Guest post graciously contributed by Julia Cress.
“Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” – Louise Penny. This came from a novel my mother was reading and brought my thoughts around to the work of mantra, similar to the sound of church bells, how it’s vibration when held internally changes us, brings us to stillness, lightens us up, and allows our human heart to meet the divine within.
Recently we were hit by a snow storm that for days the snow fell and drifts would pile to cover our backdoor. Every day we had to push hard through it, shovel, and make plans for where to go next in the driveway as the snow banks were so high, flinging it over the banks became intense physically, mentally, emotionally. The very first day when we came out of our house, the snow was 4-5 feet deep and we walked through it slowly like we were in the lake, yet it felt a bit scary, cause you weren’t in a lake, you were surrounded by something much denser, and the drifts on the roof ready to fall at any minute kept your ears tuned to all sounds so you could get out of the way. It truly felt like our Everest of a storm, we had to keep shoveling, breathing, and praying. We prayed and did our mantra for the strength to continue the manual labor that we would not lose power, that our roof would not cave in and we would not lose ourselves to anger or fear.
The mantra I chose to say internally and out loud at times when the going got rough was one that is meant to help work with anger. Interestingly I don’t feel like an angry person, yet when you are meeting resistance of any kind, whether it’s a difficult personal relationship, money issues, or a natural disaster, well, anger tends to arise. I used the mantra consistently for 5 days, that in itself was intense, I found that saying it out loud at times was better cause I could hear it and its guidance was undeniable, it cleared my thoughts so I could be present for the task at hand and through that was able to be patient, calm, and steady.
There were many times during this time that I was able to stop and see how beautiful the snow was as it blanketed everything making the environment quiet. On the fifth day we were on a neighbor’s roof shoveling off the snow and stopped several times to watch and listen to the birds and also breathe in the fresh air that the snow created. The mantra helped me the whole time stay with the work, be kind, and work with nature.
As of late, building Ojas for me is about letting past truths fall away in order to live authentically. The understanding is that to have Ojas, means to feel vital, contained, strong, enthusiastic, luminous, and fluid, the old ways of doing this would have been to exercise more, study harder, and be busy, which for me was reflecting an outward appearance of success.
This year had taught me something about deep rest, autonomy, and authenticity in ways I have never experienced. For whatever reason my once easy to wake habit has passed, it’s not that it is hard for me to wake up early but I just don’t want to any longer, to arise and feel refreshed at a later hour now is more appealing than getting up before everyone else as if it is a race to be won. Getting more sleep and using the morning hours to be present with myself, notice how I feel at that moment and what I am grateful for allows for a better pace throughout the day.
This change came about naturally and truly feels so good right now, almost like being in love again, I am in love with slowing down, letting my waist get a little wider, yes I had to buy some big lady pants. At this point in my life it wasn’t horrifying, embarrassing, or shameful, just what needed to be done, like buying more groceries. I am enjoying this new pace and the real me at this time. In the past I was running, cycling, and even doing yoga cause it felt great but also I was in the midst comparing my body shape to that which was deemed acceptable, attractive, etc., that tended towards the more masculine framework than a curvy, soft feminine frame that right now I really like.
Oiling every day is part of my routine and became even more important when a gentleman told me about his ritual that came from being in AA. As he massages his body he prays, practicing the art of anointing and celebrating that he is still on the planet helps increase his appreciation for his life and the world around him and gives him support to keep from falling victim to alcoholism.
Slowing down has also helped me love meditation practice. Before it felt like something to get through to get to the next more important task, now I revel in sitting, making time for comfort, solitude, and connection with that force that is my own and all around me.
When nature gives us an experience whether it’s a storm outside of us or inside, the use of mantra and meditation helps us align with the experience instead of fight it as if it was wrong somehow. Nature is never wrong and righting ourselves with her helps the light get in.
“There is a deep wisdom in giving up the fight to make it go away. When we instead come home to our path, we come home to what is. You are where you are. So be there. Stop trying to protect yourself from the harshness of right now, fleeing into a long fabrication about how it’s going to be one day. That’s a way of avoiding the here and now truth of our lives.” – Sue Monk Kidd