This past week I boarded the plane to Berlin for a spiritual wonderful experience that I will never forget! Armed with a great deal of enthusiasm and cooking skills I set off to volunteer to cook for three days for the Amma “Embracing the World” charity.
What a world! And what a fantastic woman!
I checked into my hipster hotel called Michelberger located about two stations from an equally very hipster part of Berlin called Mitte. All the food served here is mega organic, yes I just raised the organic bar a couple of notches. The building inside, well let’s just say it screams cool hipster meets Berlin! I chose this hotel based on proximity to Arena Berlin where I would be volunteering, not knowing what to expect and was, well, as you can tell, pleasantly surprised! I dropped off my bags and off I went to the Arena to start my day.
The kitchen was buzzing full of equally stoked volunteers from all parts of the world joined together for one cause – Amma. I stood there in amazement how calm and collected they all were. The menu for the three days was vegetarian. Vegetarian food made in huge quantities and served to the masses to feed the hungry people.
This was my first time cooking for easily over 600 people, and somehow it all went smoothly and everyone went home well-fed. Honestly, what got me through the chopping, chopping, and more chopping was the meditative music playing in the background. The first day we chopped vegetables and made rice for a nice spicy curry, while others were busy setting up the Arena for Amma’s/crew’s arrival in the wee hours of the night. To great success we managed and I met some incredibly humble gentle people that made me think wow what an amazing world it is! Satisfied with the turnout of my first day I hung up my apron around 10 pm and headed to my room where I feel asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
Surprisingly, the next morning I woke up refreshed and ready to go. I quickly had my breakfast (eggs, bacon and a banana), drank some coconut water and I was pumped. On my way into the Arena I noticed more things around me, seeing that it was broad daylight. For instance, I passed a portion of what used to be back in the day part of the Berlin Wall. There, now, lives a great gallery full of avantgarde art and funkism. I walked a bit further and realized all the cool art people have done on the side of many buildings. It felt so refreshing to observe the human mind working away at everyday life by looking at these drawings/art pieces.
I reached my destination and I was quickly taken aback how differently the Arena looked. It no longer looked like a storage container with a kitchen and toilets, but rather quite homey. So many smells were bouncing around in the atmosphere: lit candles, freshly brewed coffee, relaxing scents of all sorts, and spice smells from the cooking. I took a minute to look around and ground myself. I was amazed to see the work around the clock that so many people participated paid off royally. I headed straight for my apron because everything suddenly began to hit home for me. I was here to help – that was my objective from the very beginning, but now there was a growing sense of must give it my all!
I worked diligently around the clock until about 3pm at which time I took a break to walk through the Arena; to be in a crowd of people. And let me take a bit of a cul-de-sac to talk about ‘the people’ here. I call it a “cul-de-sac” because it’s all about the people and no matter how you turn it around it always comes back to the people. There were more than 400 people at a time showing up to manifest their support and participate in this amazing human ritualism. Amma to these people was a Guru; someone wise, who had a message and possessed a strong will power! Her message is simple: spread the word: love and adapt your everyday life to fit love into it. It’s simple, yet so powerful. It hits home, because I suddenly realized that all these people were here to celebrate their unionship with a spiritual belief, love. I stood there in amazement. I couldn’t sit down and I couldn’t relax. There was an unsettling feeling around me, which made me feel sad about all the time and energy I’ve wasted thinking negatively about certain stages in my life and the answer all along was embrace everything and love everything. I walked to the booth and asked for a token. I sat in a never-ending lineup to receive from Amma her famous hug, because I wanted to experience everything. I kneeled in front of her and her arms embraced me and I felt a rush of adrenalin hit the top of my head and suddenly as I swallowed I felt a huge ball stuck in my throat and I cried. Not sure I can actually explain what happened, but what I do know is I felt safe and shielded – safe enough to feel vulnerable.
The feeling of restlessness went away and I walked to a chair and stood there meditating. I suddenly looked at my watch and realized I had to go back to the kitchen. Time stopped and I let go of pressing details for a moment, such as time. Isn’t that powerful? Cutting potatoes to the sound of meditative music feels good; it’s rhythmic and it connected me to the food and the other volunteers around me. We started to exchange stories and suddenly it was 6pm, and we all gathered to hear Amma’s story. All I have to say is her biography is definitely worth reading. Once 9pm came around I was bursting from it all and I need it to be in my room alone. I walked out into the cold night air, while everything was still buzzing.
I needed to internalize everything in solitude. I walked straight to the hotel, and asked for salad and a bourbon. I stood there not able to cut my food or sip my drink. I stood there for what seemed like an hour, and the whole time my mind was racing and compartmentalizing the day’s events seemed crucial. I talked myself into taking a sip of my bourbon and it felt good. I felt I could focus again. I realized I hadn’t eaten all day so I finished my salad and my drink, and I went up to my room. I turned the TV on and fell asleep thinking about the word Love…
The next morning, my last day I woke up and had breakfast with two very cute Berlin souls and they managed to briefly take my mind off of things. After our brunch, they accompanied me back into the world of Amma. As we said our goodbyes and I walked into the kitchen I saw less people than I’ve been grown accustomed to. I was eager to get into the meditative rhythm of cooking when after awhile of working we were finished for the day. I wanted to do more and I didn’t want to go. And I knew that my body craved this kind of interaction with people. I craved this kind of people. Both my body and mind, the last two days, were exhausted from being disconnected and not talking the same language. And suddenly, they were both speaking to one another with compassion and I wanted to stay in this bubble, because it felt/feels so good… Love!
Thank you Amma!