O Mother, come like a radiant beneficent cloud,
through the pathway
of the open sky of my mind
On Irondale Beach on a Puget Sound inlet just a few minutes' drive from where I live on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, I often imagine Amma walking with me, or sitting with me on a driftwood log listening to the wavelets lapping onto the shore. It's summertime. Most days are sunny and warm. Sometimes Amma and I play and laugh, splashing water on each other. At other times I stand in awe, seeing Amma's form as a huge ephemeral being rising out of the water. Chanting my mantra with each step puts my mind in a mood of feeling one with Amma in nature—the silence, the exquisite beauty, the majesty of the Douglas fir trees that line the shore.
Herons, seagulls, crows, geese, ducks, and the occasional eagle populate the area. Little birds rustle around in the bushes, chirping and singing. On many days I love to follow otter prints in the sand, most easily visible during low tide. Sometimes I see an otter poking its head above the water and then dipping down again to go fishing. One day an otter was rolling around scratching its back on the sand. While he looked ever ready to dart into the cove, he didn't seem to mind me standing close to him. In addition to the fauna and flora, there are often people walking with their dogs, or now and then two or three children playing together at the water's edge. On one quiet day I was practicing mantra walking meditation, looking down to check the placement of my feet, moving along in slow motion. A bearded man passing by said, "You look like a heron." I laughed and so did he.
On certain days if I'm upset over a disagreement I've had with someone, a walk on the beach soothes my mind. The sound of the water. Ducks floating peacefully. Gulls soaring overhead. Observing nature calms my thoughts. With a tranquil mind I can then reflect on how I participated in the difficulty and how to avoid such confrontations in the future. Most of all to remember to stay tethered to Amma and to keep a space between my thoughts and my actions.
When I recently returned from a visit to Amritapuri, I found that my experiences with Amma on the beach often deepened, her presence more palpable than before. Additionally, my meditations took me into Amma's heart of silence.
In Amritapuri I'd had trouble getting around and doing chores because of this aged body of mine (I'm 82). I could not detach from my body or change my perception. During my darshans Amma looked worried, "You ok? Tired?" I had no response. Amma knew, and it always brings tears that she knows more completely than I do. When I got home my body was still bothering me, and so it was obvious the aches and pains of old age had nothing to do with India. One day I began contemplating my memory of Amma arriving for the evening programs, walking slowly down the long pathway along the bhajan hall, holding onto Swamini Krishnamrita's arm. With this poignant image surfacing in my mind, I realized I needed to do what Amma does, to move slowly, to respect the body as it is, to take care of it and be unattached to it. To accept. I began to repeat to myself: "I am not the body; Amma, please help me remember it is you alone permeating this body and causing it to move and act." " This self-talk along with Prasada Buddhi (gratitude for all that comes my way) is quite miraculous and very simple. And it works.
And now back on Irondale beach: One day I was imagining Amma and I are walking along supporting each other's bodies that don't work so well anymore. There is no attention to pain because we are not the body. It was a sweet moment, filled with the joy of a lasting friendship. When the image faded, I headed up a few yards to the area where the Queen Anne's lace is turning brown, and the flowers folding in on themselves in a circle, forming exquisite skeletons of themselves. I watched for a while as the Queen Anne's on their long stems waved around in the breeze. Then, I continued on my way, now walking along the dead grass (it's been a dry summer). I felt I was walking on air, just an inch or so off the ground. You have to sort of pinch yourself when such experiences happen, to believe them. This feeling of walking on air stayed with me. An elderly gentleman was heading along towards me. I asked him, "Do you feel like you're walking on air?" With a big smile, he said, "Yes!" And then he added, "The wind is coming from the south."
Further up from the beach, along where the big leaf maples and firs grow, was a patch of native thistles giving up their seeds in a major display of fluffy down. In the end, just like these thistles, we give up the body. The thistle spreads seeds to sprout anew in the spring season.
Before we give up our bodies, I pray we spread seeds of love through our care and nurturing all of creation, by planting trees, growing organic veggies, leaving space for the wild animals, and giving to mother nature by contemplating her deep silence and exquisite beauty.
If we approach Nature with love, it will serve us as our best friend,
a friend that won't let us down. —Amma
This article was first published in Amma's GreenFriends of North America Fall issue