I saw her on Thursday, May 24, at the Community Church of New York City for an individual blessing. I was on a train out of New Haven by 6:30 a.m. The multi-denominational church was lovely but as a venue it was very different from California. The people helping were very serious and not as personable. I don’t think there were more than 75 people there at 9 a.m., which is a vast difference from the hundreds that can gather in a U.S. individual blessing and, of course, the thousands that crowd to Her in India for the quickest of blessings.
It’s harder, suddenly, to describe how I feel about Amma, but I believe it’s because my perspective has shifted over the last two years. I’ve been seeing Her since the year 2000. Elizabeth was three the first program we attended in Berkeley. Since then, my relationship with Her, like my feelings, has transformed. In the beginning, there was so much healing to do. I felt like a broken jug full of mud, and Her presence was like a fantasy. I felt Her in my heart when I was with Her, and now and again I was reminded in dreams. But, I felt unworthy of Her attention and felt as though I had to bring something to Her each time I saw her. Like, if I didn’t bring Her a gift, She wouldn’t want to see me. So, She spent the first several years of our time together pouring out the mud, adjusting my life, removing stresses, prioritizing my views, and dispelling the many, many illusions I had created for myself without knowing it. She also began the quiet business of proving she was there to stay.
During my last visit with Her, in July of 2005, she worked on me diligently, as if She knew it would be an eventful time and I would need all the divine energy I would accept. Ma gives us the energy we need, re-energizing us each time we see her, and prescribing ways to maintain the ties in her absence … but She never forces more than we can handle. In this, She gave me the confidence to embrace an alternative to what I thought was a perfect trap at work. In fact, She gave me the insight to realize alternatives were even possible! I quit my job and we moved, leaving behind a downward economic spiral and incredible frustration and stagnancy on the job. In the past, a move like that was motivated by sheer nerve, something I’ve never been short of. This time it was faith. I was definitely too tired for any grand or ball-sy dramatics. Amma gave me the concrete faith I’d need to know in my heart of hearts that everything will be just fine. My job search will be successful, and we will either settle into this strange state called Connecticut, or we will be whisked back to California. Wherever we are supposed to be is where we will be.
In 2005, Amma promised she would always be there for me, verbally and specifically, more than once. I needed to know, I mean, really know, that She, my spiritual mother, would never leave me. She looked me straight in the eye back then as she made her way down the receiving line and said, “I will never, ever leave you!” It nearly brought me to my knees. With that, she healed my fear of abandonment, and helped me nail down when and where those buttons are pushed. Then finally, She gave me the confidence I needed to end toxic relationships that were present in my life. Hanging on to the past is no longer on the menu, ladies & gentlemen. Elvis has left the building.
In 2005, Amma put me to use as an attendant during individual blessings, and I did the flower arrangements for her programs. This acknowledged me as value adding person in the world. She made me realize that I am worthy of happiness and prosperity, and that I am capable. How could this be accomplished by a tiny Indian holy woman? I can only express the truth of this, as I now it. She is there for me. She has never let me down spiritually, and she has never let me down pragmatically. Amma is there, present in all levels in my life, helping me navigate through this crazy world from the tiny throne where she sits, installed forever in my heart of hearts. My ishta devi, Karunamayi Ma.
In New York, by the time Amma arrived in the Church it was almost 10:00 a.m. She glided in from the right side door, a speedy entrance, yet a tiny woman, and made Herself comfortable in Her chair at the front of the room. Her eyes moved about and lucky ones were flashed a smile of recognition. She recognized me. Don’t ask me how, but every single time I attend a program, she recognizes me, and I am overwhelmed by the motherly flash of love She extends as She places her hand on her heart and smiles. This time it was unexpected, and my eyes filled with tears (no surprise there). My heart threatened to burst, so I had to turn my head from her gaze. One of these days, I truly hope I will be able to withstand more and more of Her love transmission.
