Monday, March 21, 2011

Amma 2011@ Individual Blessings: Bless Me Mother For I Have Sinned

© 2003 SMVA Trust
This year, Amma will be back in the Bay Area for Guru Purnima, a celebration open to the public, from July 15 - July 17, 2011. Keep an eye on her website for details.

I was at the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple most of the day Thursday and Friday enjoying the first public programs of Sri Karunamayi’s 2011 US Tour.  Many of us call her Amma, which means “Mother” in Her native Telegu, and I’ve seen her for 10 years mostly in the Bay Area.   This visit was important to me.  I’ve recently lost my job and find myself at a crossroads.  What do I want to focus on going forward?  I thought intensely about my health, my relationships, how I manage stress and my creativity in the days prior to the program.  I’ve also been able to help more than usual, though I’m careful to balance the needs of my family, as having more time is a beneficial side effect of unemployment.

The first of Amma’s no cost public programs was individual blessings, during which any person can approach her with a list of private concerns or needs.  It’s a carefully orchestrated event that may last up to a full day and include 400 or 450 people.  She asks for silence or our best efforts during this program and gives each of us her undivided attention when we approach her.

Aside from many spiritual aspects, and simply from my perspective, of course, there are two very important points to smoothly facilitating this day.  I mention this because it seems that people need Mother’s reassurance more than ever, and I can’t help that it rouses the meeting and event planner in me.  The first point is preventing the front door from becoming a bottleneck, and the second is gently controlling the crowd, which implies addressing everyone’s concerns sensitively and compassionately as they wait in one line or another for their time with Mother.  Seekers must enter the hall without shoes and remain silent.  There is considerable activity around this, and because the front table is the only thing that stays in one place, questions tend to land there.  With a crowd of 400, the front door can become a bottleneck quickly, and as a result seekers get worried and anxiety mounts.  As luck would have it, Thursday’s program was intimate with a little less than 200 people in total.  The door didn’t turn into a problem, and I was relieved because I was working there!

The second important component to this program, from my limited view, is what I would lovingly refer to as crowd control.  The responsibility for this falls upon the ushers, also devotees and for the most part local volunteers (aka sevites).    Most attendees are indeed very serious about their one-on-ones with Amma, but Thursday’s group felt more intense than usual, which is no surprise  given the state of the economy and our world in general.  Many people juggled personal challenges like limited time off from work, responsibility to their families, and a lack of funds, much of which we heard about at the front desk; but still many were generous with donations.  As activity happened around lining up to see Mother, their agitation grew, I felt, some even bordering on desperation.   To their credit, the ushers kept it organized, addressed each and every concern, knew when to make an exception and allow someone to step ahead in line, and then did gentle damage control around those who noticed and didn’t approve.  I thought they were awesome.

Amma was, as ever, a picture of harmonious serenity.  The relatively small size of the crowd meant She could take her time with everyone, and so she did, stretching the morning time period well past 1 p.m. before she left for a very brief break.   She never, ever reacts to any of the noise around her, and rather focuses her attention completely and totally on the individual in front of her.  It’s quite uncanny, but her attention never wavers.  

I got in line for my individual blessing at about 1:30 p.m.  and the first thing I noticed was the ruckus.  This crowd was loud and active.  The ushers worked very hard and very patiently, but people were demanding, asked questions,  and tried to cut in line for no particular reason again and again.  It was all very distracting, but like at the front desk, to me it demonstrated how upset Her children are at this time.
My Altar Space
Finally, I had my chance to approach Amma and lay my concerns at Her sacred feet.  She was lovely, and gave me a big, big smile.  Oh, how I needed that.  She also noticed my hair.  I got my hair colored yesterday, and decided to redden up the blond in the front which took the color differently, way differently!  The back is a deep red, but the front is like a Lucille Ball hair-do on fire, harkening me back to another visit with Amma in Chicago almost 10 years ago.   Is this my subconscious effort to be noticed?  Some things never change.  After giggling affectionately for a moment, She looked me right in the eye and asked me a very personal question.  And that’s when my tears started.  Suffice it to say the subsequent moments with  Amma were powerful.  There are times when she doesn’t say a word, but during this visit she addressed me verbally and very directly.  I left her feeling shaken.

Each time I see Amma, it is a successful visit; even when our contact is minimal. This time, however, I spent a number of days reflecting on my needs, and then a day in silent reflection.  Doing so left me open and receptive to the power of Mother’s divine love. 

What I considered a successful individual blessings program is a testimony to the enormous amount of work done by the Bay Area Coordinator and volunteers before, during and after Amma’s visit.  Smriti, the Coordinator, has a clear vision of what she wants, and puts love into every detail out of a strong desire to make the program as good as it can be for Ma.  In my 20 year career, I’ve done parties of up to 2,000 people, small cocktail parties, sit down dinners, community service events, and themed office parties so I can confirm it’s a lot of work under normal circumstances.  However, staying on task when Amma is present, when all we want to do is space out on Her energy, is a major accomplishment.  The way Smriti cares about the quality of Amma’s programs takes it to the next level for the benefit of every person who may connect with Sri Karunamayi during the Bay Area Program.

The two days spent with my Spiritual Mother were personally impactful in ways I’m still fully realizing, still processing. I know this is the case because my family keeps asking me if I'm preoccupied with something.  I guess I am on the deepest levels.  I want to get my impressions down in writing, but I continue to make emotional and intellectual connections, and so my perceptions are mercurial.  Even as I wrote this, I found myself getting long winded or changing my mind.

What I do know for certain is that my personal urgency and the issues in my life are no more or less important than any one person in the crowd on Individual Blessings day.  It’s true that the Divine Mother helps those who help themselves.  Yet if we’re meant to have a certain experience no matter how difficult it seems to be, I know that we are meant to learn from it in the end.  I wonder if perhaps I've gotten a bit better at going with the flow, or a bit closer to surrendering the illusion of control.

It’s taken me a year a half worth of hard core life lessons simply to get the hang of being right here in this moment.

I'm happy with that for now.

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You may be interested in more posts and information on Amma, Sri Karunamayi, as follows:

  1. See more photos and a brief video of Friday’s homa (vedic fire ceremony) here.
  2. View Amma’s website including tour information.
  3. Enjoy a meditation video featuring the Sri Mrutyunjaya Mantra by Karunamayi here.
  4. Read about my family's visit with Amma in Fremont here.
  5. And search my blog for posts on Amma's visits in past years including 2008 and 2009.

Jai Karunamayi!

Guardian Series 1: Ganesha
© February 16, 2011 by Donna L. Faber


The Tarot Lady said...

I have always been curious about Amma. I have seen advertisements for her services and wondered what it would be like to be in her presence. Thank you for sharing your story. I may have to meet her one day.


Donna L. Faber said...

Oh I certainly hope you do ... I think you'd totally dig the mellow vibe! D~

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