Saturday, March 10, 2012

Christmas & New Years in Tiru

Dec 23rd 2011- I took a taxi ride with 2 new friends into Pondicherry. On the way, Beth asked me about my experiences with and after Johnny. She confided that she'd been deeply moved by my referring to his death as the death of his body...that is, the soul goes on. She had been a biologist and had a disconnect with that, but had recently been having an understanding that science and spirituality are not at odds afterall. And she even confided that my speaking of the "death of his body", instead of "his death" changed the way she viewed her mother's death 30 years previously!
To further explain, I shared with Beth how my son Daniel and I had a picnic on the beach with 2 little baggies of Johnny's ashes just 3 months after the death of his body. I had pointed out to my son that his ashes looked just like the sand, small rocks and shells...and that I found it actually comforting that my body would go back to the Earth someday and look the same. I had no idea that I was going to feel that way...and it wasn't morbid at all. It was a deep knowing that the soul goes on. No feelings of grief arose at all, as I related my experiences with and after Johnny...including about our healthcare system.

That night I joined her at Tasty Cafe above her room where they had wi-fi. I asked if I could check my e-mail. I got an email from my son that Brianna, the kitty who had cuddled behind my knees hours before Johnny's body died, had been missing for 2 weeks. Tears streamed down my face, as I wrote back with questions and advice. And I had a very difficult time functioning for the next 2 weeks with grieving her and re-grieving Johnny because she was a very strong link to him on many levels. Some very beautiful things did transpire and I'd like to share those.

Technical difficulties along with deep saddness has been why I stopped posting for so long.

December 24th Christmas Eve I went to a vegetarian potluck with bhajans and carols. The power went out when Upahar began singing a song about surrender and others lit candles. Every cell in my body began crying...grief and happy, but honestly more grief at that moment...having to trust. And yet it felt good and "right" and actually cleansing to cry! Then I danced with my dear friend Virginia and a few other women, which helped to raise my energy and laugh with sisters & I even did a little tribal belly dancing at the party. I cried myself to sleep Christmas Eve. But I did feel loved, & lighter from the devotional singing & dancing

Dec 25th, 2012 Christmas Day- I went to kirtan at Upahar's home in the morning. I had to get up to dance for Krishna with the Maha Mantra. And I poured my heart out to Him as I danced and cried.

Over breakfast with Devi and Virginia I told them how Brianna would cuddle up to my heart at night and pull my hand to her with her paw...holding hands. And I shared with them that she could even see Johnny the 1st year after his transition...and that maybe she did this, went missing, to get to the last of the grieving.They held me as I cried.

After breakfast on Christmas, we did pradakshana around the inner path of Arunachala mountain. Devi led Virginia & I to a place to enter the path that began with beautiful flowers flowing over a fence & a labyrinth made of very thorny bushes. We each began at a different entrance & silently did our walk. I noticed a hornet & thorns in the opening I wanted to go through, but decided that wasn't going to hold me back from choosing the path I wanted to try. So I thought loving thoughts to the hornet & thorns as I passed through & thanked them for allowing me to pass. I was rewarded by meeting up with Devi & Virginia just a few steps forward & we embraced in a group hug & sounded together & then let out a unanimous deep sigh.

Virginia said she needed to take a nap & left us. I think we spent at least a 1/2 an hour walking the labyrinth over & over. It was so centering. At one point a group of children about 8-10 years old came & ran through the labyrinth as though it were a maze. One little girl ended up behind me & I briefly thought maybe I was preventing her from joining her friends, but then decided to sink back into the medatative walk as I was holding the mudra with left fingers pointed up & right fingers down, for protection & guidance to step into the flow. She seemed so patient behind me. And after I walked out we were silent for several moments & then she asked me my name. I think she had been very happy to have a more contemplative walk, rather than just running through it with her friends.

Then Devi & I entered the inner path around the mountain. It was really beautiful with shade trees on a beautiful sunny Christmas Day. We noticed the smallest details of seeds just barely showing through pods, some very developed pods & others that couldn't be seen but could be barely felt. Devi said it was like the power of Shakti, the Divine Feminine pregnant with potential. I said, "Beautiful analogy! It's like a dark moon night."

Very soon we came to leopard rock. It was in full sun, with some depressions & little pools of water. We sat down to watch some frogs floating in one of the tiny pools. They all dove under the water, so we laid down on our bellies & waited. Slowly they began emerging, & we watched each other. We looked a bit like frogs ourselves with just our heads & eyes showing. The warmth of the rock & energy of Arunachala, while frog watching felt very soothing as it penetrated my heart.

It was a very slow & thoughtful walk, so we didn't make it all the way around when we decided we had better go to the main road before sunset & to make it in time to Dominic's for dinner.

Back at Dominic's guest house restaurant, Devi laid down & I cuddled a very new puppy that was around 2 weeks old on my lap. The puppy had lost her mom & Dominic had adopted her & 3 litter mates. Each time she woke up I massaged her gently until she went back to sleep. It was comforting to me too.

After a really satisfying delicious vegan dinner Devi noticed 3 people cuddling & commented that it made her miss her cuddly friends at home. I told her I'd be up for some cuddling & so we & another friend cuddled for a bit, & Virginia snaped a great picture of us.

The next morning December 26, 2011, I felt so much better from the previous days of crying, chanting, dancing & being literally held by wonderful friends & the puppy... I text messaged Devi to ask where she got her bicycle & if she would go with me by auto rickshaw to get the Kali knives she had seen & thought would be perfect for me. She said she was up for both & asked me to meet her at Dominic's at 2pm after her acupuncture treatment.

