We learned that our PNW Amma Community was finding a lot of creative ways to get through this pandemic. Last month, prior to the many protests happening now, we reached out to some for their wisdom and insights on how they are coping.
An infectious diseases doctor gives us a glimpse into her world. An Aikido and yoga instructor couple found creative ways to keep their business alive.
A waste management coordinator turned inward to recycle old beliefs and patterns. A mother of two doubled her efforts to feed the needy. And many more...
It is our hope that sharing their responses will help and inspire us all. Enjoy!
Seeing myself in the forest and nurturing -- that has been my Covid blessing. Walking the same path most days watching it grow has been an honor. Learning about new plant medicines and making products has been a deepening hobby that has enriched my life. 💖
Amma is helping me greatly with Her White Petal meditation to feel connected to everyone and everything and to be grateful for my family's health and safety through this challenging time
How Amma is helping me cope...
By her example of caring for others in difficult times. By her teachings on courage and faith. Especially by her live streams of bhajans, satsang and the swami's satsangs. Through the mantra and spiritual practices she gave me. These things have made all the difference.
Aparna, Kavita, Prakash and Gouri
The past few months have taken us back to the ABC's of life.
Acceptance of the situation and Amma to repose our faith in.
Bonding for real and Board games says it all.
Contemplating internally while also enjoying Cooking together.
While I am sad to miss Amma's tour this year, I am actually kind of happy that AMMA is getting a rest, that even if She wants to, physically She can only give darshan to the ashram inmates and so She will be having more rest than She's ever had!! :-) I've always worried when She is on tour that her aches and pains never get a chance to heal. Even though I know its all Maya and She is connected to the cosmic power source, I cannot but feel happy that She is having enforced physical rest!
Meanwhile, as some of you know, I coordinate Mother's Kitchen here in Portland and have been delivering food to a women's shelter every Friday since 2016 continuing on from Scotti's amazing example. From last week, we have upped that to twice a week now as there is more need, and AMMA has showered Grace on this Seva.
Regular sadhana continues of course. Thinking of all of you and sending warm fuzzies and love. Stay safe my dear AMMA brethren.
A friend once referred to me as a "gregarious introvert", which is spot on. The introvert in me is enjoying the opportunity to do e-seva, and putter around the house fixing things. My gregarious side is anxious to see all my satsang friends and resume helping Amma come back to the U.S. I will miss working from home when all this is over, but ending this pandemic and being able to go outside without fear will be well worth having to wear a tie in a cube day after day! Stay strong friends. 🙏🏻💪
Om Amriteswaryai Namah!
Our Beloved Mother always provides us with everything!
Amma, I have been longing for your presence. Always internally but also for more of a connection on the internet/externally, and lo and behold, we are graced with your bhajans and virtual Satsangs from your swamis! Hearing you speak so tenderly to us about Covid made me cry! Your feet would be physically touching U.S. soil now and our sadness is immeasurable. May your grace, love, and compassion continue to guide us safely to a Covid-free shoreline where we can take shelter and rest safely in your ocean of bliss.
At Your Feet always, Cory
I am loving Amma's reminders to follow the local health authority guidelines but also to note that this is a great time to 'catch up' and return to what's important - including time for spiritual practice and a renewed awareness of being kind to the earth.
I have been doing lots of work with AIMS! We had an awesome webinar that one of their physicians delivered last night! The work is going really well.
It ("shelter in lace") has provided an amazing opportunity to clean up the Maltby Property outside, to take action on emergency plans, and to begin veggie starts and planting both at Maltby & Woodinville. Most joyfully my desire to begin a spiritual journal as Amma recommends has taken root.
Jagadish and Sushanta
Given what we do for a living, teaching aikido and yoga, which is hands on with students of all ages from pregnant women, children to elders in their 80's, Jagadeesh and I saw as we watched the unfolding of COVID-19 in early March that we would need to close our doors to do our part in keeping our students safe. We closed before the governor mandated that all non-essential businesses close.
