I have had the great blessing of spending this past week in Detroit with my guru from South India, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, also lovingly known as Amma or Mother. Being in the presence of a fully realized master is indescribable. One who has gone beyond the limitations of the mind cannot be understood with the intellect. But I can share some of the insights from my time with Amma, as I resume my production schedule back in Toronto – new website to launch, music videos to complete, new songs and show to produce….
As I stumble and soar, grow and evolve, release and expand each day throughout my life, I am reminded that I view life through the lens of my perceptions, which are limited and imperfect. I experience life this way because I am still attached to the temporal sense of self that is separate from the whole. Some call this conditional sense of identity “me”, while others call it the ego. I have moments of oneness, of ease and unity beyond this self that feels divided from the whole. In those moments, all simply is. I feel no grasping or pushing, but rooted, vital and expansive within a loving whole. There is no resistance, but an effulgence of possibility and love. Then something occurs and I get triggered back into believing that I am my limited self.
We all tend to feel the compulsion to justify our beliefs, make ourselves feel right or wrong as we creatively draw attention back to our ego, so as to perpetuate the illusionary existence of our separateness. Similar to the drama of one who perceives a benign coiled rope as a menacing snake, we tend to go about our lives with a need to prove, reinforce, and get – all because at a deeply primal level we feel lack. Busily striving to fill ourselves up, we miss the opportunity in each moment to move into stillness. When we are non-reactive and open to what is, we can meet the emptiness we feel with loving presence and see that in fact it is not at all real. Beyond our attachments to illusions, we have been connected to the loving whole all along.
Being part of a world that is fueled by ego-driven desires to overcome a perceived sense of lack, we tend to get swept up in the momentum of wanting and miss seeing our ego in action. It is easy to do so as we engage with people who also have a strong sense of being divided from the whole. When jostled by these interactions, our knee-jerk reaction is to hang on more tightly to our sense of “mine” and attempt to turn whatever is happening into a way to justify our limited perception – so we can feel right or wrong, full or empty – again, divided from the whole. As we unconsciously strive to get our ego’s way, we often inadvertently choose little cheats that enable ourselves to be less than who we are. We may not realize the ways we creatively attempt to justify our ego’s needs through sneakiness, lying, cheating, twisting truth, decoys, diversions, manipulation, control tendencies, etc.
Rarely do we remember that all the while, the divine is watching. There is no-thing that goes unnoticed. No twist or turn to suit our ego ever leads us to happiness and lasting joy. When we continue to choose being less than who we really are, we miss the opportunity to find true fulfillment beyond the illusion of separateness.
In the presence of a satguru – a fully realized master, one who is beyond ego – we are graced with an opportunity to see our ego in action. Out of habit, even when with the guru, we attempt to engage with the world in our usual way – getting our wants fulfilled and perpetuating our limited beliefs so we feel solid and important as “me”. But this time, with no-thing with which to engage in the ego’s dance, we are left face to face with our own limited perceptions. We are graced with an opportunity to witness the ways in which we perpetuate our own suffering. Through presence, we can choose to let go of our self-perpetuated illusions and return to the wholeness that always has been.
Most often when I go up for Amma’s darshan (embrace), my tummy turns to butterflies and I feel a surge of nerves. I have come to see that these nerves are no different from what I feel each time I go on stage to perform. Embracing stage fright has been part of my spiritual practice for years. Thanks to my love for music and performing, I have been given a great opportunity to work through and beyond my fears – which are aptly described as “False Expectations Appearing Real”. With practice and presence, what once was a surge of ungrounded energy has become a means to feel more connected to my audience, this moment and myself. It is in alignment with my purpose to meet my fears through witnessing, so that I eventually move beyond them entirely.
Going to see Amma is a conscious choice to overcome my attachments to my ego and move towards wholeness. Being with Amma asks me to let go of temporal, ego-driven illusions of “me” and embrace my eternal self. Similar to the way I tend to feel increasing anxiety the closer I get to doing a show, my anxiety usually rises as I move up the darshan line and get closer to Amma. As these fears present themselves, I choose to go within and become quiet. What soon becomes clear is that I am terrified because I feel that I am about to die. I have come to understand that in truth, as I meet this moment fully as it is, I do die to become whole. I release holding onto to the “me” that believes itself as separate and therefore must strive for love. Presented with the perfect embodiment of unconditional love through Amma, there is no-thing onto which my ego can grasp – so it dissolves and returns to love.
Amma’s programs are full of people like me who are willing to let go of being attached to their ego’s drama and become whole again. As I move about the darshan hall either before or after my one-on-one encounter with Amma, my interactions with others also provide an opportunity to see my ego in action. My exchanges with Amma teach me how to be present for love in the community of those gathered to receive her embrace. This community then becomes a training ground for how I can embody love in a busy world.
In reality, everything provides us with the opportunity to move beyond the attachments that cause us suffering. Amma says, “There is nothing in this world that hasn’t nourished our growth in one way or another.” When we experience joyful and beautiful things, we are reminded that we can turn towards divine love. When we meet painful things with presence, we are reminded that we are held within divine love. Being in the physical presence of the satguru gives me the chance to see this more clearly because I am shown that love is always embracing me and holding it all.
I come away from my time with Amma with my spiritual battery recharged, so that I may deepen my practice of witnessing my ego in action and have the presence to soften and let it go. Being with Amma is not only home, but reminds me that home is everywhere, as long as I am willing to soften to love, right here, right now. As such, I never truly leave her darshan hall.
May you meet this moment as it is, and remember that you are love, you are loved. You are always within love’s embrace, no matter where you may be, or what you may be doing. Receive it.