‘Attachment to this world makes it seem real, while detachment makes it a wondrous play’ Amma
Recently I spent two blissful days in the presence of my beloved satguru Mata Amritanandamayi Devi or Amma (mother) as she is more commonly called. I am usually able to meditate more easily, to reach deeper absorption levels faster while in Her presence and this time was no exception. I was able to see the inner workings of my mind more clearly, becoming very aware of the subtlety of my ego appearing in various thoughts and judgements.
As I became aware of every thought or judgement that passed through my mind I would say to myself, ‘I see you mind, think you’re so subtle that I wouldn’t notice you, eh?’ Then I would laugh and shake my head. I think I was doing this enough that if someone were watching they would probably think that I was a bit ‘off’, that I was sharing an inside joke with myself or in this case my Self.
As I was serving lunch during the program, scooping out each spoonful of rice pasta, I received a myriad of different reactions from people. After the first scoop I would ask if they wanted another. This was my way of not giving too much at first to control any possible wasting of food. They could always come back for seconds so I thought this was a good way of distributing and serving the food. I had every reaction from ‘a little less please’ to ‘wow, really skimpy’ to looking away and rolling of the eyes or eye contact and a big smile. I noticed that I really wanted to explain myself when people expressed disapproval. I realized that I wanted to be ‘liked’ and when others disapproved of my methods I perceived that I was ‘not liked’ and would feel the need to explain my actions. As the line was moving rather quickly this made any kind of lengthy explanation impossible.
I also realized that the ‘others’ reactions were simply a reflection of the inner workings of my own mind. Here was my mind, its likes and dislikes, literally passing by me in the lunch line-up for me to observe. I had the choice again to react to each expression of praise or blame or to simply do my duty without attachment to the outcome. If I took the praise or blame personally it would only intensify my egos grip on my actions.
‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players’ Shakespeare
The analogy of the screen and the film projector comes to mind to explain the roles of the mind and the witness or the Self. During meditation the mind is comparable to the film or the actual images being projected and the screen is comparable to the Self. The film is always changing scenes, actors and dialogue but the screen remains a screen and is unchanged by these images. It simply offers a place for the images to land. Through meditation we begin to identify more with the Self, to simply observe with detachment what the changing script of our lives is playing out. Meditation does not remove or end the minds constant chatter but allows us to be unswayed and unaffected, in essence to not be under it’s control.
The last few nights I have had many dreams that felt like watching movies. Quite often I can recognize myself in my dreams but I haven’t been in them recently. There are many plots, subplots, and drama of course but just as you watch a movie you know that it is only a movie, even if you laugh or cry there is a level of detachment because it is not happening ‘to you’. This is what I have experienced in the last few days.
‘Praise and blame, it’s all the same’ anonymous
The real test however came with the praise that I received from a woman traveling on the tour. I had not signed up for any seva (selfless service) before the program began thinking that I would just sign up during the program. I conveniently forgot how easy it is for me to get caught up in wanting to be around Amma at all times and many of the sevas are behind the scenes and away from Amma’s proximity.
So I signed up for veggie chopping the morning I would be heading back home. The hour before to be precise. I along with many others was given the task of cutting onions into quarters. There were only two onions that made my eyes tear up in the hour that I was there. It was the thought of how blessed I was to not only enjoy the program but also to be looking forward to dancing once I got back home that triggered tears to well up in my eyes.
It was my sniffling that caught the attention of the woman next to me and she said something about cutting the onions. I told her, ‘oh they’re actually not that strong, I was just thinking how grateful I am for all the experiences in my life and how many blessings I have,’ and then I added, ‘but the onions are a good cover story!’ Then I will never forget how she looked at me because I had seen that same look in my ex’s eyes so many times. A look of complete awe and wonder. He looked at me like that at the beginning of our relationship often and my ego loved it. It also loved all the attention, feelings of being special with each new song that he would write about me. It was a fairy tale come true until one day he began to see my undesirable human qualities and his perfect muse turned into a selfish bitch right before his very eyes.
When she snapped out of her reverence she said something about my not wanting things and that this is why I was able to feel gratitude. I was so perplexed at first at how she had come to that conclusion. Her mind had filled in the blanks with a story that made me different from her, perhaps I don’t know, but I said, ‘Oh don’t get me wrong, I have many desires and aspirations too.’ When I explained that I had to leave shortly to travel back home she said, ‘and you spent your last hour here?!’ She had no idea of my internal struggle to tear myself away from Amma’s presence long enough for one hour to serve lunch the other day or how I could be here now only because Amma was not present in the hall. I was aware of my mind enjoying the praise but I quickly shook my head and said, ‘It’s all Amma’s grace’ to take my self out of the picture and to place the credit where credit was due.
It wasn’t until after I returned home from the program that I saw the movie screen analogy. This has brought such a sense of relief to me and has also brought me closer to others. All of the reactions from those I served were merely reflections of the thought process that goes on in the mind. In each and every one of us. Knowing this brings me closer to others rather than further away which is how I usually feel because my ego would like me to believe that I am different and special from ‘others’.
In the past I have shied away from anything ‘stressful’ or anything that I could not do well to avoid disappointing others or receiving criticism. I would take criticism personally and use it later as punishment to be hard on myself. So my solution was to not get involved. As a result though I can see how I was not giving myself opportunities to grow, by seeing myself in others more clearly and a big part of seeing through dualism or separateness is the ability to see all of your Self in others.