My Experience with Mantras

 

I wouldn't say I was skeptical when I started a 40-day mantra practice, but I just wasn't sure what to expect. I had an idea of what would happen, that everything would clean itself up nicely and deliver life in a clean little package with a bow on top and I'd suddenly feel healthy, and great, and uplifted. Actually that second part did happen. To be honest, committing myself to this practice was amazing right out the gate. It gave me clarity, and direction. It gave me purpose. It gave me something to commit myself to. It brought me back to center ever single day. It helped me face myself. So, I felt uplifted like I wanted, right away. I felt good. Purposeful even, but there was no neat and tidy bow. There was me feeling more connected than ever, as everything crashed and burned. I felt wide open, and everything else screamed, "nope."

My first mantra practice was for the sacral chakra, having to do with creativity, community, sexuality, abundance, and the enjoyment I can get from life. The first week, I lost three jobs. I'm a freelancer so losing a gig is pretty standard. Losing all work at once, not as much. All three were steady—two lasting more than six months, and one, more than a year. (Don't worry. I've picked up a few new ones. That I am arguably much better suited for.) It looked pretty scary from the outside. The upswing? I felt more true to myself than ever, more clarity, more aligned to who I really am, which is something I'd been craving day in, and day out, as my anxiety creeped up to catastrophic, and self-destructive proportions. Working to the point of exhaustion to show up here, and be there, and make sure I was available for this thing and that thing. Busy, is good, right? Idle hands and all. Make sure to never be still with yourself. I really hope the sarcasm is ringing through, because the adrenal burnout of meeting the expectations of the outside world is very, very real. I'd been looking to the outside and saying, "It's this, and it's that, that's making me angry." No, anger was making me angry, and further drawing in new circumstances laced with anger, for me to finally accept the mirror back to myself. Until I committed myself to a focus, and then it just dropped, and I couldn't have those jobs, and I couldn't drive 800 miles a week anymore, to be up there, or down there, for people whose needs I'd put far before my own. That's on me, FYI, and if your in the same boat, it's on you too. Tough love, you'll thank me later.  

Continuously compromising myself, until the day life decides I can be free wasn't working. Life doesn't decide. Life reflects. I decide. 

Except... 

I didn't know I was compromising myself. There's the kicker. I thought this would ultimately bring me a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose. It didn't. So the big, fat demon I had to face with the second chakra was co-dependency. I, nor anyone who's known me for a significant amount of time would describe me as anything but independent, but I wasn't. I was looking to the outside to build a life that in no way coincided with how I was feeling inside. Worse, I had looked outside of myself for a sense of identity. So, all of this to say, the mantras, the sense of commitment to the practice, it shows you things, not only things you don't want to see, but things you didn't know existed in your own personal sphere. But then you feel better, just like that, and you put that old, and sometimes shocking thing on the ground, and then it's just over, but everything and everyone you know that's connected to that will drop off too. Don't say I didn't warn you.

So here go the rules:

1. Start at the root — I started at the sacral chakra, then staggered a practice for the solar plexus chakra, then towards the end of the 40 days of that began the root chakra practice. The root is at the base for a reason. It's the foundation, and opening your root chakra if it has been closed for any amount of time, is one of the best feelings. You suddenly feel connected to the earth. You slow down. You have focus, You're less reactive. You can see yourself. There's a sense of relief that comes from the first chakra. When I was teaching Karma Yoga in San Luis Obispo, I was reading a book about the Ashtanga practice (I'm not an Ashtanga teacher, but I like to diversify my knowledge) that said all physical, emotional, mental, sexual, and spiritual energy pulls up from the root. I believe this. Once balancing my root, I was drinking less coffee and hence less anxious. My yoga practice became steadier, and I was calmer, more focused with a deeper sense of self, all organically. Meaning, I wasn't forcing myself to have energy for work or exercise. I didn't have to convince myself I would feel better afterwards. I just did it because I wanted to move my body. I worked because I had an idea that I thought was good, and I wanted to share it. Simple, and it's so much better. I put more time into things and less pressure on myself.