It's like what Amma says, "Be a bird on a twig…" We had to let go of our attachment to our finances, fear of losing the building where Tenzan Aikido and Sri Janani Yoga (formerly Seattle Holistic Center) are housed and our fear of what is to come.
My memory of what Amma said in 2016 in Santa Fe about 2020 was, "…turn to Divine Mother, SHE will protect you." And this is what we do. She has guided us by bringing the right people to help us navigate the new technology of doing online classes, and by bringing enough students to help us stay in business. For years my prayer has been, let me know Thy will so I can be an instrument of Your love and peace.
Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
As I go about daily duties caring for parents, AMMA is with me every second. Offering all Bhoga to convert it into prasad is one of the major connections to the spiritual world. Living moment by moment in the present makes the days pass in this dreamlike existence.
During the pandemic, I have generally stayed in the house except for getting groceries. I have listened to Amma and the Swamis' Satsangs, written one line of the 108 Names of Amma 10 times in Sanskrit script each day, listened to the Guru Stotrum, worked on the PNW GreenFriends Newsletter, cleaned and sorted, talked to friends and family on the phone, walked 250 steps an hour (in the house) for 9-10 hours each day, and occasionally walked down or around the block.
Around the 20th of February, I was very ill. I had a low-grade fever and a terrible cough that refused to go away. I was sitting up on the couch every night coughing my guts out. A visit to the urgent care did not help much.
It was then I had an Amma dream. In my dream, Amma was entering the program hall and She sees me and had a look on Her face that suggested to say "Hey, What happened to you". She reaches out for prasad candies and hands a bunch to me.
I got better that day. The annoying cough was gone. I slept peacefully for the first time in 2 weeks. Though it took me 5 weeks to fully recover my recovery started the day Amma visited me in my dream.
During the pandemic, I have often found myself overwhelmed by the many tragedies playing out at home and around the world. As Amma tells us to 'see the good' in everything I have been shifting my focus to finding just one good thing, and then another and then another, and it builds on itself to keep my spirits up and my perspective clear. She also tells us to light our little candle and move forward to light the path for ourselves and others. This essential teaching, fueled by the remembrance of Amma's embrace, has sustained me during these times.
As the lockdown began, I fell ill with Covid. 74 days in, the recovery continues. And, for 74 days, while isolating, I have fallen asleep holding on to Amma's little purple book of quotes on Faith. I've felt Amma's protective and loving embrace through this entire time. Her words in the book have given me hope and courage to take one day at a time. I have also felt Amma's love and grace flow through every single person who has prayed or done grocery shopping for me. Koti-Koti Pranam to my Guru, my Mother, Amma. Om Amriteshwaria Namah.
Missing being all together at this time, and being with Amma in her physical form. We have had a relatively smooth ride of it here on our little island. Our lives have not changed much. It's a big encouragement for our choice to live a rural self sufficient life.
Islanders are expanding thier gardens and spending less on things they don't need. There has been community initiatives to collaborate on community gardens and land sharing.
Folks who often need to move out of thier rentals to make way for summer visitors can stay this year. Regional parks are still open and walking has become a daily practice for most.
We feel the suffering of our family and friends that we are in contact with, and on a subtle level the world wide stress and fear experienced by so many.
Praying for positive changes in the world and an awakening of consciousness.
Aum Amriteswaryai Namah
By Amma's Grace, for the first time ever, a sense of internal discipline seems to be blossoming in my life, and I have been able to let go of belongings and simplify. Distractions are falling away, helping me to focus more on Amma's teachings, chanting, and meditation. I am finding joy again in the little things like cooking, nurturing a couple of houseplants, and laughing with family and friends!" 🤣👪 Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
During this time of the pandemic, I have been enjoying the gifts of sadhana, solitude, and nature. There is an abundance of nature near us that is flourishing and growing lusher all the time. The birds are all coming out to sing and other animals seem to be appearing more now. Trees, water, mountains, grass provide beauty and healing that makes the heart sing and cry! The air feels fresher and cleaner. I have come to appreciate the gift of our garden, growing vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers! I love to feel the soil and leaves and be among the natural growth. I enjoy cutting lettuce, kale, onions, and the like from the garden and then using them to make delicious and healthy meals. Experiencing the interconnections and inner tranquility. In gratitude to our Divine Mother and Mother Earth.
