Feb 17, 2014

Thunder Hug. My Experience With A Saint... Amma.

Thunder Hug. My experience With A Saint. Amma.
February 14, 2014. Full Moon.

   Passing cashew, Eucalyptus, Rubber Tree groves and coffee plantations, I had heard of your thunderous embrace.  Passing green Muslim mosques calling to Allah, mysterious women in black burqas, endless Durga Temples protected by golden lions, rickety rickshaws with swasthika stickers, oxen pulling to large of barrels of hay,  rows of old growth coconut trees, women in elaborate sari’s carrying bright clay pots on their heads… families of 6 on motorbikes & free roaming cows blocking the streets we approached you.  We went through it all, the unknown, and many life times it feels… to find you on this Indian pilgrimage… a “Bharata Yatra”.

   Mamamamama.  I can hear you screaming into my ears. You are somewhere between the clamor pushing out discord and a resonant harmony so striking it penetrates my core, my pores, my being as I leave the Arabian coastal city Mangalore and write about you… Sarva Mangalam! Jai Durga! I  am still light on my feet. I barely stand on the earth. You, “she”… a powerful Saint in a very small, ambrosia smelling Indian body. She is “Amma”, whom many people feel to be the living embodiment of Kali in all of her honey. Amma’s mission is to hug each “child”, all over the world. I too received the ego shattering embrace. I was thrusted (quite literally) into her bosom and heart. I trembled. I felt like a little girl. She had adopted us all. There was no self consciousness. We were rattled  with comforting Mother energy. I am an innocent child, bewildered & enraptured by the shakti moving through Matha Amritanandamayi , (pronounced aMA) the fierce warrior hugging Saint. 

 I heard she would be just hours away from us on a very auspicious, “Guru Poornima” day ( a full moon, Valentines Day & my birthday) and although India can be very intense when Saints visit, it felt clear the trek would be made. It was estimated that 1 “lok" (100,000) people would come over the course of 2 days to Mangalore alone in 100’f heat and a full moon. India often feels like a beautiful catastrophe.  From my Western conditioning that I am here “unconditioning”, this is not  ideal conditions that I can quickly change and make more comfortable by dropping down some money or karmic merit. So, I breath. I am determined. “Jayanti” I keep telling myself, which means “personal victory over the mind”. Yes, Jayanti. I like this pursuit. I do not want to live with a reckless, immature, unruly mind. Lady Ruth told me one time she had to take a canoe and then swim to see Amma many years ago to see her in Kerala. I can do this.  I will do the best I can.

   Each time I come to India I feel a particular lesson disproportionately presented since proportions here are multi-faceted and over the top. The one this trip has been the patience & more refined reigning of my mind. I remember our Yoga Sutras philosophy teacher here, Nrisimha saying, “you are only unable to  experience contentment  (Santosha), which is our natural state, when you rely on the external conditions alone to gauge your happiness. By doing so you are always dissatisfied or pushing time forward to get out of that which you thought would make you happy, as well as reverting back to a past memory which is no longer”. 

   The patience tests, which have been challenging me each morning at the Ashtanga Yoga Shala with Sarath in Mysore, worked their way into me at her ashram too, where we waited 10 hours with unbelievably unreal amounts of other humans in serious heat & no movement. There were many times that my mind, currently in training, wanted to collapse, to give in. There were indeed a few times I felt as though I would faint. We had gotten there so early. We did not eat all day. Water was hard to come by. So was a restroom, or moving out of the crowd, or your spot. All the things on the “outside” were not “perfect”. 

   With the help of my "Sadhana", spiritual practices, understanding the nature of my ego has assisted me with programmed restlessness. Also, in traveling, you get to know yourself well. The ego mind is really quite predictable once you catch onto it. Harnessing it continuously poignantly that day, the mental grips became weak. Things were not so inflated with life and death anymore. (the ego is so dramatic, isn’t it? Also, another obvious predictable sign it is trying to play lead role. It makes such a big deal out of everything). 

   In India and in the Hindi language, often things are repeated twice for emphasis . I have been doing it here. It helps.  I repeated “Jayanti. Jayanti” “Victory over my mind. I have victory over my mind”. It’s quite a game to start really getting in their with your mind once you stop all the external stimuli that distract you from what you mind defaults to amidst challenge or discomfort. Jayanti.

   Amma, the “hugging Saint” is said to speak all languages and dialects. Her devotees say there is not a language that she can not speak. Even at the Satsang talk itself she spoke 5 tongues in two hours & stayed until everyone was hugged, far into the next day. Her well rounded teachings emphasized the importance of loyal, trustworthy leadership, claiming that our world has very little of it at this time, and that it was up to us to provide it. She also stated that children with mental disorders comes from lack of love in their homes and that loving is the most important act we can offer an intelligent society. She spoke of how unruly our minds have become and how this leaves us so susceptible to being mentally disturbed. She also stated we must move beyond skin and culture and that even a rainbow is not the beautiful various colors that we see. It is actually one color and that we are all rivers, lakes and streams entering into the ocean together. Amma herself travels the world offering Seva. I was very impressed with her education & intelligence amidst the enveloping love of the atmosphere.

