Prior to moving to Amritapuri, I had prayed fervently to Amma for a silent retreat at Her Ashram. I had experienced retreats in Thailand, where I lived at the time, and now dearly wanted a retreat blessed by Amma in Her Ashram, instead of sitting retreats elsewhere.

Then, within a few weeks of moving to Amritapuri in 2015, I saw a poster on the message board announcing the first Amrita Silent Meditation Retreat. I was overjoyed! The experience of having this prayer answered became the catalyst that gave birth to my regular practice of telling Amma everything.

By Amma’s Grace, I have been able to participate in many successive retreats over the past four years. People have asked me if I notice a difference in myself today. It was a blessing to receive this question, as it gave me a chance to reflect.

The retreats have changed me in both profound and subtle ways. Amma says we are changing every moment, more than we can comprehend. I experienced this Truth as I found that sitting each successive retreat revealed a new, slightly improved version of myself. I got a chance to learn anew and gained the awareness not to repeat the same mistakes. Beginning with an open and curious mind, each retreat became an adventure into seeing what new tricks my mind would conjure up. Gratefully, the closed environment and caring retreat team supported me on each step of the adventure.

“No one can upset you without your permission.” Amma

Amma says an important sign of progress on the path is how equanimous we remain in challenging situations. One encounter, after a number of retreats, made a deep impression on me. One day in the ashram someone approached me and started yelling. I just stood there like a deer in headlights as they walked off. A moment later, I realized that their anger had just washed over me – nothing stuck. The next thought was ‘this is the miracle of sitting retreats!’ I felt grateful to Amma and encouraged by this sign of my progress. The prolonged periods of silence and heaps of meditation seemed to be working. Didn’t try for this result. It just dawned. An Amma Miracle!

“Only the faith that comes from one’s own experience will be permanent, like the new leaves that sprout after the plant has taken root.” Amma

Everything that arises in the mind is an opportunity to look within. As I sat successive retreats, the ability not to project became more natural. Actually, I started to have the experience that looking outside myself was painful. Undoing this ancient habit takes courage, intense effort and, most importantly, Amma’s Grace.

“You weigh things and stamp them as good and bad according to your likes and dislikes.” Amma

In the retreat orientation, it is recommended that participants adopt several attitudes. In addition to maintaining a beginner’s mind, two other attitudes that I adopted and sincerely practiced throughout the duration of every retreat were:

  • Be at ‘zero-complaint level’ – letting go of likes and dislikes
  • Do not look for an experience – neither to recreate a previous experience nor search for a new one

Amma says that the nature of the mind is to swing like a pendulum, never resting in the present moment. Constant chatter!

“The mind is the noisiest place in the world.” Amma

I realized that underneath every complaint and expectation of a new experience, was a comparison with the past, dwelling in the future, or wanting things to go my way. Like bubbles rising, I would try to catch them before they surfaced. Dissolving complaint and expectation bubbles with gratitude!

“Only when the mind stops all its interpretations can we hear the inner voice of God.” Amma

My intuition had been telling me to sit multiple retreats, and I allowed that inner voice be my guide. The benefits have been invaluable and immeasurable.

I offer these humble words at the Lotus Feet of our Most Beloved Amma.

9 -Day Silent Meditation Retreat

Ever since I heard about silent meditation retreats, I have SO wanted to experience one. I eagerly asked for details about Vipassana retreats from a couple friends. When I heard the MA MATH was conducting silent retreats in Amritapuri, I was determined to attend as soon as I could.

I arrived at Amritapuri on Dec. 19th 2019. There was a 5-Day Silent Retreat notice up on the Information Board ,exactly what I wanted,but this was the busiest time in the Western Café where I do my seva, so I waited until after the holidays. Finally, a new notice was posted, 9-Day Silent Meditation Retreat Jan 8-17. My flight back to the U.S. was scheduled for Jan 17th. When I registered, they said I could leave early, but it really isn’t advised. “It is best to have a couple days to gradually integrate the benefits,” Gunamayi said.‘It could be a jolt and a bit of a shock to go straight to the airport.” I changed my return ticket. I had this intuitive expectation that this experience would be major for me, and it truly was.

The Seva Team

I must start my story with humble appreciation for the seva team. Every thought was taken for our comfort and ease by the five person team. The daily schedule was posted on the wall, so there was no need to ask questions or let the mind fixate on uncertainty. A bell was used to signal time to move from one activity to the next, which was managed seamlessly and gracefully.The food options, gathered from all the choices in the ashram, were beautifully displayed and labeled. They even set the fans at three different speeds to accommodate our preferences. On one side of the room the fans were off, in the middle at low speed, and on the other side, fans twirled briskly.

