We went quietly to bed, and I lay there for hours observing the sensations that were moving in waves through me. At the same time I was attempting to make sense of what I’d experienced that evening. I wasn’t sure what was real any more. I couldn’t be sure what I was imagining and what I wasn’t. Was I getting an answer to my question or not? I got the strong feeling that I should let things be, let go of analysis and trust. In the past I would have felt like running away from the situation, but that evening I felt unusually calm despite the anxiety that was pulsing through me. How can both states exist at the same time? I have no idea, but in me they were. My thoughts turned again to Nix’s proposal to her possibly staying at the ashram. Perhaps it was not a bad idea after all. Perhaps it would bring her great benefit and it would selfish of me to try to stop that. Then I thought that perhaps I also needed to stay. Perhaps it would be the most beneficial thing for me to do too. My perceptions of Amma and the ashram were radically changing from those I had on our arrival. I feel like she was in my mind helping me to navigate my fears. I have no reason to say so other than a very strong feeling that this was what was happening. I can’t actually believe I’m saying what I’m saying, as I feel I am a logical (and usually very critical/sceptical) sort of person. Clearly logic cannot explain everything. If I heard someone else talk like this I would think they are away with the faeries. This sense stuck with me all night, whilst my feelings of love for Nix grew stronger and stronger as if a veil had been lifted and I could see things much more clearly. The areas of my life that needed attention were highlighted in glorious technicolour. Being kinder, more patient, more grateful, letting go of unhelpful judgements and letting go of working for ego reward were the big ones. Since starting seva (service) in the composting area I have observed a transformation in my thought process – working voluntarily simply for it’s own sake is a great tonic. It feels like my mental/emotional/spiritual continuum has opened and widened by doing so, whereas working to write a hit tune so I can get fame and fortune (for instance) closes and narrows it. The money I need in life will come, I just need to trust and continue to strengthen those positive qualities in myself. My question had been answered (even though I was afraid of the answer). How can I best help myself and others? Do service, and let go of the ego pursuits I am involved in (which would mean letting go of my incessant chasing for a hit, world tours, radio play blah blah blah and writing less hard, more beautiful music. Bring on the bhajans!).
The next day Nix and I spoke again. We were both on the same page that it would be a good idea to come back to the ashram and do more service. Before we left South Africa, we had both mentioned wanting to do service whilst we were in India, so here was the perfect opportunity. We had to let the dust settle first though and work out what when it would be best to do so. We would still like to see the North East of India together, but it may be better to do that later in the year when it is cooler and stay South around these months when the weather is more moderate.
We had a great chat later in the day with Aruna – an Indian Nun who has been living in the ashram for the past 18 years. She had been a software developer in San Francisco before leaving that life behind to focus on her spiritual life. She had a beautiful way about her, and I could have listened to her talk all night. One of the things that will stick with me is how friendly and open all the devotees that we have spoken to are. It has encouraged me to be more that way myself and in fact in only one week I have seen a large improvement in that area. I am not generally friendly and open to all at home, so it felt great to truly be experiencing it now. Friendliness and openness are undoubtedly vastly beneficial states to foster in myself. I mentioned my enjoyment of the interactions I have had with the other devotees to Aruna. She told me that the reason I am having these good experiences is because those positive qualities I see in them are already in me. It felt good to hear that sort of feedback. I had not mentioned my second hug experience and listened with interest as she told me that Amma had once given her a strange look at Darshan when her ego was getting the better of her, and that it had really shaken things up for her and helped her move through the difficulties she was experiencing. So that’s what was happening.... It certainly felt like it.
Nix and I decided that we would head to Kanyakumari (at the tip of India) the next day to stay at the Vivekananda ashram there for New Year. We felt we could process our time at Amritapuri quietly there. As we went back to our room it felt like we were on E. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a sustained high energy experience without drugs before in my life. In conclusion I can say this about our time at the ashram – I don’t know if Amma is a deity or not, but I have no doubt that she is a realized being who has gone beyond body and mind (how else can I explain her ability to hug millions of people with sameness of being to all?) and she has created an unbelievable space to help people. When we first arrived we thought the ashram was far too noisy, and that the schedule was far too lax for spiritual practice to occur. We based those judgements on our past experiences with Vipassana and Buddhist meditation retreats where silence and strict adherence to daily schedules are the norm. We missed the point. The practice at the ashram is the seva – working selflessly to help others. Basically meditation in action.... There are also sadhanas that can be practiced but nobody forces you to do so. Rob, an American working our composting seva shift with lots of Vipassana experience, put it perfectly when he told Nikki that the practice at the Amma ashram is like the kinder, softer mother whereas the practice at monasteries and Vipassana centres is like the more serious, disciplinarian father. Both are necessary to develop well-rounded children. I can say that I have definitely benefitted from my time at the ashram. I did not expect I would be saying that. I thought it would be an interesting experience for us, but nothing more. There are lots of other things I could write about, but in closing there’s only one thing left to say.... “Om Namo Shivaya!!!” :)