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?