by Theresa Puskar
MA Center – Elburn, IL – June 26, 2018
“Mata Amritanandamayi is known throughout the world as Amma, or Mother, for her selfless love and compassion toward all beings. Her entire life has been dedicated to alleviating the pain of the poor, and those suffering physically and emotionally.”
On June 26, 2018, I ventured northwest to Elburn, Illinois where Amma (also known as the hugging saint) has a community and ashram. While I know that she has several centers throughout the world, I had no idea that she had a base here in the Chicagoland area. If you are not familiar with Amma, she has quite an extensive worldwide following and has been an advocate for the needy throughout her life.
Based on the powerful charity that she has exhibited throughout the world, and according to her very devoted followers, Amma is wholeheartedly committed to spreading selfless love and compassion to all beings. Throughout her life, she as embraced and comforted more than 34 million people. Embracing the World®, her global charities focus on providing food, shelter, health care, education and livelihood. Due to the fact that the organization’s administrators are not paid and that the majority of efforts are carried out by volunteers, they are able to do more with less. Like Amma, so many of her community members spend a great deal of time and energy caring for others. When asked where she gets the energy to help so many people, she answers, “Where there is true love, anything is effortless.” Her religion is love, and she never asks others to change theirs, only to contemplate the essential principles of their own faith and to try to live accordingly.
This was my third visit to Amma. I saw her first when my daughter was a baby, and then again when she was nine years old. With the prior visits, my focus was on my daughter. The second visit was particularly memorable, as we had informed our daughter of our divorce the day of the visit. I synchronistically discovered the night prior that Amma was in town. I couldn’t sleep because of anxiety about the day ahead, and while going through my emails, I discovered that Dawn Silver had sent a notice of her visit. When I think back to that day over seven years ago, what I remember most was that my daughter was in tears as we waited for Amma. My husband was alarmed and responded, “Look how upset she is. We need to get her out of here!” My response was very different. Perhaps she needs to cry and feels safe to do so because of the divine energy that emanates here. I proceeded to hold her in my arms and feel into the grief with her while she cried. When we reached Amma, she gave special blessings to my ex-husband. I was moved and felt graced that our family was able to receive her unconditional love and blessings on that difficult and sad day.
This visit felt a little different. I stood in line for about an hour and then proceeded to the kitchen for another hour or two. (They needed kitchen help and asked for some volunteers.) In the kitchen, I noted the regimen with which all tasks were accomplished. They were very particular about how we cut the vegetables. Each volunteer had a sense of firm, but loving responsibility in their position, no matter how large or small. Once called back to the center, Amma did a short talk with the attendees and then began her selfless service—hours and hours of hugging. While I waited in line, I noted the size of the crowd and the range of ages, from newborn to the elderly. I reflected on my life since first meeting Amma and was filled with awe and gratitude at how much I have experienced in the 14 years since first meeting her.
Once I reached her, I asked her assistant for assistance around a particular issue that a loved one was having. While she shook her head in a gesture of understanding, immediately after our short conversation, Amma began to talk to her about something. I think I got an extra minute’s hug as the two of them conversed, but I don’t believe they ever exchanged words about my request. After receiving the hug, I sat down by Amma and began to cry. I wasn’t sure what the tears were about. Was it disappointment at the lack of focus on the issue I brought forth? Were they tears of open-hearted transformation? Or, were they anxiety or a response to the love in the embrace?
After years of therapy, introspection and psychoanalytic self-analysis, I have noted a shift. For over 30 years, whenever I cried, I would go into my “monkey mind” to determine where the tears were coming from. What I noted at that time, and I find more recently, is that I have come to a point in my life where I care less about the where and why they originated. I have dissected my life to the point where I have overturned every conscious memory and experience, so much so, that I no longer feel it is necessary. Now when tears well up inside me, I note, “Something is up. I’m crying.” Very quickly I stopped the “monkey mind” from analysis paralysis, and I simply sat with the emotions that stirred within me. I felt into them and allowed them to be expressed. Then I moved on.
While one might think that this is avoidance, I have learned that it is far from it. In fact, getting into my head was more a way of avoidance than feeling wholly and completely into the intense emotions, witnessing them, then letting them go. While I am grateful for the insights I received in the myriad of workshops, processes and therapy sessions I went through, I’ve reached a point in my life where I know the root issues my soul sought out in this life. Now I am maturing to the point where simply experiencing them is the most compassionate and proactive thing I can do to support my spiritual evolution.
As I sat and allowed the tears to well up within me, a baby was placed on Amma’s lap. She was a delightful little soul, fascinated in particular with Amma’s nose. Clearly, she wanted to yank at it and made several gestures towards doing so. I watched the two of them playing together for several minutes. There was so much joy, so much love. I smiled and that is where I really felt the depth of my divine connection.
It is my belief that these young souls are still connected to that divinity. They see energy and angels. When they look at you, they are looking beyond your facial expression. I recently took a position at a preschool and spent two weeks with the infants. On one particular day, a 15-month old child returned after several months of being absent. She awoke early from her nap and was confused and disturbed. I picked her up and sat her on my lap. I gave her a Deeksha blessing, and the two of us stared into each other’s eyes for about 15 minutes until she finally fell fast asleep. Those 15-minutes were so precious. I was able to be present with her, and I was graced to have witnessed the divine in this tiny being. I know her mother gave birth to her at the young age of 16, and I’m sure it was not an easy path for her. So, when I looked into the eyes of this gorgeous being, I was filled with gratitude to her mother for her courage, perseverance and love for this child. As I held her, I thought to myself, “Now this one is going to be something truly remarkable in this world.” Then I caught myself, realizing that we are all truly remarkable. We are all hugging saints of sorts. While we may not have the power and the large following that Amma has, we can send love and compassion out into the world in wondrous and magical ways.
Theresa Puskar is an author, performer, speaker, minister and motivational audiobook producer. With over 25 years of experience in media and communications, she has worn many hats in the industry. She is the author of the “Terri” children’s book series, which focus on a variety of emotional and social development issues for children, ages five to nine. She has received accolades for her autobiographical solo show, Beauty, Bollywood and Beyond and looks forward to performing it in New York in October. A powerful inspirational speaker and transition leader, Theresa edu-tains her audiences, by touching hearts and minds in a way that is engaging, joyful and life-affirming. For more information, visit www.TheresaPuskar.com.