   Steeped in a love sedated vibration she lead us in bhajans (love songs) to Kali. At first my mind was thinking…”oh boy, we are calling on Kali? Here we go! This is going to be quite a ride!” I have often found that when being around beings with extremely high vibrations the level of  “stuff” that comes pouring out of you is also quite shocking.   The shock quickly subsided though as the “taking  over” became utter benevolence. I was in the essence of captivation. How could one resist? I felt I was “held” captive by overwhelming electrical currents of force. The “stuff” (mind fluctuations), while singing, would come up strongly, and then melt into nothingness. Into Love we went. I was thrown into surrender, unattached to anything, nor concerned about it. I melted into Kali and for the first time found that energy to be utterly effervescent & delightful. I  (small i, the ahamkara & “manas" mind) was knocked out. 

   Amma had asked us to “please be warriors of Love. Sleigh and overcome your demons. Be victorious over them.” She said “please”, but then it wasn’t like we had a choice. We were sitting there, under a spell. One of the Kali songs was so intense that I felt uneasy & out of my skin. Something  heavy was building like a pressure vacuum and then it lifted into such airiness. I was suddenly “in” and felt no separation from anything.  I was inside all of the colors, people, sounds & her. There was no such thing as fear, impatience or worry there at all. I was done for at that point. Utter ananda. Yes, there is Sat-chit-but mostly Ananda!

   The way Amma would sing and throw up her arms and the way she would scream, (or more so screech to many realms of known & unknown plains of existence)  “Kali Ma” so loudly… it was like no other I have experienced. It felt a bit prickly. like walking into a dark, unknown space alone.  It was clear she had a relationship with the Divine Mother and was really calling her in. Kali was coming. And then she was here.  I could feel the atmosphere thicken & we were bathing in it. We were sedated, elated and swooning in Kali like all of the pictures you see of Kali Ma/Durga Ma as she stands naked, drunk, enraged and free.

   After the 8th hour, it was our allotted turn to go stand in line for a hug after very beautifully moving dharma talks and kirtan from Amma. I slightly came back to my senses enough to realize this. I could barely stand at that point, let along “understand” anything. My legs were shaking. I was light headed, out of my body and in an altered state, yet I hadn’t even received the purpose of the event yet…. the “darshan" (close interaction with a Saint, as to “see” as they do, and in this case… the “hug”.)! Standing there, trembling, many “helpers” of Amma all in white gave us loving pushes. There was much urgency after such a drawn out day out of time…. and then suddenly I had a Swami’s hand on my crown and was thrusted into her chest, were I collapsed. I felt so instantaneously expansive that I sobbed with pure love, not for my own personal suffering at all (which was so insignificant at that point) which was long gone, but for any being suffering or having had suffered overall. 

  Before this happened, I had a “plan” to the proper way to approach a high teacher but what came spilling out in the moment was simply an organic “thank you. thank you. thank you”. My voice was of such a deep young essence as I heard the words come out.  I shook in raw, unadulterated, uninhibited sincerity.
 In English she said to me…” you are MY child. you are MY child. you are MY child. You are always protected, never threatened, never unsafe, my child. Continue to be love my child”. It was just what I needed to hear for many personal reasons to a story long forgotten but still there deep and past. Many of us often have issues about growing up, don’t we? I felt completely accepted and whole. Then as forcefully as I was thrown into her with poignant, direct purpose I was peeled out of her heart in a drunken child like mess of gooey goodness.

   The helpers grabbed me again to help me walk and find my steps. I didn’t know where my feet where, my company, my belongings, my shoes, my mind… and they kept saying “stage. stage. take her to the stage. Amma wants her to go to the stage”. It suddenly seemed so very official and organized where I was just in ecstasy and wanted to return. My body, light as liquid and still out of this world (and really loving it) was escorted and directed to sit just behind Amma, “Amma’s orders” I was told. “Sit on the stage close to her.” So of course this was what I did. She does this to guests sometimes, has them get closer to her, so I sat down. I somehow figured out how to cross my legs into a lotus position with my white sari on, seated right behind her. Once my mind figured out what was going on every ounce of my being was smiling in pure joy. “How did I suddenly get here”? I thought. I was like a child in candy land….Amrita land….purely delighted and very drunk. As I looked around me at those near her also, it was unanimous.

   I was behind the entire scene now. Those of us there were on “the other side”, on the stage. It was quite a light show. In Sanskrit, they call this the “Lila Avalokam”, which means “behind the workings of the great play of matter”. I watched every moment of Amma and how she handled each child. Each one so differently and purposefully, and with no “I” to her. It wasn’t really “her doing” anything. I watched how each person approached her. How they looked at her. What they needed. Where they hurt.  When they felt insignificant. When they felt underserving but still yearning for that love. I saw what they suffered. I had many spontaneous convulsions of cries and grief for the same sufferings we humans all feel and how vivid it was in that moment. I saw what they were grateful for. How they respected her and needed a true Mother to respect and trust. How youthful and joyous they became. My satisfied Soul, so thrilled, suddenly swelled too. Any rigidity had gone from us all. 

