One of my intentions for traveling to India was to see Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi), known as the hugging Guru. She travels all over the world giving talks of peace, healing, and love for each other and the planet. She has offered darshan, known as the motherly embrace to over 36 million people worldwide.
The first time I saw her on tour in central Massachusetts, I was delighted to note that her non-profit organization had Tulsi seeds and plants for sale. Tulsi Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) is calming to nervous system, aids digestion, invites focus and clarity, treats respiratory issues, and it is used widely in India for ceremonies and Ayurvedic treatments. Tulsi grows as an annual in North America. As an herbalist, I immediately felt drawn to this passionate woman who has a huge impact on the world. Amma’s story is remarkable. She inspires me to offer selfless service (seva) through the medicines of herbs and spices rooted in love, inner peace and acceptance.
Four years later, as I prepared for my first journey to India, I remembered that Amma’s organization sells Tulsi seeds to raise money for all their humanitarian efforts. I felt inspired to set the intention of making a pilgrimage to Amma in northern India with the hope of purchasing Tulsi seeds for herbal gardens back home.
How beautiful will it be to have a garden of Amma’s Tulsi, I imagined. We could build a small structure in the center for meditation! This would be the centerpiece of the farm where we held ceremonies to honor the plant spirits that offer us deep wisdom and healing. The ideas kept flowing as excitement grew in my heart.
Amma Guru, like many spiritual teachers, works in mysterious ways. She reminds me of the plants because I believe they offer us the medicine we need when we are ready to receive it. Ready to fully commit to the journey, I bought a direct flight to New Delhi and prayed my time would overlap with her tour.
Twenty-three hours passed and I discovered Amma’s tour schedule online. Sadly, it looked like I would just miss her! I panicked and called the airline because sometimes they allow you to change the flight within 24 hours of booking. I called and yes they were willing, but something inside me said not to change the flight.
“Ma’am,” the man from Air India said on the other line, “you have four minutes to decide because it has almost been 24 hours since your booking. Would you like to cancel and reserve a different flight?”
A pit formed in my throat. My mind went blank and I couldn’t find an answer for him.
“No, thank you.” I said and hung up the phone.
Doubt and fear loomed all around as I starred blankly at the computer screen. I gazed into the loving eyes of Amma on her website. A tear fell down my cheek. Deep disappointment crept into my body. I felt angry that I had not researched this sooner. It was such an important part of my trip. Why did I neglect it? Blame, blame, blame, a downward spiral took me over.
Then, I gazed deeper into her eyes. I felt her playfulness and began to laugh. The schedule was from 2015, not the updated version for spring 2016!
“Oh, Amma, you are so funny. You almost had me there! I’m not giving up, I’m determined to see you and the blessed Tulsi.”
With that, I let it go and surrendered to the idea that nothing is in my control. Then, the phone rang. It was a woman from Amherst who I met at the farmer’s market last summer before I made any plans of traveling to India. She was interested in purchasing Tulsi. I remembered her very well.
At the market last summer, we talked for a while and shared a similar vision of growing Tulsi to sell to local cafés. She had been to India and brought home seeds from Amma’s ashram in Kerala with the hope of starting a garden here in Western Mass. That way, when we had only just met, she looked into my eyes and said, “You must go to India, Hannah.”
You think I’m joking, right? No. I swear- it’s the truth. I have chills thinking about it.
My travels to India were primarily focused on studying how ghee is made for traditional and medicinal uses. And, sadly, I did not visit Amma during her tour. I almost booked a flight to a nearby city where she was offering darshan, but when I acknowledged the logistics: (time, money, traveling alone, more flying), it did not feel right. Plus, my friends and I were already making appointments to visit nearby farms that produce ghee.
So, I found a quiet place on the ghat by the river and I asked the spirit of Amma what to do. First, she encouraged me to relax. Stay where I am, sit by the Ganga, sip chai, drink papaya mango lassies, and visit the ghee producers who have generously invited us to their farms.
