This spring was a time of great transformation in my life. And, OK, I'll admit it, transformation is not always easy. Some days it's about putting one foot in front of the other. Other days it's about savoring the sublime ecstasy of something brand new or unknown.
Music is really important to helping me navigate my internal world. I created this playlist to help me stay grounded and centered, even through change. Devotional music, for me, is not about praying to gods necessarily. Instead, the practice of listening carefully, using my voice, and repeating the mantra with focus becomes a meditation practice. On a deeper level, my experience is that mantra becomes a cleansing practice for my thoughts, replacing the old habitual ones with some freshness.
I'd like to share my experience and understanding of a few of the mantras sung here. (I am by no means a Sanskrit scholar and even scholars disagree on the exact interpretation of a given mantra, so consider the below "one interpretation.")
Om Mani Padme Hum This mantra is said to be the favorite of the Dalai Lama. Literally, it means "the jewel is inside the lotus." When I studied with Suzanne Sterling this year, she shared the interpretation: "you already have what you need inside." The way I live with this one is in knowing that there is something wise, unchanging, and very alive within each of us. In yoga, this is known as atman . This mantra reminds me that I already have this wisdom within me to face what life presents. Often it's a matter of letting go of all the rest of the mental chatter so that this wisdom can be accessed. That's where my practice comes in.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu Such a beautiful mantra. This one means "may all beings be happy and free." One of yoga's greatest tenents is that, though we feel separate from other things, we are actually all connected. The feeling of separation is one thing that leads to suffering. This is a really weighty concept that took a long time for me to get my head around. And often it was harder for me to wish happiness and freedom upon myself, as feelings of unworthiness would sometimes surface. That's why I love this mantra. When I am waiting in line, waiting for my tea to steep, waiting for the bus, I practice maitri (lovingkindness meditation) with this mantra. Each time I sing it, I bring to mind a face of someone I know who might need some extra happiness and freedom. I try to think of as many people as I can. And I wish this same sentiment to myself at the end of the practice. I use the practice and mantra for groups of people, too, such as the people of Boston or the victims of the tornadoes.
Everything to endlessly explore The title of this list has been my mantra for my yoga practice this season. It comes from a wonderful book by Mark Stephens on yoga sequencing. He writes, "In teaching yoga, we are very lucky when advanced students come to our classes. Rather than the acrobatically talented athlete with a flashy practice on display for all to admire or envy, the most seriously advanced yoga student is the one who shows up regularly in his or her practice with an attitude of beginner’s mind. Practicing each day as though it is the first time, the advanced student appreciates that there is always something new to learn when doing yoga. Unattached to the outcome of the practice, he or she is fully present to the experience of doing yoga as a process through which to learn more about oneself while remaining open to changing in conscious ways that bring about greater freedom and happiness in life. Approached in this way, the yoga path is endless; there is no final asana or experience one attains and then says, “I’m done,” or, “Now I’m a yoga master.” Given that there is nothing to master, but rather everything to endlessly explore, there is no such thing as a yoga master. "
I hope you enjoy these songs while you explore in whatever way calls to you: a walk in the park, a pen and a journal, yoga practice, or an evening connecting with friends.