Shyama and Ameya
Amma is helping us to cope during this Pandemic by Guiding us through the recorded Satsangs. Amma gives us many practical tools, and guides us on everything we need to get through this time. Without this guidance, we would be very scared and lost. By following Amma's guidance and teachings, we're able to move forward each day with courage, hope and faith. This is especially important for Ameya and all of the young children. We have vegetable gardens, continue to take care of Mother Nature, and feel safe staying at home. Now during re-entry we are doing what Amma suggests. We are going out only when necessary and wearing masks, staying alert, washing our hands continuously, and remaining vigilant. We feel very loved knowing that Amma is taking so much care to prepare, guide and warn us during this time.
In order to stay calm, have the right attitude, develop discernment and pray for world peace, we continue doing our Spiritual Practices from Amma. We also try to help others as much as we can.
Even though we're very sad we won't see Amma this summer, we are very grateful Amma invites us to live Satsang and Bhajans from Amritapuri. During this special time we get to see Amma again, we feel really happy much more connected to her. Through Amma's Grace, we have received ongoing support through all of the Swamiji Satsangs, Q & A's, Amma's Heart Videos, Virtual Archanas, Satsangs and Guided I am Meditations.
Our words alone cannot express how blessed we are to have Amma guiding us through these challenging times. We are forever grateful to Amma for everything she does for us and everyone in the world.
I've been using this time to participate in Virtual Satsangs in Bend, Oregon. I've also been watching the Satsangs the Swami's have been giving in Amritapuri, bhajans with Amma, and the cute little Amma videos on Amritaworld on YouTube. I've used this quiet time without a lot of distractions pulling me outward to do some really deep inner work and self-inquiry.
My husband and I, with our 2 golden doodles, recently moved to Bend, Oregon from Colorado. With Amma's grace, we got situated just in time before the pandemic.
I am exploring some uncharted territory in the kitchen: I just bought a stone wet grinder to make masala dosas from scratch. The fermentation proves to be a bit tricky, but with Amma's grace, I am optimistic I will figure it out! I even got a fresh coconut to make chutney and ordered curry leaves. Also, I am experimenting with recipes to get saag tofu to taste authentic. I am excited to try the next one with creamed cauliflower as the base.
My spirit has been nourished with live virtual Satsangs almost every day of the week. It has been an unexpected way to stay connected with my Satsangs in Colorado and has brought me closer to devotees here in the PNW, and all the way to Hawaii! Not to mention, connecting with the Swamis and Amma directly from India! I feel so blessed that my connection to our Gurukula (family of the Guru) has expanded and become even stronger during this time.
I am at home with my husband who is working from home and nine-year-old daughter. We are spending our time gardening, enjoying hikes up the mountain near our house, bike rides in our neighborhood, schoolwork, playing games, and doing arts and crafts. My mom lives in the lower-level suite and we enjoy meals and visits with her. My husband and I each have a regular meditation practice and chant lokah samastah daily. We have enjoyed the on-line Satsangs which have somewhat eased the pain of not seeing Amma and our Amma family this spring!
Om Namah Shivaya, everyone!
