the building in 1990, and Suprabha began to look for a new location. She began at Chevy Chase Circle and worked her way down Connecticut Avenue. When she stopped at the Roma, Mr. Abbo pointed at a banner that had just appeared across the street, indicating that the former Christian Science Reading Room was available.
An Oasis from the Cacophony of the City
Suprabha loves Cleveland Park and feels fortunate to be part of the community. She is particularly fond of her long-time customers, many of whom have become friends. People come in with their kids and tell them how they came in as children to buy stickers or other fun things.
Transcendence is an oasis from the cacophony of city. The colorful and serene shop sells more greeting cards than anything else; it’s hard to keep them in stock. The kid’s area, with its toys and books, is another highlight and gives her “a lot of joy.” And then there is jewelry, incense, chimes, and candles. It’s a delight to wander around the store to find just the right gift for any occasion or to treat yourself to something. Suprabha, often dressed in a colorful sari that goes with the nature of the store, is the smiling, quiet presence behind the counter, greeting everyone who walks through the door.
Behind the Name
Some people come in because of the name of the store to see what is inside. What is behind the unusual name? People were calling Visions of Beauty hoping to schedule hair appointments, so Suprabha began to look for a new name. When Sri Chinmoy, a spiritual teacher with whom she studied for 40 years, visited the store in 1984 while in Washington to lead a meditation at Congress, he suggested the name of Transcendence-Perfection-Bliss of the Beyond.
“This was a special name that embodied a part of his philosophy that resonated with me,” said Suprabha. “It inspired me to make the store better. I want to offer a place that is peaceful and positive where people can find things or just visit.” Chinmoy, who died in 2007, was a writer, composer, and athlete, and also an artist. Cards based on his paintings (with names such as Grace, Compassion, Forgiveness, Dream, and Happiness) are among those sold in the store.
Chinmoy inspired his students not only to meditate but to be active. Suprabha belongs to an international marathon team and has participated in many long-distance runs. “Transcendence is an idea you can apply to any aspect of your life, like housekeeping. If you take the time to scrub and clean, it increases your consciousness and gives you a good feeling. No one can take away your own achievements,” she observes. Sri Chinmoy also gave her the spiritual name of Suprabha after about six years of her studying with him.
She is involved in improving the community, serving on the board of the Cleveland Park Business Association and contributing to the upcoming Uptown Shuffle community dance party.
Suprabha has seen many changes since she opened the store. Gift shops across the city – and across the country – have closed. As for Cleveland Park, she says, “I feel hopeful. It still has enough small businesses to feel like a neighborhood. It’s still a personal place. I feel honored and privileged to serve the people of Cleveland Park and to have had my store for so many years.”