She was already there by the time I arrived & was laying down with a puppy on her
chest. She told me she was worried about the other puppy, because it needed to be socialized. So I went to the little blanket enclosure Dominic had made for them. I called to the other puppy, "You don't know what you are missing. You could be held & massaged & loved!" She came out to me right away. It was the same puppy from the night before. I picked her up & she licked my chin. Then I noticed she had a chewed through 'worry spot' on a front leg. Brianna had a chewed through 'worry spot' on a hind leg. I mused about it to Devi as I laid down near her & placed my puppy on my heart. I told Devi about all the similarities to Brianna, including being born about the time of Brianna's disappearance & her shyness around everyone except with me...& I really wondered outloud if Brianna had reincarnated as this puppy to join me on my journey. It didn't even matter if that was so, but it was comforting.

We put the puppies back in their little nest & Devi took me to the man's house-hut
 who rented her the bike she was using. On the way I confided a couple of things. First that I was finally comfortable with knowing how to find a few places... & had previously thought that a bike would actually help me get lost faster! And the second was that I hadn't ridden a bike as a kid & had only ridden on the flat playa at Burning Man. She thought India was really a wild place to learn to ride a bike...which it proved to be... having near misses, my running into a wall, falling back off the bike & dancing around it as I did so & with no reason for the fall. I even rode on the main street in town, but I hopped off when traffic got crazy.

That night we went to one of the little vendors by the main temple, who sold knives. I had told Devi the previous week how I danced with coconut cleavers, to chanting with Kali. And that I had done this dance the last day my yoga studio was clear my way & open up for new beginnings, out with the old & in with the new. I had locked my studio doors, covered the windows, played a really powerful Kali chant on You Tube with a conch shell & danced sky clad as I ran & leaped with coconut cleavers throught the studio. It was very freeing & powerful.

So when we came to the mats rolled out with large curved knives, I reached down to pick 2 up & felt their weight & energy. One felt right & the other didn't match in weight or feel & so I found another one. Then I held them with knees bent & legs wide, grounding with my eyes closed. I drew in a few deep breath & sang the chant inwardly as I made a few infinity symbol passes through the air. The husband & wife there, who were selling the knives, smiled broadly & seemed delighted & amused. Devi exclaimed that she could really feel my bringing forth Kali. I think I bought the knives for about $2.

A couple of days later, Devi sang a couple of Kali chants while playing the harmonium while I danced with my new cleavers to clear the stuck energy I had been feeling. And I found it was helpful. It wasn't as dynamic as I thought it would be, but more contemplative & drawing out grief. And I could really feel Devi calling Kali in.

New Year's Eve 12/31/11, my friend Beth DJ 'd for Tasty Cafe` on their rooftop. I danced for 2 1/2 hours, which was so good to really get into my body & invoke the joy of movement! The daughter of the restaurant owner also had put together some Bollywood songs in their language Tamil & Tam-lish (Tamil & English together). She was very shy, but Beth & I got her out dancing. Her dad danced like he could have been in a Bollywood movie! We couldn't get her mom on the floor though. During a slow song I got a couple of people to join me making hand shadows of bunnies & snails on the wall. Then just before midnight I grabbed a pineapple that Beth slid down a pole, while standing on a I did the count down to 2012. It was our corny answer to the dropping of the ball in Times Square, The Big Apple.

I made it to Bajan's at Upahar's for 1/01/2012, New Year's day. When we began chanting the Maha Mantra to Krishna, I had to make my way to the back to get up & dance for Krishna...& cry for help for Brianna.

1/03/2012 I moved out of my apartment & into the lower level of a duplex beneath Devi. Then went over to visit Dominic to help me book a train. I had intended to go to a mini convocation & celebration for Paramahansa Yogananda's Birthday on January 5th (which of course is also Johnny's transition day...the day Guruji whisked Johnny home to Divine Mother) but just couldn't get travel plans together for it.

A brilliant blue humming bird landed on a bush & stayed the longest time looking at me. Dominic told me, look he came for you. Dominic didn't know how humming birds came to me in Johnny's garden & how one had hovered over a notebook with INDIA written on it back in February of 2011, as it hovered inches from my eyes.

1/05/2012 I participated in Devi's  3 hour sound healing workshop that was so wonderful, that I continued singing & meditating at home & felt a nice connection to Johnny. It was a good thing that I didn't go to Yogananda's convocation, because I was sick all day on the 6th with the runs. I was able to sit & meditate for 2 hours during a reprieve...but the moment I got up, I was sick again.

1/09/2012- Dominic had helped me make travel arrangements by overnight train to Amma's ashram the following day. I was really excited & so ready to go. I had my last night at his roof top restaurant.

Beth & Chris came to send me off. But I knew Beth would have to leave the festivities early because of doing pradakshana around the inner path of Arunachala for the full moon. I gave her a little of Johnny's ashes to take with her. I'd never given Johnny's ashes to anyone for ceremony...without my being present. So, this was a big deal. I asked her to take them to an altar someone had made from a big meteor that they dug up & had painted Shiva stripes on it & did fire pujas to. I told Beth that Johnny had been such a si-fi geek & that it was a perfect tribute to him & including Arunachala Mountain (incarnation of Shiva). After she left, 3 Frenchmen played flutes & drums. The music was hauntingly beautiful & I danced under the moon for Johnny & Arunachala.

