At a recent meditation retreat, I learned two very helpful concepts - “it’s about connection, not concentration” and “be a receiver, not an achiever”.
When chanting japa (meditation with beads and a soft repetition of the maha-mantra), being attentive is the key. In fact, if we are saying the words but our mind is all over the place, then it’s called ‘shadow’ chanting. Like a very small fire that will take ages to cook anything, inattentive japa will not touch or change us as we wish to be changed.
My efforts to be attentive have often led to tense concentration or robotic chanting. Which ends up being tiring and somewhat bitter and thus the daily meditation to which I have made a commitment becomes a chore, an item on my to-do list. The joy becomes in its completion rather than the experience itself.
When I shift my focus from concentration to connection, I feel an immediate difference. Then when I add the mood of a ‘being a receiver’ I am able to be more present, less anxious, and find more heart, aliveness and sweetness around the holy name.
Modern culture is a toxic brew of achieving, winning, perfection, and pushing our need for success. Chanting Krishna’s name is not about that. It’s about connecting with a sublime relationship that each of us has individual access to; it’s about receiving love, grace, presence, transcendence, and the sweetness of a spiritual exchange with Krishna.
We need to guard ourselves from the externals of a spiritual practice. It can very easily become just another thing we use to ‘prove’ our worth, rather than the thing that unravels and releases us from our false ego and introduces us to our true and real selves.