Last weekend, my friend and I went to Esher to see spiritual teacher Amma, who is famous for her humanitarian work, compassion, and giving out lots of hugs. Although she has an ashram in India, Amma also travels the world spreading the message of love at her many free events, talks, and group meditations.
This was my second experience with the hugging mother (my first hug was three years ago), and although on both occasions I didn’t have what I would call a life changing hug, or break down in tears as many people do, I did really enjoy the evening. But maybe it had more to do with the fact that there’s something quite lovely about lots of people meditating and meeting together in one space (even though the venue was Snowdon Park Racecourse) for a hug.
The evening began with a talk and group meditation, which is one of the things Amma was advocating — the power of meditating in a group. I’ve also heard similar things about the power of group meditation and also believe from first hand experience that there’s something quite magical about it. Amma didn’t give examples, but you can read more about the power of group meditation here.
I didn’t stay overnight this time, as we were kindly given a lift home by a family who lived close by to me (who also happened to be yoga teachers), but Amma does stay up hugging all the way through the night, which is impressive. I did, however, receive a mantra, which was interesting, as I know very little about mantra meditation, other than it could be described as another tool — like focusing on the breath — to help still the mind.
After we received our mantras, we joined a circle where we were instructed how to use them, and also had the opportunity to ask any questions. My friend asked what the process was for giving out the mantras — wondering if it had anything to do with the word we’d written down prior to receiving our mantra. For example, some people might have written a religious person or a word related to the divine etc.
The lady leading our group didn’t know and said that it was between you and Amma. I remember someone else at the end saying that you just have to trust. It got me thinking afterwards about finding the balance between letting go, trusting, and also being a bit skeptical (with spiritual practices in general).
One of my philosophy teachers in India during my second yoga teacher training used to say, “Put it in your pending confirmation file”, meaning, don’t be too quick to trust, agree, or form an opinion, but don’t yet outright dismiss what’s been said or taught until you have spent time with it.
In my article three years ago, I wrote Is Amma powerful purely because we want her to be, or is there really something different about her that must be worshipped like a God? Or is it that she helps the rest of us self remember and realise we are all essentially one collective consciousness?
I no longer have the same questions, because in many ways, the answers don’t matter. Some people are very clearly affected by their experiences with Amma and maybe there are no words to describe this, and to them answers or confirmation of the experience don’t matter. Others might have just had a nice hug that felt no different from any other.
Either way, once again, I’m grateful for the evening, my hug, and the chance to meditate with so many people.