JuLia Bennett - A dynamite gal who is on her own pilgrimage to find her own utopia. She started a Kickstarter campaign for her upcoming documentary called "The Road to Utopia Show" to get over her bad relationship with money and asking for help.
Penelope (I have withheld her last name for privacy reasons) - A traveler visiting the United States from South Africa. She is quite spiritual and has so far traveled through a lot of places in the USA this time around.
One morning - I think it was Monday morning, I was making the laziest meal I could think of (jasmine rice with egg, where I boil the jasmine rice in a pot, then when it is almost done, crack a few eggs into the pot and mix the whole thing up letting the heat of the rice cook the egg and giving the egg maximum surface contact with hot rice.) and sit down at the breakfast table. Penelope and JuLia were in conversation, and as I started to eat, I tuned in - and to my surprise, they were deep into the topic of the spiritual aspect of money. What are the chances of running into a conversation of that nature at the breakfast table?! This was when I learned about what JuLia was doing; and Penelope was offering her perspective on the matter; which consisted with several different presentations on the concept that money is energy and that we can affect that flow. I offered a tidbit to think of money as something that is to be given, as well as received, so to not feel negatively about spending money. All three of us played around with these ideas, and JuLia looked to find practical steps as she resonated with these concepts.
John Dwyer - A spontaneous, boisterous, friendly, tall man who was traveling from California to see Mata Amritanandamay (Amma). He came to the hostel the next day, declaring that he was famished and was looking around for food to eat and had decided to stay at the hostel for tonight. We instantly took up conversation, and while he was munching on sunflower seeds, told me about Amma, and (incredulous) educated me on who she is; when I expressed that I did not know.
John suddenly suggests that I join him on his travel to meet with Amma, and if I wanted to know more, to check our her website. We had a pleasant exchange, where we traded stories - John has been traveling off and on for many years now and resides somewhere in the wilderness of California. John exits to take a walk, and I decided to check out Amma's website. As soon as I beheld pictures of her, I felt a powerful sensation of the infinitely high field of unconditional love radiating from her; and suddenly find myself recalling my profound experience in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I knew I just had to meet her and experience what John was talking about; and see how another human being can put out a field like this!
John returns later while I was talking to another guest, and hands me an apple he picked up while out. I had told him that my bank account only had 22 cents in it for the last 10 or 11 days, and was going day-to-day with things continually happening each day that was a real blessing. For example, I met another pilgrim, Edwin and had some amazing exchanges with; and bought me some hot drinks twice; two occasions when friends donated to my blog and I immediately used it to book more nights at the youth hostel; participated in a singing bowl meditation with a very powerful person; got a crash course on Reiki; had a very in-depth and mature conversation with several empaths in a meet-up; was given a free complete meal and supported the organization by washing their dishes at the end of the farmers' market. John got the apple from the DoubleTree resort; and even though it looked perfectly fine on the outside; it was browning on the inside. Still tasted good, ate the parts that tasted intact.
I also tell JuLia via Facebook about Amma, and we agreed to meet up at the venue the next day. JuLia had also heard about the event; and was considering going to the workshop that takes place during the day. I told her about the free event in the evening, which she was then convinced to go.
The even progresses with some talk - other guests come in and it is mostly a full house at the youth hostel, people from all walks of life. We talk late into the evening, and John declares that we should wake up and leave at 4:30am. He has managed to recruit Penelope into joining us. They retire early, I prepare the necessary train tickets John bought, and I retire at 1:30am, deciding rather than sleep, meditate instead to prevent oversleeping while getting some level of rest. I had done this practice many times during my post-college days when I only had 4 hours available to sleep but had no awareness that it was meditation. I thought it was a light sleep that I would actively maintain without going into dreams.
