Plato said that the unexamined life is not worth living. I’ve always thought this a somewhat harsh assertion and I doubt that anyone with a roof over their head and enough to eat goes through life without ever wondering what it’s all about.
There is probably, though, only a small number of us who feel really at ease with ourselves. Most reasonable people live with a degree of self-doubt, discomfort and dissatisfaction and wonder what they can do to improve their lives and themselves.
There are all sorts of ways to attempt to dig oneself out of what can feel like a mountain of unhappiness; psychotherapy, re-birthing, past life regression and other methods of self-evolution. Having tried some of these over the years, I have, as will be no surprise, settled on the daily chanting of mantras as the most effective tool for lasting inner transformation.
I have no clear idea of how it works, to be honest. As with meditation, it is something to do with altering one’s brainwaves. Scientific evidence is hard to come by on the subject. What I do know is that I come away from my daily sessions feeling clear, calm, refreshed and happy. Daily life goes on, of course, with all its difficulties and drudgeries, but somehow I am no longer encased and enmeshed within what I think it all means. Those difficulties and drudgeries are simply there to be dealt with and dealing with them becomes progressively easier and more straightforward the longer I continue my daily practice.
Ayahuasca ceremonies have recently become fashionable as a rapid and powerful transformational event. Having never (knowingly) taken any hallucinogens I have no angle on the experience itself. What concerns me, though, is the spirit in which some people are embarking on the event. Daily mantra or meditation practice causes slow, steady shifts in the tectonic plates of one’s sense of self and approach to life, and, every so often a landslip occurs to reveal new understanding. A cathartic experience like ayahuasca could produce a similar landslide, or could be a more of a stick of dynamite.
Getting good at anything requires repeated practice. Great pianists go through years of scales and arpeggios. Years and years and they keep the boring stuff up even when they have achieved greatness. One cannot get good at the piano in one amaaaaazing masterclass.
What all of us seekers are after is being better at being ourselves.
Daily mantra or meditation practice is often a bit dull. I often don’t really fancy doing it. But I keep on with it because I know that its effects accrue – slowly, imperceptibly and, most importantly, surely.