Chants of Help and Self-Compassion to Heal the World by LaChelle Schilling


Lachelle SchillingRecently I have cultivated a meditation practice. I only meditate for about 20 minutes, usually taking a comfortable position on a sunlit patch of carpet near an open window in the late afternoon when no one is home. My meditation is simple. It just consists of being aware of my breath, feeling my body, and a chant. The chant for this week is what I would like to share. It is a chant of help and self-compassion that may nourish you as it has me.

Camakam is a Vedic chant that comes from one of the four Vedas, Yajurveda, meaning prose mantra (yajus) and knowledge (veda). I have come to knowledge of a portion of it through Nicolai Bachman’s audio Chants Asking for Help. It is a prayer for the fulfillment of wishes, the description to this one says. Below is a sample with the translated lyrics in italics:

Om

[. . .] śam ca me [. . .] and peace to me,

mayaśca me and delight to me,

priyam ca me and love to me,

‘nukamaśca me and proper desire to me,

kamaśca me and desire to me,

saumanasaśca me and positive thoughts to me,

bhadram ca me and a blessing to me,

śreyaśca me and the best for me,

vasyaśca me and better (things) for me,

It may seem arrogant or selfish to express these thoughts. But this is not a situation of wanting power-over or to boost the ego. I don’t feel individualistic or prideful when I pray these wishes in meditation. It is more of a feeling of healing, being courageous enough to speak good into the universe for myself, being a supportive mother to myself.

Thupten Jinpa, in his book A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to be Compassionate Can Transform our Lives (2015), says, “When we lack self-compassion, we are less self-accepting, less self-tolerant, and less kind to ourselves” (28). He goes on to say that self-compassion is not narcissistic self-absorption, self-gratification, or self-esteem. Such delusions only serve to bring us more suffering. But this kind of self-love is therapeutic, a helpmate for mental health.

I think I have grown up in a way where I learned to sacrifice my feelings of comfort and truths to placate or detour certain anxieties of some of my family. I have a habit distrusting my feelings and understanding love as conditional where relationships are often an exchange of me giving too much or taking too much. Lately I have learned a little about how emotionally immature and narcissistic behaviors in parents may affect children even when they are adults. Michelle Piper, MS, LMFT has suggested, for example, that such children might not have been made to feel worthy, listened to, or loved for being themselves, and that difference is not loved because it does not meet the need for the parent to be soothed.

Prayer can be a cathartic practice even for the non-religious. I do not necessarily pray to a particular God or being. But speaking words out into the universe, understanding that the sound waves from my body (also energy) flow into and affect the flow of energy that is the sky and the trees and the connections between the sky and the trees, I feel I’m creating change. Instead of self-hating or self-aggrandizing (two sides of the same coin), I switch my own narcissistic frequencies onto humility and compassion. When I break down and get vulnerable, I feel like an earth opening, its womb receiving, my skin not sticking to renegade thoughts, mostly negative, but re-focused to the temperatures and velocities of the universe. How can I say a prayer “to me” and “for me” but be transported utterly beyond myself for a rare moment? I don’t know. I don’t.

Yes, “love” can harm. Perhaps prayer, what it really is or how it most nourishingly can be done is left to discuss, but is something some of us nevertheless could use in our lives, even though there might not exactly be a “God” to pray them to. After much thought earlier this year, and after reading bell hook’s All About Love the year before, I am coming to know Real Love as non-attached, without ego, and intimate. Somehow, the Camakam chant opens a door to all for me, even though I’m not well-versed in any.

Sanskrit is the language of yoga, yoga meaning the union with the self, the realization of our divine and medicinal Being. Both the Sanskrit, when I place my hand on my body to feel the vibrations, and the English help me fertilize my buried voice. What I thought was loving myself and others wasn’t. I’ve been newly learning all over again.

 

LaChelle Schilling, Ph.D., graduated in 2014 from the Women and Religion program at Claremont Graduate University. She teaches composition from a contemplative pedagogical approach at Oklahoma State University. Currently, she is working on a book project titled Minimalism, Mindfulness, and the Middle Way, incorporating guidance from sacred wisdom literatures.

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Categories: meditations, Prayer, Women's Spirituality

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14 replies

  1. Beautiful! Too bad so many of us were not taught that loving your neighbor as yourself means loving yourself too. So glad you found this practice. A friend who is often filled with self-criticism spoke of it to me only a few days ago. It is helping her too!

    PS The Bible does not say love your neighbor instead of yourself nor does it say at the expense of yourself.

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    • Yes, so many times my inability to accept a compliment, for instance, so my inability to be grateful or sincerely gracious is due to my disbelief such good things could be true. So the more I find I can be kind to myself, I can open up to creating intimacy with others, especially those gorgeous souls who garner goodwill toward me. So loving ourselves, awareness of our own desires, these can be a guide for treating others. Self-sacrifice (the instead/the expense you mention) led me to either be completely self-draining and/or fearfully selfish. A more authentic attending to myself is helping me find a gentle middle way I could not before. Thank you so much. I love the incorporation of the “golden rule” into this discussion.

