So what is a hug really? Well I think it can take many different forms. First, there is the stiff, mandatory kind of hug you would awkwardly give a co-worker (that you don’t really like) when you have to present a birthday present, maybe on behalf of the company department. Then there is a delicate hug, say of your spouse’s grandmother, where you don’t want to crush her, and sort of do the “patting the back” routine… And there are the sweeter than sweet, priceless hugs of a dear, dear friend, a loving mother, and a lover. Well I experienced a whole other kind of hug altogether yesterday, by the incredibly beautiful soul Amma, right here in New York City at the Manhattan Center.
Who is Amma? She is an Indian woman referred to as the “Hugging Saint!” That’s right, she goes around hugging people- referred to as darshan, to anyone that comes before her. :) Her teachings are universal to all, and she says that her religion is Love. She does not ask anyone to believe in God or to change their faith, but only to inquire into their own real nature, and believe in themselves.
So I got to the center around 9 am, and as a first-timer, had the honor to be placed 10 feet or so, at Amma’s feet while I waited my turn (we were given tags with letters). For the next few hours, I was completely transfixed on her beautiful face- there was so much light and really….just pure love. There is no other way to say it! I watched her hug person after person, people of all religions and ethnicities, completely encapsulating them in her bosom, then rocking them back and forth in again…pure love. I watched grown men, children, and everyone in between transform in her arms. Many would collapse and begin to sob, as if just experiencing Amma’s simple act of pure, unconditional love was all they needed to open up some dark corner of their heart, or show them what real love was and let down their guard to the truth of their spirit. It was so beautiful and touching that I was crying myself!
After 3 ½ hours, it was my turn. As I humbly approached Amma on my knees, she just swooped me up and I was embraced in an all-encompassing wave of love, her sweet rose smell, and her whispering in my ear of Indian mantras. It was timeless. Then as she finished and I was shuffled to the side, I felt an incredible warmth in my heart. Yes, it was pure love!
So whether you view Amma as a saint, a guru, or simply an incredibly compassionate humanitarian, she is a living example that this one simple act of love can transform someone deeply, and permanently. And she is tireless in spreading her love: In the past 28 years, she has physically hugged more than 28 million people from all parts of the world. In India, her home country, she has been known to individually embrace over 20,000 people in one day, sitting sometimes for over 22 hours without a moment’s break.
It is this very pure love itself which fuels the incredible success of Amma’s charitable work, which is staggering. It is her love that motivates thousands that she embraces to wake up into action, service. Her organization raised $46 million in tsunami relief funding, feeds over 2 million people a year in India, provides free housing, health services, and lifetime stipends for the poor, has established 53 schools for needy children and those with speech and hearing defects, programs to end suicide, free meditation classes for prisoners, setting up orphanages and hospices…the list is endless. And (very close to my heart), she established the Green Friends program in 2001 to help protect our environment, with initiatives like planting 100,000 trees a year and providing sustainability education. In 2005, Amma’s organization, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math, was given special consultative status by the United Nations.
Yes! This is one person! In the words of one of my all-time major heroes, Dr. Jane Goodall, who presented Amma with the 2002 Gandhi-King Award for Non-violence said, “She stands here in front of us. God’s love in a human body.”
Since yesterday, I have had Amma constantly on my mind. It is as if since we touched hearts, we are ever- connected. I think one of her brilliant silent statements, as she proceeds to hug people week after week and year after year, is that the simple act of pure love…and giving a hug!, can be so powerful that we don’t even realize sometimes how we can help lift someone up, reinspire someone to pursue their dreams or help others, or believe again in love and the inextricable human connection.
Sometimes we might feel self conscious about hugging, even touching people. I am used to touching people all day long as a yoga instructor, but I realize that this is so not the case with many of us. When we hug we can really embrace and pass love, and a silent wish for the other persons’ well being and peace. Amma’s philosophy of living a life of non-duality, of seeing ourselves more and more in others, would definitely transform the whole world into a more loving place if everyone adopted it.
Amma is a beautiful example to all of us!! So let’s… smile at a stranger, consciously send love whenever we do hug someone, and remember that truly….we are all connected.
With warmth and Love, Kimberly
PS- I’m going on Good Morning America Saturday morning to talk about more cleaning stuff! So tune in around 9 am if you are around, otherwise check back here for more cleaning and detox talk soon.