Everyone experiences heartbreak of some kind. We’ve all got our life credentials! I suppose we are each affected to different degrees by different types of experiences. The depth of the heartache seems to be related to the significance of the event in your life and the things that matter to you the most.
I know what it’s like to have pain in your heart that keeps you awake at night. That kind of pain is shockingly physical–the kind that makes hard to breathe or move or think. You don’t know how or when the pain will cease and whether hope and joy will ever return. But now I have a new way to heal myself. I have learned to chant!
A few years ago I had an experience that was deeply painful. No matter how desolate I was feeling in the aftermath, every morning I got up and drove my car to an isolated spot (to avoid disturbing my family), turned on my music and began to chant. It was a huge effort on many levels. For one thing, you have to breathe to chant. And I couldn’t breathe without feeling the pain.
Sometimes when I started to chant, I ended up sobbing for an hour or more instead. Sometimes I couldn’t even make a sound, so I poured my heart out into my journal. Then I would try to chant again. Whatever I was feeling, I had to move through it in order to chant.
Now I am a kirtan leader, but in the beginning all I really wanted to do was heal my heart and experience again the magic I had found in devotional song and spiritual community. There are other tools that I have found to be very helpful–like hiking in the mountains and meditation–but chanting is my therapy of choice!
In the process of chanting and leading kirtan, I discovered something unexpected: a broken heart that has healed is even stronger than one that has never been broken by trauma or loss or disappointment. I am not saying that a heart that is healed never again feels the pain from past traumas or the pain of present realities. It is actually quite the opposite.
A heart that is healed feels EVERYTHING more keenly than ever before, both the pain and the joy and the passion of life. Perhaps that is the price to be paid for choosing to live with an open heart. In the process of healing, the capacity of the heart seems to be increased.
I imagine that the healing of the heart through chanting is similar to the reforging of the shards of Narsil in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Narsil was the sword that Isildur used to cut the One Ring from Sauron’s hand. It was shattered into many pieces, but later was reforged with physical fire into Anduril, the sword of Aragorn, the new king.
In my experience, a broken heart can be reforged by spiritual fire. Chanting is one of the most effective ways to bring spiritual fire into your heart. Spiritual fire purifies and heals and creates connections to stitch a broken heart back together again. Those connections are like the seams of welded steel that mend a sword, but they are flexible and soften the heart rather than making it more rigid.
The experience of healing a broken heart gives you the confidence to be vulnerable again. You may still remember the pain, but you have a way to endure and to restore your faith in God and life and love. When you know that you can survive and you know that your heart can heal, that confidence allows you to be willing to risk that pain again and to continue to grow. You fear the pain less and recognize the opportunities more.
Personally, I can be grateful for that and much, much more. Kirtan and chanting have not only healed my heart, but have given me a whole new life. And I have had the opportunity to meet many others with similar experiences of healing themselves and their hearts with chanting. The name of God on your lips and the vibration of His chants in your heart can create a miracle: your heart can be reforged!
Image of Anduril courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Xander89.