Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I get it now!

As a housesitter in Victoria in the early '80's, I moved from house to house every few weeks. When I could have been stranded between residences, I was always offered an extended stay of an extra day or even week at the beginning or end of a sit; in most cases, this was enough to fill the gap.

But, when the periods between houses were of longer duration, free accommodation was offered to me by my friends Bud on Moss St in Victoria, and Jim and Jennifer in Esquimalt; I am ever grateful to them for their kindness.

I am also grateful to Swami Radha for allowing me to stay in whatever room was free at Shambhala House Victoria (now called Radha House in honour of Swami Radha) on such occasions.

In '78 I was a temporary resident at Yasodhara Ashram. When it came time for me to leave, my big concern was how do I bring what I have learned into my life in the world. How do I integrate it into a real world model? Swami Radha knew that this was a common challenge of spiritual seekers and she opened these houses with the intention that they enable people to "stay in touch with their ideals while living in the world". Shambhala House offered (and I took part in) classes in dreamwork, kundalini yoga, satsang and other aspects of yogic self-study. Spiritual practices weren't relegated solely to the support and isolation of an ashram, as their purpose was enrich one's daily life, daily practice was essential and these programs provided continuity.

It was at this house that I became acquainted with the use of mantra outside of its identification as a formal practice during satsang and meditation. Swami Padmananda and other residents (who came and went, including Swami Radha) would go about the house humming or singing the repetitive refrains of their favourite chants while they washed dishes, wrote, cooked and went about their daily chores. When they weren't chanting (or Swami Radha wasn't present), Swami Radha's beautifully delicate, vibrato emanated from tape decks playing Hari Om, Om Namah Sivaya and others; the house was filled with monotonic sound.

Being of a different generation, I can't truly say that I appreciated the power and value of chanting day in and day out at that time. On the rare occasions when the house was my own, my exuberant nature couldn't be contained and I danced through the house and sang with enthusiastic abandon to the tunes of John Denver, the Blues Brothers, Boz Skaggs, Billie Holliday, Eric Carmen, Janis Joplin, Kenny Rankin, jazz, rock and the blues.
© Nance Thacker 1982
click on image to enlarge
(Shiva is considered a destroyer of obstacles)
But I get it now! Having lived a few more decades as I truly seek to bringing forth compassion in action and free myself from delusions and negative emotions, I find myself chanting silently or quietly - Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha (This softer, gentler chant to the white Tara of compassion was recommended to me as being a better balance for my nature than Om Namah Sivaya which I had been chanting to Siva the God of destruction.), or the Gayatri mantra - which I learned much later in the '90's after falling in love with this version which I first heard played during a savasana in a yoga class...

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