Most impressive for me was the team’s approach to their seva. I marveled at the qualities each team member displayed, saying to myself: this is how we all should be in doing seva for Amma.Their devotion was palpable,creating the conditions for a sacred experience. Our two facilitators, Vinod and Haran, shared personal stories from years of living with Amma, both beautiful, amazing and funny. Rasya’s opening prayers were done with a reverence that invoked a parallel response from the participants.The bright, airy and immaculately clean space was invisibly maintained by Dharmasheelan, and Yadukrishnan stood attentively by each meal like a solicitous maitre’d.

Sitting Meditation Practice

We started off following the breath, with Amma’s Ma-Om meditation practice. Haran or Vinod would guide us, with perfect timing. We received gentle reminders to stay relaxed, to keep our spine straight, to stay with the breath. Our sitting meditations were in ½ hour intervals, followed by ½ hour mindful walking meditation.

We were guided to watch our mind, to allow the thoughts to come and go; instructions familiar from Amma and the Swamis leading meditations. The setting and the slow pace supported a deepening over several days. Interspersed with the practice, Vinod and Haran shared Amma teachings about meditation, the mind, and the power of relaxation. By the third day, we continued this practice with no instruction, absolute silence as we followed the bell to move from sitting meditation to walking mediation to refreshment break, etc.

Watching the Mind

Amma devotees are aware of Amma’s guidance to live in the present. She often speaks about how the mind is always in the past or in the future. Our life occurs ONLY in the present, our right action can occur only in the present, awareness exists in the present.

So, as we were doing our sitting meditation, or our walking meditation, or while we were eating, we watched the mind as observers. My goodness! Everything going through my head was either replaying something from the past or imagining something in the future! 90% of the time. The task was to notice this and return to the breath, return to the sensations in the present and return to the Ma-Om vibrations.

In the movie, A Beautiful Mind, Russell Crowe plays John Nash, winner of a Nobel Prize in economics. Brilliant and completely crazy. John lived in a fantasy world, totally obsessed with his schizophrenic illusions, complete with imminent danger and a heroic plot that only he can carry out. Watching my mind all day, labeling and dismissing the incessant thoughts of the future or the past, I realized my mind was only slightly different from that of a schizophrenic.

Awareness of Subtle Energy

On day four and five, we were guided to move into awareness of the body’s subtle energy, the vibrations. This was supported by the daily yoga, which cleared channels of energy in the body, supporting alignment and centeredness. By now, when I began the Ma-Om meditation, I would immediately feel the subtle energy, my hands would get very warm and I would feel pulsations in my body. Like whilst sitting in Amma’s presence, I would experience being energy more than being matter. This happened quickly and consistently for me during these beautiful days of silent internal focus.

If this retreat had ended on day five, I would have been quite happy and content with this deep and beautiful experience. Fortunate for me, this retreat was a full nine days, and the team took us deeper.

I Am Not…

In the movie A Beautiful Mind, John Nashs doctor, his wife, his colleagues, all tell him his illusions are not real. They show him proof he had no roommate in college. John Nash is unable to believe it. He sees these people; they are his friends! Their personalities are whole and vivid. Eventually he has a breakthrough when he realizes: wait a minute the little girl never gets older. Over all these years, she is still exactly the same young girl. She cant be real! Finally, this logic penetrates, and he understands they are illusions.

This is what happened for me with this combination of days meditating and maintaining silence, along with experiential dwelling in subtle awareness, and now they added in the logic. We were blessed with two talks on Vedanta by Brahmachari Shraddhamrita, a teacher at one of Amma’s universities. In his delightful lectures, he walked us through a few foundational tenets.

What is real and what is unreal? If what is real are things that do not change, then all these temporary manifestations that come and go are unreal. They are part of Maya. Br. Shraddhamrita walked us through the concepts with a simplicity that we could follow. As I lay in bed that night, I was left with a familiar question : If I am not the body, if I am not the mind, if I am not the personality; what else is there?

Awakening

The next day, Haran brought it home. During our sitting meditation, he stated: “I am the Awareness that hasn’t changed since childhood.” In a flash, I connected with this. I know this continuity… the body has grown, the mind has added information and skills and has stored all these experiences, the personality has changed (thank God). But this Awareness is the same, energetically, I am the same as that serious, self-contained little girl of so many decades ago.

I realized this subtle energy is my essence, this is my essential nature. I have over the years had experiences, especially in Amma’s presence, of being Aware of this essence. I interpreted this as Amma filling my body, Amma entering my puja room… and yes, it is Amma. But now I caught a glimpse that this energy is also me. I thought of what Amma has said so often that we are the same as Her. There is no separation, there is no difference. Wow.

