Amma is coming to NYC! Curious to know what to expect in the presence of a living saint? Read on for my guide to undertaking an Amma program.
Amma is known as the hugging saint of India. She will be in NYC July 4ththrough the 6thencouraging selfless service, togetherness and love!
Amma travels the world offering darshan. Darshan is a sacred blessing given by a high master, guru or saint. Amma’s darshan is hugs! She literally hugs hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. I’ve seen her sit and hug hundreds of people for hours on end with no food, bathroom break or even a look of being tired or annoyed. It is something truly spectacular to witness and even more miraculous to receive, if you should choose to get a hug from Amma.
Allot of people ask me what’s it’s like to go to an Amma program. I thought I would compile this helpful guide so that you can easily acclimate to the energy if you should choose to dive into Amma bliss this time around.
If you arrive early before the program begins you will wait in line to be given a token and then ushered to the seating area to prepare for Ammas’ entrance. If the program is already in full swing by the time you arrive, you will want to go to a marked desk to receive your “token”. It’s a small piece of paper with a number on it like A23. These tokens go from A to ZZ. Depending on where you are at in the cue, you will know whether or not you will be waiting hours until your hug.
Once you have your token you are free to do as you wish. Mingle, connect, have a chai. You will need to be mindful of the doors closing times if you want to leave and come back. Always ask someone working there and don’t assume you can leave and come back. Most people are very friendly and eager to help answer your questions. They want you to receive your hug!
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO MEET AMMA?
First off, like any spiritual experience it is deeply personal. I am going to paint my picture of what I believe is happening and what to expect. You might end up going and have a completely different experience. That’s totally ok! Feel free to connect and share your perspective.
TYPES OF PROGRAMS
There are two types of experiences that Amma offers at her program in NYC.
The first type is a simple daytime and evening programlasting a handful of hours. This was the first program I went to, which was simple and understated. She wore all white garments and there was a band of Indian musicians on the floor in front of her. I received a hug only after a few hours of waiting because I had not yet received a hug that year or ever. It was a great introduction to her energy and the mood of the crowd. I was never overwhelmed or out of sync with the experience.
The second type, is the mega party Devi Bhava, which is the last night of her program and runs the entire evening on into morning until she has hugged everyone in the building. Amma is in full bloom, coming correct with a colorful saree and bejeweled crown. Where in the daytime program she sits closer to the audience, here she is usually on a stage with colorful fabrics and a decorative umbrella strung up around her. It is a massive event that creates a cyclone of energy to keep everyone awake and uplifted until the very last hug.
Because it’s pretty much the biggest spiritual party NYC has to offer and its FREE, you are destined to run into and see many friends, family and ghosts from the past…
AM I GOING TO HAVE TO WAIT AROUND FOR HOURS?
For years I was under the impression that awaiting an Amma hug meant standing in line for hours. I kept thinking of the time I went to the statue of liberty as a kid and only took a step and half forward every 20 mins or so. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there is an entire world going on inside of an Amma program beyond getting that hug.
Enjoy incredible Indian food. Amma travels with her devotees, many of which live with her in India and they know how to cook up deliciousness and keep it coming. You can have some of the best Indian food at an Amma program. Enjoy a vegetarian home cooked meal as well as café style ala cart options, plenty of sweets and incredible Indian style chai!
Amma has an incredible shop where all proceeds go to support Ammas non profit, “Embracing the World”. You can find anything from Indian clothes to incense, photos of Amma, Indian gods and goddesses for your altar, oils, Ayurveda products- pretty much anything you could want straight from Amma’s ashram in India. In some cases, I have seen musical instruments, shamanic jewelry, also puja items that Amma has used in ceremony. You can easily spend a few hours just looking at all the things!
ASTROLOGY and MASSAGE!
Enjoy a Vedic reading from one of ammas top Jyotish Astrologers, a chair massage, acupuncture, all sorts of healing and metaphysical offerings here.
BE OF SERVICE!
There will often be someone walking around with a white board noting where help is needed. Why not get your hands dirty and wash some dishes or act as surveillance for the Amma shop? Or maybe you even get a job putting you close to Amma and her hugging vibes. There are plenty of ways to be helpful. Service is the basis for Ammas mission. This is the perfect setting to see how your selfless service can support something bigger than your own individual self.
MAKE NEW FRIENDS!
It is a very communal atmosphere. The dining tables are all open. You can just sit down and begin talking, asking questions about this or that and end up being involved in a conversation for hours without even realizing it. Maybe you make a new friend or connection? Maybe you fall in love? At the very least stretch those NYC boundaries and get to know people outside of your own box!
MEDITATE and WATCH!
There is a seating area by the musicians where you can meditate and most importantly watch Amma do her thang. This gives you more perspective as you observe people in the process of receiving. There are also chairs for those not inclined to sit on the floor for long hours.
STEEP IN THE ATMOSPHERE!
For me, it feels like heaven in earth. All of Ammas’ attendants and devotees are dressed in white, the Indian musicians are playing the most devotional and high vibrational music, the chai is perfect and there is nothing more needed than to just be in the energy of it all as you wait to receive your hug.
As I mentioned before, you might meet some ghosts there. Old relations, whether positive or negative, existing in the space for you to deal with on some level, run, hide or maybe even face it with love.
WHAT TO WEAR!
You don’t need to wear all white. Do it ONLY if that calls to you. Amma.org states “Out of respect for the Indian culture, we recommend modest dress. For example: tank tops, shorts, tight leggings and short skirts are not recommended.”
Given the fact that we are in a living saints presence and also to honor the cultural practices of India, dress with modesty. This being NYC, not everyone is up for following the rules of dressing appropriately when meeting a spiritual master or saint. Don’t be that person who doesn’t know how to come with respect to a culture different than your own.
Do wear comfortable shoes and bring an extra layer for warmth. Having an extra sweater or shawl is helpful given that those spaces tend to blast the air-conditioning at full strength. Also, you might want the shawl to help give you extra privacy when you meditate.
GET SUPER SPIRITUAL
An Amma program invites purification. Why not use the experience to help you in your spiritual pursuits? Allot can be received through the experience of being in the presence of a master. Take some time to drop in. Notice what’s coming up for you. What stories or people present themselves? What does it feel like to witness this strange and wonderful experience?
CHANT YOUR MANTRA
Are you ready to undertake a mantra discipline for the rest of your life? Sign up to receive a mantra from Amma in addition to your hug. There is a pretty thorough orientation that will tell you whether or not this is the right step for you to take in your practice at this time. You can read about my own Amma mantra experience here!
Remember, you don’t have to receive a hug if you don’t want to. There’s no pressure. I’ve gone to programs in NYC without an expectation of needing a hug because I had already seen her in India or was just feeling like I didn’t NEEED to get that hug.
Being in the atmosphere of it all, was plenty AMMA enough for me.
Amma will be in NYC July 4th through the 6th, 2018