Sunday, April 2, 2006

The Power of Mantra

We all have mantras: internal slogans, stories we tell ourselves.

One of the jokes of Al-Anon is: in the beginning you laugh at the slogans (
one day at a time, let it begin with me, let go and let god--I used to really hate that last one) and then you figure out, hey wait, I've had slogans my whole life: I'm not good enough, what will they think of me? I can fix his/her/their/your problems...

The choice, then, is: will we choose our mantras or let them arise from the muck of our unconscious conditioning? Will we guide our own inner lives or let our half-formed lower selves guide us?

I've blogged about my sojourn in New Zealand, where I chanced to read a book about a guru so powerful (or a devotee so gullible) I could scarcely believe it; when I got back to the States I googled this guru and saw a photo so lovable (or a Being so powerful) something turn'd in my heart--a sweet knife in my breast, and I saw Her as my True Teacher...even though, in the mental space I was in then, in 1998, there really wasn't no guru who could see through your eyes; there really wasn't a god (there was "Energy"...); there really wasn't anything but the play of neural fibers firing around patterns of sensation and learned response...

but why not say the mantra I saw on a web site devoted to Her? Why not perform yet another neural experiment on myself...after acid, after witchcraft, after dharmadhatu...and so I did. And in a couple of months it wasn't an experiment any more--I believed. Or--better--She was real, within me--the mantra had reorganized my chaotic thought into love-waves, sweet adoration-waves flowing to my sweet Guru M----.

I dreamed of Her, spoke to Her daily, felt Her dance in my heart...but, She cautioned, She wasn't God. Well, I wanted Her to be...but She wasn't, or wouldn't be. And when I refused to demote Her, She fired me as her disciple, telling me to go out and find my chosen deity...and so after a fair amount of weeping and praying, Kali came shortly thereafter, 2000-2001...and the mantra changed, and my consciousness reorganized itself, this time around the Black Goddess of Dakshineswar...but still around the same Love, the same devotion. And that's what mantra is, I learned: (re)organizing the chaos of daily thought around a spindle point of order, slotting the random data of shapeless experience into a story...a story of love.

And so when I read something like this, I'm not so surprised. It sounds overblown--but mantra changed my life, too.

P.S. Weirdly, just after I wrote the first draft of this last night, I got an email about M----'s upcoming tour of North America. I think I'm going to go see Her, though I understand She's quite a bit more goth than Amma or my own present Guru. I harbor egotistical thoughts that She will remember me, but more than that I want to see Her for the first time.

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