A Hug from Mother!

Kollam Travel Blog

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Leaving Shivananda and heading to Mata Amritanandamayi.



Last minute goodbyes.  Exchanging numbers and pipedream promises to visit.  Last yoga, satsan, and breakfast, then more goodbyes, hugs, final photos, then the 4 of us, Marc, Lucy, and I were off.  Without much of a plan and hearts full of hope, Ray, our taxi driver, took us Kollam to arrange a rice barge houseboat to take us to the Ashram.  Instead, we learned houseboats were unavailable.  ½ the group wanted to drive 2 hours to Alleppey to a get a boat.  I didn’t want to drive all the way up there.  So we opted for a compromise.  We rented a boat for an evening – 6:00 pm to 9:00 am.  Then hired Ray to stay the night and drive us 45 minutes to the Ashram in the morning.



The boat was simple, a one room barge made of bamboo thatch fastened by coconut twine.  Freed from the confines of the ashram, we gleefully jumped aboard the boat and laughed as we fell onto the maroon cushioned daybed.  As we motored away, the gentle Keralan backwaters pulled us all into mystical delirium.  We slowly drifted through the reflecting still water as the sunset, orange and yellow through the coconut trees.  As the sun found its resting place off the end of the world, and the mist slowly raised from the silky lake, we attempted to meditate for 30 minutes.  After fits of belly laughter, and many renewed attempts to meditate, we finally settled into our silence and the subtle rocking of the boat.  We came out of it with 3 “OMs”, still enwrapped in a blanket of peacefulness that hung from our shoulders.



Vegetarian dinner arrived a short while later, chapatti, coconut curry, ochre, fried onions, and breaded coconut dishes. 


Far too warm and breathtaking for indoor sleep, we pulled out the mattress on the deck and hung mosquito nets.  Then we climbed into our outside bed.  Just as we were falling to sleep, a PA system kicked up.  At first traditional, at midnight it turned to Indian techno and 80s American Rock.  Ever a place of contradiction.




After shaking ourselves awake and lounging in our sun beds watching the yellow morning sun break from the tree lined shore, we sailed to the middle of the lake sipping sweet black tea.

  Dropping anchor, we slipped into bathing suits and dove into the salty water.  We played for a while, and then boarded for coffee and omelets. 


Back in the car driving to the Matha Amrithanandamayi Mission, I ran over requests in my head.  I thought hard on the issues I was dealing with, my recent depression, sources of misery.  I recalled Maya, the girl in McLeod who told me about the lesson she learned from our Vipassana teacher ~ which she paraphrased as ~ when you have perfectly good ice cream in your freezer, but then you want a different flavor. You never get what you are looking for because you don’t know how to appreciate what you already have.” 


I thought of my moments of envy, how I left all that I had because I was “unhappy and unsatisfied”.

  I thought of my hunger for more and more, and never having enough.  I thought of Swami G’s lesson re contentment, balance, and union of the physical and astral bodies.  I recalled Vipassana and the source of misery ~ craving and aversions.  As we drove past small coconut trees sprouting from the desolation of the tsunami, of towns rebuilt from lives lost, I meditated on my dissatisfaction with the “little” things. 


I turned my attention to the work I was about to embark on, working with torture victims, what strength I would need, what faith I’ll need.  My weakness in believing in myself.  It occurred to me it’s not me I need to have faith in, but rather in that which will work through me.  So it was through these thoughts that my request was born.

  First as a shadow, but growing slowly into something tangible and real. 


Contentment – How could I help others without first feeling happy with my position, the fortune of my birth circumstances, and the sufficiency of my abilities to accomplish my goals?  Seeing the good and beauty in others, the gifts and reflections of the divine in others. 


Faith – How could I do work to help others without faith, not in my abilities, but rather in something larger, a universal truth that seeks justice over abuse, peace over war, contentment over greed. 


Still, I was afraid to ask in such a way as to curse myself with some unfortunate fate.  But here at the crossroads, with a porthole to the cosmic universe, I couldn’t simply avoid being decisive.

