Tuesday, 22 October 2013

My visit to London and a hug from Mother Amma

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Hello all,

Well this weekend has been a little different to the norm, and so is this blog post. I heard about an event in London where a woman known as 'The Hugging Saint', Mother Amma, hugs many people who come to see her, and leaves a lasting impression on people with her love and compassion, often people end up crying. My friend had been before and she said it was amazing, so I was kind of intrigued by it and decided it would be good for me to go. The event is still on as I write this and finishes on Thursday, but it was only feasible for me to go on the Monday.

I didn't have enough money to stay in London overnight, so it was a bit of a hardcore day, with me catching a coach to London at 2.45 in the morning, with the return journey to Leeds leaving good old Victoria coach station at 7.30 pm, meaning I would be home at midnight. At least, that was in theory.

Sunday evening went well, my plans to have moments of sleep interspersed with periods of being awake worked okay. I opened my eyes after midnight, and made myself some porridge which ended up tasting horrible, and a few sandwiches, to keep me going for the day. I had also bought some cheap croissants from LIDL. My bag was packed along with a couple of books.

After getting ready, I left the house at 1.45 am for the walk to Leeds bus station. The bus left on time, after the driver was harassed by a woman who did not have the necessary booking to get on the bus, or something. She accused the driver of being racist, which is somewhat childish behaviour but some people like to play the race card when they don't get things their way.

As the toilet on the coach was out of order (I never use toilets on coaches anyway), the coach driver made a stop at a service station for people to take a loo break. I should have gone but the person next to me was asleep and I was too lazy to say 'Excuse me' to him. I could feel a bit of an aching stomach at the time but I thought I'd be okay. We were meant to stop for 10 minutes but it ended up being more like 20 minutes. I knew I should have headed for the toilet. Then we made another stop because the coach was running out of fuel and needed re-fuelling. Another 10-15 minute unscheduled stop.

I'd had a bit of a rest and when I woke up, we started to hit some traffic. I thought we wouldn't be that far off London. It was about 7.30 at the time and the coach was due in London at 8.00 am. We'd be a bit late but it wouldn't be that bad, I thought. When I could finally see a signpost to tell where we are, I was horrified when I found we were at Junction 11, near Luton. So still around 30 miles from London probably! I was starting to get stressed now. If I had been on my own, I would have been screaming blue murder. But as I was on a coach full of people, I clearly had to keep my emotions in check.

TRAFFIC QUEUES

I hate any sort of queuing, but traffic jams have a particular way of stressing me out. I think they are the biggest waste of time ever. Like, I need to get from A to B without stopping! I would sooner take a longer route to get somewhere without being stuck in traffic. I don't know exactly what it is, but traffic jams do something psychological to my brain! The traffic looked pretty bad and I was thinking:

- Why the f**k is there so much traffic near Luton?
- We are going to be seriously late.
- I might not even get to the venue on time to get my token. (You need a token to receive a hug from Mother Amma but there was a limited allocation of tokens).
- The whole day is going to be a waste. I'll be coming down to London for no bloody reason. It's the story of my life (and blah de blah).

I was whispering 'for f**k sake' on a number of occasions whilst we were in the traffic queue.

Fortunately, the traffic eased a bit after that. But I knew that the stops we had made were having a knock on effect, as the traffic will have been getting busier as we were running late. I was saying to the angels 'Okay I surrender, help me get to the place on time' although was still panicking. I wanted my hug!

Then once we had got into the London area and witnessed driving which does not exist anywhere else in the UK, there was more drama. A guy came to the front and told the driver that his friend was having some sort of heat exhaustion and needed to call an ambulance. The driver, quite rightly, said that it was not safe to stop. The friend that supposedly needed the ambulance managed to get up and semi fainted near the steps leading to the passenger exit from the bus. Eventually, the driver managed to stop somewhere and let the two people out of the vehicle. An extra few minutes delay. Whilst people's health is obviously more important .. it was still an annoying inconvenience. The driver eventually let them go and came back saying 'That guy's a tool', clearly thinking he didn't need an ambulance at all.

