So, when did you last sit down with a book on prayer and find yourself laughing? Oh, all right. I do laugh with books on prayer — but it’s often a bit rueful, as I face yet again the gap between what I hope for and what I sustain. This was different. This book is funny — and worth sharing:
Ana Hernández is someone whose worked crossed my path last autumn when I went to the Music that Makes Community workshop in New York. She is a creator of earworms, and teacher of chant.
Earworm first. I think I have shared this before: Open my Heart. It doesn’t sound like much at first, but trust me — if you listen to it a few times, it will sing itself in your consciousness at the most helpful times.
I love her songs, and they have been a large part of my prayer for the last year — but I confess, the book has made me a bit nervous. The Sacred art of Chant: preparing to practice.
I like chant. I like it contained safe in the walls of Evensong and Compline. I like it sung stunningly by well trained monks. But this book seemed to be asking more of me. I suggests that I might chant. It suggests that I might make it a part of my daily prayer. It suggests that I might make noise in prayer. Silence, yes. Noise? God of all Scariness, give us strength.
Still, you know that I tend to think that what terrifies us is good for us and one of the ways God calls us to grow, so I have persevered. Ana Hernandez makes strong claims for chant:
Chanting with an intention to open our hearts and minds to the presence of God in us helps us to be quiet in the face of mystery and learn how to hear what it has to say to us. Chanting can hep us focus when we’d normally space out, stay calm when we’d normally blow up, raise our energy level when it’s time to go out, lower our energy level when it’s time to go to bed (or vice-versa — you make the call). Chanting is great at helping us fathom how to deal with our emotions so we don’t feel overwhelmed and so we don’t overwhelm others: It helps find and maintain a balanced perspective.
… and I have this nagging hunch that what she is saying might just be true.
So, I wanted to share it — to say ‘sing this. read this. try this with me?’
Even if you find that chant is not your thing, I think this is a book worth reading. She is asking big questions about how we can live more openly with God and one another, and how we can ‘manifest our sweetest selves’. I suspect that only someone who is not always sweet could have stumbled across that goal, and I find that very reassuring.
I’ll give her the last word: Hold my hope. The Schehallion Reel of chanting: