Mantra: a word or sound that is repeated (either internally or externally) to focus the mind, usually for meditation.
Back in December, I wrote two posts about working with the mantra “Aham Prema.” I am now on my third mantra, which I allowed to choose me as I did the others. The choice was unexpected and caught me by surprise in the way that only our most poignant of life experiences can.
It happened last Saturday, during my seventh weekend of yoga teacher training. The previous night I had a series of troubled dreams, resulting in a fitful night of sleep. Not an uncommon experience, as my night journeys often bring me to the place of unearthing fears that linger inside of me. Despite this, I was unprepared for what awaited. Not even the morning yoga class clued me in. A class that ended with a new mantra beautifully sung by our instructor in a melody that wrapped my body in a comfort near bliss.
Later, we were given the mantra in written form, on a sheet of paper. The title, “Guru Mantra,” was followed by the Sanskrit words and the English translation. We studied our sheets and practiced repeating the words that still felt mostly exotic. Mala beads were brought forth, and a number of repetitions were chosen.
As we began chanting as one voice, I felt the power of the ancient words ringing inside of my cells. By the time we reached the fifth mala bead, I felt as though I was hovering around, and not wholly inside of my body. I listened to my voice joined with the voices of my fellow yogis and the hypnotic trance-like state I was experiencing deepened.
Time folded in on itself until I was both two-years-old and forty-four. The forty-four-old-self continued to chant the Guru Mantra in a yoga studio with a dozen women, while the two-year-old-self searched for grounding among a sea of chanting Hare Krisha devotes.
Time continued to collapse in upon itself as I hovered in the space of no-time. I heard my voice joined in the chanting, not quite sure if I was two or forty-four. I could feel my physical body ephemerally attached, and became aware of how it had recorded and trapped the accumulation of trauma. As I swirled within the cosmos of self, it began to earth its pain. The temple of my soul shook loose the detritus of the child-self’s fear, and each cell trembled the release. Water loosened the pours of my skin and leaked from the opened eyes. And, finally, the voice that was chanting through time could take no more.
It took me hours to return fully back to the present. Saturday night brought another fitful night of dreams filled with irrational fears. Then morning dawned and I began to feel charged with renewed life. I found I could not leave the Guru Mantra behind. After forty-two years it had found me again, and I knew I could not ignore it. Shiva was calling me to break the bonds of fear, while Vishnu held up the Light of Truth. With the free-will of my adult self, I accepted its offer to guide me into the space of beautiful healing.
For several weeks in 1976 when I was two-years-old I lived in various Hare Krishna communes, including the West Virgina commune depicted in the Life article above (although at this time the famous temple was in the very early stages of construction). This journey can be found, in part, in my memoir, A Girl Named Truth. What is not found in my memoir, though, are the repressed memories from this time that have resurfaced through various healing work I have done. I have chosen to keep these private due to the pain they may cause others.