Eventually we got into Victoria coach station, AN HOUR LATE! I had to make a toilet stop and then rushed to the rail station. Then it was into Victoria underground station, which was jam packed when I got there and people had to queue to get inside the entrance. I can't be bothered with this, I thought, so made plans to try and get to Alexandra Palace overground station. Trouble was, I didn't have any instructions on what British Rail trains to use to get there, and the station staff said it was easier to use the underground. After 10 extra minutes of getting a ticket and asking for advice, I went back to the underground station part and the queue had subsided. It must have just been the regular rush of people going to the crazy London world of work.

I was still a little flustered at this time, the thoughts of 'I could do without this' and 'This is going to be a wasted day' were still there, although by the time I finally got on the Tube from Victoria, I think I was starting to get a bit calmer.

I got to Wood Green tube station. It was fairly easy to find Alexandra Palace (where the event was being held) although it was a little bit of a walk. I got there at around 10.15 and, thankfully, managed to get my token, which was numbered Q-1. I got a fairly nice seat near the front. It didn't seem too crowded so I thought I'd be able to receive my hug, no problem, before leaving to catch my coach back home.

I soaked in a bit of the atmosphere before the event started at 11.00. Amma entered the stage with the rest of her crew, and was surrounded by children when she first went on the stage, which was quite cool. We did a meditation and then she started hugging people. There was only so long I could watch this happening continually, so I decided to take a look at some of the stalls and see what products were on offer. I didn't buy anything, as it was a bit close to payday, although I would have liked to.

The token numbers started at A-1 and your number was displayed when it was your turn to go forward for darshan (the hug). Darshan means 'to see the sacred' according to Wikipedia - by the time lunch was about to be served at 12.30, the number being displayed was around C-1 or C-2. I was hoping (and more or less thinking) that not all letters of the alphabet were going to be on the tokens as it was taking a while to get through the first three letters. I decided to have some lunch as my turn for darshan wasn't going to come just yet.

I had lunch and watched a bit more of the hugging taking place. There was chanting and singing throughout the day by people on or near stage, which kept the atmosphere going. I was starting to get a bit bored and around 2 pm I asked someone how long it would take before I received my hug as I needed to leave by 6 pm at the latest. She said I 'might' be able to have one before 6. But now I knew that all letters of the alphabet were being used for the tokens and by this stage I think we were only at E! So things were moving slowly and I was hoping the next few letters of the alphabet would be accounted for a bit quicker.

I went for a walk around the Alexandra Palace area (which, to be honest, I wasn't overly impressed with, neither was I that impressed with the venue, the interior was nice enough but I didn't think the exterior was particularly impressive). I got back and it was probably around 3 o'clock or just after. It was slowly becoming rather apparent that I was not going to get a hug unless I spoke to someone to try and get me in the queue earlier. I felt a bit awkward about doing this as I don't like having to ask for these kind of things, perhaps I felt like I was going to push in front of the queue, but there was no point in standing there doing nothing. I was getting a little stressed by this time, at one point, after speaking to someone who didn't help me much and said there was nothing he could do, that I would just leave and call the delay a failure. Thoughts were going through my head along the lines of 'This is the story of my life, I'm not meant to receive anything good, not meant to receive blessings, I am un-special'.

I spoke to one or two other people who might be able to help and eventually found a lovely woman near the stage who understood my need to leave at a particular time and told me to sit on one of the rows near the front so that I could go onto the stage in time before I had to leave. I didn't have to be on stage straight away, it was, I think, just after 4 o'clock by this time, so I didn't mind waiting a little bit longer. Eventually I was summoned to make my way onto the stage.

THE HUG

So, what was this hug all about then? Would a hug help change my life or heal me in any way? I had come to the event without any particular expectations, although I had heard that receiving a hug from Mother Amma could possibly be life transforming. She is a revered saint and is full of love towards humanity. I was intrigued to see what this would be like. It had been a little bit of a challenging day, all in all, so maybe I was not as focused as I would otherwise have been. But now I was on stage.

The volunteers on stage were doing an excellent job, getting people to move forward in sequence once one person had received their hug. It didn't take too long for me to get the chance to hug Mother Amma.

One of the volunteers asked me if I was English, I obviously said yes, and they told Mother 'English'. I received and gave a brief hug, lasting possibly around 15 seconds, and she whispered into my ear, something that sounds like 'Adorro, adorro' - which sounded similar to the English word 'adore' so perhaps she was trying to convey the words 'I love you' or just 'love'.

