Once inside the ashram, I am surprised to see it’s mostly Westerners. Wasn’t expecting that. We head to the information window and I’m feeling very Eat, Pray, Love all of the sudden. As we fill out our paperwork, I’m wondering if I should stay here for 3 months and meditate.
I’m just working out the logistics of my new plan when the German guy at the window tells us if we hurry we could go into the temple and receive darshan from Amma. Cerrie and I look at each other and gasp. We had checked Amma’s website while in Varkala to see if she would be in residence when we arrived, but the site told us she was traveling.
It was fate! I was supposed to receive a hug from Amma!
We put our packs down, take off our shoes, and go into the temple. It’s organized chaos, just like the Indian driving system. We enter through the front doors and are immediately funneled into a line where chairs flank the wall. Devotees are sitting all over the marble floor, eyes closed, deep in meditation. There’s chanting and prayer all around me. I keep watching them, wondering how they can sit on their knees on the hard floor for that long. Why can’t I do that too? Am I not doing enough yoga? It’s thoughts like these that occupy my mind as I shuffle along. I barely sit in my chair before the line moves and I sit a couple more chairs closer to Amma. The line moves so quickly there isn’t time to sit before you have to move again.
Soon we are in the final stretch, and men and women are separated into different lines. I watch everyone in front of me to make sure I have the proper darshan etiquette: get on your knees, hands at prayer position, no talking, walk on your knees to Amma (dreading that), don’t touch her, arms at your sides, let her hug you, get out of the way for the next one.
One of the volunteers asks me what language I speak so that Amma can give me a proper blessing. I’m all jittery and full of anticipation. I can’t believe I’m here, in THE Amma’s temple in India! What an exceptional thing to experience by pure chance! I’m going to walk away from here a changed woman!
And suddenly I’m being enfolded and pressed into her soft bosom. I keep my arms at my sides, she pulls me tight, mutters something in my ear that I can’t understand, releases me, I’m pulled to my feet by the volunteers hovering next to her and sent on my way. The whole process took about 4 seconds. I soar out of the temple on a cloud of bliss, stand in the sunshine, close my eyes, and know that everything from now on is going to be very different.
Just kidding. I felt nothing.
The others come outside, and we take the stairs to the second floor to watch from the balcony above. From our lookout point we have a complete view of the floor below, and can watch as Amma gives her final blessings while other volunteers rope off a section of the floor where she will leave. People are jostling to be the first behind the ropes. Amma leaves the main room, and everyone is reaching out to touch her robes and the floor where her feet were. As luck would have it, we are standing along the exit route, so she comes up the stairs and walks right past us. As she walks by, I lose interest and look down below to see what everyone else is doing. The entire room is gazing up at Amma as she meanders through, eyes not leaving her face, hands at prayer position, no one moving or speaking. It was….weird. I frowned to show my disapproval, but no one saw.
After that charade, we have dinner, then attend bhajans (evening prayer and singing) blah, blah, blah. I duck out early to go take a shower, only to discover that there are no towels in the room. I make this discovery post-shower, naturally. And I use the term “shower” loosely, as it involved a bucket and a tap. I’m soaking wet and hopping around the room, praying Bobby and Greg don’t suddenly come back as I fish through my pack looking for the cleanest shirt to dry off with. I finally go to bed before the boys come back, fingers crossed our rickshaw driver will return in the morning.
You can read all about Amma here–> http://amma.org/