Today I met the so called “hugging saint” from India. Her name is Amma, which means mother, but I will refer to her here as “the hugger” or the saint. If you haven’t heard about her, she travels around the world to hug people, offers retreats, and sells her memorabilia with proceeds going to needy people in many corners of our planet. The minute I saw this being advertised, I decided to check what it was about. Once have being skeptical to my core, I have learned to just be humble and try to clear my mind before an experience like this.
Then I did a bit of research about those visits and day long programs with this saint, and once I saw it was not just money related, I decided to go. Luckily, I found a friend willing to go with me! We were there before 8am, to get in line to receive a token which would guarantee us a free hug from her. There were so many people wearing white that I already felt the environment was peaceful and captivating. Looking at all those faces, including children present, you could see how blessed they felt from just being there. I felt blessed, too. I saw babies, service dogs, old and young people just waiting… for a hug! Doesn’t it sound a bit strange you have to get a token to be hugged? We need to hug more each other, definitely. Yes, some of you would make the point that she is a saint, and therefore it is not just a regular hug, which would explain the long line.
The atmosphere in the room was very peaceful, there was not a person in rush or distress; it was like waiting for something divine to happen, so you don’t really care if you are late for something or if your toe hurts. We waited patiently. At 10 am she came into the room, and sat down. She looked around a bit, and just from looking at her eyes and her smile, I could tell she compassionately spreads that divine shine that will allow you to surrender deep within, understanding there is no necessary hurry, fear or worry. I bet that if she did not offer hugs but only that good feeling, the line would still be the same; if not bigger, since some people prefer to create barriers among themselves and other people, but who would not like to get rid of concerns and the hectic block of activities we all go through every day?
One of her helpers did a meditation for ten minutes or so, and I felt really happy that the majority in the room stayed focused during that time, eyes closed, quietly reaching within. And here is another reason for being there, not just the hug. Do you know how much energy and good vibes a big event like this could generate when so many people meditate at the same time? Just for that, I thank her. And can you see why so many people were able to stay focused during that time? Because they were free of worries and distress! I’d thank her again for that. At the end of it, we did some quick chanting, and here was one surprise for me: the final chant was one that I’ve been doing by myself for the past three weeks. What a coincidence, right? I don’t call these coincidences anymore but that is another story.
Next, they started calling token numbers and people started to line up to get a hug. There were two big screens next to the stage, from where we could see her hugging each person in line, with never ending unconditional love. I’ve said this before and will repeat it here: love is like fire on candles, the more you share does not mean the lesser you will have, it is just inexhaustible. Although we were sitting pretty close to the stage area, there were always many people around her, so it was hard to see what was going on there. We just saw people’s faces after being hugged, and they all smiled as would a little kid after receiving a gift from Santa. Only in this case, the gifts are the same for every person in line. Everyone gets a good and long hug, independently of what they need at that time, and yet they all leave satisfied. Do you wonder why? Because it is love that she gives, and that fulfills people, not material things.
On the screen, we saw a guy we had met in line outside, who had come to see the hugger for his second year in a row. He is probably in his sixties and had driven three hours that morning being able to get there at 8am! That man had tears in his eyes after he received the hug, and looked at the saint with pure love and gratitude. He then moved to the side, and kneeled down humbly to probably put himself together, like I would do a couple minutes later. So the line kept moving and people brought babies to see the hugger, couples were hugged together, whole families with children also got a group hug from her. So, here is a recipe for success: Just combine needy people (we all need something, or at least we think) with someone filled with love in its most pure and divine form, which we all have inside of us, once we set aside our ego, old beliefs, fears, worries, and all other feelings impeding us from just being. And voila! People simply line up to be touched by her wherever she goes.
Right now you could be asking yourself, “is this saint a magician that makes people blindly believe in her?” or “how can this hugger trick so many people?” But here is my thought, whether this is true or not, if you are working in a big office, and a stranger shows up wanting to share love in a friendly and respectful way, without asking for anything in return, wouldn’t you at least consider it? This lady in particular has created a big reputation already from many hugs and worldly projects along the past years, and so many people come to see her, ready to be loved, plus the ones that have been hugged seem to be in a state of bliss, encouraging even more to people get a token. Oh well, if you’re already there, why not go get a hug?
Before 11 am my number was called, and there I was in line when I felt my heart beating faster than usual, as I was about to go on a roller coaster! I took a deep breath and calmed myself down, because I did not want my mind to get in the way. This was an opportunity for connection with divine love and should not be wasted with the ego trying to count how many seconds she spent hugging the last person so she would do the same to me… My heartbeat went back to normal, and it was my turn! The hugger pulled me closer, hugged me tight, and amongst the inebriating jasmine smell on her, not being able to breathe with my nose crushed onto her arm, and her whispering unknown words in my ears, I managed to find bliss. It was a good feeling first knocking at my chest’s door, and as the hug continued it invaded my soul and contaminated all of me. It seemed to have lasted a long time, and still I did not want to leave; it was a comfortable place to be, and sadly there are people who never get a chance to taste that in their whole lives. As the saint stopped, kissed me, and put something in my hands, I stepped away, and decided to sit down with other people that had just been through the same experience. At that point, I felt inebriated with love that had been poured over me by a total stranger that one day decided to share. And I thank her for that, too.
As I finally put myself together and headed back to the chair I left my belongings on, including shoes, I bumped onto the guy we made friends with earlier that morning. Still emotional, all I could ask was, “how are you feeling?” He turned to me and honestly replied, “Last year was the first time I saw her, and she cracked something open. Today, since it was already open, she went in and really deep!” And that’s all he could say before tears took over his eyes again. I felt quite happy for him, and that this special Santa had given him more than he could have expected! I was happy for myself for the same reason, and each person in that room, including my good friend who came with me also without setting expectations. I was also glad to see those people could recognize the divine at least in this saint, even if they can’t still identify it in each and every one of us. Maybe someday in the near future? And at the end, another wave of happiness hit me just for being able to find my car in the parking lot, because when you leave a room floating like that, even such a small accomplishment is a reason for being happy!