John, Penelope, and I meet at the dining table; John does his morning meditation; and Penelope and I had poached eggs. We arrive at the New Mexico Rail Runner train station a bit after 5am; just missing the train. We decided to watch the sunrise and catch the next train northbound at 6:18am instead. Once we arrived in Santa Fe, we catch a shuttle bound for The Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino, where Amma's Devi Bhava event was taking place that evening at 7pm. We arrive at around 9:20am, and everything up to this point felt really spontaneous. My feelings turn out to be true - there was no prior planning by John, he only heard it via word of mouth, and that it was at this resort in Santa Fe on this day. We were surprised that it was taking place right above a casino - Who would hold a spiritual event right above a casino?! It turned out to be the only suitable venue for the Devi Bhava with its expected numbers. We also did not know it would not start until the evening; and that we stumbled to a separate retreat event where one paid $300 to be a part of. John convinces and sneaks his way into the retreat lecture; while Penelope and I decide to explore this very large resort; while engaged in deep spiritual conversation. Throughout the entire resort, there is a communications blackout as a security measure; and no cellphones, cameras, or other recording devices were allowed into the retreat and Devi Bhava area. The reason for the restrictions at the even is to keep the focus and energy for the purpose of the event. The Davi Bhava is being held in a large ballroom at the resort. There is a central stage at the resort where it is anticipated where Amma will sit and give hugs.
At 3:45pm there is crowd movement, and we form lines to be given tokens for the Davi Bhava event. Each token contains a letter and number, so when we see our token on a large flip board, we line up on either side of the central stage, and approach Amma one by one; aided by numerous staff. We wait, and at 5:30pm we all are finally issued tokens and let into the ballroom where seats were arranged to accommodate us. By this time, John is gone and has gotten himself into the retreat fully; and was already admitted into the ballroom; while Penelope, Sarah (a fellow visitor we met who was there for the same reason), and I were issued tokens with H-2 on it. We enter the ballroom and are escorted to our seats, as a DVD starts playing on one of several projector screens; that shows various videos telling everyone about Amma, her humanitarian works, and her philosophy. There are quite a bit of of recorded humanitarian works; all accompanied by her trademark hugs.
At 7pm, one of Amma's senior disciples starts giving a spiritual talk, preceded by an opening statement by Amma. I did not recall the service as I have always had trouble staying awake during any form of service, lectures, discourses, or talks; and this service was no exception. Sarah tells me that the yawning followed by falling asleep is the soul and body taking in the material at a very deep level; and that the soul is facilitating a deep taking in through yawning; and so I am not offending the staff. The talk ends with a meditation and mantra chanting session. At some point, small cups of blessed water were given out to all who wanted it, so I took mine without much thought and drank it, not knowing anything about it, or knowing what to do with it.
At 8:30pm, The central stage is opened, and Amma is introduced to us all in a crown, ceremonial garb, and a beautiful jewel-adorned parasol above her - a sacred place for a Goddess to give her unconditional love to all who need it. The Stage is made of gold colored frame and bright red curtains; which opens to reveal a completely white cloth and decor interior. Amma is seated in the center and a couple of fans are running to keep the area cool. There are numerous white chairs around the stage intended for those who want to watch Amma at work and be in her field of unconditional love. There are several staff members at the edges of the stage to act as choreographers, ushers, and assistants; performing a myriad of roles.
Everyone is allowed to roam the areas except the stage and lines freely - so I took the time to take care of my personal needs and wandered out of the ballroom. Outside and near the entrance of the ballroom are many marketplace vendors whose profits go to the various charitable initiatives that Amma is responsible for - all manner of vendors. I run into John, who asks me if I had dinner yet; which I respond "not yet" and he takes me to the buffet dining area, where he donated 4 dollars on my behalf; and we both got into line. This meal is included with his purchased spot on the retreat; so he had no need to pay for himself. It is a meal with various vegetarian indian dishes; with ice cream for dessert. The lines are long, which are split into two lines halfway through; and we spent some time having dinner and conversing with others around the various tables where we sat. Each time we finish a plate, we would re-enter the line with our dinner plates, have them refilled; and go find a new table to sit at, since there are no assigned seating.
I again separate from John, as he is goaded into a third helping by a Russian woman who was getting up to get a 3rd helping. I became aware of how fast my token was coming up and did not have the luxury of time. If we missed our token time, there was no guarantee that we would get to meet Amma. My token time comes up and I make my way to the back of the line, which consists of two rows of chairs that lead up to the stage. I was ushered to the one on the left. I was instructed to take my shoes off and put them to the side for later retrieval; and that when I approach the stage; that I take my glasses off and hold them on my left hand; so that the glasses are not crushed by the hug Amma gives. Each time a person got their hug, I would hop chairs as guided by the ushers; and there were about 30 or so chairs leading up to the center of the stage. I was also instructed on the choice to take a mantra; and given a sheet about mantras. When I got to the stage; I had the intention of asking for a Mantra; but was immediately taken into a hug by Amma, and she whisper-chanted something in the Indian language into my ear - that reminded me of the word Medjool, for Medjool dates. Before I knew it, the hug was over, and I was being assisted up, and directed to one of the white chairs with "You can watch Mother, for a while."
