The lesson came in the first class of the first day of my Vedic Chant Training in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Our teacher was reviewing chants we had studied over the past two years. We were directed to chant them without looking at our chant papers – in other words, we had to chant from memory.
Of course, mistakes were made. And, I realized that every time I heard myself make a mistake, I was thrown off and found it difficult to join back in the chant.
As we finished each chant, our teacher Sonia Nelson asked us what we noticed. I raised my hand and explained that every mistake I made so threw me off I found it difficult to regain my place in the chant.
She related her own experience with mistakes as she was learning. She explained that she had been clear about wanting to learn to chant well. In the process of studying, she came to realize that mistakes were her teachers. The mistakes she made chanting identified for her what she needed to work on and refine to reach her objective.
Her advice to me was priceless. She told me I needed to change my negative associations with mistakes. I needed to replace my old samskaras or habitual way of thinking about mistakes with new, positive samskaras.
When the awareness of a mistake comes up in chanting, she suggested pressing a finger and imagining sending the “mistake,” like a text, to a text box. Later I could return to the text box and work on refining that problem area I had identified. For me, this sounded like a plausible and positive way to deal with mistakes, perhaps even those I might make in other areas of my life.
Rather than getting bogged down with self-criticism when I make a mistake, I can identify it, put it away for the moment so I focus on what is going on in my life at that moment. In a way this becomes an act of acceptance. I made a mistake, but I can still address what needs my attention in the moment, and come back to deal with it thoughtfully and take whatever action is needed.
We are human. We all make mistakes. Looking at our mistakes as opportunities to learn and refine our actions can be so much more helpful and supportive in our lives than self-criticism and negativity.
What do you think? Could this lesson be of help to you?