"All of the seven chakras are important and interconnected. Usually, balancing one chakra will create change in another chakra. It is important, though, to balance the root chakra first, before we proceed to others, or we will lack the stability and rootedness necessary for true transformation and personal growth. We cannot grow and change unless we feel safe and secure." Kayla Jacobs on Mind Body Green

I read this in the middle of my root chakra practice after the sacral and solar plexus practices were done, and I wish I had read it sooner because it's so true. It's your root. It's who you are when you're alone. It's the you that feels the most connected to the planet. Balance it. Take care of it, and then move on to the joys of the other chakras. In my experience my work with the root has been the most satisfying, but that might just be because the other two were rife and just ready to be filled up with energy. So, maybe it all happened the way it was meant to. 

2. Trust — Just let it go. You don't know what's going to happen. You just know you're really angry/anxious/heartbroken/imbalanced/alone/scared. Whatever it is for you. You don't need to know what's at the root of it, just yet. I've spend years analyzing my thoughts one at a time, asking if they're true, if they're helpful, and if I need them. Going through your thoughts one at a time, works, but you also have to rifle through, one at a time. Which is, you know, time consuming, and also 100% under your own control, at your own discretion. So in these cases you don't really have to let go. You can hang on tight and choose which you face and which you don't.  It was a starting point for me, and I'm always glad when I let my story go, but I've found the mantras are a lot easier, they shake stuff up faster, and show me things I didn't know about myself. All of which, I am very, very grateful for. It's a lot like the practice of yoga. You don't know what's stuck in there until you take a second to look, or until you roll onto your back, sweaty and exhausted, without the energy to fight them off anymore, and so you just let them go. Also, because you never needed them to begin with. Funny how that works. 

3. Commit — Seriously, commit. I chant 108 times for 40 days. There are so many different variations and days and numbers of chants per day to choose from, but whatever you choose, whichever resonates with you: commit. You're doing this for you, and it may not be easy, but you'll survive it, and at the very least you'll get 10 minutes a day to just listen to your own voice moving around and making funny sounds. You might like it. I know I do. Further to this point, I think there's an energy of commitment. I think it's grounding, stable, and strong. I think it can be scary, because you put part of yourself out there, even if it's only you and the universe listening. You're still out there on a limb, asking for help, in a way. Asking to help yourself. Asking to see yourself. Asking for growth and change and movement, because as a friend of mine said, what's the alternative? So good. 

4. Set an intention — "I intend to clear all karma around..." Coincidentally, this will also help you pick which mantra is right for you. When you know what you want out, a quick Google search will do the rest. While I strongly suggest an open root first, if what you really want is a deeper romantic connection, then follow your own inner guidance, and you'll work it out along the way. After all, I didn't go in order either, and here I am, feeling better than ever. But just note, if you're emotionally exhausted, unstable, and feeling like the next stiff breeze could bring you down, that's your own root, asking for you to remember yourself before you seek outside yourself, just saying

5. Don't take it too seriously — If you open your root, trust, commit, and show up, that's it. That's you, doing your best. Whatever the energies of creation are, they're not going to smite you, but they do become very real when you invite them in. That's been so true to my experience. They're larger than life, and fully present inside you waiting to break free. You, me, and everyone else just buried them with the stories of monsters in the dark, and external expectations of financial, social, relational, or intellectual achievement, that may or may not ever make us happy.

"When you are open to your feminine energy, then you move and feel like nature. Sometimes you are alive like a sunny day, at other times like a wild monsoon. But always you are lived by love, or longing to. Because at heart you are love—though you might close down to it—you either shine with love’s light or want to. Such is the feminine" - David Deida

So now, I wake up feeling more vulnerable than ever, mmm, more receptive is a better description. Not that I'm entirely fearless, but trust was a big hurdle to climb, and if you fall into this category as well, adopting a practice where the only requirements are blind trust, commitment, and intention, may also serve you well.