Out of loss, into peace with “OM shantih, shantih, shantih”

When we are grieving, our peace is disturbed. Everything that is familiar becomes uprooted and we find ourselves navigating turbulent emotions ranging from sadness, anger to guilt. One of the things we can do for ourselves is to find new ways to anchor ourselves during this challenging time.

One way I’ve found to help me in my time of feeling displaced and ungrounded is setting the intention of peace within. You can do this by this simple invocation. In the yoga tradition, the word shanti means peace. The power is not only in our words, but our intention. If we are mindful in our intention, this can be a powerful way to restore order to the chaos. The teaching of this practice of repeating “OM shantih, shantih, shantih” is multi-layered. The himalayan institute does an amazing way of gracefully explaining it. Below please find an excerpt.

A Simple Invocation of peace.
Suffering is extinguished by taking refuge in transcendental consciousness—this conviction is fundamental to yoga. In the chorus “OM shantih, shantih, shantih,” this principle is embodied by the recitation of the sound OM. But as the Sankhya teachers pointed out, suffering in this world is threefold and woven together into a seamless whole. Therefore the word shantih is recited three times. The first recitation refers to the pain arising from conflicts among forces that are normally beyond the knowledge and influence of beings on this planet, a pain termed in Sanskrit adhidaivika (adhi ‘from the presence of’; daivika ‘divine or supernatural agencies’). Examples that early teachers gave of adhidaivika pains included such natural disasters as droughts, storms, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. But such examples also represent a deeper reality than the one we normally perceive with our senses—a reality in which the forces of nature themselves are struggling for balance and harmony.

The second source of pain is called adhibhautika (bhautika ‘manifested beings of all kinds’). Suffering at this level is the result of painful interactions with others. In addition to interpersonal conflicts, adhibhautika pain includes interactions with animals. War is perhaps the most devastating example of this kind of pain, but unpleasant interactions with family, friends, and co-workers are much more common experiences of it.

Suffering arising from within one’s self is the third type of pain. Physical illness is the most common example. Mental distress brought about by conflicting desires or by lapses in judgment also arises from this plane of experience. The source of suffering here is the most familiar of all, termed adhyatmika pain (atmika ‘related to the self’).

Try incorporating this into your grief “ritual” if you are grieving a loss or feeling imbalance to bring you back to center.

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