Chanting is kind of weird.
If you’re not a spiritual kind of person, then it can actually be very disconcerting to begin any sort of meditation that includes vocal chanting, it just seems… too hippie. When I started Teacher Training earlier this summer, I was in fact very put off by it. After all, as a “anti-religion, tech-focused millennial”, it’s not something I felt entirely comfortable with, even promising myself that I would go along with it, but only as a pretense. After 14 days straight of chanting every morning granted… It did feel begin to feel more regular and now, is one of the more valuable things I feel I can take away from training.
Once I became far away from the safe space of Yoga District’s 14th St Studio and deep in the city of Cologne, Germany – it’s a little bit more difficult to get back into chanting, let alone meditation. With classes and running around doing everything (except yoga, that is)- I’ve never felt simultaneously more alive and more stifled than I do now. Thankfully, I was able to re-find the internal space to breathe a little deeper and close my eyes to the world around me.
At first, I assumed the key was movement. At some level, it is: the ability to just move without thinking allows your body and mind to sync just a little deeper. But running and biking to school, while nice, wasn’t enough. I still felt high-strung and stressed about the smaller things in life, whether it be socializing or just German. Maybe it’s just a part of leaving the space that is teacher training, but everything that was coming into place a month ago just felt like falling apart all over again. All of those realizations, and everything I worked so hard far was starting to once again seem just out of my reach.
As I reread my teacher training notes and tried the genuinely horrific exercise known as running, I remembered what I had forgotten about. Water and Breath. The active usage of the breath. As I racked my brain and drank way too much water – I considered: What is the easiest way to use breath in an active manner while meditating.
Then it came to me. Chanting. What better way to harness the power of the breath than by vocally sounding out phrases that are foreign to the tongue? I ultimately decided on a Ganesha chant which focuses on removing obstacles with the breath. Because there is some superstition with writing down such mantras, I’ve decided to take the safer path and link to another article that talks about the origins here. It’s a really fun chant and even though I cannot seem to separate myself from how my teacher training class would sing, listening to different versions of the same chant is inspiring.
I can’t help but be comforted by the thought that I’m by no means the only person who is stressed out and needs help. Not to say that I’m overly “stressed” abroad, but just being away from the comforts of home in a sense is stressful, because there is no longer a sense of belonging. Everything is “abby-normal”. I know that I’m by no means done with the usefulness of the Ganesha mantra, but already I feel a little more at home in a place that I should not, by any normal measurements, be feeling comfortable in.