As Amma approached New Mexico, four major infernos were burning out of control in the state, destroying thousands of acres of precious forest land. In neighbouring Colorado, the worst wildfire in the state’s history was raging through residential neighbourhoods, destroying hundreds of homes. The Southwest is in extreme drought, one of the driest places in the USA. As we drove to the program from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, we could see the billowing smoke from the fire in the Jemez Mountains. Across the wide expanse of the high desert, strong winds whipped up brown dust devils which spun through the dry barren landscape. Ahead we could see the Sandia Mountains that rise over Albuquerque, crowned with thunderclouds and streaks of lightening. Finally, a few raindrops fell. A reminder that Amma’s arrival in New Mexico is usually accompanied by rain showers during or right after the program. As we drove we thought of Amma’s tour group also driving through the parched West after the Los Angeles Devi Bhava.
At the last minute Amma had added another public program day in Albuquerque on what had been meant to be an “off” day. We were thrilled to have another program day with Amma and the locals rose to the occasion, activating the email and phone trees, updating the website and revising the entire setup schedule. Due to other events at the hotel, the local sevites could not get into the venue to start setting up until 3am the morning before the noon program. The tour group would not arrive til 5am. Around 4am we heard that Amma’s camper was approaching the venue.
The Southwest program is held at the Marriot Pyramid, which has an open courtyard and glass elevators. A favourite thing for the devotees is to watch Amma go up and down, her white dress shining through the glass wall of the elevator. Sometimes she turns and sweetly waves and throws kisses to the people standing on the other side of the glass.
This late night, or actually early morning, a small group of us were standing on an upper floor looking down at the empty elevator. Suddenly Amma appeared and walked inside it. She stood there in the way that only Amma can stand: patient, relaxed, focused and present. Even from 8 floors up, those qualities could be sensed. Then Swamiji and Swamini entered and the elevator swooped up and Amma came floating down the hallway, beaming as if it were 4 in the afternoon, rather than 4am…as what is the meaning of the time of day to one who seldom sleeps? Indeed, she then spent a couple of hours talking with local devotees, while below the locals and the staff were eating breakfast and finishing set up.
This unexpected program was one of the sweetest in memory. New people met Amma and were swept away. Local devotees, some of whom hadn’t seen Amma for a year, were thrilled to get darshan sooner than expected. Archana, music, Amma’s contagious laughter and bliss transformed the mundane ballroom into a divine energy field. To everyone’s joy, Amma unexpectedly sang ecstatically at the end of the program. One line particularly resounded. “Come lay your sorrows at the feet of the Divine Mother.” Many people had earlier expressed that they had had a lot of sorrows in the best year and were just holding on until they could see Amma and have her darshan. In her infinite compassion, Amma had made it possible for them to see her a day earlier and exchange their sorrows for joy.
Southwest Program, North American Yatra, 2013