Feeling Lightness of Heart

I would love to start a complete blog entitled something like,  “Beautiful Things to Make You Feel Good.”

Imagine that:  a whole compilation of beautiful things, ideas, etc., to bring joy into people’s hearts, etc.

Today was a bit of a hard day.  But, there was one thing that made me feel extraordinarily wonderful.

I was listening to something upon first waking up, a kind of audio on the “Insight Timer” app,  and it exhorted me to “… Feel freedom.  Feel a lightness in your heart, a lightness in your body, and know that you are free…”

This incredible idea:  — “A lightness in my heart?”  I thought,  “What on earth does that feel like?”   I could imagine feeling light in my body, but not feeling “lightness” in my heart.    (Maybe warmth of heart… heaviness of heart… but for some reason I could not remember ever feeling “light” of heart)

In any case, I tried then to viscerally feel what it would feel like to feel a lightness in my heart…

And, lo and behold,  what an incredible feeling!  And what an accompanying Memory!  I HAD felt this way before!   

Indeed, it brought me back to when I was in Dharamsala in 2013,  a beautiful town (home of the Dalai Lama, etc.,) in the foothills of the Himalayas (India).

That Lightness of Heart!  That was something I used to feel almost continuously and every day while I was living in India at certain times,  relatively free (studying, not working in a kind of daily grind as a teacher day in, day out).     It brought back that lightness and I felt —  I hoped, I felt, I was sure, that I could get back to there and feel that lightness again.

I hope to be recommitted.  (shall I be committed for writing this post?)    I hope to be recommitted to go back to India and to feel that lightness again.   To get out of the daily grind, and get back to a life of study and writing (more or less) at my own pace.

To be Free (again) is a goal I have.   What a blessing to be reminded, that it is possible to Feel Light of Body and Light at Heart.    Thank you.  

Some notes on my first experiences with Amma

I did not quite know what to expect before coming to Amma’s ashram. I had heard all manner of things. I came here not as a devotee of Amma, not even entirely as a spiritual seeker (though certainly partly that), but largely as someone who had been told a lot about Amma and was “curious.”

I have now been here about 5-6 days or so. It has been an ever-changing, at times quite blissful and peaceful, and at times quite uncomfortable or hectic, experience.

As it is the high season (high season begins, I believe, roughly this precise month of December (the beginning of high tourist season in India)), and as Amma is in the ashram presently (of course, the ashram is far far more busy when Amma is IN), this is shaping up to be one of the busiest times at this ashram.

As it approaches Christmas, I am told that more and more people will come – making having a private room all but impossible. I am actually very lucky to have only one roommate.

Amritapuri ashram
Amritapuri ashram

There are hundreds of people milling around this ashram – perhaps a thousand.

So that is the principal downside, or negative (for me) aspect of being here that I have experienced – the sheer busy-ness of it all. I am someone who is not fond of crowds.

That said, almost all of the people are generally kind, peaceful, and good natured (relatively speaking); so despite the great numbers of people, these are largely happy people; which is a good thing.

Why are they happy? A strong intuition, might suggest to me that a not-un-important reason is that they are here with Amma.

There is a strong current in the Indian tradition (and indeed, in a wide range of traditions involving saints and mystics worldwide), maintaining that: simply being around such holy persons, makes us feel happier. That we become more “spiritual,” more “in touch with ourselves,” more connected (with our deepest self? With others? With the source?) – and often, just happier.

Stories of this abound. Gandhi spinning

Visitors to Gandhi’s ashram in Wardha used to note the remarkable fact that all of the people working there seemed singularly happy. One journalist asked one of the ashram’s ladies why she was always singing. “Because I am happy,” she answered; to his “Why are you happy?,” she replied simply “Because I am near Bapu [Gandhi]!”

Visitors to Ramana Maharshi’s ashram used to come visit (from nearby towns, or from cities hundreds of kilometres away in India, and even from places thousands of kilometres away worldwide), simply for the chance to sit close to Ramana.

Ramana Maharshi
Ramana Maharshi

Often Ramana did not speak at all (for an entire day, he might say very little, besides answer a few questions at his leisure). Pilgrims often came just to be close to him.

There is the fascinating account by Paul Brunton, who logged his ever-beguiling travels in India in the early 20th century. Brunton arrived at Ramana’s ashram, far more of a skeptic than a believer.

And indeed, Brunton was rather unimpressed and a bit baffled by the scene greeting him there – a nearly naked man sitting silently, staring apparently into space (or into the depths of his own Self), with a handful of Indians sitting around the room doing apparently very little also.