December in Tiru

<p>Tuesday Dec 13th I was just a little tired from the trekk to the top of Arunachala the previous day. No signs of dehydration and I just felt my quads and hamstrings a little bit. Going downstairs at The Dreaming Tree after having lunch with Devi and Charles, I felt like I had Arunachala thighs...but still high from the experience of being held by Johnny Re and the mountain.<br>
Wednesday Dec 14 I hired our guide, Ashok, to take me to an ancient temple bathing ground from 1,600 years ago. It was nice to get out into the countryside. Ashok explained that there aren't very many rice fields left in Tiruvannamelia as we were leaving town on his motorcycle, due to land being sold to build houses...sad. Fields of sugar cane, peanuts, rice and a planted similar to the potato stretched before us.<br>
It took probably about 2 1/2 hours to get there. The pool had filled up from a recent rain, so we were only able to see the carvings on the 2 foot wall surrounding it and the ones lying around the pool. Everyday life was shown- a woman churning ghee, dancing, war, meditation, vrksasana tree pose in hatha yoga and a few tantric scenes. Ganesh was at the front protecting &amp; Nandi a form of Parvati -depicted as a cow for the divine feminine- was on all of the corners. <br>
We had lunch at a roadside restaurant on the way back- iglie white rice formed into patties, vegetable soup and peanut chutney.<br>
Ashok dropped me off at Shanti Niliyam and I took a 1 1/2 hour nap on one of the futtons and cushions on the roof top restaurant. The I did a 20 minute savasana reclining on one of their yoga bolsters.<br>
Friday wsDec 15 I attended to laundry by hand in my bucket in the shower and marketing. Then I met Virginia for dinner at Manna Cafe. We discussed what to do for Christmas, while swatting mosquitos as it was dusk. I'd decided to stay through Christmas, to not have to resettle and make friends elsewhere. After dinner we went to a Papaji satsang video. Papaji had been a disciple of Ramana's. It was a compilation of talks, but very sweet. He stressed the timeless simple wisdom that meditation is not a technique. And that all you need to do is be quiet and sit in total innocence for God to come...that we all come into and we leave this world alone.
Saturday Dec 16th was the 1st day of their month with a celebration to all goddesses. After my morning japa, meditation with affirmations and sun salutes, I recalled Johnny asking  years ago in 2003 the 1st time he had cancer if I would be his yoga teacher. So I asked Johnny out loud, looking toward the altar with his box of ashes, "Will you be my yoga teacher?" A little bird sang outside, my answer "yes"
I walked to the main temple in town, about an 8 or 10 mile walk. My cough was gone and I seemed to be exhaling at all of the right times when buses and auto rickshaws came by.
I walked down my street to the main road and then to Hill Round Road. I went to the 1st couple of outdoor temples, but they seemed to be just a way of getting donations and I decided that I'd prefer to donate here and there to someone in real need...and I wanted to reach the temple and have some time before dark. Then I saw a beautiful temple across the street that attracted me. Shiva with his cobras gaurded the intrance. Looking through the window, as it was locked was Saraswati (goddess of music), a lingam (phalus representing Shiva and male creative energy in the Universe) and Nandi (the cow representing Parvati who is Shiva's wife in the form of Shakti the feminine principle of the Void). An orange robed sadu came up to me and told me he could get a key to let me in. A few minutes later, after he let me in he stepped out so I could have some silence there.  The lingam was beautifully decorated with fresh flowers. I placed my palms together, bowing inwardly thanking God as father, Arunachala Shiva & to Johnny for bringing me here. I asked for blessings & help from my beloved Johnny for protection along my path. A bell sounded in answer outside...I had given no visual cues in my demeanor. Then I whispered in Nandi's ear. I had seen women, men and children do this in utter devotion at some of the outdoor temples. So I thanked Divine Mother for being here & I asked her & Johnny to help me drop into endless Shakti & awakening. Again a bell rang at that very moment & before I pulled away from Nandi's ear. I walked out and thanked the sadu, giving him 10 rupees. I garnered from what he told me, that they feed people at this particular temple. No wonder I was drawn to the energy. I told him that I love the Krishna temples because they sing and dance for God, and they feed people.
Along my way I enjoyed my view of Arunachala, women in bright saris with their babies, monkeys in the tree branches above me, well fed dogs... I stopped to have a coconut, delicious. And later I saw people gathered around a hand grinder for making sugar cane juice. They were using glasses that they rerinsed to use again. I really wanted to try it, but also stay safe. So I picked up a glass and put a little of my bottled water in it to swirl around, making sure I got the rim as well. I repeated this and then handed him my glass. The freshly made juice was a pretty pale yellow like lemonade. I suddenly had a desire to have a picture of me with "friends" drinking it. I sat down on a chair with a family there and handed my camera to one of the men. I clinked glass with someone that I think was his wife. He took a great picture of us laughing with the glasses and then scrolled it back so everyone could see the picture. Everyone else was able to see the picture except her and he ended up looking at all of my pictures to find it- lol. They got to see that I went to the top of Arunachala, and the reverence for their mountain. And they saw the arm balance on my way down it. So we got into a little discussion about my being a yoga teacher.
A couple of families along my way wanted to adopt me and take me home for lunch...but very little English was spoken.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

AMMAzing & beautiful time at Amma's

A friend helped me get a train ticket to go to Amma's ashram in the state of Kerela. I left Tiruvannamali on January 10th & took an overnight train with a sleeper birth. I had done everything right & was really proud of myself. When I got there though, none of the auto rickshaw drivers knew who or where Amma was. It took nearly 4 hours before I discovered my friend had gotten me on a train 1,500 kilometers North of where I needed to be. I stayed at a hotel over night & my friend paid for my plane fare, as it would have taken 32 hours by train to get Amma's!

