Years ago, I went to therapy to help cure my depression and to stop my mind’s endless cycle of doubt, fear, self sabotage, and poor self esteem. My internal voice would tell me things that I would totally slap someone for saying to me: You’re not good enough, you’re fat, you will never amount to anything, you’re dumb.
I’m not quite sure why I let myself get away with it, but I definitely believed those horrible words. I felt helpless and so small. And when you’re wading in the darkness of depression, it’s so easy to believe those thoughts, to think that the lies your mind tells you are just a mirror reflecting the truth.
Therapy didn’t do much for me, to be honest. I’d sit and talk about my feelings, the doctor would nod, scribble stuff down in her little leather-bound notepad, nod again, and ask more questions. She and I both hoped that this process would lead to sort of amazing breakthrough and I’d be forever healed. That never happened. (This is not to knock psychiatry in any way. Therapy has its role and millions of people find relief on those comfy couches. But I just wasn’t one of them.)
Despite this, I’m happy to say that I no longer suffer from those bouts of depression and if I do, I have the means to pull myself out. No, I don’t have an endless stash of Valium and Prozac.
How did this happen?
By now you may be wondering what depression has to do with Ayurveda or yoga, but bear with me.
In my first post, I wrote about how yoga helped transform me. In addition to a yoga practice, I started chanting matras.
The power of mantras
Mantras exist in many different practices and religions. Basically, it’s a set of words or sounds that, when repeated over and over, help transform your mind. The transformation that happens is based on the mantra you are saying. You may have chanted Om at the beginning of your yoga classes and, according to Vedic texts, it’s meant to be the sound of the universe, the sound the universe made upon creation. When you chant Om, something in your mind shifts, it makes you feel closer to others. You feel light, more centered, connected to something larger than your small ego. I experienced that feeling, but I didn’t realize the powerful effect until I created a daily practice around a mantra.
So instead of chanting self-defeating “you’re not good enough thoughts,” I replaced them with mantras, thoughts that would bring me peace, remove the dark clouds, and help see the big picture in life.
When I began studying Ayurveda, my teacher gave us the Gayatri mantra to chant. We didn’t know the meaning, it’s entirely in Sanskrit, and she told us just to trust her and chant it. So I diligently chanted this mantra, 108 times each morning, and I noticed something shifting. I couldn’t quite figure out what, but this mantra has helped me when things got tough, when my mind wanted to take over and tell me horrible things, this mantra helped. I later found out that its purpose was to bring you from darkness to light, from ignorance to truth.
Now I’m usually pretty dubious, but I have to say I was surprised at the power of this chanting. It’s like a message to tell that voice in your mind to shut up! To have such a powerful ally to battle demons, to bring light to the dark and horrible places is such a relief. Because once you shine a light in the dark, that darkness no longer remains.
I encourage you to try chanting a mantra daily and to see what shifts in you. Not that my inner voice doesn’t talk smack once in awhile, but now I have a way to fight back.