I could definitely sense the love radiating from this woman, it was palpable. Whilst I didn't have a Road to Damascus experience or burst out crying, I definitely felt something. I was smiling when I went off the stage. Something had definitely happened. Even tonight, I do feel better about myself than I was, and I had as good a day at work as I have done for a while.

LOVE .. IS WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT

It was just before 5 pm at the time I received my hug. So plenty of time spared. I am grateful for the woman who helped me out when I was worrying about time. I chose to leave the building soon after, as I had seen everything I needed to see. I had a mini grin on my face and felt as if I had a bit more 'light' about me, if that makes sense. I felt that, above all, what had been imparted to me was love. Pure love. Now if you have read my blog in great detail, you'll know that love is an area I have had great struggles in. Whilst my life may not be revolutionised overnight, I feel I have had a bit more of a glimpse as to watch love really is. So often, 'love' is mentioned in terms of romantic love, particularly in pop songs, but love is so much more than romance. It is a way of life. It is the state of being open hearted and having high regard for others without expectations. I look forward to seeing how my life will unfold from here. I feel a little bit more at peace with the world.

THE JOURNEY BACK

The day didn't quite end there though :) I went back to Victoria, had a bit of a stop at the Westminster library which is very near the coach station and then got back to the coach station in good time, was quite tired by then so had a quick snooze. Got onto the coach which was a nice double decker coach, coach left on time and got onto the motorway in good time. I was actually thinking that this could end up being the best coach journey I've ever had, got to sleep nicely and was probably snoring away enjoying the journey. How wrong I was.

Photo by Kallgan
The coach came to a stop so I woke up, which one tends to do when coaches stop. Instead of being at the next scheduled stop which was Sheffield Meadowhall, I saw a long traffic queue and saw a signpost in front saying that we were near Junction 21 for Leicester. I knew straight away that something must be up, there is no way there should be any traffic queues on a motorway this late at night (it was about 9.35 pm). This time, I wasn't quite so stressed (it must have been the hug) but I wasn't exactly thrilled. I still had thoughts of knocking the head off of anyone who had caused the delay. As we finally started moving a little bit, a motorway sign said that the M1 was closed between junctions 21 and 22. Oh fuck ...

So we had to divert via the outskirts of Leicester, going through plenty of roundabouts and traffic hold ups in the process. It was at least an hour before we got back onto the motorway. It was almost unbelievable that both my coach journeys would be delayed by at least an hour. I was thinking 'I wouldn't mind, but I have to go to work the next day' and thought I mind end up being a little knackered. I later found that the motorway had been closed due to 'bridge repairs' - ok, at least there wasn't an accident, but I was not exactly wildly impressed when I read this. Surely the work could be done a tiny bit later when almost everyone has got home? It said 'Minor delays likely' on the website, which was a bit of a laugh, this was definitely no minor delay.

MY PHONE AND HOW THE DELAYS RELATE TO MY LIFE 

There was a bit of an irony in that I had lost my phone a few days earlier, and so had no internet connection on the day. I pretty much know that I would have been broadcasting my feelings of morning panic on Facebook, and probably going on about the journey back too for good measure, if I had had my phone on me. It was good that I didn't get the opportunity to do this :)

Were the two delays a coincidence? Maybe, but the chances of two coach journeys being late by an hour are pretty slim in my experience. It gave me a bit of an opportunity to be in touch with my feelings about traffic queues, and to ask myself why they rile me so much. I was told that it could relate to how I feel my life has been delayed, and that could well be right. I just feel frustration in traffic jams, the feeling of 'not moving', 'being stuck' and 'being trapped' kind of relates to how I've felt about life sometimes.

Maybe something to ponder on in a bit. To be honest, if I'd known that the journeys were going to be like they were, I quite likely would not have gone to London. But maybe I was meant to be there.

All in all, was an eventful day. I didn't get back home until 1.15 am on the Tuesday morning. If I was to go to the Amma event again, I would go with someone else. It wasn't that easy keeping myself occupied, I was close to falling asleep in the hall at one stage. But it was good to experience a hug from Mother Amma, I'm glad I went.

Blessings


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