January 11th, 2012- I took a taxi to Amma's ashram in Amritapuri in the state of Kerela from the airport to make it to the ashram before dark. It was a beautiful drive through small villages & coconut groves.
I arrived as the sun was setting over the Arabian Sea. Then I checked in at the International Office & was told the little tour, to familiarize with where everything was had happened earlier, but that I could go on it the next day.
After taking my bags to my room & meeting my roommates Radha & Anna, I went down to the big hall. I learned that the tokens for receiving Amma's darshan (her hug) had already been given out.
I really wanted to receive darshan but I was also absolutely exhausted still from my travel diversion 1,500K north of the ashram. So I collapsed into a chair to rest & ended up "accidentally" sitting in the line for darshan. When a woman to my right heard I didn't have a token & that I'd just arrived, she reached into her purse & handed me an extra token. A woman in a white sari came by just then checking to make sure everyone had a token & said Amma must have wanted to make sure I received her darshan today. I smiled sleepily.
We played musical chairs from the line down in the hall, up to the line on stage. It was a little after 10pm by the time I got to the head of the line & was asked what language I spoke. Someone asked me to wipe my face & another helper pushed me gently into Amma's lap. She rocked me & with great warmth & tenderness whispered, "My daughter, my daughter, my daughter!" It happened so fast & I was pulled up & off her.
Another helper in a white sari asked if I'd like to sit on the stage with Mother. I had a glazed look on my face from fatigue as she asked, "Are you okay?" and pointed to a spot for me to sit. As soon as I sat down I felt energized by her presence & sat up straight as I divided into the beingness of meditation. Immediately a woman behind me began working on points on me & running energy healing...& since I'm a massage therapist/energy healer myself I knew what she was doing. It was so lovely & just what I needed. This went on for several minutes I think. Then a tiny Indian woman stepped in front of me, wedged her way in & actually sat on my lap & leaned against me as if I was a comfy chair!. Now this was just too much, but I was still in a meditative mode & did not want to I just got up to go back to my room. After that, I decided that I prefer to meditate in front of the stage rather than on the stage with Amma.
I'd only met Amma once before, in Los Angeles last June.
I overslept the next morning & didn't make it to the 7am Amrita Yoga class, in the 2 week Yoga Immersion I'd signed up for. Then by the time I found where to go for the satsang (spiritual talk) in the program, it was just concluding. But they welcomed me into the program & asked me to come back for the afternoon asana class.
It was a wonderful course & I'd highly recommend it, but it was a retreat & not a training course & so I've agreed that I won't teach the techniques specific to Amrita Yoga. (We'll see what enfolds with where & how I'm practicing & teaching when I return.)
I enjoyed the program so much that I took the 4 day Advanced Amrita Yoga Intensive that began a few days after the 2 week course ended. I can say that it is very spiritually based with connecting inwardly through mantra with the breath with each movement. It has influences from the Ashtanga Yoga of Pattabhi Jois, Iyengar alignment & props, Hatha Flow & a touch of Restorative. And of course it has the grace of a living master.
Amma's I AM (Integrated Amrita Meditation) was included in the program, which is a sweet little 30 minute practice to increase energy sensitivity & deepen ones meditation.
They have only been offering these retreat courses for the last 2 years & so have not begun to offer teacher trainings yet.
Everyone who stays at Mata Amritanandamayi Math  more than one day, signs up for seva (selfless service- volunteering). Now since I was still orienting myself to find my way around while the little shops for necessities were open, my teachers told me I could wait an extra day to sign up for my seva.

Before going to the seva office, I went by the Eco Hut to buy some non-toxic, non-animal tested laundry detergent. While I was there I noticed some salad greens in a jar & bought a nice big bunch for 10rupees. There wasn't a refrigerator back in the room & so I rinsed them with my bottled water right there & ate them like a cow. Another customer said she was inspired seeing me.

Then I wrapped the hard stems, along with orange & banana peels from breakfast in newspaper to the seva office before they closed. I told the woman behind the desk, as I set the peels & stems down, how excited I'd been to find greens & that I was going to take them to a compost bin. I continued by enthusiastically relating how my husband, who had died of cancer, & I use to compost our garden... & what a green thumb he had. She reached across for me & told me she was sorry for my loss, but then said, "Maybe you'd like to do composting?" I told her that I'd love to do composting! And I cried thankfully & happily, feeling that Johnny had a hand in that connection to our garden, by helping other gardens to grow.
My schedule was very full each day between an asana class from 7-9am, a satsang with either one of the bramhacherries or a long time devotee, compost seva, a 3-5pm asana class & a 6pm meditation, as well as nightly bhajans or darshan or programs.
I stayed at the Ashram for 3 1/2 weeks from January 11th through February 4th & had no time for writing, so I just jotted some notes down to be able to journal when I had the space for it. I didn't always write down the dates with my notes. Darshan (blessing through her hugs) I do recall by dates & I'll include those. But part of my journal about this AMMAzing part of my journey at Amma's I'll just group like things together...that I think you'll like.
