Amma’s Grace

I arrived to Amma’s ashram on a Monday, exhausted from a sleepless 14 hour train ride after just  finishing  a ten day silent Vipassana meditation course.

A bit dazed by all the travel after an intense experience in meditation and silence I arrived to joyful people all around dressed in white, fetching water, in and out of temples and wondered where on earth I was and what I was doing here.

After registering I was assigned a room.  Exhausted and carrying my bags, I took the painfully slow lift (thanking God there was an elevator) up to the 11th floor.  I walked in to three 2 inch rubber mattresses on the floor and thought to myself: I can’t do this, I just had ten days of austerity, ten hours of daily meditation, no dinner, 4 a.m. wake up calls, a vow of silence, simple dormitories and I’m going to stay here?!  My natural inclination to run away  was so present at that very moment.  I felt myself desiring a nice hotel room with really nice bathrooms and easy access to great food and complete freedom again.

Frustrated, yet trying to make the best of it in a purely external way so that I could match all the happy faces, I went for a tour or my new temporary home.  The tour starts with a 20 minute video where you learn about Amma and all of her humanitarian works.  Ten minutes into the video I start bawling my eyes out.  Here is this tireless woman consoling victims of disaster who lost loved ones,their homes, there villages…dedicating her whole life, every moment of every day to service for others and here I am complaining about my sleeping situation.  I felt my privilege thrown in my face.

I walked around the ashram with everyone sharing stories about Amma and felt myself a skeptic in a sea of devotees.  I was after all, only here because of my travel partner’s devotion to Amma – we had agreed to meet here.  Yet, underneath that guise of a reason I felt something else.   There was a greater grace behind me being here.

I came to India precisely to be uncomfortable.  I came here to scrape off this cakey gross stagnation I’d built up over the years.  I came here to find myself – the real me that’s beyond the superficialities I view as my identity.

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I sat with Amma on stage and again found myself crying – it was a longing, a loneliness, not for a lover necessarily but something more…a longing for union with God, with spirit.  I was so keenly aware of this pain of separation from an intimate communion with God at that very moment.  I felt as though I’d spent the past decade displacing this ardent desire onto my work, boyfriends or external pleasures that were merely like band-aids on a missing limb

I’m not saying that “I found it, I found the answer,” but I think I found the question.

The notion of spirituality being this warm blanket to cover you constantly is flawed – it’s actually the opposite, true faith tests you, rips your blanket off of you so that you cannot hide.  It is absolute truth and it’s not supposed to be comfortable.  In meditation one keeps shifting her body until you realize the point – you’re not supposed to be comfortable, the idea is for you to find comfort in your discomfort and realize the impermanence of every moment and be at complete peace with the uncertainty.

It’s not something you can just read about either.  “Knowledge is easy and cheap.  Once can accumulate as much as one wants, one can borrow it from others.  But wisdom is costly, very precious.  One has to pay for it with great effort, awareness, meditativeness.  Nobody can give it to you and nobody can take it away from you.  It is absolutely your individual effort that will release your wisdom.” -Osho

I read somewhere that gratitude is the highest form of prayer.  All I know is I am grateful to all of these experiences whether pleasant or unpleasant and that’s enough for now.

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  1. Cat Spot (@thecatspot) - December 29, 2013

    I love you and I love that you are doing this. We have to meet up in France ;)

  2. Christine | GRRRL TRAVELER - February 5, 2014

    I was borderline about visiting Amma when I was in Kerala. Saw her when I was living in NYC. That must’ve been an experience. She has a lot of devotees. Somehow getting to her ashram felt a little out of the way. Was it hard to get to ?

  3. jennifervera - February 5, 2014

    Yes, it’s one of those places you definitely have to have the intention to go to and there’s not much outside of the ashram but it is beautiful, there is a beach and there’s satsang when Amma is there and lots of singing. It’s primarily devotional so it tends to be louder and more lively than other ashrams. She does have tons of devotees from all over the world but it’s interesting to see her at home. She built the ashram on her home, her family lives there. You can get there via the train then an autorickshaw.