Amma’s spirit reminded me one of the most important lessons as a medicine woman: the medicine always shows up when we are ready to receive it if we remain open. Her spirit reminded me that she is already everywhere. Plus, she will be returning in physical form to central Mass in the summer. Be patient. Come back to India again and go to Amma’s ashram. The Tulsi seeds will be there because that is where her gardens are located.
With a deep breadth, I let go of my attachment to the incredible story I would tell you all about how I went to India and brought home Tulsi seeds from Amma for a garden here. Wooosh! It was gone.
A few hours later, my friends and I had a smooth, easy experience making travel arrangements to New Delhi for ghee demonstrations. Everything felt like it was lining up beautifully in regard to one of my main intentions of the trip: gather knowledge and wisdom for my new company, Full Moon Ghee.
During our visit to a diversified herb, vegetable, and dairy farm, the owner, Aparna, offered me seeds from her garden. She was going to offer me her Tulsi seeds, but apparently the plants had not survived the winter. So, she gave me Thai Basil and Lemon Basil seeds instead. I am very grateful, but still, they are not Tulsi. Shucks! I was so close.
Our next stop was a café and store called Navdanya, a women’s collective of seed savers that was founded by Vandana Shiva. We had a delicious meal of native beans and grains, but alas, the store did not sell Tulsi seeds. The search was starting to feel less authentic as I hit more dead ends. I decided to turn my focus to gratitude for all that I had been offered on this soul-nourishing journey to the great land of India.
I admit, even after returning home, I still held on to the disappointment about the Tulsi seeds. One last string of hope led me to email a friend I met in India who mentioned she might go to Amma’s tour in Delhi, which was 5 days after I left. However, she did not make it there either. Here was another opportunity to let it go because, as you can see, I never really let it go.
When I have a vision, I want to bring it into manifestation- like the seeds our farmers and gardeners plant each spring.
The warm moist greenhouse air filled my lungs as I seeded the Thai and Lemon Basil into narrow flats of potting soil. I remembered how sowing a seed is full of magic and mystery. Will it grow? Does it have enough fertility and water? How does it hold its genetics inside that tiny little vessel full of potential?
As I watched the small black seeds absorb their first tastes of water and nutrients, gratitude and hope filled my heart. No longer was I thinking about what I did not have. These precious little seeds will grow into plants that enliven us all season. The gift of life is a miracle. To be present with this miracle eliminates all distractions. Thank you, India, for showering me with love and abundance even when I doubted your divine orchestrations. Thank you.
“Hello.” I heard a women’s voice outside the greenhouse door. “Helloooo,” she called again.
The door opened slowly as a woman with soft blue eyes stepped inside. I smiled and we greeted one another. I remembered our paths had crossed about a year ago at a Tulsi Rose Ceremony on a dear friend’s land where they were breaking ground for a medicinal herb garden. In Jiyanna’s arms, she held a gallon bag full of Tulsi seeds she saved last fall.
“Oh! You’re planting Tulsi today, how wonderful,” I said. “I just returned from India where I brought home Lemon and Thai Basil seeds which I am sowing today, what a beautiful synchronicity!”
“Yes, I always plant more than I can use,” she replied, “and this year I may start planting them all over the place because the more Tulsi, the better.”
I looked down at her table and gasped. There, right in front of me, was a small bag of Amma’s Tulsi!
“Hold on a minute!” I shouted, “You are planting Amma’s Tulsi?”
“Yes, and I also have a few seeds from a friend who visited her ashram. She wants me to plant them to keep the genetics alive. The extras I sell at the central Mass location where Amma visits every summer. All the proceeds go to her non-profit.”
A vibration of light filled my entire body as if I was being embraced by the divine maternal. Jiyanna smiled peacefully having no idea what this meant to me, yet. I eagerly told her the story, which brought both of us to tears of joy.
“Amma works in mysterious ways,” she said. “I would be happy to sell you plants, Hannah.”
“Thank you. I am honored and humbled by your offer. Of course, I will accept.”
Let us remember that we are all truly held by the divine maternal even when doubt creeps in. Blessed be the garden of Amma’s Tulsi for all the souls seeking sweet serenity of miracles.