First, all hugging aside, just all of her humanitarian efforts to literally save the world is staggering & could only be accomplished by a realized being. And, only someone who can take 1,000's of people into her arms everyday & exude that kind of love the entire time must be an avatar. She evacuated Amritapuri during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami & even taught the village children to swim in the ashram pool to recovery from the trauma & fear of water. And she helped the villagers to be confident to move back after she rebuilt their village. She was also there to help after Japan's earthquake & tsunami last year (2011). And she was there to tirelessly hug & console. She presented Pres.Clinton with a check for one million U.S. dollars after Hurricane Katrina! She has begun so many programs & donated millions of dollars for: recycling (teaching women to create purses, shoes etc out of plastic- as well as cleanup) the homeless, the poor, education, emergency shelter/medical/meals/clean up, empowering women & even meditation for U.S. inmates. To know more about Her humanitarian efforts & perhaps how to help To know more about her ashrams & centers & her world tour dates go to She will be in Los Angeles in June 2012, just 2-3 weeks before I return.
Parmahansa Yogananda will always be my guru. He saw my husband through to the other side! And I feel a strong connection to Yoganandaji for many reasons. However, I feel that I need a living master as well & I feel Amma is IT. And it's good to have someone on either side of the veil, as well as Johnny! And of course, with all Realized Beings, there is no jealousy...only the actual experience of all of our Oneness.
On January 14th, I opened up Johnny's box of ashes, thinking I'd scatter some at the beach at some point. Radha, one of my roommates handed me a Deck of Black (of African descent) Angel Cards. I did a So Hum Ma Om chant in my mind a few times & pulled out a card, "The Changer". It described my life now so vividly & I cried... beautiful & difficult. It said I had a fixed need to learn to handle constantly changing ground under my feet, dwelling in the uncomfortable zone a lot but also a sense of freedom & losing some parts of myself to move towards the extraordinary life I'm seeking, without discarding who I AM & open to new possibilities.
On Sunday January 15th, 2012 I went to see the bramhacherry entrusted with accepting cremation ashes for Amma to bless while she sang bhajans on the stage on Tuesdays & Thursdays. He asked me who had died & I told him, "My husband's body died." He had a horrible look on his face...his way of expressing compassion. Then I added, "I have them in my room." So he asked me to go get them & Amma would bless them Tuesday night.
When I returned, he asked me into the office next to the main hall & invited me to sit near an altar with Amma's picture. Then he inquired about when my husband died & of course since it had been 3 years, I needed to explain why I still had some of his ashes. So I told him Johnny's last request that I take his ashes to Mahavatar Babaji's cave. And I related the whole story about how his body died & that it was so beautiful (see my 1st blog entry for the entire story). I emphasised that there was just love & being completely present with each other & the Divine as his body shut down & about his brief (30 seconds to one minute) Maha Samadhi (final meditation & conscious exit from the body). He was deeply moved & was amazed that we were able to be present like that. Then he had me put Johnny's ashes into a little clay pot & helped me wrap it in red tissue paper. He wrote Johnny's name in Malayalam (Amma's mother tongue) on a piece of paper and taped it all together. Then he had me place it on the altar with another little pot covered in red. Smiling broadly, I told him that they looked like presents.
So on Tuesday January 17th toward the end of bhajans I waited as instructed, by the ramp with 3 families who were waiting to receive the blessed ashes of their fathers from Amma. She brought them over to us on a tray & handed them to another bramhacherry. Then she took flowers & lovingly sprinkled them over the 4 little pots, sprinkled some over each of our heads & held & kissed each one of us on the cheek with great compassion. We had received darshan for us & our loved ones in her embrace.
Then we went to the Arabian Sea with 3 brahmacherries (including the one I had given Johnny's ashes to), as we all sang "Om Namaha Shivaya" ( to bring ourselves from creation back to Source. They gathered us around on the beach & we recited a few prayers together & then one by one we were led to a path over the rocks to the sea. Each of us was instructed to hold the pot on our head & pray for the release of their soul & throw in the pot.(Of course Johnny had been scooped up by Parmahansa Yogananda & Divine Mother the instant his body died back on 1/05/09.)  Then water was poured over our hands to wash them & water sprinkled over our heads. It was a lovely little ceremony & felt like a deep way to connect to Amma along with my Beloved.
Toward the end of my stay, during one of Amma's satsangs on the beach I visualized where Amma had walked leading up to the little platform stage. Then after the meditation, satsang, chanting  & her receiving those who'd just arrived to the ashram & those who were leaving, Amma left for the main hall.  I was  still there, on a rock meditating on the sound of the waves. I walked up to where the stage had been next to a coconut palm tree. And I reached down for a pinch of sand, that I envisioned that her feet had touched. I opened up my locket with Johnny's heart shaped bone in it, to put the pinch of sand. I had already put pinches of earth from special places I've take Johnny's ashes, before India.
I've met some really lovely women in the yoga retreat, like a children's psychologist who works with children whose parents are in the U.S. military, a former hospice worker from San Francisco now living & teaching Restorative Yoga in Sweden, a breast cancer survivor from Canada, a yoga teacher from Italy...