Things sure have changed and I am glad Mother Nature is getting a reprieve. I am also so glad Amma and the swamis are safe and sound at Amritapuri. February and March were difficult and my dad died in NYC on April 4. I emailed Amma through the app several times! Boy, has it helped. She always meets us where we are, and the medium of email is just the perfect thing for many of us. She has lifted my burden and eased my pain several times this way. Our three year old loves the app because hearts appear when you touch Amma, and she has emailed Her as well. I'm also doing my regular practices like asana and mantra too, most of the time. Someday we will all be together again in Her physical presence, God willing...🕉️❤️🧘
Love to all,
Taking the time to recognize, appreciate and enjoy each day.
By staying at home since the outbreak, the days seem to easily roll and mesh together.
I've been disciplined in my daily spiritual practices each morning. Hubby and I are spending A LOT of time together.
We have started a small veggies and herb garden...this is a miracle in itself. 🌱🙏
What did I do you asked when our part of the world came to a halt... on March 2020...like the majority of the community around me I first felt the agitation and worry from the discomfort of not knowing and the wondering of what next.
Then naturally and quickly I turned to Amma, seeking her wise teachings with scores of reminders, wise words, and guidance... be courageous and pray I heard... double your prayers and meditate for world peace... chant Lokaha! Suddenly my daily routine of one hour of yoga and chant/meditation sometimes less, transformed with the invitation of being open-ended…since time was not pressing...and so heeding Amma's Divine Guidance I immersed myself in a more lengthy practice. Though I was focusing the intent of this practice for the wellness of global humanity, I was the first one to be comforted and reap the benefits of accessing the calm peaceful ocean inside…Amma was right of course... She's always right.
From that place, remembering gratitude came easy. Suddenly the weight of work responsibilities was made much lighter knowing everyone was asked to comply to the new restrictions by staying home and keep a safe distance, suddenly the frantic impulse of "doing" settled leaving more space to recognize the great fortune of living in Canada, more so in Victoria BC where space and nature, greenery and constant blooms prevail and where the distancing restrictions, with the stern guideline to prevent the spread of the virus never escalated to a complete lockdown.
So, I could take my busy mind for long walks when it was acting up most times for 5 to 8km. In such meanderings, I would look for the perfect spot to practice some Qigong and run through my taiji Chen style. I could also attune to the sound of nature and birds... Yes, birds and blooms in their spring symphony became more noticeable to me… surely they too were rejoicing at the quietness and the clean air...I would cross paths with strangers or neighbors I recognized and we would smile…a different smile...and even let ourselves inquire about how each other were doing.. keeping distance always…but we had time … we took time...to show kindness and care.
From time to time sadness would burst and tears would pour, any reason was good enough to validate such strong emotions, people suffering, people dying alone, children dying in poverty and from malnutrition, my missing hugs from my children and grandchildren. But I could always bring myself back with quietly chanting Lokaha….in fact this sacred Mantra became such a good companion and the ingredient I added to almost everything I did…while stirring the ground for the seeds I planted in my little garden patch while cooking food which I took so much pleasure in preparing… even infused this sound in the 2 pairs of socks I knitted…such healing came from such simple practice.
And so now that we are entering the re-start phase, testing the grounds with perhaps some new creative ways to function in a new normal, I pray to our Beloved Amma to give me the strength to continue to infuse my daily life with these simple but powerful practices. Amma warned us of these difficult times and has encouraged and inspired us by her examples to live in a state of prayers for Peace in the world and praying for the wellness of all. So, like the little hummingbird in one of Her well-known story I remember that nothing is insignificant that every action count...so I'll continue to do my part!
The Virus Within
As someone who normally expends a lot of time and energy on external waste management and finding solutions to all the pollution, being stuck on my asana with all of my vasanas (internal waste and pollution) during the pandemic has been a very painful, yet profound experience.
With no tour to focus on or anticipation of Amma's physical form to cling on to, I've been propelled inward where I've discovered the real 'virus'. The virus of the ego which has created stinking great heaps of garbage and dis-ease that have been festering for decades…who knew?!
