Never, not in this lifetime did I ever picture myself rising before dawn to a cold bucket shower, sporting the occasional sari, mentally offering flower petals at the feet of the Divine Mother, chanting Ma-Om with “each cell of my being dancing in Divine Bliss” around the tropical palms of a little fishing village in India!
Going on nearly 20 years of “knowing” Amma, receiving Her blessed darshan each year since I was five years old, it has been a surprising journey discovering how spirituality has finally bloomed in my life. Though the seed was planted in me early, growing up in a hippie-dippie, crunchy-granola community, complete with a full variety menu of flavor-of-the-week spiritual modalities, I admit I rejected it all for a long time. This is not to say I didn’t appreciate my upbringing, but it was over-saturating to be raised on mantras, chakras, and yagyas the way the local kids ate Wonder Bread. Where the norm was auric field cleansing, jyotish gem charging, and crystal wand waving, I proudly claimed myself an agnostic in the face of my parents’ “guru crazes,” seeking hard evidence while writing off all of spirituality as blind faith that everyone around me had somehow fallen prey to.
It wasn’t until last year, traveling to India on what at first was just a tourist backpacking trip after college, that I really saw the amazing validity and worth of my upbringing. It was discovering spirituality on my own, through this connection I’ve had with Amma from a distance since childhood, that I was able for the first time to really tap into something beyond myself, the Divine. Words cannot do justice to the experience of my first darshan at Amritapuri, as many witnesses to Her presence can attest to. It was as if I was meeting Her for the first time. No longer was I just receiving a cuddly hug and a Hershey’s kiss from an Indian lady in a crown. It was Her seeing me on that primeval level of understanding, shining on me with all Her Love. It was in this fresh inner space, where those values I was brought up with were ready for Her Light, that I felt the shell of the seed of spirit crack within me and begin to sprout, melting me in tears. Six months later, and now a year later, I still find myself in the ashram, the course of my life turned down a much different road than I’d expected.
My outlook has completely changed, unrecognizable from the skeptic I was growing up. And now that I’ve had this first-hand experience, I feel as if I’m backpedaling to lost time I took for granted as a child, re-learning from scratch how to tune in, listen, and meditate, as a beginner. Though I often feel as if I’m fumbling more than treading water in these early stages, I am so incredibly grateful for my initial declination to spirituality. I may not have been able to kindle this newfound desire for true growth and understanding without the thirst coming from my own empowerment to know for myself, drawing from those once tossed aside, now treasured values I was raised with. And now I am ever-happy to be back again this winter, on a journey that will hopefully continue to blossom and guide the rest of my life…