For different reasons, at different times my story came up. I felt such enfoldment of Mother with all of
these women. I think though that Susan, the breast cancer survivor, was the most joy-full of all on hearing how beautiful death can be.

 One of the satsangs in the program was given by a senior monastic disciple of Amma's named Br. Dhyanamrita Chaitanya. His talk was titled, Bringing Joy to the Spiritual Life.
It was really wonderful & he had presence, wit & truth in his words:
He told us, "There are only 2 things that drive life: attaining joy or avoiding sorrow. Complaining is like a rocking chair, you never move forward. Sometimes we believe avoiding sorrow is joy.
Friends, family, falling in love- we think will bring joy. If you can get rid of just 2 days you can be happy- yesterday & tomorrow! Then add adjustment to accept situations & know what to accept & what to fight.
Spiritual life is seeking the seeker, or to seek what you seek while being joyful in whatever you do. The seeking is the same as the seeker. You are seeking joy, your true nature or God, Satchitananda (Sat- existence, chit- knowledge/consciousness, ananda- joy or bliss) You are seeking joy, which is YOU.
But you must make the 1st step correctly to go in the right direction to reach your destination.
Realize whatever you gain will eventually be lost. What brings joy today may not tomorrow. And what brings joy to one person, will not to another. Joy is from within.
When you are sound asleep you are so happy! Enjoying bliss even though there are no veggie burgers, chocolate shakes, girlfriends... No effort is needed for sleep.
Amma has said, 'A smile on an innocent face is God'.
Do everything with a smile & it will make a difference, including sleeping!"
At the end when he asked for questions, someone commented that it wasn't good to stuff your feelings & pretend that you're happy. His response was, "Watch your sorrow. Do not suppress it. But see that it is apart from you ...that your true nature is joy." (This really resonated because that was how I innately experienced grieving immediately after Johnny's body died. And there were times back then that joy (during meditation) over rode my intense grieving & other times that joy & grief co-existed at the same time & actually deepened the love & the joy.)
Usually Amma is doing her India tour at the time I was staying at her ashram in Amritapuri in the state of Kerela, so I was extremely fortunate about the timing of my travel. Since she had cancelled the India tour, not as many thousands of devotees were there at her ashram. But there were still thousands waiting for their hug in the darshan lines on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays & Sundays. And so we were asked to only go for darshan once a week & also before we left the ashram. Even though I was there only 3 1/2 weeks I received darshan 6 times...because of certain circumstances. I do remember the dates of all of my hugs...
Our yoga teachers at the yoga shala arranged for our immersion group to go together for darshan on January 19th. In class the night before & after that morning's class we were encouraged to ask Amma for a mantra, if we didn't have one from her already.
After the morning asana class, satsang & compost seva (more on that later), I went to the Eco Hut to see if they had salad greens in. They didn't have any prepared, however a lady pulled some up for me from the front garden they are edible weeds. She told me that they were only suppose to sell them from the Tulsi Garden, because "birds had been flying over these". But I had told her that I had GSE (grapefruit seed extract which is an anti-microbial...something Johnny taught me). She instructed me to rinse them really well & then to put them in a container with filtered water & some GSE in it to soak for 2 hours.
Well, I had an appointment with an Aruvedic doctor & I ended up taking the salad greens soaking in water & GSE with me to not be late. I knew it would be tight timing to go & meet my class mates to go for darshan together...& I wanted to have a big salad for dinner & not have to go back to my room because I might be late to meet everyone for darshan. So I put the snap top container securely at the bottom of my shoulder bag.
Darshan that night was in the Kali Temple, instead of the main hall. We were given our tokens & all lined up on the narrow winding stairs up to the stage. People kept going down the stairs & I had to keep repositioning my bag to allow them through.
On the stairs, a friend next to me confided that she had written Amma about all of her problems (wanting to get a divorce, living very far from home etc, wanting to bring her daughter to meet Amma). She showed me the card, a beautiful Ganesha card. I had previously desired to pour my heart out to Amma, but you have just moments in her arms. I was inspired to scrawl out a pathetic little note on a piece of notebook paper:
Beloved Amma, Mother,
My husband's body died.
I have no home.
Where do I live?
What should I do with my life?
How can I serve?
Please give me a mantra.
Love your daughter,
I showed it to my friend that had the pretty card with thoughtfully composed letter. She didn't think my scrawl pathetic at all. And said, "That's a lot! She should at least give you a mantra!"
I was inwardly thinking about Brianna too...asking her for help. But I thought it too complicated to scrawl that too.
When we got to the front of the line, one of the helpers asked for my letter to Mother & saw that I wanted a mantra. She whispered in Mother's ear, as Amma took me in her arms. Again she rocked me, "My daughter, my daughter, my daughter."
I was pulled out of her lap & handed a laminated card with instructions to see someone holding a large card that said "Mantra" on it. It also said to then sit & pray/meditate in reverence.
I went down off the stage & saw a woman in a white sari holding the "Mantra" card. She asked me if I wanted to pick a deity like Jesus, Shiva, Kali or Amma(personification of God) or if I wanted something more abstract like love or light. I thought only for a moment & said Krishna & Radha. (Johnny had been my Krishna & I was his Radha.) She answered, "Well, you can only have Krishna." I said okay & she handed me a slip of paper which she wrote Krishna on.
I tucked the slip of paper into my top & sat down to meditate in the audience. I'd read earlier that day in Amma's biography, how she would tuck a picture of Krishna in her blouse when she was 9 or 10 years old.
Very soon I began having doubts about picking the right mantra. I thought about how I'd often poured my heart out to Divine Mother after Johnny's body died...maybe I should have chosen Divine Mother! I thought about needing to continue to trust in the Divine on my pilgrimage. Maybe I should have chosen Shakti, the Divine Feminine & creativity born out of nowhere, The Void! And then again I thought, I could really use some help financially. Maybe I should have chosen Laxmi, Goddess of Abundance.
I was contemplating all this, instead of meditating. And then I noticed that some of my class mates had lined up in chairs along the wall to go up for a second darshan & received their mantra.
Someone I hadn't spoken to from class, Maud, asked what to do with her card with instructions. So I pointed out the woman to give it to & that she'd be asked if she wanted a deity or a quality/feeling.
Maud asked me what I picked & why. So I told her that when I first went to Parmahasa Yogananda's temple in Pacific Palisades when I was 20 (1985) it was Krishna's birthday. "We lit candles & put them on little prayer boats to send across the lake. The nuns were singing 'Radha Govinda Jai' in the windmill chapel. It was so beautiful & haunting, their singing. I cried with ecstatic joy & with intense deep sadness simultaneously.
Twenty two years later, when my soul mate husband- love of my lives had a recurrence of cancer, I asked my harmonium teacher to teach me to play 'Radha Govinda Jai", I wanted to pray & sing it for him. His body died nearly 10 months later...and I suddenly got the connection. When I heard the nuns singing that song, when I was just 20 years old...I was 'remembering the future '...because everything has really already happened. I did not know at the time (in my young life) that it was deep grief I was experiencing along with ecstatic joy. After the death of Johnny's body, I recognized the feeling.