As Brunton recounts, he sat there for a good amount of time, feeling the scene increasingly odd. “But,” he writes,

it is not till the second hour of the uncommon scene that I become aware of a silent, resistless change which is taking place within my mind.  One by one, the questions which I have prepared in the train with such meticulous accuracy drop away.  For it does not now seem to matter whether they are asked or not, and it does not seem to matter whether I solve the problems which have hitherto troubled me.  I know only that a steady river of quietness seems to be flowing near me, that a great peace is penetrating the inner reaches of my being, and that my thought-tortured brain is beginning to arrive at some rest.

(Paul Brunton, “A Search in Secret India” (on his experience with Ramana Maharshi)).

Brunton, originally a skeptic of such silent gurus or saints, within a couple of hours found his thought-tortured brain beginning to arrive at some rest. He went on to spend significant time at Ramana Ashram, and wrote with enthusiasm about his experiences in his books.

My experience with Amma

I hope you will excuse this digression from my discussion of Amma’s presence. But I could not resist drawing attention to just a couple of the many many historical antecedents to this concept – of Darshan, or of the efficacy of just being near a Spiritual person or teacher.

In any case, my experience with Amma, while perhaps not quite as striking as Brunton’s with Ramana, I have felt to have a few shared characteristics with these.

Frankly, as I noted at the outset, I was initially quite put-off by the busy-ness, and Rajas and so on, of this ashram. One of my principal thoughts during my first two days (before I was able to meet Amma) was – “When can I get out of here?”

But that thought pattern changed, I would say, upon my first coming close to Amma.

I have had two darshans now. The intimate act of Amma’s very unique darshan itself (hugging) – (or rather, being hugged – or rather, having my head and shoulders hugged, while she whispers, “My Darling, My Darling, My Darling!” quite urgently in my ear, amidst all the hubbub on the stage!) – has tended to be rather quick, and pleasant, but not exceedingly memorable. I think there is a lot going on during this act, and it is hard to fully understand it yet (for me personally).

(Though a good friend of mine, Meera-ma, from Dharamsala, has told me that often the effects of the darshan, even the very quick ones, will come to fruition afterwards (?). A very interesting thought. I want to blog more on some of the apparent “miracles”, or simply “acts of grace” surrounding Amma, sometimes later.) amma smile small

But for me what was the most visceral and noticeable experience, was: as I came closer and closer to the stage on where she sat, something very much like Brunton’s “Steady River of Quietness.”

I experienced (and the man sitting next to me during our progressive musical-chairs approach, testified to always having precisely the same feeling), what felt like a collection of powerful energies flowing through the body (or my own “energy field”). This was accompanied by a great quantity of peace and happiness. I felt what I might term a significant “softness” inside, and all around (for lack of a better term — for some reason “softness” is the term that comes to mind repeatedly…) (and actually this softness was felt from first being in the darshan hall). A great amount of peace and happiness.

And I found that meditation of any kind came extremely, extremely, easily… Closing my eyes, my attention seemed to go to my breathing – “in… out…. in…. o—u—t…..”

And I noted that my breathing had been shallow and somewhat quick (as it probably often is during typical days)…. And as I became aware and dropped into it, I became aware that I was slowing it, that it became slower and more peaceful.

Much like a typical practice of breathing meditation, but this seemed to come so spontaneously.

I saw Amma’s eyes as the line drew very close – the spaciousness, the luminousness, the joy of those eyes – they were so empty; the vast space somehow reminded me of “outer space” — such as galaxies, with the odd planet occasionally coming into view…

I am not sure precisely what Amma is — but she certainly seemed to me at least, to be some sort of very special being.

(Of course, anyone who could sit for 15+ hours, five days per week, embracing an endless line of people well into the night, never stopping to use the bathroom, to eat, or for any other reason at all — well, those, besides a mundane explanation of a very strong nervous system, would seem to be some very strong siddhis or powers indeed. This lady, saint, or avatar, or whatever she is, does indeed seem to be a boundless, upwelling source of love, joy, and compassion…)

I am feeling tired at the moment, and feel that the quality of my descriptions are suffering. But I want to get outside and walk for a few minutes, and further expand on these notes later.

In short, I had not known what my experience of Amma would be like, but yes — I feel there is something subtly powerful occurring around this special being… I still feel happy when I manage to get near the stage.

Thanks for reading. Peace and Love.