Oh, Amma, I was so looking forward to your hugs this week. Little did I know what an ordeal the whole thing would be, and how ill prepared I was to deal with it.
The public program began at 7:30 p.m. I arrived an hour early to receive my "token," which sadly was Q10. I guess one needs to arrive very early indeed to obtain a decent place in line. The ballroom was beautifully decorated with colorful silken curtains, translucent lanterns, flowers, and the smells of delicious Indian food and incense. The volunteers were perfectly lovely, managing the crowd and answering questions. I tried to relax and go with the flow, but you know that's just not my style.
I listened attentively to the spiritual discourse, and loved that Amma said that when she sees a room full of people, she sees hundreds of colorful butterflies before her eyes. I love the concepts and philosophies she espouses: the interconnectedness of all things; the fact that we belong to the earth, and not vice versa; that we are not isolated islands, but we're all links in a great chain of being; that just as we strive to reach the stars, we should strive to bring "humanity" back to earth. She spoke about many contemporary issues, including the H1N1 virus, and the even more virulent "ego-virus," that threatens to obliterate our chances for any kind of peace on earth. She also spoke of the two most important days in our lives: the day you are born, and the day you understand why you were born (obviously most of us only get to experience the former). The program then evolved into about 90 minutes of rousing music, singing, and meditation. It was quite wonderful really. I only wish I was able to relax and experience it more fully.
The hugs, which are the main attraction, didn't even start until 10:30 p.m. Me being a modern, urban, impatient, anxiety-ridden person, I wanted to check in, get my hug, and check out. I was mindful enough that I went alone so that I could more easily reach a meditative state and be open to whatever emotions I might experience in the process, but by that point, I just wanted to cut to the chase and get my hug! I waited and watched, enjoyed the music, walked around the lobby, and kept checking in to see what number they were on. By 1:00 a.m., they were only on the "J" group! At that rate, it would be 3 or 4 am before they go to the "Q" group, and I just couldn't wait that long. I'd been there for almost 7 hours by that point, and I was exhausted and couldn't afford to miss work the following day, so I finally went home, hugless. :-(
I was quite disappointed, and almost felt like I'd had the exact opposite experience to what I should have had -- instead of experiencing the warmth and connectedness of Amma, I felt isolated and frustrated about the whole thing. Maybe the lengthy waiting is meant to be some kind of spiritual endurance test, which I am clearly not cut out for. Or, looking on the bright side, maybe this was just a trial-run for me, and I'll know better what to expect (and how to prepare) next time she comes to town. I did get a little Amma doll that I'd hoped to have her bless. I'd like to try again next year, now that I know what to expect. In the meantime, maybe I'll work on my meditation practice with my new BFF, who I'll call "Seymour" for now.