Amma Spelled Another Way Might Be Mama

 

During yoga teacher training, I was going deeper and deeper in my meditations. I felt I needed a mentor to help me understand what I was experiencing. I asked my teacher for a recommendation for who I might go to for help.  He said he would think about it.

The next time, we were together he handed me a clipping from Yoga Journal of Amma and her tour schedule in the U.S.  He had Boston circled. To say I was surprised was an understatement. I expected the name of a teacher who I might enroll in classes or private sessions for instruction.

Imagine my further surprise to learn that Amma is an avatar, an incarnation of the divine. What was I supposed to do with this?

The Boston date coincided with my wedding anniversary, so the next best date for me  acquaint myself with Amma was Friday, July 20, 2007 in Toronto, Canada.

A friend and I drove six hours the day before in order to be there and fresh prior to morning darshan.  We drove for much of the trip, in heavy rain in the dark. I never felt fatigued or frustrated which is amazing since we left after work and I do not care for driving in either of those conditions.

After checking into the Sheraton Hotel where Amma would hold darshan and settling in for the night, I slept soundly.  We had to rise early the next morning to reserve a place in line. Darshan (a blessing received from a divine being) was to begin at 10 am. By 8 am, the line was getting long and tokens for entrance weren’t to be given out until 9 am. 
My friend and I were standing in this line of a hundred or so people when a man volunteering for Amma came to us and to the two women wearing saris in front of us. He invited the four of us to be at the head of the darshan line. This was a major privilege as there would be thousands waiting to receive Amma’s hugs and blessings. 

We were so excited to be chosen. We were each given an orange circle sticker to wear to indicate we were first-timers to Amma’s darshan. Then waiting at the front of the line, we were invited to be among the only 12 in the Question line (when we could present a request to Amma) and the only 10 in line to receive a spiritual name from Amma personally.

We entered the ballroom shoeless eager for this new experience. Unfortunately, the spiritual name plan was aborted, but i did get to ask my question in turn. We were coached to request in our questions not for healing, but for the higher Good. I asked for the higher Good for two of my friends suffering from breast cancer.  Amma gave me ashes from a puja (sacred worship ceremony) to give to them. My friends were to rub the ashes on their chests before bedtime.

At 10 a.m., the Sheraton’s ballroom was full to capacity. We knelt by Amma while hundreds of others were seated in many rows of chairs.  Amma began with meditation. We were squushed together between blue lines taped to the ballroom floor sitting knee-to-knee. We were asked to sit erect and to breathe. We completed the meditation by chanting three AUMs. We were also asked to wipe down our faces with a tissue helpers provided. On knees, we moved up in line patiently waiting our turn for one of Amma’s famous hugs.

When it was my turn, I was asked my native language. “English,” I said.  My friend’s is Polish. Finally, I arrived to this Hindu saint. I was then coached to kneel in front of her,  place my hands on the arms of the chair in which she was seated.  With quick movement, she took my head to her chest, the side of my face pressed hard against her . She held me in a vice lock of a hug. She spoke softly and continuously into my ear in a language I could not understand. When she had completed what she told me, she released me, then held me back again holding me tighter, chanting quietly in English  “my daughter, my daughter, my daughter” and gave me three kisses on my cheek. To my friend, she concluded with “mama, mama, mama. Then I was quickly helped to stand to leave the line making room for the next person.

Amma did this for all those who knelt in line. It was a continuous river of bodies from 10 am until 4 p.m.–one after the other, no breaks. Even during the few moments she was being interviewed by a television journalist,  Amma continued to hug and bless each person and family who came to her. Families were taken as a whole.

The hug was amazing! I have never had one so intense. What I felt is still imprinted within.  My only wish is that I could have understood what she spoke in my ear. 
I thought it might be a prayer, but one of the sari-wearing ladies we befriended understood the language and told me what Amma told her (and i paraphrase here)– “not to worry about your family issues, you have everything you need and everything will be all right.” It was more detailed than this, but with accents and the level of noise in the room, I missed some of the information.

The previous year,  I received darshan from Mother Meera in a church in Manhattan. It was entirely different–very controlled, orderly, silent and “don’t get too close.” We were instructed that children would receive the blessing through their parent, that they were not to be in line. Waiting for darshan there, I kept nodding off in my place in a pew in the midsection of the church. I could not stay awake. (Sometime later, a lady who works for a spiritual advisor I consulted,  told me that often the conscious mind has to get out of the way for the work to take place. For Mother Meera’s darshan, I knelt in front of her. She placed her hands on my head and gazed directly and silently into my eyes. In the foyer of the church at her event, there were tables of photos, books and jewelry all with her image on them.  All was silent and hushed.

Amma’s event was a festival. There are vendors all around the room and more outside in the hallways. There was food, jewelry, beautiful saris with gold woven through ranging from $600 to more than $1600, other Indian clothing, photos of Amma, gifts she’s received, jyotish, radiant healing, herbs, incense, cds, dvds, books, chair massage, plants, essential oils– the list is long. Her volunteers sell these to raise money for her humanitarian activities, There is always the chaotic noise and activity of a fair-like atmosphere when Amma is in session, an experience truly joyful!

NOTE: The original clipping that I received stands in a frame looking out over all our yoga classes. It is a presence and a reminder of my journey.

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