I spent some time playing musical chairs around the stage watching Amma and her team work in such a fluid manner; and processing what just happened. So two lines enter the stage; from the left and from the right. I came in from the left. There are 7 red chairs once you reach the top of the steps that lead into the center, one set from each side, followed by a stool, then the floor right in front of Amma sitting position. The advancement alternates between sides and when it comes time for the person at the stool to kneel, there is an assistant to perfectly position that person, so that all Amma has to do is guide the person's head to the right half of her bosom, and lean her head forward and to the left to whisper into the person's ears. There are assistants behind both stools. There is another line that threads from the left rear of the stage that leads to a third stool that is to Amma's right and slight rear and side. People who request mantras get their hug and are directed to this line by more assistants. The people who reach the front of that third line sit on the stool, and an assistant behind that stool will guide the back of the person's neck to just the right position for Amma to momently lean back, and to her right, and whisper a mantra into the person's left ear. That person is then assisted off the stool and to the back of the stage where another assistant writes down the mantra, and instructs the person on the use of the mantra. That person is directed to exit the stage to the rear.
What I am struck is on how well choreographed the stage operation is. There is minimal communication between all the assistants, ushers, and other staff, and Amma; but yet they all know what they are doing and all the information is known by all of them. I realized then a few things:
1) They are all in the flow of things, each movement, each action is graceful, timed perfectly, and done without thinking.
2) Amma does not need to communicate what she is doing with her team, I noticed that her assistants already know.
3) Amma already knows the needs of each participant before they ever reach the stage, without any communication - which means she either pre-recognizes it; or intuits this in advance.
4) The assistant who writes down the mantra issued to the person never needs to know what Amma issued. This is significant. Mantras issued are unique for each person, so there is never a cookie cutter formula; nor a set series. They are issued on the fly, and only by Amma in this venue / event. Telepathy is implied here!
I realized several things for my own experience - I had set the intention to ask for a mantra; yet was not given the opportunity to ask. To take on a Mantra is a serious commitment and that signifies that you wish to take on Amma as your guru, and to chant this mantra daily. I then realize that I was not ready to do this, because I had so many simultaneous things going on, and none of the prior events have settled into my being yet; nor have I fully processed these things and events that have recently happened. Amma knew this. Amma knew this even before I got to the stage; which was why she never gave me the opportunity to ask for my mantra; despite my intention to ask for one. I have a profound reaction to this revelation; which tied in with what I observed made perfect sense. Not only does Amma and her team have perfect synchronicity; but they can access each others' knowledge, and pre-recognize the needs of the participant before they even know why they are there.
JuLia had requested and got her mantra, and her group came in after mine. Having said this, Amma already knew JuLia was going to be there, and that she would be ready to have Amma as her guru. This is beyond amazing. JuLia left the youth hostel the day before, I told her about the event, and she was told about the event from others, and was led to attend it.
I spent the rest of the evening watching from the original seat I sat in near the center of the ballroom; as streams of people in the thousands proceeded to have their hugs mantras taken; all the while music and sutras were being played over the loudspeakers and lyrics being shown on the projector screens. At some point, I fell asleep into a few short naps, laying myself across several chairs. They were not comfortable, but the energy in the room allowed me to not feel much discomfort. Everyone else who chose to stay the entire night like I, did the same thing. Sarah left after getting her hug; and Penelope did the same thing I did. We lost track of John, and it was believed that John had retreated to the nearby Ashram.
Morning came without the passage of time being noted; and at some point, I no longer wanted to be there; and Penelope asked me if I wanted to stay, and I at first gave an ambiguous answer; later clarified. We left the venue at 9am, found out that the train back to Albuquerque would not depart until 1pm; so we spent the morning wandering around Santa Fe.