June 19, 2009
I had heard about Amma “The Hugging Saint” several years ago, but the timing never seemed to work for me, especially since it sounded like you had wait several hours to get a hug. This was the first year where I was finally able to go. I didn’t know “how to do it” and I was going by myself. They said it started at 10:00 so I figured if I got there close to 9:00 am, I would be good. I got my token, which is basically like getting a number at the Deli counter. I was J2- depending on how many people were there, that could take a really long time! Fortunately, there is a lot to entertain oneself while you’re waiting. At around 10:00 am, Amma arrives in the hall. I’m standing along the side as everyone prepares for her entry. She walks in. She’s so cute. She walks fast! I stick my hand out like you might a rock concert, she grazes mine and all the other hands sticking out along the line. Due to my height limitations, I couldn’t really see what else went on but it looked like there was some sort of ceremonial blessing and chanting going on for her.
Then it all begins. She’s sitting towards the front of this conference hall. In the background are these beautiful colorful fabrics and lamps and there is a set up for musicians. I see that she starts receiving people. And she’s really hugging them. I mean like really.
I decide to walk around, it’s going to take a while. There are many tables set up with various things you can buy- books, cds, jewelry, herbs, clothes. I was happy to see they even had a booth for an acupuncturist! All the proceeds go to Amma’s humanitarian efforts, which I knew very little about before I arrived. Some of the trinkets are blessed or worn by Amma. I bought a beautiful necklace blessed by her, made of Tulsi beads and some gorgeous blue beads that I’m not sure what they are. I didn’t know about Tulsi before. It is also known as Holy Basil, which I had heard about, but not at any great length. It is apparently the most sacred herb in India, with many health benefits. I got some cute incense holders and some dried Tulsi leaves blessed by Amma to drink in water. I went to get a (vegetarian) bite to eat and met a really cool guy who told me about mountmadonna.org which seems like a good retreat for not very much money.
While I’m waiting I notice they are playing on two large screens some video of Amma’s speeches and works across the globe. I didn’t realize the extent of how she has devoted her life to spreading love and compassion, by helping the less fortunate and a number of other things. Truly, an amazing woman, a beautiful spirit.
About 4 and a half hours later they have called my number, it’s my turn to stand in line. Everything suddenly seems to be happening quickly and I really want to try and be present throughout but I’m starting to feel a little anxious, not in a bad way, not overly excited just a little anxious.
I get to the front. They have me sit on a stool. She has assistants that are guiding you, they move your body to the right location. And then the embrace. She feels like a mom. She’s saying a blessing in my ear. I’m not sure what the words mean, but they are soothing. One of her assistants (is that what I would call them?) has her hand on my back and I think she’s saying things too. It feels slow motion and speedy quick all at the same time. I tend to be pretty emotional, I cry at commercials- you know the type, but I was surprised that I shed no tears, I simply enjoyed my hug. The biggest surprise to me, was when it was over, she gave me a Hershey’s Kiss! Total bonus.
I was in a bit of a daze so I took a seat and I wanted to take a minute to kind of soak it all in. On one hand it just felt like a hug. On the other hand, it felt like something else.
I left feeling joyful. I have to say, that as the week progressed, I felt more “glowy” and yes, more compassionate. My friend, Kaci, said there is something about the Dalai Lama, and people like Amma, where being around them has a way of seeping into your being. I completely believe that now.
So, I think it was worth the wait. To get a hug from someone, anyone, is good medicine. It did teach me that perhaps I’ve been a little stingy with myself, my affectionate side and how truly healing something as simple as a hug can be. You don’t always need needles, just my arms might be enough.
To learn more about Tulsi (Holy Basil), please visit http://www.organicindia.com/tulsi-facts.php