Become Divine!


Jo portrait medium It’s a little over 5 weeks since our beautiful sister Jo Mall Kahn left her failing body for more expansive planes. I have written umpteen pieces in my head since then, but this is the first to find form. And it’s not about Jo exactly, but all that she stood for.

Edo (Jo’s husband for those of you that might not have known them), wrote something very precious the morning after Jo’s passing, to this effect:
“Don’t just worship Amma (divine)
Be Amma (divine)
That is what Jo became”.

That, in essence, was the message of Jo’s life for me, made all the more urgent by her passing. Don’t get stuck on the form! Through your devotion, cultivate the wisdom to know and express the divinity that is already inside of you! See that same divinity in everybody else! Remember who you are, give up your fear, and serve!

Jo sang and spoke constantly of surrender, but she was far from passive. On the contrary, she was one of the most passionate and engaged people I’ve known, embodying surrender through total participation.

To surrender means to be willing to change, to die many little deaths again and again as we let go of one small, false identity after another. But what remains is worth every ounce of effort – and that is Love, pure and eternal.

From the outside it might look like Jo’s life was a spiritual fairytale, and, no doubt due to her karma, in many ways it was. But she also worked incredibly hard – I saw it for myself. And Amma (our teacher in South India), in Her love, worked her too, challenging her as much as blessing her, to surrender her doubt, her fear and her unworthiness. To become all that she had the potential to become.

I remember a time, many years ago now, when Edo, Jo and I were invited to have lunch with Amma, where She talked to us about doing retreats together (before we first birthed the Bali Retreat). Amma was saying, “Lucy will teach Yoga, Edo can do some chanting, and maybe Edo or Lucy can give a talk in the afternoon”. She was completely ignoring Jo in a way that was so obvious and so painful that my protective Akka (big sister in Tamil) instinct was to say, “Yes Amma, and Jo can share her beautiful music”. She ignored that too.

It was so obviously a set up. And this is the way that Amma works. In a few simple words, or a look away, or by ignoring you completely after beaming Her radiant love at you just the day before, She has a knack for doing exactly the right thing to bring up your most childish, painful, and often unconscious wounds – the guilt, the shame, the not-good-enoughness that you’d much rather leave buried if you could.

Amma is not really ignoring us of course but merely mirroring the beliefs that we still hold about ourselves. And while it hurts sometimes, it’s an inevitable and invaluable process of clearing out the old stuff, to make more room for Love.

I know that after that lunch Jo returned to her room and sobbed her heart out, offering up her tears and her false, conditioned beliefs. I know because she told me and I know because I’ve done the same thing many times.

It’s hard though, really. In that moment it feels so raw and real and the ego so very much wants to defend. To be pissed at Amma and reject the path, or whoever else ‘appears’ to be causing the pain. I’ve done lots of that too believe me.

Jo was and still is my inspiration for riding out the rough bits while never losing faith.

Because in so many ways, when it hurts is when it really counts. Those are the moments that are SO full of potential for healing. They’re also the times we tend to forget the path entirely.

And this is how Jo “became like Amma”: She did the work. Again and again. Until her last breath (and most likely beyond) she was doing the work. Healing her past, forgiving herself and others… letting go. Refusing to buy into fear and contraction so that Love could have its way with her.

Within each and every one of us is a Divine seed, a spark, a knowing, and no matter how deeply our divine qualities might be buried we can develop them. The potential for kindness and compassion is in all of us.

To “become like Amma” means not just to worship Amma (the Divine), while carrying on in ways that are selfish, fearful, or prejudiced. We can pray all we like, but without the willingness to act upon the good teachings that we receive, nothing much really changes.

We surrender to the Divine and acknowledge our personal limitations, but when guidance comes… an inspiration or an idea to do something positive, or to let something go, we must take the action. Divine cannot do that for us! We need to participate!

We can chant and offer flowers and put our legs behind our head, but if we don’t understand the real reason for doing these things, which is to actively transform our minds and hearts, then they’re no more than hobbies or habits, even crutches.

And while Amma says that addiction to the Divine is the healthiest addiction there is, She also says that through devotion comes the wisdom to see the Divine in everyone and everything. We’ll have no choice then but to honour and serve.

Jo was so very committed to this.

And so rather than mourning her now, I feel to really celebrate all that she taught me – to honour and serve. To embody as best I can the very same qualities that I loved about her – lightness & humour, sweetness, generosity, kindness, devotion, gratitude, selflessness… the list goes on.

In that way I too, we too, become divine.

Because these are the qualities of Amma! These are the qualities of the Divine! They are in all of us!

10561759_10152961704287263_2781290514526443652_nSo let’s be the change that we want to see. Be the love that we long to receive. Find the courage to change what’s not working. And give all that we can in the short time we’re here.

“People change for the good by constantly reminding themselves of two things: I am living to perform good deeds and, I am living to improve myself for the benefit of all.”  ~ Sri Sakthi Amma

Om Namo Narayani

ps. you can substitute Amma with any other name for the Divine that works for you… many names for the One Same Love!