Then I chanted Radha Govinda Jai for my own healing while I was grieving. I would become so choked up I couldn't sing or let my sobs out. But I would be able to play the harmonium uninterrupted. Finally the sobbing would come, & then the chanting for Johnny's & my victory...& the joy would come."
She thanked me for sharing such a personal story & thought it was incredibly deep.
I went on to tell Maud I'd been having doubts about who I picked for my mantra just before her asking.
Then she began looking in a guidebook to deities & said she was new on the path & would be turning 30 this year.
The woman to give the card to came by & Maud told her she wanted Laxmi. I began to have doubts again about picking the right expression of the Divine for my mantra, as I thought abundance would be a good thing.
We were motioned to stand up to get into line near the stage. When we were on the stage Maud pointed to a relief of a deity that was blue & nudged me, "That's Krishna isn't it?" I replied, "No, that's Shiva." And she said, "He's blue though." I answered, "But look at his trident. Sometimes Shiva is blue too & Krishna is usually depicted as blue."
I was about to describe how to tell when it's Krishna, & a helper came over to us & said we all needed to be on the other side of the stage. She hurried us past the relief of Shiva & backstage around to the other side. I looked up & there was a relief of blue Krishna with a flute, a peacock, a cow & a deer in a garden. I began to explain it to her & suddenly realized that it was an answer from Amma that I'd picked the right Deity!
When just a few were ahead of me I was asked for the strip of paper & I heard several Indians exclaiming "Krishna!". I don't think it is very usual for a western woman to pick Krishna.
When Amma took me into her arms, she gazed at me & then chanted my mantra in my planting a seed for me to water & I felt the vibration planted in me.
When we were given our instructions, we were told that we could share the Deity or aspect of the Divine we had chosen but not the actual that is sacred between a Master & a devotee. We were also told we would be given it in written form, so to not worry if we couldn't remember it or quite hear it.
We waited with what was left of the audience in front of the stage, for everyone to receive their written mantra & further instructions. I hadn't had dinner & it was nearly 9pm. We were told we could come back the following morning instead. No one wanted to break the vibration, so we all stayed.
It was 10pm by the time I left the temple with my mantra. I opened my shoulder bag to take out my salad. All the water had leaked out, but only my shawl was wet...not Amma's biography or anything else!
This little salad I'd carried all day from 2:30 to 10 o'clock at night had been transformed into prasad (blessed food)...salad prasad. And that felt so Divinely connected to Johnny because he was also an amazing raw vegan chef. It felt like Johnny was blessing my choice with deity & mantra. Annnd the salad had been in the temple for 4 hours in Amma's presence.
Of course I went out & put some cashews I had in my purse on it, along with a lemon I squeezed on it & ate my prasad on a bench. I was even serenaded by a couple playing guitar & hand drum a lovely pagan song, "Mother carry me, down to the sea..."
I had been admiring one of my roommate's pictures she had up of Amma's feet with flowers. But I also thought, "I feel more connected to hands, being a massage therapist & light worker." That night after bajans I bought a picture of her hand to put on my box with Johnny's ashes.
The next day in compost seva, there were already people helping at the tables to mix vegetarian food scraps with wood shavings & cow dung & there was already someone cleaning pails by the beach. I'd already done both jobs & enjoyed it & had scooped the different grades from very rough to very fine compost into bags. (Really amazing the whole process & I'll never look at a bag of compost the same!) So I volunteered to clean out the gloves that were getting really disgusting. I looked at Amma's altar & chanted my mantra inwardly, as I noticed all the gloves like hands standing in a row. They were all Krishna blue & I'd just bought that picture of Amma's hand the previous having her hand in my life. Funny how such little things/signs can make me so happy.
Just a quick note here to beloved family, friends & students: I'm not running off to join her ashram. And a little confession...I was never able to get up at 4:15am to make it to Archana (chanting the 1,000 names of Divine Mother for peace) that takes place at 4:50am every morning. I could only make it to the late morning one, after the 7am yoga.
That same night that I had bought the picture of her hand, I went to sit in front of the stage in the main hall during bhajans. I began to go into a meditative state right away. I felt grounded but also drunk on her presence, this from a woman who doesn't even like the taste of alcohol- lol! I began to pray, "Oh, Amma I really don't need anything. I have hands & feet, clean water, food & shelter. (Love just poured out of my heart & every cell.) I have just a tiny idea of your love for God in all, because of Johnny & how we were present with each other during the death of his body... & my taking on his suffering energetically during the cancer. I've even thought of how can I help others like I did Johnny." I poured out my heart about my mom (with advanced dementia), about Brianna, about being homeless, needing gopis as traveling companions, blessing my journey with Johnny's ashes, what to do with my life, that I wanted to write our story & help others through the telling...& I apologized for "talking too much". It really was quite incredible how I felt so high, so grounded & so connected while being so verbose inwardly!
The next day after our morning asana class, a long time devotee who has lived at the ashram since the early or mid 80's gave the day's satsang. She told us at one point to close our eyes. She described how the ashram looked back then with the seashore, palm trees & just a few grass huts. She continued how Mother was singing while giving darshan & a man with advanced leprosy came into the hut. "I had been in really deep meditation & was stirred back to the room with a horrible smell. There at the door was a filthy creature with ulcerated skin falling off, red eyes oozing with pus & only pieces of it's ears. I was hoping Amma would send this thing away that had broken my meditation, my peace. But she called him over to her lovingly & embraced him & caressed him! Then she spread ashes over him. I spoke to the others afterwards & they said he had been much worse a couple of months ago. In the 6 months I was there, he came toward the end of darshan every night & his skin was healed with only the lines of scars & his ears grew back. He even took up smoking! I asked one of the renunciants how his ears could grow back & she stopped her work in the garden to answer, 'Why not?' & then resumed her work. Mostly it was about the love...but if there was a person like Jesus around, I would want people to tell me. Amma doesn't do healings in public like this anymore because she wants it to be about devotion."
I was crying through the whole story so beautiful...& I'd just prayed to Amma the night before that I had a "tiny idea of her love for all" because of Johnny & my love staying in the moment even during the death of his body.
On January 24th I was actually awake & alert at 4:15am to go to the Ganapate (Ganesha) & Saturn pujas I had scheduled to clear blocked energy for my journey. This was also the last day of my immersion course.
While things were being prepared, I chanted my mantra on my mala. Prayers were chanted silently by the monastics while pouring flower petals, water from a shell & circling fire around 2 different altars while holding mudras. It was lovely in the early morning light. Then we were given prasad in the form of bananas & something that seemed like very sweet crunchy dry cereal.
