Chanting is no more holy than listening to the murmur of a stream, counting prayer beads no more sacred than simply breathing. . . . If you wish to attain oneness with the Tao, don’t get caught up in spiritual superficialities.
Lao Tzu (c.604 – 531 B.C.)
Source: The Hua Hu Ching, (30)
I’ve just returned from a glorious pre-dawn walk. My way was lit by the waning moon. Which reminds me—have you all noticed the incredible brightness of Venus since early December? Amazing!
It was beautifully clear after a couple of overcast days that brought the rain we had all been waiting for to break the drought. This is nothing like Australia, but we’ve experienced a stunning summer for being by the beach and a challenging summer in terms of the rain necessary for our gardens and to fill our water tanks. We’re lucky, we’ve got one large, rectangular concrete tank under the sea-facing deck that provides all our household needs; and we have a 5000 gallon green plastic tank half buried in the ground that is fed by the water off the garage. That’s used exclusively for watering the vegetable garden and for hosing the salt water off after dips in the sea. In our four years in this house, we’ve never run out of rain water. But this summer we came as close as we would like to. Once I showed the girls the severity of the situation, they shortened their showers (“Ah Dad, it’s my hair. It takes so long to rinse out.” They don’t know that I once had hair and also took long showers!) and we began to reduce flushing of pees etc.
I recently received the quote I’ve pasted to the top of this blog. It was sent from a wonderful social networking site I belong to called Gaia (www.gaia.com). Gaia is frequented by folks interested in the Earth, spirituality, personal growth…and much more. I resonate with the essential motto of the group about ‘being the change you want to see in the world.’
This quote struck a chord (or two) with me. I attend a weekly chanting group at a dear friend’s place along the beach. I usually walk there and back. We sing all sorts of mantras from different traditions but most have an Eastern flavor. One we call Supramanyam almost always brings us to laughter because the Sanskrit words are so long that it is nearly impossible to keep up when Shelley picks up the pace. She’s spent extended periods of time at Sai Baba’s ashram in the south of India and she’s exceptional at leading chanting with a drum and her voice.
But I resonate with what Lao Tzu had to say 2,500 years ago. It’s so easy to think that chanting is better than, say, a good ballad, or a spiritual practice somehow makes you holier than ‘ordinary’ folks. As Greg Braden relates about a journey he made to a remote Tibetan monastery in recent years, it’s the feeling that counts. He had asked the lama why they performed hours of chanting each day. The lama responded that it was only to create the essential feeling.
I would agree. The key is to do that which gives you that feeling of blissful contentment and gratitude and which does no harm. When I jump on the lymphasizer (mini-trampoline) I like to listen to songs like Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry Be Happy or Billy Ocean’s Caribbean Queen because they’re so much fun to jump and jump/dance to. However, there are times when I like to jump to Krishna Das’ Bhajelo-ji Hanuman. It’s about listening inside to find what fits or feels right on the outside at the time.
In the end, everything’s sacred.