  I watched it all from a different angle this time. It was all very obvious and clear. I watched deeply how someone offering pure love affects others so strongly. I watched how much it meant to them to offer her a gift for the gift she gave and how that all got cycled right back into her giving again because she didn’t take anything or need anything except for each of us to know that we are loved.

  In being around "super humans" in our perception as such,  I think it worthy and valuable to also discern ("Viveka" in Sanskrit) and question any teacher or Saint. I have been around numerous effective spiritual leaders that truly have done their work and are kind, intelligent and inspiring....living the teachings. I have also been around some leaders/teachers more concerned with themselves & the powers they are cultivating than serving or generating the impersonal teachings for everyone to exceed. There was no denying the lucid, brilliant level of shakti I was surrounded by as I had the direct chance to observe it so closely.  I needed to know it was this possible. There was  no room for doubt. The actual "beingness" of Grace there. 

   I think one thing to also remember in bathing in the transmission of rare beings such as this, that although she (or any "one" person) was not the Source of Divine Love, Divine Love was by far the most all consuming, moving, powerful thing moving through her. It was honestly the most Love I have felt from any living being or human. She was a channel of Divine love and it flowed right through her and into us, hitting us all by storm.

    I was so intoxicated at times I would become confused & my logical mind would try to intervene. “Do I need water? Do I need to find a bathroom? What am I suppose to be doing here? Why do I deserve this? I feel strange… overtaken… is this actually real and pure?” followed by the far more all pervading thoughts of “this is Supreme Love. This is what it feels like when you don’t need anything. This is what it feels like when you realize you lack nothing…when you merge into the Source of all things, when you are One (not just understanding the concept). And this is what you do when you get there, when you feel you are Love itself. This is exactly what that looks like when it is pure…” 

   Aha… this is why I was there. Suddenly I felt tapped into some kind of teaching of Divine orchestration. “This is what you do when you get there, dear swan... this is Love in full embodiment. Remember... keep none just for ourselves. Share it. Be generous. Generate more of the same. It is not an idea. It is Real." There is no question of trust at this point. I was watching the possibilities and the power behind Real Love at it’s very essence… and it is not personal. It was a “nirguna”, Highest level but impersonal experience. She loved everyone, all beings beyond their form & with great compassion for their struggle. Everyone cracked to their degree of readiness. None of us had a choice, no matter what our karma was that day, Saint or laden with the guilt of wrong acts, stricken by pain or lack of worth. This was a grounded merge of Divine & matter.

   Being on the stage with her for hours, physically at arms reach, right by her, directly guided, new ideas started to consume me. New desires of hope, encouragement, service and greater love swelled within me with pure delight. Love is clearly more powerful and bountiful than hate and must be circulated. I could “see” it more clearly and from a perfect angle, more than ever before. And humans really want to trust, deep down. We need to be a loving source that others can trust. That is true “darshan”. I really got the darshan. The currency of Love fills us, all consuming and beyond the beyond.

   It was a thunder embrace. I am still embraced, I am flying from it. Getting thrust into the bosom of Grace was not something I thought was coming when I booked my flight for India , but when I get home, I too want to develop my skills and practice the art of profound thunder hugging. Of course, in humility I also await, in due time to evolve this because the more work I do I see the work it takes to be consistent, well established, grounded  & truly effective. I also know the work, which is love made visible, magnetizes the experiences of something Real our Soul craves & desires to share. 

   I remember Sharonji quoting Shyam Das on our Jivamukti Yoga & Bhakti Yoga trip in Mumbai with Jules Febre & Radhanath Swami…”Whatever you do, do not go to that river of thrust and flow that is Love (the Yamuna River as she was speaking of in this case, in Vrindavan) or you will never come back. It will have you.” And Amma kept hugging, and giving, and crying and embracing the world, on and on, endlessly. There was no limit to it. The Love kept going and going and pouring out, all into the night.  We were struck by thunder with the Love Embrace. Sat-chit-but mostly Ananda. Thank you Matha Amritananda Amma.


  1. Replies
    1. Hi Michele!!!
      I feel you! Hugs and Love-- she's got it And Gives!!!! I've been thinking about Amma so much -- and correspondingly, with our parting conversation more so then ever! She does not seem to concern herself with who is exalted only that we all are travel there with Love.
      Love to you! Ha! Shannon

  2. My dear SwaMichelle, after yoga class David B. and I met at Satsumas, and he shared with me your experience with the "hugging Saint, Amma. We both sing in great joy of your iniation to this pure bhakti love ...so thunderous that it rattled our souls across the seas and we celebrate this gift to you. When I read your words tears streamed down my cheeks and I thought about the learned phrase and meaning behind, the simple knowing of " and then I sat by the river and wept". We are one Great river of joy, pain, Love, Shakti, Durga, All...and it's so beautiful and healing...I put my arms around you SwaMichelle and celbrate your awakening..thanking the heavens for this dharma talk from you .Travel well my dear friend.

    1. Such moving embraces... these comments. Oh my goodness! The Love! Thank you thank you 1008 times, directly into your arms.