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  2. It’s interesting that women tend to love others more than themselves, and men the other way round. That might be a maternal instinct built into the female psyche. My partner died recently, and she had been ill for a long time, so my role in life for many years had basically been taking care of a loved one.

    Adjusting to living alone and with no one to care for has been sheer agony for me. I did find a Zen coach who has been a godsend, and very helpful. A Taoist coach too has been keeping me going, especially during the time of the demise of my friend. Both those coaches are women too, with my same instinct to care for others. All the caring I did for my friend sort of returned by way of other women who care about people and know how to heal and nurture them.

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    • Yes, it always hurts me to know that there is this difference in the culture around me of socializing the genders. An ease to speak, an owning of healthy pride . . . it has even been commented to me, in kindness, by at least two of my professors in settings of public speaking in academia, that it seems something some of us have to teach ourselves.

      Thank you for your sharing. I’m so glad that you have found these wonderful guides. If there is a silver lining, maybe it is the eventual return of female support and nurture. My therapist is a woman and I see her wisdom of how to help the healing of other women.

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  3. As regards chants to heal the world. Om Shanti, Om Shanti, Om Shanti Om, is a chant many sing during meditation. I used to sing it too, but I never really understood the meaning of Om. The chant means peace (shanti) to the world (om) but it’s more than that, because Om is a sacred sound in and of itself. Om is sometimes defined as the seed of all creation. But there are other meanings too.

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    • Yes, I love this. Thank you. I am almost surprised at the feeling and sound that comes from myself with the Om, the deep, throaty, resonant, and full vibrations. Like asana yoga and my bodily limbs, I feel the Om puts my voice in an unusual position, and just that itself is a help, a release, a return.

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  4. Thanks for this beautiful post and chant. I love the way you articulate the seeming paradox that true self-love lifts us out of ourselves.
    As I move through middle age I am increasingly aware of a gaping hole in me where lives the belief that I am not loveable. Ouch! But also – somewhere ELSE inside of me is a deep flow of self-love which when I access it feels like a well-spring of calmness, rightness, and joy that lets be happy in the moment and also be active in a powerful and loving way in the world. A chant like this is a magical practice to lift me out of the gaping hole and into the deep flow of self-love.
    I am curious about two lines in this chant: it asks both for proper desire, and then just simply for desire. What can this mean? I assume proper desire is desire without attachment to ends, or perhaps desire for that which is auspicious, healing and good. But the next line? Does the chant also wish that we have improper desire, that wild roller coaster that sometimes drives us into dark and unhealthy places, that breaks our hearts again and again, that makes us impetuous and irrational and driven? Why? Because in this is our humanity? Or because all desire is a manifestation of life force?
    Or does the chant wish that we feel (proper desire) and also that we know we are desired?
    Any thoughts?

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    • Thank you for your kindness. Yes, a paradox. It is, to me. I love that you have pointed out these two lines for discussion. I agree with you in that the “proper” desire might be describing not exactly the WHAT but the HOW. To desire, to want, to find pleasure without attachments that cause us suffering. We can love, we can appreciate, we can admire, but at the point of clinging, fear sets in, and fear does not feel empowering. But I appreciate that the chant does not imply desire itself is harmful. By asking for desire, after “proper” desire, to me it reiterates that desire, in non-attachment, is important. To be able to feel at all sometimes is wonderful. So for me, when desire is so much a part of most of our lives, that second line gives me comfort in opening up desire back to me, even to my own agency. But I also am compelled by your reading, that there could even be an asking for the gritty aspects of the nature of desire, that we accept, even ask for, the mess that exists already of desire. I think that is a part of being a “lotus in the mud,” and so, if that feeling serves you one moment, then I say unpeel that layer, and let it be. I like the idea I can be flexible when saying these chants. For instance, one of the lines is “a pregnant woman for me” – that could mean so many things! And I allow it to be interpreted, during my personal meditation time, to what inspires me and feels healing. Thank you for your amazing comment! I hope some of that made sense. :)

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      • Thanks for this beautiful answer, which all made lots of sense.
        I assume “A pregnant woman for me” reflects the roots of this chant coming from a patriarchal time and place, and love that we feminists (in a place and time where we have a feminist tradition and community to support us) can interpret that line in creative and heartfelt ways. It’s a beautiful line, full of rich possibility.

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  5. Thank you LaChelle. I use a Medicine Buddha mantra – could be doing so more faithfully! Praying for healing and good health in all it’s manifestations seems an excellent prayer for these days, for our world.

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  6. A lot of stuff to take in from the post..please give me a moment..

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