So, last Saturday morning we took off for Albuquerque, New Mexico (and there is one city for which the state is well and truly redundant; I don't believe there is another Albuquerque in the world, nonetheless the United States). We checked in at the Marriott Pyramid North along with thousands of other devotes of Amma, the hugging saint, for a weekend retreat.
The first public session started at 8 p.m. on Saturday. Amma arrived and spoke for about 45 minutes, as did her interpreter, the swami. The talk was about love. She compared love to a swimming pool, and said we all start in the shallow end, but as we learn and grow, we can gradually move to the deep end. She also told a story of a man who owned a business and was looking for a successor. He gave everyone seeds and told them to plant them. This can be told at great length, and was, but a year later, he had everyone bring in their plants. Most were lavish. One man came in with an empty pot, and everyone laughed, until the owner named him the new boss. Turns out the owner had given everyone sterile seeds, and all but one of his employees cheated and planted their own seeds. The moral of this story was about being honest.
Sunday morning, we got in line for Darshan at 8am; they started giving out tickets at 9am. We were in the A1 group. The Swami started talking at 9:30, Amma arrived at 10 and began Darshan. The swami, as always, told several stories. He was talking about thinking, and everything coming from nothing, and how we really don't control important parts of our lives.
Life, he said, is a bridge we build between two shores, birth and death, over which we have no control, knowledge or ownership. Everything comes from nothing and returns to nothing. "Reality" is what we see around us; truth is eternal and invisible.
A rabbit observed a centipede. He asked, "How do you figure out which foot to put after another with 100 feet." The centipede responded, "I have been walking just fine my whole life until you asked." After that, he stumbled over himself. The moral, as best I could tell, was not to overthink things, or you'll just stumble all over yourself.
Three men sat at lunch. The first said, "Club sandwich. Every day. If I get another tomorrow, I'm going to kill myself." (As told by the swami this was a five minute shaggy dog story; I have cut it way down). The second opened his lunch and said, "If I get another hot dog tomorrow, I'm going to kill myself." The third opened his lunch and said, "One more onion bagel with lox and I'm going to kill myself." The next day, they gathered again, and found a club sandwich, a hot dog, and a bagel. They jumped from the 20th floor. At their joint funeral, the first wife said, "If only I'd known he hated club sandwiches!" The second wife said, "If only I'd known he hated hot dogs." The third wife said, "I'm surprised, he packed his own lunch." This time the swami made the moral explicit: in this life, we are all packing our own sandwiches. If this life is hell on earth, you made it for yourself."
He also talked for a while about how, if you ask Amma a question and all she does is smile, that's an answer: the answer is, "please think for yourself."
Another story: a guru who gave chickens to two men. He told them to take the chicken somewhere where no one could see and kill it. The first man took the chicken to a cave, killed it, and brought the body back. The second man left and came back with a live chicken. "What happened," he was asked. "Well, I got to the cave, and realized there was someone who could see me killing it; me." The moral, as I understood it, was that our conscience is always watching.
First story: there were three stonecutters doing the same job. Asked what they were doing, one said, "I am working to support my family." The second said, "I want to be the best stonecutter in the world." The third said, "I want to build the best temple in the world." All three were doing the same job; they way they viewed it was different.
A butterfly is a caterpillar, then a larva, then a butterfly. It leads three lives which all look very different. We mature as well, but the difference between a butterfly and us is the butterfly is not conscious and has no control over the process, whereas we can advance through various states of enlightenment using our will.
A man went to the doctor and got drops for his eye and medicine for his indigestion. He dropped the indigestion medicine into his eye and swallowed the eye medicine. Similarly, we treat our body as if it were more important the our brain, when we should really be applying the treatment the other way around.
A very agitated man came to Amma and said, "How can you be so peaceful." "Why are you so agitated," she asked. "It just comes on me," he said. "It just comes on me too," she answered.
This story is mine:
As I listen to the swami, sometimes I despair of the use of language to describe very abstract concepts. It reminds me of a story I heard once; a painter was asked to provide words for a catalog to describe his picture. "If I could say what I wanted to say in words, I would have written an essay; the only way I can express it is with the picture." I suspect, sometimes, that some of these Amma concepts are not easily susceptible to explanation using language; they may involve faith and belief.
Tuesday morning, we drove to Santa Fe. We stayed in a condo we found through the website Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO). Beautifully decorated, clean, neat, tidy, and with high-speed Internet.
We shopped at Whole Foods and its new competition, Sunflower. We add salads at home, and went out to dinner at La Casa Sensa, where I had the antelope rib steak (tastes like chicken :-) We walked around downtown Santa Fe. Actually, we walk each morning, around the federal courthouse, then down by the river. We went to see a French film called Incidieras (I won't give away the plot; suffice it to say it is convoluted and artsy). We had froyo at the same place I went last year, Yoberri.
Thursday we drove to Ojo Caliente, a spa and resort an hour north of Santa Fe. We hiked the grounds for two hours, but were disappointed that the pueblo "ruins" were more "former site of pueblos," and that it was a very steep climb to get to the disappointing spot.
The resort has numerous pools filled with the hot spring water that bubbles up there. Supposed to be good for just about everything that ails you. I had an herbal wrap and a foot reflexology massage, and both were quite pleasant. A quiet evening at home, lots of reading, and music in the background from Radio Nederlands commercial-free classical channels.
Friday, we visited art galleries. As an animation fan, my favorite was the Chuck Jones gallery (Warner Brothers animator, father of the Roadrunner cartoons, director of "What's Opera Doc"). We went to Fedex to ship home some extra stuff we won't need on the next leg of our journey. Speaking of Fedex, their lost and found department called me because there was a box full of things with my name on them that had lost its waybill and ended up in Sacramento. They are forwarding it on to me. We had lunch at Pasqual's, and, once again, had the world's most amazing mole enchiladas (Vicki had the veggie, I had the chicken). There is cineplex five minutes from our condo, so we went to see Tree of Life, reviewed (briefly, with a reference to Neal's astute review) below.
On the soft-serve frozen yogurt (froyo) front, Santa Fe now has a second: DeDo's Froyo, just off the plaza at 101 W. Marcy St. Unlike Yoberri, DeDo's is self-serve.