Yep, hidden there underneath my good deeds and environmental activism were piles of self-righteous anger, self-centered fear, need for recognition, validation, approval and acknowledgement, jealousy, selfishness, unresolved grief, judgement, sorrow, intolerance and hypocrisy…just to name a few. I saw that for every finger I pointed at others saying "they need to wake up" or "they need to change", there were three fingers pointing back at me. I was just too busy with my own self-indignation to notice. Then came the unleashing of the Kracken of fury at Amma for "abandoning" me and leaving me with this merciless mental virus. I kicked and screamed but Her love, patience and compassion were much stronger. She refused to let me go even when I tried fervently to shake Her off in spite. She just continued, ever-so-gently, to nudge me inward whispering, "You can do this, my daughter. Don't be afraid. Go in! Be courageous! It has to be revealed to be healed." And revealed it has been!
My internal lockdown has uncovered many old, rusty ideas and beliefs about myself and others that needed to be either upcycled or incinerated in order to grow and become bigger, as Swami Amritasvarupananda Puri says in Amma's White Flower Meditation. I've come to realize from the inferno, the ash falls and the Phoenix rises. Not with fury or force but with love and expansiveness which accepts all, loves all and stands not against, but for the peace, happiness and awakening of Self and of all beings. Only an unfathomably great soul such as Amma, could take my decomposing, festering piles of mental garbage and transform them into fragrant, nutrient-rich compost that all life-forms may hopefully benefit from and enjoy.
Jnanada and Bhagavati
Wow, what unprecedented times we are living in! When I asked my eight-year-old daughter Jñanada for insights about this experience for her over the past few months, she summed up the main benefit she has taken away from this experience in one word – TIME. When asked to provide more details for this submission, this is what she said, "Quarantine is fun because I have time to play with mommy. I like going on walks with her and my neighbor Ada and her mom. Oh, and I am learning to play the guitar too. Also, Aaron got me a new bike. It is a mountain bike with gears. I am chanting the 108 names every day - well, I am learning them; I've mastered the first 3 and the 5th so yay!"
For me, it has been time for sadhana, time for taking our garden to the next level, time to stop being so busy and to simply be and breathe. The past few months have also afforded us with time to make music with our new housemates – here is one fun song we recorded that you might enjoy: Click to Listen. I have also started to practice harmonium and have been leading free weekly yoga sessions on Saturday mornings at 10m via Zoom. I'm doing this in partnership with my new beloved Aaron Overstreet, who weaves in beautiful breathwork practices. (If you are interested in keeping in the loop of the Zoom link meeting locations via a weekly email he sends out a few days in advance, you can sign up on his website at www.respirepdx.com. It is so lovely connecting in this way on Saturday mornings. I hope you will join us!)
The first month of being home around the clock was extremely difficult as I was working from home and was expected to wear way too many hats at once, i.e. state worker, teacher, and mama! Wearing all three hats at once prevented me from being able to do any of them well. I had NO time and could barely catch my breath! And then, with Amma's grace, I was approved to take leave for a few months to care for my child in the absence of school and I can now focus on being a mama and a teacher for my girl. I now have time to provide my daughter with a balanced education that pleases this bhakti mama. With my background in education and now TIME to leave work aside for a few months, I have taken on hOMe schooling my girl. School at our hOMe includes 1) academics, 2) karma yoga, and 3) sadhana! In an attempt to make this fun, I created three wheels (one for each of these elements) that she spins daily to determine her "assignments" for that day. What a blessing it has been to have time each day to encourage my girl to focus on these three equally important realms of her education. And of course, there are daily challenges we experience but each of those is simply another reminder of the opportunities we have to surrender, to trust, to grow, to chant our mantras, and pray for Amma's grace. Like Amma has been telling us - timing…effort…and grace!
May each of us somehow benefit in some way from these challenging times and may the benefits we experience during this time bring peace and happiness to all beings - Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.
