Amma’s unique gift is to per­son­ally hug every­one who comes to see her.

Living Now - - Personal Development -

not by chas­ing hap­pi­ness it­self, but by cul­ti­vat­ing and ac­tively prac­tis­ing grat­i­tude and com­pas­sion in our lives.

The per­son who has taught me the most about the im­mense power of com­pas­sion in cul­ti­vat­ing hap­pi­ness, is a re­mark­able spir­i­tual teacher named Amma.

Amma is best de­scribed by what she does. Amma is a 63-year-old In­dian woman who has trav­elled the world for the past 30 years hug­ging peo­ple. Yes, that’s right, hug­ging! She is some­times known as the Hug­ging Saint.

Amma’s unique gift is to per­son­ally hug every­one who comes to see her. No mat­ter who comes to her (and they have, in the millions) mat­ter their race, re­li­gion, gen­der, age, or af­fil­i­a­tion... all are em­braced equally in a pow­er­ful dis­play of one­ness with hu­man­ity.

It’s such a sim­ple, pow­er­ful (and even in some ways, rad­i­cal) act.

Amma of­ten com­ments:, “In to­day’s world, there are many who are will­ing to die for their re­li­gion, but no one is will­ing to live ac­cord­ing to their re­li­gion’s prin­ci­ples.”

For me, when I first met and was em­braced by Amma, I felt like I was held in a sphere of to­tal and com­plete love. The power of that un­blem­ished ac­cep­tance of my be­ing brought me to tears. I’d never felt such un­con­di­tional love em­a­nat­ing from any­one be­fore, not even my own mother. It left me speech­less.

It’s es­ti­mated that Amma has now hugged over 35 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide, reg­u­larly spend­ing over 18 hours a day hug­ging, and some­times hug­ging in ex­cess of 20,000 peo­ple in a sin­gle ses­sion.

As far as in­cred­i­ble dis­plays of com­pas­sion go, that’s pretty amaz­ing. Imag­ine the phys­i­cal strain of spend­ing 18 hours straight, without tak­ing a break to ei­ther eat or go to the toi­let, em­brac­ing over 20,000 strangers, nearly ev­ery day of your life. Amma does this and yet she is al­most al­ways smil­ing and laugh­ing as if there is noth­ing in the world she’d rather be do­ing. I guess there is noth­ing she’d rather be do­ing, be­cause she’s been at it for over 30 years and shows no sign of let­ting up.

We might not all be ca­pa­ble of this level of com­pas­sion, but the prin­ci­ple of reach­ing out to em­pathise and com­fort oth­ers in any small way that we can, on a daily ba­sis, is a great teach­ing. I can’t hug 20,000 peo­ple a day, but I can hug my friends and fam­ily. I can smile and say kind words, even to peo­ple I don’t know. I can do my best to lis­ten to peo­ple without judge­ment. I can try to un­der­stand their ex­pe­ri­ence, and I can of­fer com­fort and sup­port (without nec­es­sar­ily try­ing to ‘ fix’ them).

In my ex­pe­ri­ence, these small things do lead to greater hap­pi­ness in my life. I feel more con­nected to my broth­ers and sis­ters, and that makes me feel less alone. When I com­bine this with grat­i­tude for the other bless­ings in my life, it’s even more pow­er­ful.

Here are some para­doxes I’ve come to un­der­stand about the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness: • It’s not in con­stantly chas­ing the things that we think we want that leads to a sense of ‘enough­ness’, but rather the prac­tise of grat­i­tude for what we al­ready have that makes our life feel full • It’s not seek­ing love and ac­cep­tance from oth­ers that makes us feel val­ued (and val­i­dated), but rather prac­tis­ing em­pa­thy and com­pas­sion for oth­ers that makes us feel truly con­nected • And, it’s not in chas­ing hap­pi­ness that we find it, but by prac­tis­ing grat­i­tude and com­pas­sion, mak­ing us feel deeply con­nected and ful­filled. That is what re­ally makes us happy. n

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