Mantras on the Mountains of Life
“In life we are all just walking up the mountain, and we can sing as we climb
or we can complain about our sore feet. Whichever we choose, we still gotta do
the hike. I decided long ago that singing made more sense.”
Climbing Mountains – metaphorically speaking
During my life, just like many others, I have had to climb many mountains. The paths and trails on these mountains were covered by roadblocks and obstacles along the way. I have discovered over time, just as our quote shares, that singing is a beautiful way to not only overcome these obstacles, but it also helps shift our perspective when things get tough on the hike up.
One of the ways I have connected my life through song is by learning mantras from different faith traditions. I have faced loss, anxiety, to major career shifts and through each challenge, I have been graced to hear the mantra I needed to sing that helped me through each circumstance.
Mantras are short phrases with spiritual guidance that when repeated through meditation or prayer can transform our difficulties. As we sing these sacred words, the internal healing for the circumstance begins to shift. It teaches our minds to focus our energy in a new direction by first honoring the feelings we are experiencing and then transforming them into something healthy. I would love to share four mantras that helped me through some of my life’s road blocks.
Overcoming Obstacles - Invoking Ganesha’s Help
In 2012 I struggled with the loss of my spiritual community that I had been closely connected with for eight years. It had been part of my daily life in many forms, not only personally but also as a teacher professionally. Not only was it a loss for me physically, it was also a void spiritually. I did not agree with the direction the group was headed. It broke my heart to imagine not being connected with the community that I had spent years being an intricate part of.
The void for me was unimaginable. I lost my spiritual companions, who I also considered to be friends. To move through the feelings, I participated in yoga several times a week. I also met with my spiritual director weekly to discern the direction that I should go next. I knew that as much as I had walked my journey alone for many years, I wanted to have support in joining a loving community. In yoga class one day I was introduced to the following mantra:
Ganesha Sharanam, Sharanam Ganesha
Ganesha, the Hindu elephant deity, is a protector and a remover of obstacles. As I imagined Ganesha standing next to me, I sang the mantra daily, invoking his assistance to guide my path.
After several weeks of singing this mantra, both in yoga, as well as at home or throughout my day, I went to another session with Frank, my spiritual director. In this meeting he shared an idea with me, “Shannon, why don’t you just try going to St Francis in the Foothills UMC?” I struggled, “But Frank, it’s a church,” I complained. “Yes, I know. But it’s not THAT kind of church. Just try it.” When I went home that night, I spent time in meditation and singing my mantra. Upon singing the mantra, Ganesha Sharanam, I had an ah’ha moment. If Ganesha is the remover of obstacles, then in that moment he was removing my own self-imposed obstacle from 20 years previously. The obstacle? That I would NEVER attend a religious church organization. My own obstacle was in the way. I had to surrender and shift my perspective. That weekend I attended church at St. Francis in the Foothills UMC. The opening line the pastor invoked during service was a welcoming to “all Angels, Ancestors and Devas.” I knew that my spirit had found a safe spiritual home in which to reside.
By invoking this mantra, by calling on Ganesha, sometimes the answers internally may differ from what we expect. We have to be open enough to hearing the answers even when they are not what we think they should be.
Forgiveness and Compassion – A Hawaiian Invocation
As a recovering perfectionist, I have had to teach myself a different way to parent myself. For years, my self-talk was cruel and unkind. I would tell myself I was a failure. If I
made a mistake, I would call myself stupid. In becoming aware first that I suffered from trying to be perfect, I didn’t consciously realize this was a mental pattern. I discovered that making mistakes is human and a way to grow and evolve. I realized that it wasn’t “if” I was ever going to make another mistake, it was “when.” Trying to be perfect sucks! And it gets in the way of really enjoying life. I needed to forgive myself for how cruel I had been to myself in the past. As I asked Spirit to guide me into this forgiveness, I was introduced to the Hawaiian prayer of forgiveness called “Ho’oponopono.” The mantra is as follows:
This mantra or prayer can be sung or spoken. I sung the mantra imagining that I was singing it to both the part of me that was cruel as well as the part of myself that had been injured. Being in this state of forgiveness with myself allowed me to be less critical. Now as I navigate life and face challenges or difficulties that arise, I am able to imagine a loving inner parent sitting across from me having a conversation of discovery. It doesn’t mean I won’t make more mistakes in the future, it just means I will walk myself through problem solving in a gentler way. “I love you” invokes universal compassion and kindness. “I’m sorry” allows for the mistake to be acknowledged. “Please forgive me” transforms the mistake into letting go. “Thank you” becomes the full circle of forgiveness. This same practice is a great way to also transform forgiveness in relationships with family, friends and with larger world issues.