Facing Illness and Death, Alone and Isolated
COVID-19 surfaced in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and at the time appeared to be just one more infectious disease that may touch a part of the world and then vanish. As an infectious diseases physician this is a common experience, some diseases like SARS in 2003, come and go. Others, such as MERS or EBOLA, come and stay affecting a segment of humanity. None of us had ever imagined what was to unfold with COVID. A tiny microbe was going to bring us to our knees causing widespread devastation across the globe, affecting every sphere of our lives.
In January the first case of COVID-19 was identified in Seattle. This is when it truly hit home. I and my other infectious diseases colleagues started preparing our staff and hospital for a potential onslaught. We planned for an increased need for personal protective equipment (PPE), rooms with special airflows and dedicated hospital floors to house patients with COVID. However, the possibility of an outbreak still appeared remote, since after all, the first patient diagnosed with COVID had just returned after travel to China. There was no indication that we were dealing with an outbreak in our community. However, one more month and we identified the first patient with COVID at our hospital, as did other area hospitals. The virus was clearly amidst us, as many of these patients had no travel histories.
By now we had already heard of tragic stories from China, where doctors, nurses and hospitals were completely overwhelmed by the virus. Communities were in lockdown. At the time it appeared that we were different. Somehow with our advanced medical systems, organization and planning, it never could affect us in that way. We will have all under control. However, here we were, now facing an onslaught of challenges—caring for sick and dying patients, alone in isolation, with a new disease without known treatments, further compounded by limited knowledge on transmission and infectiousness of a novel virus.
We needed to care for our patients with COVID while keeping ourselves, our families and other patients safe. There were constant breakdowns in supply chains, a term that I had hardly ever used before became daily vocabulary. There were shortages in PPE and testing kits. Anxiety was always palpable. Days were often long and exhausting, physically and emotionally, as we cared for critically ill patients suffering from a disease with so many unknowns. We were leading clinical trials, repurposing old drugs and testing new ones that were speculated to have activity against the virus. Again this needed weighing risks/benefits, to minimize risks for harm, and many discussions with families, as they made tough decisions on use of experimental therapies in their dear ones. There was the pressure of time as patients rapidly deteriorated, talking one moment and on a ventilator the next.
The disease was affecting entire families. I was struck by how many times I reached out to a family member to discuss the condition of their loved one who was on a ventilator, only to learn that they were themselves admitted at another hospital or were severely ill at home. Many cases were heart wrenching—a patient sick in the hospital while their spouse died in another, and they said their last good byes on an iPad; a mother and daughter critically ill on ventilators in adjoining rooms; and families losing multiple members over the course of couple days. Patients were isolated, while also being separated from families, who were often hundreds of miles away in lockdown themselves. No loved ones to hold hands and comfort - only doctors and nurses in gowns and masks, playing surrogate family. Hearts were heavy. Many doctors and nurses told me that they had not cried so much ever before.
I many times wonder what pulled me through, as I cared for patients in the midst of many uncertainties and fears, while a dear friend and colleague fought for their life on a ventilator, and a most revered mentor succumbed to the disease. I counted my blessings as I went about my day, while remembering I was only Her instrument in the larger scheme. Through Amma's grace I kept a strong meditation practice even when the days got long and hard. Many times these were meditations on the go rather than on a cushion. Her beautiful quarantine satsangs brought much joy. When during her first 4:30 AM satsang I dropped off to sleep exhausted while the cell phone played her bhajans on my chest, in my dreams she carried me to a blissful satsang at the Ashram so I wouldn't miss a moment. Each day I found strength in the messages of love from family, friends, and Sangha. I took refuge in Mother Nature who continued to bloom and blossom. In the depths of suffering and lockdown, conditions were perfect to deepen my spiritual practice.
While the worst seems to be over, it often still feels like dystopia as we walk the hallways in the hospital with our faces covered with masks and shields, barely able to recognize our colleagues. I think most of us will never be the same again.
Thank you to all of our wonderful contributors for sharing your stories.
Amma's grace and our continued support of each other certainly helps make these difficult times much easier!
Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu