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Spirit: A Divine Hug

By Joanne Greene Email By Joanne Greene
June 2015
Spirit: A Divine Hug

Why is Mata Amritanandamayi a global phenomenon despite being an unassuming motherly figure? For one, she has hugged 33 million individuals around the world. Here is the story of one such hug which provides a glimpse of this saintly Amma.

“Amma is the embodiment of pure love. Her presence heals.”
– Dr. Deepak Chopra.

Open-hearted. Soul-nourishing. Unconditionally loving. My first experience of Amma and her embrace was all this and more.

Some come to hear her teachings or to offer service to her charitable works. Most people come to experience her embrace, which is her unique way of spreading love and comfort to the world. For whatever reason they come, most end up like me, being touched and inspired by the extraordinary being that she is.

Born in southern India in 1953, Amma displayed deeply spiritual tendencies from the tender age of two, singing devotional songs and immersing herself in meditation. Even in her childhood, she was acutely sensitive to poverty and suffering, often giving away food and clothing to others. Around this time, she began spontaneously embracing people to comfort them. People began to refer to her as Amma (Mother), and she in response, referred to them as her children.

Amma’s schooling was curtailed early in childhood due to family circumstances. She never had a spiritual mentor or studied philosophical texts, but seekers were drawn to her from all corners of the globe and some of these seekers became her first disciples. By 1981, an ashram was formally instituted at her birthplace. Today this ashram is known as the Mata Amritanandamayi Math, or Amritapuri, and is home to more than 3,000 devotees from around the world. And Amma has evolved into one of the leading humanitarians of our times.

Amma’s vision, translated into reality by her disciples, is to nourish individuals and communities through her spiritual activities and humanitarian projects. She oversees an award-winning network of international charities, and travels the world tirelessly offering her support. Compassion is a value that she lives by in every waking moment. Amma has said that the purpose of her life is that her hands should always be on someone’s shoulders, consoling and caressing them, wiping away their tears—till her last breath.

My own experience of Amma took place in Dublin, Ireland. I knew it would be lovely, but the reality was so much more, and, as she pulled me toward her, it felt as if I were melting into the arms of an angel. I have no idea what words she spoke to me as she held me for what seemed like an eternity, but it didn’t matter, the words just added to the…bliss.

Enjoying the delicious food served at mealtimes, I sat with strangers who soon became friends, sharing their joys and pain. The weekend was full of heart-warming stories, with the phenomena of synchronicity happening between strangers moment by moment.

The program included meditations, spiritual teachings, devotional singing, and ceremonial offerings to bring peace, and of course, hours of darshan. Mother would hug tirelessly until everyone had had his or her embrace—for up to eight or ten hours. No one complained about the long queues for Amma’s darshan, filled as they were with the excitement and joy of the impending encounter with Amma.

All of Amma’s programs are managed by volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure the smooth functioning of events. Spiritual service (seva) is a spiritual practice, and such was the desire to contribute to this remarkable experience that the stream of willing workers was continual, joyfully assisting in multiple tasks, from working at the food stalls to setting up chairs, cleaning, parking, and more. As a nurse I volunteered in the first aid tent and found myself working alongside some incredible people, all with the purpose of holding space for this incredible woman’s vision.

Following this experience, my innermost self has been awakened to the true purpose of my life. A spaciousness has opened up in my meditations and invigorated my desire to dedicate my spiritual practice to all those who are in pain, to the planet, and beyond. While I had considered myself a compassionate person, the word and its application have deepened in my understanding.

My message to anyone who has the opportunity to have an encounter with Amma is to take it. Even if you simply enjoy a good hug, you will be richer for the experience.

Joanne Greene is a qualified nurse, naturopath, and freelance journalist. Amma will be in Atlanta on June 28 & 29, 2015. For more information: www.amma.org/tours or AmmaGaTour@gmail.com

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