Recently 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:
[. . .] 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.