One of the common challenges facing devotees who chant Hare Krishna daily is the ‘wandering mind’. Devotees regret they fall asleep while chanting their rounds. Other ‘important’ things crop up especially during the Japa session and the mind is everywhere except on the Holy Names. Basically it’s a drag!
And then they wonder why they aren’t happy. Any genuine spiritual path would teach you that the key ingredient for success is being mindful of what you are doing. We can’t be spaced out and mechanical in our Japa practise and also think the Holy Name is going to work wonders in our lives.
Change the paradigm
We expect the Holy Names to usher happiness into our lives. Some even assume that chanting would bring success in their business or relationships. Are we subtly expecting the Holy Name to serve us? But what are we doing to serve the Holy Names? Isn’t it time to take an honest stock of our attitude and Japa habits?
And that’s the vexing issue. Devotees get discouraged when they see after decades of chanting, the same troubles plaguing their heart. Instead of doubting the Holy Names, we need to change our paradigm, and begin asking the question, “What am I doing wrong?” or “what should I change in my lifestyle and attitude to show my sincerity to Krishna?” Most often devotees realize it’s a simple problem; they are just not ‘present’ while chanting.
The key is be ‘Present’. If life is tough, and too many things bother you, now is the time to make being ‘Present’ a priority.
Simple tips for being ‘Present’
You are not alone. It’s a recurring problem for many of us. I have personally benefitted from some simple, yet effective tips
A-Affirm- Say positive statements to yourself daily. “I love to chant”, “I get to chant”, “I want to chant” rather than ‘I have to chant’. These help develop the right mood and intention. Mahatma Prabhu has given many Japa Affirmations in his mahatmawisdom.com.
B- Breathe- Spend time –at least 5-10 minutes- daily breathing! Well, we are breathing 24 hours right? Wrong! How much of our daily breathing are we aware of? Try this. Inhale deeply through your nose for a few seconds, and feel the lungs, stomach and heart expand. Don’t strain yourself. Then hold it for a few seconds and slowly exhale, again through your nose. Feel the breadth going in and out, and gently pull the mind back to your breadth if it wanders. Daily conscious breathing would revitalize you both mentally and physically. You will then see less attack of lethargy and sleep during the chanting session.
C- Chew- How do you eat your food? Do you gobble it and do various other things while eating? Drop all multitasking, and be present as you chew slowly. Good digestion helps you remain fresh and awake in the morning. You would be enthusiastic to chant. Also avoid rich food at late night, for that would negatively affect Japa the next morning.
Also you’d soon realize not being ‘Present’ is an all pervading phenomenon; it’s also when I am walking, eating, and talking that I am unmindful. These three basic tips would surely help us slow down the mind and quell its endless chatter. And there are two more
D- Devotion- There’s no substitute for this one. Pray to Krishna to help you chant well. Krishna is present in his deity form and also in His photographs. If we can’t perceive His presence in His most merciful form of the Holy Names, at least we can try to connect to Him through his form as deities. Offering sincere prayers to deities, Srila Prabhupada, guru and acharyas in our parampara undoubtedly helps us in our chanting.
E- Exercise- Physical exercise, jogging, or yoga helps the body stretch, and that has a direct positive effect on the mind. Srila Prabhupada took a morning walk and massage regularly.
These are like what an Olympic athlete would do to keep himself focussed on achieving his goal. If good chanting is my goal, I better show I am serious about it.
Of course, good chanting is not some technique; it’s only possible if Krishna is pleased by us. Therefore it’s important to remember that these are our feeble attempts to show Krishna that we are sincere and trying our best to remain awake and ‘present’ in our chanting. It’s to show Krishna that we want to truly serve and please Him.