Change Is Happening in This Space: Evidence of Growth from Daily Mantra Practice November 20, 2021 15:15
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I had a friend ask me recently how my mantra practice has changed my life or made a difference in my life.
At first, I mentioned small things--like finding joy and appreciating everyday moments--the burst of color of autumn leaves...watching a child toddle toward a school bus in the morning and not feeling impatient about having to wait in traffic, but taking a moment to enjoy the moment.
However, it occurred to me later that there was a more significant change that I've noted recently. It has taken time to develop, and it has evolved and morphed very slowly and gradually.
This change that I've noticed is that I am not feeling the need to elaborate on situations, events, or occurrences, especially those that made me feel unsettled, agitated, annoyed, or even traumatized.
Before I started a daily mantra practice, I was prone to oversharing details--whether good, bad, or indifferent. I felt inclined to justify myself or over explain even the most mundane occurrences. I wanted others to know "the whole story."
In recounting the details, especially of unsettling stories, I would relive the suffering of the original encounter, and I also ran the risk of causing suffering for others by spewing these details, too.
However, I've noticed a significant change in this pattern since I've been practicing regularly. I've caught myself on three separate occasions recently.
For example, I recently attended the Bands of America Grand Nationals Competition in Indianapolis. A friend of mine saw my FB post and sent me a private message asking if I knew a friend of hers who is a choreographer of band shows and who also happens to be a Buddhist teacher.
I messaged in response, "I know of him," but that was it. I steered the written conversation toward the current performances and how talented the musicians were. In other words, I didn't feel the need to mention or dredge up any unpleasant details.
I actually did have an unusual exchange a few years ago with this friend of hers. He wanted to argue about an article I had shared online about meditation, and when I didn't engage, he became increasingly more judgmental and angry. Ultimately, he got the last word with a snarky remark and then blocked me from his page.
Even these are bare-bones details. I don't feel the need, even now, to recount the entire story. It's water under the bridge. I also don't need this person's approval or friendship, and I didn't feel the need to bring up an inconsequential conflict now with the friend who messaged me. These details from the past were irrelevant to the current conversation.
I left it at, "I know of him."
In another recent conversation with a friend, this time a spoken one, we were discussing our Tibetan language lessons. I mentioned that I had changed textbooks, and that I had found another book that was more helpful for me.
I didn't feel the need to elaborate on the specific reasons or explain why the other text was not a good fit for me. I didn't mention the poor organization, the occasional misspellings, the firehose-type spray of overwhelming information in each chapter, which was incredibly anxiety-triggering for me.
Instead, I left it at, "I found another book that motivates me to learn," and we continued on with our conversation.
Finally, this pattern has not just had an impact on written and spoken conversations with others. It has also had an impact on my own private thoughts.
Last week I was at home sweeping the kitchen floor when I thought about a teacher who used to be at the Dharma center that I currently attend. He's since moved on to another center on the East Coast.
Instead of rehashing and ruminating about the handful of brief encounters when I had observed him being judgmental of others or rude to me, I simply stopped these thoughts with another one--"He's not my teacher."
This single thought put a stop to an unnecessary, negative thought spiral, and it allowed me to be present with what I was doing instead.
In essence, my daily mantra practice is preventing and stopping cycles of suffering for others and for myself.
I am choosing my words and thoughts more carefully, I am more engaged with people in the present moment, and I'm less likely to overshare or overshadow conversations with unnecessary editorializing and kvetching.
Even in my own head, I'm not allowing unpleasant memories or judgments to interfere with the present moment.
In short, I'm letting the irrelevant and negative details go. They don't serve others, they don't serve me, and they don't serve my practice.
I'm grateful for my friend for asking her question--and I'm grateful for having opportunities to notice this change in my thinking and my practice. I'm also hopeful that continuing to practice will bring about even more beneficial changes in the future.
My hope is that your personal practice benefits you as well as others, too.
By the way, the Indy Holistic Hub Wellbeing Fest in Indianapolis earlier this month was a big success. Several beautiful malas found new homes, and I am working steadily to add new designs to the online shop. Please visit middlemoonmalas.com to view the current and ever-growing collection.