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.