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Personal Journey: Reforge Your Heart through Mantras

I know what it’s like to have pain in your heart that keeps you awake at night. That kind of feeling is shockingly physical and makes it hard to breathe or move or think. You don’t know how or when your suffering will end and whether hope and joy will ever return.

Everyone experiences heartbreak of some kind. I suppose we are each affected to different degrees by different types of experiences. The depth of the anguish seems to be related to the significance of the event in your life and the things that matter to you the most.

The situation may be an illness, a death, an accident, financial loss, physical or emotional trauma, or the breakdown of a partnership. A few years ago I was in the most deeply unhappy period of my life. At the same time, I was passionately pursuing a new way to heal myself—I was chanting.

Forging a New Heart

No matter how desolate I was feeling during that time, every morning I got up and drove my car to an isolated spot (to avoid disturbing my family), turned on my music and began to chant. This was a huge effort on many levels. For one thing, I had to breathe to chant or sing. Sometimes I couldn’t breathe without feeling the pain.

Occasionally I ended up sobbing for an hour or more instead of chanting. Sometimes I couldn’t even make a sound, so I poured out my heart in my journal. Then I would try to chant again. Whatever I was feeling, I had to move through it in order to chant.

As the weeks and months went by, chanting established a new rhythm in my life. Day after day, I chanted in those early mornings in my car, parked at the foot of one hiking trail or another near my home in Bozeman, Montana. I chanted each day as the darkness faded and the sun rose over the mountains.

Winter turned into spring, then summer and fall. I was healing. My life was shifting and expanding in ways I had never imagined. A new heart had been forged and a new life had begun.

Connecting to Others through Kirtan

At first, I wasn’t interested in teaching others to chant. All I really wanted to do was heal myself. However, in the process of chanting I discovered something unexpected: a broken heart that has healed is even stronger than one that has never been touched by trauma or loss or disappointment. I am not saying that a heart that is healed never again feels the sorrow from past traumas or the pain of present realities. It is actually quite the opposite.

A heart that is healed feels both the pain and the joy of life more keenly than ever before. Perhaps that is the price to be paid for healing enough that you choose again to live with an open heart. In the process of healing, the capacity of the heart seems to be increased. Connecting to others and sharing with others seems to be a natural outcome of that expansion.

Heart Chakra Sounds
Heart on Fire Symbol

Healing through Spiritual Fire

I imagine that the healing of the heart through chanting is similar to the reforging of the shards of Narsil in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Narsil was the sword that Isildur used to cut the One Ring from Sauron’s hand. The sword was shattered into many pieces, and later was reforged with physical fire into AndÚril, the sword of Aragorn, the new king. In my experience, a heart can be reforged by spiritual fire.

Chanting is one of the most effective ways to bring spiritual fire into the heart itself and into the heart chakra, the energy center associated with your physical heart. Spiritual fire purifies, heals and creates new connections to stitch the heart back together.

This may also be similar to what has been revealed through neuroscience: an injured brain creates new connections and pathways to restore full functioning. This process actually increases the plasticity of the brain. The connections in the heart are like the new neurons in the brain, or like the seams of welded steel that mend a sword, but they are flexible and soften the heart rather than making it more rigid.

The Birth of Vocal Medicine

The process of healing gives you the confidence to be vulnerable again. You still remember the grief, but you have a way to endure and to restore your faith in life and love and God. When you know that you can survive and you can heal, that confidence makes you willing to risk that pain again and to continue to grow. You fear the challenges of life less and recognize the blessings more.

I have had the opportunity to meet many others with similar experiences of healing themselves and their hearts with chanting. The name of God on your lips and the vibration of His chants in your heart can create a miracle. The process of healing through mantras and chanting is what I am now calling vocal medicine.