Swamiji gave a brief talk, as usual, and She did a ritual with the Sri Chakra, also par for the course. Bob Madaloni was there, one of her tour group. He looked great! Hard to believe that less than a year ago he had stage 4 throat cancer and no money. He is presently cancer free, which was a joy to see. He was really into his orientation, stand up comic style and absolutely thrilled to be there, and he had attendees laughing out loud. After being on the distant periphery of his treatment (his friend, Melanie emailed many of us regularly), I can see and appreciate the power of Amma’s healing. I can truly appreciate the benefit of surrendering our fear to Her, most particularly in our greatest hour of need. After his orientation speech, attendees had a chance to ask Bob all kinds of questions. Of course, they had no idea what he’d been through, so they asked questions about their blessing. I remember worrying about those types of details, too. What kind of words do I use? Can I have more than one problem? The one thing that came right up to the surface in my mind as I sat there was the old warning “be careful of what you ask for because you just might get it.” It’s easy, now, to see how careless we are at first, underestimating the importance of Amma’s trips to the U.S. It’s so easy to forget that each of us are only one out of thousands and thousands of people who have problems. What is amazing to me is that out of all those thousands and thousands, She still has a place in her heart for me. She has a place for every single one of us if we wish to claim it.
My blessing was brief. I hung around for almost 300 people so I could sit there and soak up Her divine energy, but by noon I found myself anxious to be heading back to my family. It’s funny how that happens. When She’s in town, I can’t wait to get to her. However, when I’ve had my fill, and it’s not some intellectual thing that tells you “you’ve had your fill”, it’s more of a feeling, I find myself ready to head home. She lets me go. She lets everyone come and go as they please. You can spend every moment that she is in the U.S. with her. You can follow her to India if you wish. She will not, under most circumstances, object to Her children wanting to be in her presence. Everything with Amma is a feeling, a presence in the subtle channels of our person. In 2005, I couldn’t get enough, and after doing Her flowers, and spending all day of individual blessings attending to Her in the line, I begged to be able to see Her again in Los Angeles for Guru Poornima. I must’ve been sincere, because she granted my need, plopped a $4,000 bonus from work in my lap, and we found ourselves driving to Los Angeles for the weekend of her very last program in the United States that year. Sincerity is the key. You can’t fake sincerity, and you certainly can’t fool Mother. Just like a child can’t fool her own mother, we children can’t fool our spiritual Mother. When I think of the lame things I approached her with early on, I cringe. She understands.
We are instructed to write our name on an index card, in the upper right hand corner. Then, we write, in simplest terms, what our problems or desires are on the rest of the card. When we approach Ma, we hold our hands in front as if in prayer and hold the card in between them for her to take. My card had three things on it. The first was “bless Leslie”, and the second was “bless Thelma”. She took the card from my hands, and read it as she stroked my head with her right hand. I never close my eyes when I’m that close to her. I don’t want to miss anything. Her eyes closed, and I envisioned Ma sending her subtle self out of the church and to Connecticut where she bopped Leslie on her head in blessing, and then after seeking out Thelma, bopped her in blessing, too. Silly, I know, but that’s what went through my head. Elizabeth, of course, receives her blessings through us. The third thing on my card was “bless job search”, and briefly I worried that she wouldn’t know what it meant. Silly me for underestimating the educational knowledge of Saraswati. After blessing my head, she looked at me quite seriously, and pointed to the third point on my card. “I will help you with this,” she said, marking yet another time when her involvement in my life moved away from the generalized “Mother will help you” to the very specific “I will help you”. There is a significant difference. In our involvement with Amma, at times it seems like she holds herself separate and apart from the Goddess. Then, other times, she IS the goddess. Amma reached on to the tray beside her and took up a mantra card and packet of sacred ash (or vibhuti). She said, “you need a good job,” and handed them to me … and, with that, sent me on my way.
I left the Church practically skipping and feeling well taken care of. There was no reason to hang around. She hit the nail right on the head, as usual. And this time I accepted it with no skepticism. I know she will help. Of course, I have to do my part. It’s not like I get to sit on the couch while Amma scours the internet for job leads. No. She helps those who helps themselves, reaching Her arms into the world, perhaps pushing this a little, pushing that a little. Whatever it takes, She will do … when we are sincere and when it really matters.
Mother is everywhere. Her many arms are the world around us. The greatest barrier we have to that realization is our own fear, and the concrete wall we erect around our hearts for safety. But when Amma finds a chink in that armor and begins the steady business of melting away our pain, we discover that the greatest love in the world is Mother’s divine love.
I’m here to tell you … it’s the truth, and it’s there for you, if you want it.
End Notes: The photos above are from Amma's Bay Area Program in 2005 and are all copywritten by the SMVA. If you look real close you can see me in there. It was a grand program and a grand day. A true turning point in my life. I did the flower arrangements, the big ones, that are on each side of Amma's chair.