Friday, March 12, 2010

The healing power of words

When Cowgirl was first placed into my arms, I softly sung to her a yoga mantra for protection. A Kundalini Yoga teacher shared this mantra with a group of us when we had to drive home in a snowstorm and I've used this mantra every since. I had not planned on singing it to Cowgirl, but in that moment - the moment we were officially mother and daughter - I wanted to surround us with the energy of protection and healing. The words, the song, the act of singing/breathing comforted me and I hoped it conveyed comfort to a child who was clearly overwhelmed and on emotional lock down.

During our weeks in China as we began the process of bounding as a family, I would sing the mantra along with another "yoga lullaby" I had first heard when I was in teacher training. The class was in savasana, or relaxation pose, after a strenuous class. I was lying there, the sweat from the warm afternoon cooling on my skin, listening to the sounds outside of the building - the hum of Kripalu on a busy summer day - and grateful for a moment of rest. Very quietly, our instructor began to sing to us a chant to the divine mother. As she walked around the room softly singing to us, I felt my heart break wide open and waves of great love washed over and through me. It is hard to capture the feeling in words, but I can recall it vividly even though it was 10 years ago. In that moment, I felt the total love, tenderness, care and protection of The Mother pouring down upon me. Years later when I sing this to my daughter, I am recalling that sweetest of experiences I have known.

After we were home, I forgot about these lullabies for awhile. One night, Cowgirl was particularly wound up while we were trying to get her ready for bed. For some reason, I began singing Bhaja Mana Ma - my lullaby - to her and what happened next still brings tears to my eyes. As I sang, she immediately stopped what she was doing and got very still and quiet. Without a word, she crawled over to me, climbed into my lap and rested her head upon my shoulder. I sang on and I could feel our bodies melting into relaxation and calm. After that, I would remember to sing both mantras to her whenever we needed to be comforted and soothed.

I recall all of this now because both Cowgirl and I are working on transforming some negative habits or patterns and I am hopping to use mantra to aid us. Cowgirl was a thumb sucker from day one but in the past year has become a nail biter. It is a frustrating habit to try to break and we have tried everything, including leaving it alone and seeing if it will peeter out. It hasn't and she and I talk about it, trying to uncover the times and reasons for this habit. Usually it occurs at school when she is trying to sit still and listen to stories. She has so much energy, being still takes all of her effort and the strain of it spills out and onto her little fingers.

Within myself, I am aware of a need to cultivate greater patience. This has never been my strong suit but with age and hormones and an active child, well ... there are moments when I am not proud of my reactions. I am aware of a need for a pause in those moments when I want to verbally lash out. Years ago I worked with a mantra to channel my mind away from obsessive thinking and actually experienced moments when my mantra would start up in my mind, replacing sensations of tension and anxiety. I know it works, I just need to do it.

So Cowgirl and I are working on a practice of mantra recitation. She actually knows a beautiful one from a cd of children's yoga music: Sa Ta Na Ma which translates as "Truth is my identity." We practice this by touching our thumb to the tip of each finger as we recite each syllable. Right now, we take conscious mantra breaks with the hope that practice will make using the mantra more automatic. If I see her biting her fingers, I start with the mantra. And she loves reminding me when I start to spin out of my center "Mama, Sa Ta Na Ma!"

I return, again, to my original teacher, Eknath Easwaran whose Eight Point Program for spiritual living includes mantra repetition. His explanation is compelling: "We gain access to inner resources - courage, patience, compassion - which are presently locked up within. Then our relationships flourish; we love and are loved. Gradually, if we repeat it often, the mantram permeated and utterly transforms our consciousness." (From Easwaran's Passage Meditation)

An overhaul I believe is long over due. A internal Spring cleaning perhaps?

Every day, I make the conscious choice to declare "I am Here."
Blue Toes supporting each other.


  1. :) You could also try a blob of blu-tack!
    If Cow-girls school are as supportive and understanding of differing learning styles as they aught to be, they might be happy for cow-girl to have a blob of blu-tak/piece of string/beaded bracelet or some such to handle quietly whilst listening in class. It's quite likely to help focus her mind more clearly on what is being said and increase understanding and retention of information.
    I'm off to check out your lullaby.

  2. Beautiful post. I am thinking about the mantra repetition and the singing. Singing is something I do all the time when I am happy and on waking, and I notice the dogs are always calmer when I am singing (they sense peace?) but the repetition of the mantra takes you outside monkey mind?

    Love the toes, all of them, so fun.

  3. I am so thrilled that you are joining The Artistic Mother's Group.
    We will be allowing two weeks for each project. But if you get behind, please don't worry. Just keep working a little each day. The whole point of this group is to develop the habit of doing art each day. It is also so we can encourage one another and be an accountability group. I personally need the accountability part of it. Knowing that others are coming to see what I'm up to is very motivational; otherwise, I may not finish it on my own. Some projects may be easier for you than others and may allow you to catch up. But if you don't, don't get discouraged. Just keep on going. This is a low pressure group. I want everyone to have fun and also enjoy visiting one another.
    And please do a blog post about your participation in the group inviting others to join. Please give a link to my blog for those who may wish to join so they can come here and get the details and sign in. I am keeping a master list of all participants.

    Each week do a post of your progress as you go through the book. When posting each week, please mention the group with a link to my blog. That way people can go to my blog and see the list of the other participants and click around to see their progress as well.

    Since our group has grown so much, instead of having to put all of the links in each post or on your sidebar, I have made a button for the group. Just grab my button and put that in your sidebar. I will keep the list of all participants in my sidebar.

    Please check my blog often for tips, notes of encouragement and exciting news.

    And could you please send me your email address to sewingwithtrudy at yahoo dot com so that if I want to do a group email I'll have everyone's address? Thanks so much.

    Trudy Callan
    Be sure and check my blog often for updates and notes of encouragement.

    I am signing up as follower and putting you on my blog list so I can know when you post, and I am adding your name to the list right now.

Again, I am so glad you could join us.
    Note: Due to copyright laws, we are not allowed to do tutorials or step-by-step photos of the projects on our blogs or take photos of the pages in the book and post them. You may post a photo of your version of the project and talk about your experiences and feelings relating to it.

    Also, if you are doing this project with a friend, each person must have their book unless you are doing it together under the same roof. No photocopying of the book, please.

  4. inspiring post. my son is almost 2, and i've been experimenting with song and mantras when we both get frazzled. sometimes i'm amazed at how quickly we can find our center, laugh, and move on in harmony. :)