May/June 2011 This I Believe
Transformed by a Hug
by Clare Simons
My friends in Manhattan joked that I’d left no stone unturned in my spiritual search. I channeled, affirmed, visualized, crystallized, meditated, levitated, twirled and stood on my head while looking for God.
My yoga teacher told me to go meet all the great spiritual teachers and to test them by asking myself if what they said was true for me. I met a silent guru, a dancing guru and several Buddhist masters who spoke in poetry — and nothing happened. Then my yogi buddies insisted I meet a saint who hugged people. Shopping for God was making me jaded, but I agreed to meet her.
When the conch shell blew and the swamis chanted a Sanskrit prayer announcing her arrival, my body shook. At the sight of Sri Mata Amritandamaya — Amma — I spontaneously wept with joy. Then a swami chanted a prayer that meant from darkness to light, from untruth to truth, and I knew I had found my truth — the teacher I had searched for.
When I went up for a hug, she looked into my eyes then into my soul and enveloped me in her cloud-like white sari as she held me. I had a burning bush spiritual experience that my critical mind could neither comprehend nor negate.
I quit my job and volunteered for organizations providing services to the homeless. Amma inspired me to start a Mother’s Kitchen Project in Portland and feed the homeless through selfless service. Other Amma devotees joined in and together we have helped to cook and serve over 25,000 meals at soup kitchens, recovery centers, under bridges and in parks. We’ve distributed clothing, blankets and compassion bags to the needy.
After 12 years and seven requests for a spiritual name, Amma called me Gunaja. The swami translated it as “you can meditate on form or you can go beyond form that is Gunaja.“ She Who Is Beyond Form” has stopped shopping for God. I am home.
See Amma in Seattle on May 27-30. Visit www.amma.org/seattlesatsang.
— Clare Simons