Ever notice when you are chanting that you get the best ideas? You realize that you’ve forgotten to do a million different things and start getting panicked and worried that if you don’t care of it right now then you’ll forget. Or maybe it suddenly hits you that you haven’t been in touch with a dear friend for a long time and you make a grab for your cell phone to send off a quick text message?
Welcome to my world of chanting. It never ceases to amaze me that when I sit down to chant I’m deluged with so many different pressing matters that I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed. It happened to my again today. There I was trying to hear the sound of the holy names when I remembered a deadline for a service I’m engaged in. This is one of the hardest callings to ignore: when reminders of service and ideas for new services start to manifest when one chants. Anxiety started to wash over me, but suddenly from somewhere came a voice that said, “CALM DOWN!”
It was amazing! Immediately I started to calm down. Instead of giving a slew of reasons to stop chanting and get to work immediately on this service, my intelligence actually spoke up for a change and said, “There’s time. Don’t worry. You will get this done and I promise I won’t let you forget.”
As I continued chanting something else came up and this time I actually verbally spoke out the words, “CALM DOWN!” It worked. It also made me realize something. As most of us are practicing bhakti yogis who are trying to balance our material and spiritual lives, we are very busy individuals. When we are not involved with school or work, many are involved with spiritual activities. In the rare instances that we are not swamped, the only thing that most people want to do is relax. Take a break from the mental clutter and just do something effortless.
The problem is that nowhere in our busy lives do we actually make the time to just reflect. We don’t ever give ourselves even a mere 5-10 minutes of private, silent time on a daily basis. Is it any surprise then, when we sit down to chant, that our mind takes opportunity of that time to go crazy and remind us of a million and one things?
In fact, if you really think about it, those thoughts and reminders that creep up are actually disguises for a much deeper problem. They are indirect hints that we are not allowing ourselves to experience emotions. Our excuse for being busy is very convenient since we numb ourselves to all our feelings whether they be positive or negative. That’s why instead of feeling any taste or attachment to the holy names, we feel stress, anxiety, restlessness or any other milieu of emotions. It becomes the only time we actually feel everything we’ve built up inside of us.
How can we feel anything to the holy name when we’ve become so expert at not really feeling anything at all? It may sound crazy, but think about it. With our calendars chock-full of events and things-to-do, it’s not unusual for someone to have more than three things to do on any given day. Where is the time to process what we feel and what other people are feeling in relation to us if we’re just running from one thing to the next?
I’ve begun to notice that those individuals who are really able to dive deep into their chanting are those who actually take the time to introspect and reflect on a daily basis. They will sit in front of the deities or write for some allotted time. Most of the time we run on automatic pilot and try to ignore the mind’s demands because let’s face it, there’s no time. But the mind is just like a child- if you don’t willingly give time, it will just demand and grab it from you at inopportune times. So if you don’t give time to process experiences and emotions, most likely you’ll start to notice that you’ll do it while you are chanting.
So calm down and give yourself a break! There really is enough time in the day and you can afford to take a few minutes for yourself to really experience everything that is going on. It may be that elusive key to experiencing some emotion when chanting the holy names.