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Chanting Helps Me Clear My Mind
Pauline Gordon

A mumbling sound soars through my head as I try to put my eyes to rest. The noise is like a buzzing that won’t let me be!

I listen closely to where the mumbling is coming from…my aunts’ room. So I creep over to see what they’re up to. I push open the door very gently. There I see my two aunts, Kacy and Mary, on their knees, chanting and focusing on a weird object with a scroll inside. They look like they’re meditating.

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I’m too confused to even ask what’s going on. Besides, they’ll probably tell me, “You’re too young to understand,” like they always say when I ask them questions. When I was little I would ask tons of questions about things I heard from television or outside:

“What do they mean when they say the birds and the bees?”

“What’s masturbating?”

“Where do babies come from?”

Each question led to the same answer: “You’re too young to understand.”

So when I saw them chanting and mumbling strange words to a weird object, I said to myself, “Forget this, I’m going to bed with earplugs in my ears and a pillow over my head.” Still, I didn’t forget all the questions they said I was too young to ask, and I didn’t forget their chanting, either.

Six years later, when I was 11, I was going through a really rough time in my life. Because my father had sexually abused me, I was put in foster care with my grandmother. It was a relief, but a whole new beginning for me.

Being in a new home and separated from my mom made me nervous. I still had haunting memories of my father creeping into my room. And dealing with acne and a new school led to nothing but tears in my bed almost every night.

image by Kyou Shirogane

All this and more made me the girl who sat in a corner covering her face, quiet in front of strangers, but loud as hell around family (while holding every private thought for my diary). People would tell me, “You’re too young to walk with your head down,” but it was rough becoming a teen, and those dreadful experiences weren’t helping me at all.

I was reaching for something to hold on to, that down-on-your-luck searching for something called faith. (Sound familiar?) I wanted to be happy. No one wants to wake up in the morning with a whole bunch of stress on their hands.

Then, one day, my Aunt Kacy invited me to a women’s division meeting at the center where she practices Buddhism. When I saw the weird object with the scroll, I began to remember the suspicious thing my aunts were doing in the room when I was little. Finally, my aunt explained her belief in Buddhism and why she chants.

The way my aunt explained Buddhism made sense to me. She told me that Buddhism isn’t about believing in any gods. Instead, it follows the philosophy of a man who, a long time ago, created a method of living in the world that helped him find his true happiness. Part of his method involved chanting or meditating to find peace. Buddhism spread throughout the world because many people accepted his method and felt that meditating cleared their minds.

When Buddhists chant, they say, “Nam-myho-renge-kyo.” “Nam” means devotion. “Myho” means that reality is only the world as you see it. “Renge” means lotus flower, which grows seeds and blossoms at the same time. This represents cause and effect, showing us how our words and actions have consequences. “Kyo” is sound or teaching.

My aunt said you’re supposed to chant twice a day, morning and evening, and you’re supposed to sit up straight and keep your head up. While you’re chanting, you must really concentrate on the goals you want to achieve and, most of all, what steps you plan on making towards these goals. By itself, chanting can’t help you achieve happiness. It only helps build your ability to focus on the positive.

My aunt told me that while she chants she focuses on the goals she wants to achieve in her life and on appreciating all that she has achieved so far.

I never learned much more than that about Buddhism, but I started chanting. I focus on what I appreciate in life. Almost every morning I get up and say something like, “Thank you for this glorious day.” I figure that complaining about my problems isn’t going to solve anything. So when things get to me or when negativity is thrown at me, I stop, chant a few times to clear my head, and let the issue go.

Chanting is like meditation—it’s something to concentrate on besides what’s happening around you. My mind feels more at ease when I chant. It helps me think positively and block most of the negativity out of my head.

I felt low about myself when I started. But as the days went on I began to see a change. Chanting every day, I would think positive things about myself.

Thinking about the positive things about myself and my life makes me feel like I can accomplish almost anything. Chanting isn’t magic, but it helps me keep my mind focused on the good things I do have.

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