Amma tells us to be like a bird perched on a dry twig, ready to fly at a moment’s notice. That doesn’t mean that we should live from a fear based hyper-vigilance but rather we need to learn to live consciously, adapting to each change that comes our way.
Amma gives us a plenty of opportunities to learn that lesson, some directly, and some indirectly. I am going to share two recent experiences that were, in my mind, chances to practice that teaching.
In an earlier post, I mentioned that we are able to hand Amma the prasad that she gives each person who comes to her for a hug. For as long as I can remember, the type of prasad she has given in India has been a piece of hard candy wrapped in a packet of sacred ash. We have handed her those packets three at a time.
When I received the instructions for giving prasad on Wednesday, I was told we would be giving Amma chocolate Hershey’s kisses wrapped in an ash packet instead of the hard candy packets. Those would be given to her two at a time since the Hershey’s kisses are so much bigger than the hard candies.
When I joined the prasad line on Thursday, I was told that we would be alternating what we would give Amma. The first time we handed her prasad, we would give her three packets with the hard candy and ash. The next time, we would give her two packets with the Hershey’s kisses and ash.
When I reached Amma, however, I discovered that the devotees were handing her two packets, one with a Hershey’s kiss and ash, and one with the hard candy and ash. Amma had changed the instructions yet again!
I laughed at the leela. I laughed even more when I received my own hug that night and Amma handed me a flower petal and a Hershey’s kiss. That is the type of prasad we receive during the North American tour, but to my knowledge it has never been the custom in Amritapuri.
To me, this was a good example of being the bird perched on the dry twig. We had to be ready for the type of prasad to change at any moment and adjust accordingly.
The second example occurred during my Tai Chi class. Soon after I arrived at the ashram this year, I visited the beach area we had used for the class last year. I found it full of construction debris. A few days later, it had been cleaned up so it seemed like we would be able to meet there after all.
Even in the best of times, the class is interrupted by an occasional truck, bicycle, or bus that wants to go through that area. Today was one of those days when so much came our way that it got funny. It was another darshan day, but this time the crowd was huge. When we arrived for the class, there were already two parked buses in the area. They bordered the space we were planning to use. Once the class started, two more buses drove onto the grounds and parked nearby.
About half way through the class, a truck with some construction supplies tried to go through our area to the building beyond. There was no room for them to do that, because of the parked buses, so the driver just parked in the space we were using and started carrying the supplies to the construction area. Clearly, we had no priority.
There are two other areas on the beach that could potentially work, but there seems to be a new routine at the ashram. When the ashram cows are walked in the morning, they are taken to the beach and tied to trees, where they “hang out” for hours. Today there were eight cows in that area of the beach.
What could we do? We would have to hold our class a few feet from the cows. So we did just that. And I loved it!
When we become like a bird perched on a dry twig, ready to fly at a moments notice, we are able to adapt what comes our way. Each challenge is an opportunity to practice detachment, surrender, equanimity, patience, persistence and flexibility.
To look at previous posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.