You may have noticed that Things I Love Thursday was AWOL yesterday. The reason for that is, because, well, I was in a convention centre waiting to get a hug.
I know that sounds weird…
Let’s skip back a couple of days. I emailed Gabrielle to ask her when she wanted to hang out, and she said,
I’m going to get a hug from Amma on Thursday, do you want to come?
I had no idea what she was talking about, so I clicked through to Amma’s site and all of a sudden, it came rushing back to me. I remembered that I had read about Amma in Kelly Cutrone’s books If You Have To Cry, Go Outside and Normal Gets You Nowhere (both of which I LOVED).
Known as the hugging saint, Amma spends her life travelling the world, offering a free hug to anyone who wants or needs it. She asks nothing in return.
In an interview, Kelly said, “I had this huge spiritual awakening when I met Amma who literally ate me up and spit me out with all her compassion. She gave me a new awareness…”
Remembering all this, I quickly replied back to Gabby: “YES!!!”
The next morning, a group of us — me, Gabby, Jamie and Ruby — met up and headed to the Javits Center. We walked into an enormous room. There were hundreds of people sitting in chairs meditating, a lot of them wearing white.
Jamie saw me looking around incredulously, and said, “Oh, this is nothing. On Saturday night, it will be a full-on party in here… And packed to the rafters.”
I was blown away by the huge variation of people I saw — young and old, of every colour and religion, some wearing saris, others in business suits.
And then there was me, wearing sequins and silk with my motorcycle boots, and no idea what I was doing there.
The deal is this: you get a token, which guarantees you a hug, and the numbers on the tokens are called out in order. As we stood in line waiting for tokens, one of the volunteers said we looked like a rock band. Ruby grinned at us and said, “We’re a spiritual girl gang!”
Once you’ve been issued your token (which has a letter and a number on it), you take a seat. There is music and chanting, which many people join in with. Others just sit and meditate, or talk to their friends. Since it can take several hours to get your hug, Amma’s volunteers set up a food court where you can get a bit of nosh. The food is amazing: lots of Indian cuisine, as well as plenty of raw vegan chocolate and delicious baked goods!
I was standing around, taking it all in, when Ruby said, “Oh, there’s Kelly…” And Kelly Cutrone came sauntering over.
Kelly is a PR machine and a force of nature. We started talking, and were surprised when she told us that these days, she’s focussing her attention on TV and books instead of PR. Despite this, Kelly does Amma’s PR for free. You can only imagine what a huge job that is! That’s how much Kelly believes in what Amma is doing.
That touched me, and made me even more curious about what was to come.
Before I knew it, it was time to kneel in front of Amma (translation: mother).
When you’re wrapped in Amma’s embrace, time seems to stop. The hug takes forever. It isn’t rushed, like you might expect, given that there are hundreds of people behind you.
It’s a hug of pure love: no judgment, no expectation, no awkwardness. As she pulled me towards her, she said in my ear, “My daughter, my daughter, my daughter, my daughter.”
She smells like lavender and rose, and she holds you tight.
I didn’t know what to think yesterday: my logical mind was whirring about it all night. But this morning, I woke up to the realisation that my experience wasn’t about thinking or making sense of it — it was simply about feeling it.
There are people who say her hugs heal. The woman ahead of me was crying the whole time. But what I think is most remarkable is the incredible amount of love and selflessness Amma demonstrates every day.
It makes you think, ‘In what ways could I be more open, loving, vulnerable and available?’
The sheer scale of love, sacrifice and devotion she offers the world blows my mind.
Meeting Amma made me reconsider what compassion actually means… And not in an abstract, navel-gazing kind of way. Today, I was able to really and truly put myself in someone else’s shoes, and heal something that has been hurting me for five years.
So, yeah, her hug did heal me.
Believe the hype.
Amma is in New York City today and tomorrow, and then in New England next week. If you’re intrigued or feel like this is something you should experience, I encourage you to do it… And to read Ruby’s interview with one of Amma’s volunteers.
“Be like the honeybee who gathers only nectar wherever it goes. Seek the goodness that is found in everyone.” (Amma)
Inspired and heart on fire,
P.S. I was honoured to be featured alongside the likes of Marianne Williamson and Katie Hendricks as an emerging thought leader in The Daily Love Extravaganza! Mastin interviewed me last week and we got down and dirty talking about radical self love, the common fears female entrepreneurs face, and the power of style as self-expression! If you want to listen, be sure to sign up!