June 28, 2013

“It’s 3 ½ years later & I’m still chanting.”

photo: Patrick Dinkfeld–model: Gezzilyn

Week 11: Share My Path Series.

A common theme became glaringly obvious to me while working with this week’s Share My Path participant; finding one’s path is truly about listening to what mode clicks for each individual.  I thought back to Brian and his various paths; Jaimie and her specific path; Lucia and her search for a path while also dealing with overcoming addiction. I thought back to my own path.

I received an e-mail from a regular reader after last week’s post.  They mentioned how everyone talks of a struggle. In my response to them I played this off to my questioning and my purpose behind the project. But, as I sit writing this I’m no longer sure that is the case.

In a world over-run with options perhaps we’re all just sifting through the racks until our path just jumps out at us; until we find that one way which makes sense to us.

Check out Rachel Alina’s path below; written in her own words. You’ll see what I mean.

 I was 13 years old when I first meditated. It was the 90s, around the time New Age Girl came on the radio and I stopped eating meat. It was summer at the Jersey Shore and my brother bought a book on meditation. I picked the one where you visualize yourself sitting on the floor of the ocean, watching each thought rise to the surface in a bubble. I marched out on the jetty every morning to sit, trying to figure out how to make that happen.

I had no idea what I was doing. I felt dumb. (So Dumb.)

It didn’t stick.

My next meditation attempts didn’t come again until I was 20. I was (again) living at the beach, and bought a Deepak Chopra book on synchronicity. I still had no idea what I was doing; the feeling was more general than it had been before.

I sat on the floor of my living room listening for ‘so’ on the in-breath and ‘hum’ on the out-breath. I could hear the ocean from the window; I heard the ocean in my breath. I had suddenly become my own little conch shell. 20 minutes passed like I had been abducted by aliens. And I was so relaxed. (I’m pretty spunky.)

Still, it didn’t stick.

I went to my first Kundalini yoga class, and man did that stick. Within a month, I was settled into regular practice. I went to my first Reiki class, and that stuck. I trained at the school for two years until I was certified to teach. 

Still, I couldn’t find a way to sit for meditation more than once every two months.

The rest of my life kept moving, and a few years later I was exactly where I wanted to be in my career. I was also helplessly ungrounded and utterly miserable.

And I still couldn’t find a way to sit.

A friend told me that my Saturn was in return. I didn’t know what that meant. I looked it up and found a mantra in a book about chanting. I taught myself how to pronounce “shanaishwaraya.” The sound of this word resonating in my chest made immediate sense to me; it seemed a lifetime since I had felt so comfortable in my own skin.

So I started chanting it. Everyday. All day. I chanted while I made coffee. I chanted while I drove in my car. I chanted before I went to bed. My mala broke; I strung a new one. I left my job. I kept chanting.

I packed up again and went back to my parent’s house, back to the beach. I sat on their floor chanting that mantra every day. After six months, I started to post my practice online. A month later, I added Lakshmi to the mix. The same day, I got a call for my dream job.

It’s 3 ½ years later, and I’m still chanting.

I practice daily japa: the meditative repetition of mantra as a spiritual discipline. I count the repetitions on my mala beads. My chanting will fall somewhere between a sung monotone, spoken softly, and whispered silently in my head.

Yogi Shanti Desai told me recently that we are in Kali Yuga, and mantra is our life boat to make it through. I believe him, because the feeling of my heart and mind resonating when I chant keeps me safe. I can be in sadness, or struggling, or uncertainty—in my own life and with the people around me—and stand on two feet with care and kindness. I don’t have to know what to do—I know that I’m okay. I’m in my lifeboat; I’m safe.

I fall off sometimes and get back up. Sometimes I have trouble and ask a friend to help. The meditation is always waiting, and now it’s like coming home.

I keep a practice journal to help me remember: my practice isn’t perfect—it’s practice. 

“Do your practice and all is coming.” ~ Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

“My practice isn’t perfect—it’s practice.” So very, very true Rachel. While any endeavor requires some stick-to-itiveness, we all must remember that as long as we’re trying, making a step, we’re moving. And as long as we’re moving, we’re breathing. And in each breath, we practice what makes sense to us.


Share My Path would love to feature your path! e-mail me.

Share My Path is an archival experiment seeking to build a repository of the paths taken by practitioners of meditation and is hosted here at elephant journal. If you’d like to have your path featured and made part of the archive please e-mail or find me here for more information. Your time will be rewarded in knowing you’ve shared with others and perhaps helped someone find their path.

Last week’s installment of Share My Path: What That Voice Is Trying to Tell You & Why You Should Listen.

A list of all previous weeks: Share My Path


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Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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