As I mentioned in my last post, the author, Ted Zeff, is a follower of Amma and he mentions her a few times in his below mentioned book along with the healing power of touch & hugs for those with SPD.
We had seen a news piece on Amma; her teachings, message of unconditional love, hugging millions of people around the world and saying prayers for them. It sure sounded cool – someone selflessly going around hugging everyone spreading a message of love & hope. After more research we decided to experience it for ourselves & receive Amma’s Darshan (blessing) since she was going to be only a couple hours away.
We arrived early, received our token, and waited in line for about an hour and a half before being let into a large conference room barefoot. Once inside they had everyone gather and sit on the floor in lotus pose, preparing for Amma’s arrival and the start of a group meditation. My husband and I sat rather close to Amma’s center spot, while my mother, having knee problems, sat further back in a chair. There was a quiet but exciting buzz in the room. Some of her followers are a bit overzealous. Telling us that Mother knows all, sees the future, she will heal all, we will become followers and see her yearly once we receive her love & hug. I will admit I was kind of freaking out thinking what did we get ourselves into, is this some kind of cult? But once Amma entered the room, you could feel such a warm, positive energy, such excitement, and a low vibration. It was strange but neat. Amma radiates a peaceful glow and is very beautiful – pictures do not do her justice. Once she was seated they began the group meditation with a large stretched out Om chanted by all – which was so cool because you could feel this sound, the vibration was so intense, felt like it penetrated your entire body, fingers, toes, hair. Even my husband, who does not have any type of SPD issues, said he felt it quite strongly. It was amazing. So once the meditation was over they have people get in two lines in front of Amma. You kneel and crawl forward as you wait for your turn. My mom again having knee trouble was able to go first in a line for disabled people and she was not required to kneel or crawl, was able to sit in chairs and then stand/bend over for her embrace. I watched as she was hugged and they say Amma may offer extra prayers, hugs, etc if she feels inclined to do so and with my mom she grabbed her a second time and hugged her hard, praying for her. My mom started crying uncontrollably and said it was a very emotional experience for her and she doesn’t know why it made her cry. But it had an impact on her and she still talks about it. I started feeling anxious, not knowing what to expect or how I would feel. Then it was our turn. As we crawled forward, I felt so nervous, wondering will this make me cry like it did my mom? As we hit the front of the line, they take your token and you are guided forward into Amma’s arms. You lie across her lap kind of with your head to the side facing away from her on her shoulder and she wraps her arms firmly around you. In my hand Amma placed a flower, some candy, and hugged me deeply while rocking me and beginning a Hindu prayer I made a note of to remember, so I could look up what it meant later. Now my husband and I shared the same experience during our individual embraces – it felt like a boost of positive energy, and our minds went completely blank – no thoughts, no anxiety, everything went away – sounds, smell, time. At the time it felt as though I went limp in her arms and became a happy blob. I was the only one to receive the prayer I did, I don’t believe she said a prayer out loud for my husband, but said a different one for my mom. When I was home I looked it up and amazingly it applied to me, my situation at the time and a problem I was having.
When she is finished you are guided to the side where you can sit, reflect, recover, before being urged to the back of the room to peruse her store, pray in the empty seats or on the side of the room, to the cafeteria for a Vegetarian lunch with water blessed by Amma, elsewhere to wait for one of her other programs (yoga, meditation, etc.), to watch others being embraced, or to leave if you wish. We visited her store and purchased a few items – a sandalwood mala, prayer card, and I bought a silver OM pendant blessed by Amma. Then we headed to the cafeteria for the lunch, which was impressively good. If I recall correctly, it was Dal, a lentil curry, with rice and vegetables.
Now having SPD, I had some concerns about this entire experience beforehand, one of which was germs – yes, I am a germaphobe and seeing video of Amma’s shoulder completely stained with tears, dirt, oil from many people was alarming, which is why we were one of the first to arrive – I wanted to be one of the first ones in contact with her to avoid germs as much as I could. lol Another concern was the energy of so many people, the noise, the smells. I do recall there being some light scent of incense or sandalwood, but not enough to bother me more than passing irritation. Everyone was instructed to be quiet and meditate or pray while waiting, so it was rather quiet the entire time, I think overall we were there 4 or 5 hours. The energy in the room and from everyone was amazing – it was positive & bright the entire time, without being overstimulating. I would go again to explore the experience more, and in this day and age, who couldn’t use unconditional love, a blessing, prayers, or a hug?! Does it make me want to become a regular follower, no. I am not fond of any type of organized religion, nor do I follow any one particular religious path or leader. But I am a very spiritual person that prays and meditates often. I consider myself open to many teachings and ways, but would consider myself Agnostic.
Anyway, this was a memorable, positive experience. Sometimes, having SPD I back out of plans, hide from overstimulation, but sometimes, I have to remind myself to get out and experience new things even if a little scary; sometimes they are valuable and full of insight.