The Sweetness of Chanting

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59. Sakala-buvana-srstih

kalpitasesapustir,

Nikhila-nigama-drstih

sampadam vyarthadrstih;

Avaguna-parimarstis

tat-padarthaika-drstir,

Bhava-guna-paramestir

moksa-margaika-drstih.                       (missing the diacritical marks)

(May the divine glance of the Guru ever dwell upon me.  It creates all worlds.  It brings all nourishment.  It has the viewpoint of all holy scriptures.  It regards wealth as useless.  It removes faults.  It remains focused on the Ultimate.  It is the highest ruler of the three gunas,  which constitute the world.  Its only goal is (to lead others on) the path of liberation.)

If you’ve ever read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, you might remember her ranting on and on about the early morning chant called the Guru Gita.  It’s one of my favorite parts of her book, because I, too, have felt the weight of those 182 verses.  And yet, I’ve been chanting those verses on and off for more than thirty years.

Only last week, on another quiet COVID-19 Sunday morning, we finished our regular meditation and decided we might as well chant the Guru Gita.  

What a fortunate decision!  With nowhere to go, and nobody around to distract me, I sank into the familiar chant as if sinking into a warm, fragrant bath.  The Sanskrit tasted good in my mouth, like ripe, juicy fruit.  It felt like coming home. Why had it taken me four months of social isolation to start chanting? I wondered.

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Later, I recalled something that (I think) was said by  Swami Muktananda. If your mind is too agitated for meditation, chant instead.

Chanting was what brought me into Siddha Yoga.  I still choose to listen to kirtan with Alexa or Spotify.  If the chant sticks in my head (I’m susceptible to ear worms), I don’t mind because the continuous repetition of names of the Divine is preferable to pop lyrics.

In Gilbert’s memoir, she solves her battle with the Guru Gita by dedicating it to her nephew.  The corona virus seems to have reopened a path for me.

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Monkey Mind, Meditation, and Caregiving

howler monkeys

You’ve heard the expression “monkey mind” when referring to the distracting thoughts that jump like monkeys when one is attempting to be still.  These days, when I sit to meditate, I have an entire troupe of howler monkeys yammering and flinging themselves about in my mind.  I’ve been meditating for a long time, so I know the guidelines: when you notice you’re off the mantra, gently come back to it.

Maybe it was the familiarity of the process, or maybe it was the overflow of emotions, worries, plans, and obligations that have beset me since I’ve become a caregiver.  Whatever the cause, my former simple practice of repeating “Om namah shivaya” (the mantra of Siddha Yoga, translated as “I honor the Light within”) wasn’t working.

A teacher of a class we took introduced me to a different type of meditation/prayer. This method has proved to be helpful for me.  I’m mostly attracted to the feminine aspect of the Great Mystery/Higher Power, so I’ve amended the sentence “Be still and know that I am God” to “Be still and know that I am the Mother and the Light.”  For me, “Mother” encompasses divine love and compassion, while “Light” represents wisdom and clarity.  By offering my mind more to do, I’ve found a way to move those howler monkeys to a distant tree.

Here’s my practice:

I hold my left hand in chin mudra, with thumb and forefinger touching.  The fingers on my right hand track the mantra and prayer by gently pressing my thigh as I silently go through the words, like this:

Inhale: Om namah shivaya

Exhale: Thumb–Be still and know that I am the Mother and the Light.

Inhale: Om namah shivaya

Exhale: Forefinger–Be still and know that I am.

Inhale: Om namah shivaya

Exhale: Middle finger–Be still and know.

Inhale: Om namah shivaya

Exhale: Fourth finger: Be still and feel my presence.

Inhale: Om namah shivaya

Exhale: Pinky–Be grateful.

Note that the mantra can be any word or phrase that has meaning for you and focuses on Spirit. In the midst of full-time caregiving, this process has helped me recapture the deeper calm and solace of meditation.

Do let me know if you try this.  I’m curious to hear if it works for others.

virgen de guadalipe