Walking around the ashram, grateful for my “In Silence” badge, I contemplated this truth anew. All of us are made up of this same, pulsing energy. We are all God-stuff. Amma has been telling us this so many times! I feel embarrassed to be so excited about finally ‘getting it’. I have been a devotee for 14 years! Yet all I can be now is thankful. Finally, a glimmer of awareness.

Auf persönlichen Wunsch von Amma, fand das erste Amrita Stille Retreat in Deutschland im Amma Haus München statt.

Es war ein sehr inspirierendes und erfüllendes Erlebnis, sowohl für die Teilnehmer als auch für die Instruktoren und das Orgiteam.

Das Retreat begann am Freitag abend um 18 Uhr mit einem köstlichen vegetarischen Abendessen, gefolgt von den hingebungsvollen und teils feurigen Bhajans der Münchner Bhajangruppe.

Anschließend war dann der offizielle Beginn des Stille Retreats mit einleitenden Worten und Gedanken zur Stille von Bri. Sudhamayi und einer feierlichen Zeremonie in der die Stille-Anhänger überreicht wurden. Amma hat diese Stille-Anhänger speziell für diese Retreats gesegnet.

Am nächsten Morgen begann das Programm mit Meditationen abwechselnd im Gehen und im Sitzen. Diese „Sitzungen“ sind mit Anleitungen begleitet und unterstützt, um es den Teilnehmern zu erlauben, stufenweise tiefer und tiefer zu gehen. Immer wieder wurden auch Ammas inspirierende Worte eingeflechtet.

An beiden Tagen gab es auch eine Yogastunde mit Abheda, jeweils vor dem Frühstück. Die Übungen sind darauf abgestimmt, das Sitzen zu unterstützen, den Körper zu entspannen und geistige Stille zu vertiefen.

Am Abend des ersten Tages fand eine Frage Antwort Stunde statt. Die Retreatteilnehmer konnten dazu ihre Fragen aufschreiben. Bri. Sudhamayi hat diese dann, gespickt mit ihren persönlichen Erfahrungen aus all den Jahren mit Amma, beantwortet.

Die Abschlusszeremonie am Sonntag endete mit einer Runde in der es möglich war das Erlebte in Worte zu fassen wem dies ein Bedürfnis war, und so manch überfließendem Herzen Ausdruck zu verleihen.

Grundton der Beiträge war:

Große Berührtheit darüber, in Stille zu sein mit Menschen die man sonst nur sprechend kennt.

Sowie die Freude, dass Amma endlich den langjährigen Wunsch nach Stille Retreats in Deutschland erfüllt hat.

Und die Dankbarkeit, für die tiefen und gesegneten Erfahrungen:

„Ich habe das Universum in meinem Herzen gesehen und absolute Gewissheit verspürt, das nehme ich mir mit und dafür möchte ich DANKE sagen. Danke an das ganze Team, das diese Reise zu mir Selbst möglich gemacht hat.“ Stephanie, 37

„Es war ein grosses Geschenk das Retreat mitmachen zu duerfen. Ich bin so beruehrt, dass ich weinen muss“. Chandra, 42.

„Das Erlebnis nach Jahren in der Gehmeditation erstmals wieder bewusste Schritte zu setzen, ohne dem Schmerz so schnell wie möglich zu enteilen. Amma hat mir Mut gemacht.“ Sahaja, 57

„Die Meditation ist systematisch aufgebaut. Es ist wie alles bei Amma: offen für jeden Hintergrund den man bereits hat.“ Maria, 56.

Die gute Athmosphäre und die schönen Räumlichkeiten im Amma-Haus wurden als sehr unterstützend empfunden, um tiefer in die Stille zu gehen.

Alle Retreatteilnehmer waren sich einig: Ihr Wunsch nach mehr innerer Stille hat sich erfüllt.

Im Anschluss hatte jeder noch die Gelegenheit Blumen auf dem Altar zu opfern und Prasad zu empfangen.

Wir sind alle mit reich beschenktem Herzen nach Hause gegangen.

Die liebevolle und professionelle Rundumversorgung durch das Orgiteam hat für das Wohlbefinden der Teilnehmer gesorgt und den reibungslosen Ablauf sichergestellt. Mit viel Liebe und Auge fürs Detail wurde für das leibliche Wohl gesorgt. Alle Herzen und Hände waren glücklich auf irgendeine Weise an diesem Stille Retreat mitwirken zu können.

Berührendes am Rande: Eine Frau wollte sich gerne anmelden, jedoch war es ihr aus gesundheitlichen Gründen nicht möglich, das Stille Retreat mitzumachen. Sie hat sich Zuhause geistig eingeklinkt, Samstag/Sonntag aufs Fernsehen verzichtet und soviel Zeit wie möglich in Stille verbracht. Sie habe unsere Stille bei ihr Zuhause miterlebt, berichtete sie.

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