Transforming Loss & Grief – A Sanskrit Mantra
In 2019 I was looking forward to celebrating the third birthday of my adopted kitty, Andee. As an indoor/outdoor kitty he was very social and loved visiting neighbors. He was especially fond of my neighbor, Daniel. He would help Daniel with all his outdoor chores. They would chill out on the bench outside and people watch. Andee had come to me through adverse circumstances. His original owner had abandoned him at the age of 6 months, and Andee had taught himself to live outdoors. Seeing that he had no designated caregiver, I knew he would soon need to be neutered. I became Andee’s caretaker but knew he was also attached to Daniel.
Andee would alternate who he stayed with as he saw fit, as cats usually do. He was a community kitty bringing joy to all the neighbors he visited. I made the decision to celebrate his birthdays on February 14th, a Valentine’s day kitty who brough lots of love to many. Right before his third birthday, Andee was struck by a car as he crossed the street in the evening leaving Daniel’s house. He some how made it back to me, crying outside. He was in a lot of pain. It was 2:00 a.m. and I, through tears and grief, scooped him into his carrier and rushed him to the emergency veterinarian clinic. Between his broken pelvis and internal bleeding, we made the decision, lovingly, to let him go. It was heartbreaking to me to have to decide this. I knew not only would it be my broken heart, but my neighbor, Daniel’s, as well. The veterinarian left Andee and I alone together to say our good-byes. The mantra that moved into my heart to sing with Andee was one I had been singing in my yoga practice for years. These words flooded my heart and mind.
Loka samastah sukhino bhavantu
(May all beings be happy and free)
I sang this with Andee, holding him in my arms, that he be free from suffering and that my broken heart find freedom from suffering. When it was time to call the veterinarian back into the room, the break in my heart widened as Andee’s spirit left the room. In those moments it feels as if nothing will ever make deep pain like loss and grief go away, but knowing that millions of people and hundreds of master teachers have chanted these words, helps to know that we are not alone in these grief stricken moments. As I left the clinic, rain fell from the sky, touching the desert earth around me. The skys rain joined my tears. I sang this mantra for weeks until my heart was ready to allow the pain of Andee’s loss to move into joy that we had gotten to be together in this life for a brief time.
The Global Pandemic, Panic & Anxiety – The Lord’s Prayer
Three weeks before quarantine took affect in Arizona in the United States, I had been paying close attention to the global events surrounding Covid-19. As an empath and highly sensitive person, I try to limit my intake of too much news all at once; however, this was a different time altogether. I knew as a practitioner, working closely with people, I needed to stay in-tune with all the news. As we moved closer into a time of quarantine, I worried about how I would survive financially? In the beginning the anxiety was overwhelming. I began to panic inside. What if I lost everything? It is easy to get lost in terrifying thoughts and scenarios. I began praying with my Angelic team asking them for help, to sit with me, to bring calm to my mind. My intuitive voice told me that I needed to repeat the Lord’s Prayer every time I began to experience this panic and overwhelm within myself. Each morning and evening, I sat in my meditation space and recited the Lord’s prayer for 10-15 minutes.
Divine Beloved, who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
On earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this, our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from our difficulties.
For thine is the kingdom and Glory of
Forever and Ever
As I recited this prayer daily as a living mantra, I began to see “my situation” differently. Instead of saying, “How will I be affected?” I began to hear, “this pandemic isn’t happening to me, it is happening to all of us.” With this realization, I then began to ask a different question, “In this moment of global suffering, how can I be of service to others?” Moving into this energy allowed me to clear the panic from my heart. I began to find ways to be present for what I could do to volunteer to help with my local community. As I gave, I then also received the help I needed from my friends and family. Reciting the Lord’s prayer shifted me from a state of panic to a state of Grace.
Singing on Our Hike
So when our feet get sore on this long, treacherous, joyful journey through life, we can move ourselves from pain, grief, anger or panic into a place of forgiveness and kindness through song. Learning mantras from different spiritual traditions, we can sing ourselves into new perspectives. The journey may still end with sore feet, but our minds will be calmer and our hearts will be more peace-filled.