#Guru Mantra: The Healing Power of Sound Continues

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.

 

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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. 

When I was Two

When I was two my mother left my father. She took me and my sister with her, fleeing without being seen and without a note of where we could be found. She took only the 2 of us and a duffle bag of our belongings. For 6 months the 3 of us hid as members of the Hare Krishnas, first in Seattle, then in California and finally in West Virginia, where the the Palace of Gold was being built. My mother, when I have asked her about this time, of which I have only muted memories of landscapes stored, does not like to share our experiences in hiding.

When children are 2 yrs old, they are learning language in the form of voice; they are learning how to control their bodies; they are learning independence.

My first clear memory was formed when I was about 2 yrs of age. It is not of a time when I was with the Hare Krishnas, but occurred just before or after.  Growing up I would sometimes replay the movie inside my head, wondering if it was an artifact of a nightmare. A few years ago I discovered this memory was created out of an actual event.

In my memory I am sitting on my Grammy’s blue and white checked sofa with my sister and my cousin Lisa. Lisa is in the middle, reading us a picture book. Above our heads hangs my favorite print, “The Fairy Tale” by Sir Walter Ferle. The 3 little girls in the print could almost be us, but I am frozen in a scene of terror. Outside the room I can hear the voices of my mother and my father. I imagine my mother running across the halls of Grammy’s house, my father chasing after her. I imagine he catches her and she falls. I imagine he hurts her. I want to run and save her, but I am frozen on the sofa.

The details of my memory are not a complete match with the events of that day, as they were, in part, created inside my 2-yr-old imagination. What matters is what I kept. What I learned. What stayed with me. And, what I lost.

The loss continued and grew with the life we formed after my mother left my father and replaced him with a man who took away my voice.

Last night I dreamed I was hanging off of a large boulder at the edge of a forest. Below me was a steep decline leading to the forest floor. If I looked down I could see trees through the twilight, and in between the trees I could see animals. In my dream I was wearing only a shirt, naked from the waist down.

As I clung to the boulder with my 2 hands, a bear appeared above me, standing on my rock. The bear was large, but not immense, with dark brown fur. The face of the bear was so close to my own, that we were peering into each other’s eyes. In that moment I knew I should be afraid, in fact there were people above me on the lawn warning me to be careful. Instead, I felt my heart open to the place of love, willing the heart of the bear to open in return. She was there to teach me something, and I wanted to learn.

Below the bear I saw her 2 cubs, playing among the trees. A spotted cat (a panther or a leopard), passed nearby me, 2 more of its family playing among the trees. According to Ted Andrews, Bear teaches us to go inside and find the source of our inner power and creations lying dormant. Panther/leopard/jaguar, is symbolic of the dark, female power. Moon energy. In his book, Animal Speak, Andrews writes “…longstanding wounds will finally begin to heal, and with the healing will come a reclaiming of power that was lost at the time of wounding.” (p. 227) According to Andrews, Panther is a symbol of rebirth, “Those things of childhood and beyond that created suffering, and which caused a loss of innate power and creativity are about to be awakened, confronted and transmuted.” (p. 299)

Don’t forget your dreams.