Amma, a year after the hug

On the walk between from the pizza place to the ice cream shop one afternoon this week, I spotted a poster advertising the Chicago visit from Amma, sometimes known as the “hugging saint.” The boys and I veered over to check it out. She was in town, and leaving the next day, so we would miss seeing her. “Oh, I remember Amma! She’s here?” Charlie asked. “Again? Does she just travel around everywhere hugging all the people?”

Yes, as a God-realized master living as an embodiment of the Divine Mother (my impression of her) that’s exactly what she does. ( So, being that we saw her almost exactly a year ago, it seems fit to post the journal entry I wrote following our encounter with Amma. The impact from seeing her has been surprisingly profound and, for the record, wondrously lasting.

Written July 3, 2011:

I’ve always wanted to meet a master, someone who lives in the material world and has God coursing through his or her veins. My guru is no longer living, so although the experience of his presence is very much alive in meditation, I’m intrigued by the idea of a hands-on encounter with a God-realized master, in the flesh. I finally had my chance last week and, surprisingly, the moment of meeting her and receiving a hug from her paled in intensity compared to the experience of simply being there. The hug was cool, but I didn’t feel much at the time.

However, the love in that ballroom! The huge space was filled with hundreds of people wearing the most honest smiles I’ve ever seen in bulk. Every gaze I met was returned, magnified with love and peace. I arrived intending to buy lunch and eat with the boys while we waited for our darshan (blessing), but I had no desire to eat after five minutes in the room—the energy was so amplified that food became inconsequential. Also, I didn’t feel tired, which was shocking to me, as I’ve been exhausted for three straight years. Charlie, 3, intently watched Amma hugging people on the video screen and Kip, 1, stared at the musicians performing the kirtan (devotional chanting with music.)

When we finally met Amma, I kneeled before her and my hand started shaking on the armrest, but apart from the unexpected current of energy flowing presumably from her to me and surfacing in the twitch of my right hand, I didn’t feel much else during my darshan with Amma. Someone had grabbed my two children from me and, although I saw her wrap Kip in her left arm, I had no cognition of Charlie sitting on Amma’s lap beside me until a new friend recounted what he’d seen on the screen during our hug. I inhaled her heady aroma (Was it jasmine? Was it gardenia? Was it rose?), I listened to her repeat “My daughter, my daughter, my daughter” over and over again, and I felt her pull me so tight, so close and, I think, maybe kiss my two kids before shoving three Hershey’s Kisses in my palm and releasing us to her handlers, who abruptly lead us to a nearby spot on the rug so we could sit in Amma’s presence.

I didn’t feel like the woman sobbing in meditation on the floor beside me. Nor was I as sweetly ecstatic as the man who’d ushered my boys and me to the front of the line when he saw the kids growing impatient and unruly. Nor did I feel compelled to buy devotional photos or jewelry blessed by her. In fact, directly after our hug, the boys started melting down simultaneously so, embarrassed, I whisked them off to the stroller and made a beeline for the door.

But now, a week later, I sense a smoothing of myself. I feel a strange new inclination to love on contact and without condition, and this love magically extends beyond my own dear ones. I’m still unsure of how to explain it, but say I encounter a checker at the grocery store. I’ve always been one to strike up a conversation pretty much everywhere I go, but now it’s different. Now I actually feel love for the checker. As yet, I’m not going around telling strangers I love them, although I personally had tears in my eyes when the elderly woman in the walker told me and my boys she loved us seconds after we shook her hand last weekend. Still, I’m not 90 yet, so people would just think me crazy if I went around verbally declaring love for all. And if I am a little crazy, so what? Because, so far, this crazy feels crazy good.

However, the really inexplicable thing is the new way I find myself interacting with children. Almost as soon as I make eye contact with a child I’ve never met—it seems to happen with kids of any age from about one to 10—the child smiles. I hope I’m not jinxing it because it’s the hugest joy I’ve probably ever experienced. Going way back, I’ve always felt like I’ve had to work really hard to get kids to like me. I wasn’t ever shiny and beautiful enough to attract young people’s attention without some effort. And now, I’m not exaggerating, when I lock eyes with a child, I feel like I know that child, I honest-to-God love that child and that child smiles back at me with the radiance of a thousand lit candles.

The sheer overnight transformation into one who experiences instant love for almost everyone I meet, well, it feels like nothing short of a miracle. I still have a long road ahead as far as weeding out my judginess, but at least this is a sign that it’s in process.

I don’t know why this is happening or how to explain it rationally, but I do know that a.) It began right after receiving a hug from Amma, and b.) I’ve pondered it following meditation and, as a result, I attribute this new gift of a more loving me to the blessings I received from God, Jesus, my gurus and, yes, Amma, that day in the gigantic suburban hotel ballroom teeming with smiling devotees. So, instead of trying too hard to explain it, I choose to feel gratitude.

One thought on “Amma, a year after the hug

  1. “Weeding out judginess” is an interesting turn of phrase and helpful reminder. Judging too quickly and without sufficient context continues to appear on my self-report card as “needs improvement.”

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