On the 27th I began a 4 day advanced Amrita Yoga Intensive, since I thoroughly enjoyed the 2 week program.
I also began a new seva, helping clean the yoga studio. And I learned that I was suppose to do that the entire time while doing the immersion. I had been exhausted doing the composting seva & washing clothes from it to be able to run to class again, without a break...but I still enjoyed the experience!
At some point I had a dream that I was visiting my son for 2 days in California & that I called Brianna's name out his front door, & she came running! I text messaged Daniel about it & he told me he'd had a dream that a family friend brought her home.
A friend of a very dear friend came to meet me & meet Amma. Bob had never met her, lived in New Delhi & Texas & flew back & forth every few weeks. Our shared friend had introduced us via e-mail & he told me I could come leave my stuff at his place & re-gear up for the North...which was so wonderful to offer & right in line with the Universe taking care of me.
We had a wonderful time for 2 days sharing stories & meals between my classes. Bob is in his 70's & helps to keep the Pakistani & Indian governments talking peacefully to each other. He created a water system for Africa (& is going to write Amma to see if he can help with her work). He survived polio as a child, was a student of Mr. BKS Iyengar &  his mother had worked for Edgar Cayce! He's very spiritual & has a really good heart. We hit it off.
He just stayed for the weekend, got in promptly at 1pm on Saturday January 28th as he expected & left Monday the 30th at noon.
He introduced me to an oncology nurse who'd quit her job only a few days ago to come to India.
We all went for darshan on Sunday the 29th. I sent them both to "Ram's Bazaar" a resale shop at Amma's, to find some white ashram clothes.
Sitting on the chairs, while waiting for darshan, I went into very deep meditation & even maintained that through the "musical chairs" to move up in line. This time I chanted inwardly & fell into inner silence.
When we got up there, I was so overcome that I didn't know what to say to I just hummed exuding love from my anahata- heart chakra. She had been speaking in Malayalam to an assistant. She stopped speaking & pulled me in tightly. I hummed 3 more times like this & each time she pulled me into her again. It was so incredibly sweet.
I felt that I needed to do a 2 day juice fast with keeping silence. I had decided to do it on February 1st & 2nd for Imbolc, 1st Spring & planting. As well as I was going to leave on February 4th to go to Varkala & needed a day to prepare before moving on.
But on Tuesday January 31st, after receiving Amma's prasad in the Kali Temple, I decided to begin my juice fast right then & go into "almost silent" mode.
(Amma gives a meditation, satsang, chanting & then prasad & handing this blessed food to 1,000's of devotee's at lunchtime on Tuesdays & this was the 3rd one I'd been to. It did contain dairy & I made this exception to receive her blessing.)
Her satsang was really wonderful & I wished I had written some of it down. I'm sure that I absorbed what I needed though. I do remember her speaking about needing to spend more time in our hearts than our heads.
While waiting to go get into line for our prasad lunch, I asked an American woman next to me how she met Amma. She was really intrigued about my name (Butterfly) but I was going towards silent mode & I felt telling my story might prevent time for her's. When her son was 20, he introduced her to Amma in LA. She thought it was nice but that's all. Then she came to the ashram at Amritapuri during Devi Bhavan during the 2004 tsunami that flooded the coastline. There were 20,000 people there at the time & not one person lost their life. As she put it, "Amma didn't hesitate at all to get everyone evacuated. Only a realized being could do that." I agreed & told her it was amazing meeting someone who'd been there at the time!
I then went to the seva office since my yoga intensive had finished. I told them I would be on a juice fast/cleanse, along with keeping silence for 2 days. And so they gave me a light seva, drying dishes for an hour each day.
I bought a "Keeping Silence" badge & an "Almost Silent" badge in Amma's gift shop. I put the "Almost Silent" one on & went over to the internet cafe` to do some research on Varkala & send a couple of emails quickly...didn't feel that I could do e-mail when in silent mode the next day.
A young woman sitting in line waiting for a computer told me she loved my "Almost Silent" button & said sometimes she felt like doing that instead of full silence. I told her where to get one & that I was going to do full silence for 2 days...& that it was embarassing being 46 & a yoga teacher & never having done 'the silent thing'.
She said I didn't look 46. Then she told me she'd done the Vipassana 10 day retreat. I replied that I didn't think I could be silent for 10 days- & especially averting my eyes from everyone that long... I explained, "I couldn't even do that (avert my eyes) after my soul mate husband's body died!" She wanted to hear my story & told me her greatest fear was finding her soul mate & then his dying. She was deeply moved but also excited & inspired by our love.
That night I wrote down a list of juices to get from the fresh squeezed juice stand. This way I could point to what I wanted while keeping silence. And I made an intention to be aware of breath, movement & to continually chant "Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhvantu" (May all the beings in all the worlds be happy). I had heard that Mother asked all her devotees to chant this contiually on her 50th birthday & I thought this was a beautiful way to celebrate.
February 1st, 2012- After getting ready in the morning I put my "In Silence" badge on. I'd already told my room mates the day before.
I had gone to sleep with the chant & woke up with it too & chanted it joyfully inside my mind.
I did my morning asana practice & then went with my list to get some pomegranate & grape juice.
I found it interesting how some people would send me ahead of them in line & bend over backwards to be helpful. But a couple of peope took advantage to try & move in front to have their order taken 1st. I continued to chant inwardly to not break my peace & keeping equanimity .
My lower back began really hurting. (It had bothered me for a couple of days from holding
Urdhva Dhanurasana (wheel pose) for too long for a classmate to snap a picture...had never hurt myself over a photo or while practicing yoga before.) And I had a stomachache. But I kept smiling inside & out as I chanted within.
I went to the 10am archana (chanting of the 1,000 names of the Divine Mother) & fell asleep several times, throwing my head back & then waking up with a start to be thrown forward again. I'd given myself a whiplash! So, I ended up with a headache, neckache, backache & stomachache.
Through everything, including dish drying seva, I continued to chant. I continued to make the conscious decision that my chanting for the wellbeing & happiness of ALL, included me! Which of course it did- lol!
Right after dish drying seva I went to our room & worked on acupressure points & reflexology, while chanting. Then I tried to take a nap & had a modicum of success. But when I was awake I continually made the choice to chant for everyone's joy. Each time that I thought of my own suffering, I exhaled deeply & dove into the chant vibrating through me. It included me, everyone I well as all other beings.
And I went to sleep that night, the same way.
The following day was pretty much the same, but the stomachache was gone & the headache & backache were better. I kept chanting, really infusing it with joyous intention.
By February 3rd when I finished my silence & juice fast, I felt really good.
I spent that day preparing to leave the next day.
That evening was Amma's meditation & satsang on the beach. It was the 3rd part on the topic of self confidence. She asked for people to share success stories in turning around feelings of self doubt. At the end, those that had just arrived & those leaving were invited to come up to receive darshan. So I had my last time in Amma's arms & I thanked her over & over.