Pain is a part of the human experience. Since we are imperfect beings, we all do things (intentionally and unintentionally) that cause pain for ourselves and others. As nothing is permanent, relationships come and go, ending either through separation or death. Each loss makes the way for a new beginning.
Pain creates discomfort that provides us with the opportunity and the motivation to learn and grow. As our resistance to pain decreases, our ability to experience joy increases. While pain is inevitable, the support we receive from others can make it more bearable.
I am very aware of the ongoing emotional support that I have received from Amma during painful life events. While I could give a multitude of examples, perhaps the most remarkable ones occurred in the time frames surrounding the deaths of my mother, brother and father.
In 1992, within days of returning from a visit to Amma’s ashram in southern India, I received a phone call from one of my brothers saying that my mother was in a coma and near death. Every time the coma lifted, however, she would call for me. This was a surprise as she had instructed me years before that when she reached the end of her life, I was not to come to the hospital, nor was I to attend her funeral. My father had disowned me in 1971 when I married a black man and had not spoken to me since. My mother gave me those instructions because she knew my presence would upset my father.
Now her death was imminent and she was calling for me. When I arrived at her bedside a day or two later, my mother wept with joy and relief. During the next week, I visited her daily at times when my father would not be present. I knew that if he found I had been there, he would refuse to visit her again.
I wondered what I could do to help my mother’s passing. I felt drawn to buy her a cassette player and two tapes, Alleluia and Om Namah Shivaya, both by Robert Gass and the Wings of Song. [There are many meanings for Om Namah Shivaya. The translation I like includes three of the meanings: “I bow to the God within me,” “I bow to the universal God,”and “I bow to the aspect of God that is Shiva.”] When I played Alleluia for my mother, she began to cry. When I played the Om Namah Shivaya tape her immediate response was, “I have heard that before.” I knew enough about my mother and her life to think it was highly unlikely that she had heard that song before. I sensed that Amma was nearby, helping prepare my mother for her journey Home.
I felt very grateful that these events were happening during a time I felt filled with Amma’s love. I also sensed that my recent vision to her Indian ashram allowed me to be more open to the direction of Spirit than I might be otherwise.
My mother died a month later, after I had returned to Seattle. When I attended her funeral, my brothers’ invitation having overpowered my father’s disapproval, I was told that my mother had listened to the Om Namah Shivaya tape constantly from the time I gave it to her until her death. The nurses would wheel her into the atrium of the hospice with the cassette player and headphones accompanying her. She and my brothers listed to the song together in her room. I was told that one of the nurses would sit with her, and together they would sing along with the tape. I was exceedingly grateful to have been able to participate in my mother’s dying process in that way.
My brother Bill had been diagnosed with cancer five years earlier. After my mother died, his health began a rapid decline. I expected that he would die prior to the time Amma arrived in the U.S. for her yearly tour. (She conducts programs in North America in June and July of each year.) As the time for the tour came closer, it became obvious to me that he would pass while Amma was in our country.
That year I traveled to Vancouver, BC to attend the first of Amma’s North American programs. Next came the Seattle retreat. (In those days the retreat occurred before the public programs.) On the last day of the retreat, as I was sitting out in an open field listening to a tape, my son approached me and said that my brother had died. He put his arm around me and I cried.
I was aware of how Amma/Spirit/God had taken care of me once again. My brother had passed when I was at a retreat where I could be in Amma’s arms receiving the massive love she bestows. Most of my friends were present and available for support as well.
Later, when I made plane reservations to attend my brothers funeral, I felt even more cared for. Unbelievable as it might seem, my plane would return to Seattle at the same time Amma would be in the airport waiting for the plane that she would take to continue her tour. I was able to walk off of my plane and moments later, once again be in her arms.
The third example happened in January 1999. I was in Amma’s ashram in Amritapuri, India when I received a phone call that my father had unexpectedly died. Once again, I was able to go directly to Amma after having received the news. When I had attended my mother and brother’s funerals, my father had been unwilling to speak to me. In both instances, he had left immediately after the services to avoid any possible contact. Clearly, he would not have wanted me at his funeral, so leaving India was unnecessary. I felt grateful to be in a place where I could have Amma’s support and the support of many friends as I grieved the loss of the fantasy that he would eventually be willing to engage with me. I was in awe that once again I had been with her when a member of my family died.
Photo Credit: Amma’s Facebook Page
So frequently the painful life events I have experienced since I met Amma have occurred just before, during or immediately after I have spent time with her. Having her physical or spiritual presence during those times has increased my faith, allowing me to trust at ever deeper levels that she will be there for me when I need her. As my faith has increased, my ability to surrender to the will of guru and Spirit has grown.
I love this adventure called life. I so appreciate the love and support that is available within a guru-disciple relationship and I am exceedingly grateful that this is the spiritual path I have chosen.
Adapted from article written for The New Times: May 1999
Amma is presently in North America on her 2016 Summer Tour. Her schedule can be found at: http://amma.org/meeting-amma/north-america