Joseph Hakim Anderson

Soul Cartography and the power of chanting

I am gearing up over this long Labor Day weekend for another Soul Cartography class, tentatively starting November 1. One of the big lessons learned from the last class session was the power of chanting together as part of the group's process. I have years of experience leading chant in groups, but I have shied away from introducing that into this class, as part of a general turning-of-the-page on old stories. Soul Cartography, however, reliably teaches that there is no aspect of our life map that is insignificant, no turning of the road that doesn't lend its wisdom to the present.

Guided by that principle, as part of the Road Ahead section of the most recent class, I led an exercise where we chanted together for each participant in turn a set of affirmative words, "virtues" identified by them to help on the journey forward. Mine were:

Patience
Watchfulness
Vision
Playfulness
Peace of mind
Sense of adventure

As we gathered around each person, I played my frame drum and led in a call-and-response chant using the words they had chosen, concluding with "let it be so, let it be so, let it be SO!"

One of the comments afterwards was "why did we wait until the 4th session to do this!?" And that's how it felt to me, too. I'm finding that I enjoy the relaxed, non-ceremonial nature of the work we do together in class. But going forward I think it will be helpful to bring more ritual activity into the picture: just enough to provide a container for the powerful insights and deep realizations that are emerging as people reflect on their lives and draw maps to capture their reflections. I also want, in more explicit ways, to encourage people to engage in practices of this kind for themselves. It's very clear from my own experience that chanting, even in the simplest possible way, really energizes and focuses intention, speaking it to our hearts in ways that get past the surface resistances and fears.

As this new element comes into play I will continue to be guided by a few principles that are becoming clearer with each class session:

  • Each person's imagination and experience are the best sources of deep wisdom and insight about the meaning and purpose of their life journey, in the past and into the future.
  • For bringing forth the true potential of each individual, no externally imposed philosophy, or tradition, or system, or practice can match what comes forth from that potent combination of imagination and experience.
  • We help each other grow by telling our own the truth from a place of deep knowing, and deep letting go.

With these principles in hand, I as instructor can offer my own gifts in freedom, trusting each individual to take in what they need to take in, reinterpret what needs reinterpretation, and discard the clunkers. When I asked each participant in the last class to rank the usefulness of the activities - every single person called out different items at the top and bottom of their lists. That seems like a pretty good indication that there's a good mix of helpful materials for a range of people and their differing ways of taking things in. So in the spirit of offering a diversity of approaches to bring as much benefit as possible to each individual, we'll have more chanting together next time around, as a complement to the other class experiences of drawing, reflecting, and sharing insights.