By a wonderful synchronicity, I was holding satsangs in Stockton, CA when Amma the Hugging Saint visited Her ashram in Castro Valley. Diane, a lady who had hosted one of my satsangs near Oakland, allowed me to stay at her apartment, so I could conveniently attend the public program and retreat. The first day, I arrived at the temple late, and the seats were filled. I filed into a line and sat on the floor. Suddenly, people on the floor were guided up onto stage to sit near Amma. I was surprised to find myself only about 15 feet away, basking in the powerful Shakti of Her Presence. How did it happen? Later on, I obtained a token to receive a hug also known as a darshan.
Each day, I found myself doing different service tasks. These times were the most fun because I felt like I was really supporting the event. I washed dishes, served out food, cut vegetables, carried heavy things, and guarded the door at the temple. During seva, it was an opportunity to interact with others and make friends. One morning, I arrived early to hear the Swami, and they told me to turn around and go fill up my van with people from the hotel before I was allowed to park. This was unexpected and rather disappointing. Every morning after that, I waited in line at the nearby hotel to create my carpool.
The last night, there were long lines to get a darshan token. Thousands of people waited hours to finally enter the temple. Almost half of the main hall was filled before I entered. A woman came up to me and two women, and she asked if we would like to sit closer to the front. Immediately we followed and were led to the second row. After a while, the whole temple was filled, and people were led into the dining hall building where they could see her by television. Then suddenly we were moved into the very center of the row where we sat in a "reserved" chair only a few feet away from Amma. The program began. It was rare to receive a seat so near the Great Guru. The Energy was thick and powerful. The tall Swami guided a meditation, breathing in Om, breathing out Ma. They distributed the small plastic containers of holy water. After receiving a hug that night, I shuttled people up and down the muddy road between the temple and parking lot, and then headed back "home" to Stockton.
During the Amma retreat, I had been hard on myself for not serving enough, so this was a time to learn compassion. The mind has certain ideas about how to be a good person which is not easy to live up to. I was letting go of the this harshness through the healing Grace of Amma. Thank you, Amma!