  I had to decide what I wanted to ask for – a safe comfortable existence or following the calling in my heart.


“When I’m ready, please reveal to me contentment and faith so that I may do some of God’s work in this life.”  This became my mantra.


We entered the Ashram at 10:15.  There was chanting, a line of Indian people, and an auditorium full of people.  We received a yellow ticket and told them we had only a short time.  They escorted up the ramp onto the stage where I saw her.  Sitting and hugging. I was nervous and excited.  I wasn’t expecting anything, but now here she was.  I knew little of her, but the energy in and around her was buzzing.

  I was last in our group up the stage but somehow, by the time we were called, they called me first.  As I stood there, I felt dizzy and nauseous.  In a line of people from both sides of the stage, I watched as some cried, some looked shaky, some talked with her as she smiled with openness and compassion.  The line inched forward and I was forced onto my knees.  Only 3 people away.  The mantra raced through my mind, over and over I repeated it, memorized it, and sent it up to the universe.


It’s my turn.  Shuffle before her on my knees.  My hand on her chair, my head is pushed from behind by the attendees, and it falls gently into her shoulder.


“Please reveal to me contentment and faith, when I’m ready, so I may do some of God’s work,” I say in my head.  Amma hugs me, releases me, and then pull me in again.  The mantra out, I relax, and in that moment I hear her utter some words I don’t understand, while I completely relax into the comfort and familiarity of her embrace.  Time stands still for that moment, the outside world fades away, my mind is quiet, I can feel Amma, but not my body.  I don’t know what I’m touching, lost awareness of my legs and my eyes. 


Then a hand touches my shoulder and I’m pulled back. Amma looks at me smiles, puts prassat into my hand, and its over.  Confused, I wander off stage left, and wait for the others.  But I’m buzzing now, my whole being is shaking from within and my spirit feels as if it’s rattling within each pore of my skin.  I cannot sit still and I want to meditate.  Mark, Lucy, and Jen appear smiling.  I failed do see that I could have sat on stage, but in my haze I simply wandered away… 


I’m still humming, but Marc runs into someone and is talking, the group is lagging, my insides are screaming.  I find a bench and sit alone in meditation with legs crossed.  My head to toes are pulsing.  I open my eyes to seen Jen and Lucy talking to a Prassat Queue woman asking them to distribute preset for Amma.  I’m invited along, but Marc is nowhere in sight.  Jen finds him and she bows out, so the 3 of us make our way back on stage.  They show us how to put the prassat in Amma’s hand.  In minutes I find myself back on the stage to assist her. 


Suddenly, I realize my mantra was answered.  I feel whole and happy sitting and meditation alone.  Moreover, I see that I am but a hand in much larger machinery, that my actions, perfect and imperfect, further something much larger than I can conceive.  Though I’m not “needed” I’m still a part, thus I see the interdependence, and I’m giving back to Amma in some small barely observable offering. 


I’m still dazed, still, “blissed out.”  At a side temple, I again quickly fall into comfortable peaceful meditation.  I open my eyes to see Marc and Lucy have left my side.  Slowly I settle back down and rejoin my companions.  Each of us finds our hearts wide open, so happy for one another, so much love for one another.  We sip fresh juice and buy a CD before heading back.


I don’t want to leave, but have prior Goa commitments. I hate goodbyes, and my heart closes a bit at the thought of leaving.  I would love to spend New Years with these 4; tell Marc I love him as a lifetime friend (though its been 5 days), to tell Lucy how much I admire and respect all she’s done, who wonderful and close I feel to her, tell Jen how amazingly warm, kind, and loving, and glowing she is, but I cannot find the words.  We hug goodbye at the train station and they disappear behind me as I climb the platform to my train. 


I am not sad, but loved every moment of my time with them.  I move on, we all move on.  I love them so profoundly for sharing this experience, for their friendship, for their openness and laughter and genuineness. 

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Leaving Shivananda and heading to …
Leaving Shivananda and heading to…
photo by: royalrider