At 4:30 am we arise for the chanting of 1000 names of divine mother in the temple. No alarm even necessary to awaken, spirit is pulling us up.

Following prayers we enjoy many cups of masala chai tea served in tiny metal shot glasses and breakfast and then lay leisurely in the morning sun. It is truly glorious, the ashram grounds as seemingly pink as Amma’s heart. We receive our free tokens for afternoon darshan, the spiritual blessing, the embrace with Amma. Jackie and I are exhausted yet full of zealous anticipation, curious to know what it feels like to have a hug with a saint.

In the temple all begin to gather, the dais cleaned pedantically for the divine Indian mother. Ashram students in white saris and dhotis sit in front of the stage, chanting prayers and honoring her grace. The Indians obtain darshan first, lines of adorable students in uniforms wait in plastic chairs and then the international visitors are summoned. There is little organization or directions where to go but big eager smiles lead the way. We play musical chairs in the waiting area outside Amma’s stage, scooting one chair at a time closer to the hug. The energy surrounding is beautiful, a strong channel of love emanating around us. As it was my turn I was asked to kneel in front of her, placing my hands on the chair arms as she pressed my face into her chest, first on one side and then shifting my face to the other. Amma was chatting constantly to men surrounding her as she embraced each of us, cheerful and so bright, radiating pure positivity. My heart was filled with gratitude as I nuzzled in her bosom and she whispered a prayer in Hindi, I assume, in my ear.

The superimposed pictures of Amma’s face on Shiva’s body were a bit too much of guru worship for my taste but she is truly a heavenly human, dedicating her life to service, light, and love. I am inspired deeply. I am told she lives in a simple room in the ashram just as all of her disciples do; she travels much of the year all around the world promoting peace.

We pack up our baggage and head for a taxi, feeling called to go to Varkala, a beach side town on the edge of cliffs. Some duration of many hours later, again honking proudly as Indians love to do the entire ride, we arrive in Varkala. We enter many hotels to ask prices and decide on a gorgeous compound with a swimming pool. No hot water in the showers but it doesn’t seem like it something that we will actually need.

We are truly blessed.

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