I am feeling inspired this morning, and that’s something that has been missing from my writing for a while now.

I woke with a few mild symptoms of a cold. My husband is worse, he stayed in bed and didn’t go for his usual cold water swim and coffee with the Icebergers. I feared I was coming down with his lurgy and so, one by one I reorganised my day to make each activity disappear. Suddenly I found myself with a clear day and then, while sitting quietly reading, some inspiration came.

I began to reflect on the wisdom of my decision to slow down and rest while my body works on clearing the bug from my system. I know it is only as I’ve got older that I’ve understood how best to listen to my body and manage myself to achieve optimum performance. However, that got me thinking about the role of older people in today’s westernised societies. As someone in my mid-sixties I don’t consider myself ‘elderly’, yet that is the term often used to categorise people of my age.  This term suggests older people are not in the main swing of modern life and are not fully able. It paints a picture of people being perhaps a little doddery or decrepit and needing assistance.

Looking back through the ages though, older people used to be considered elders and were sought out for their advice and wisdom. Today’s societies make rapacious demands of people. More and more information needs to be processed in shorter and shorter timeframes by people already struggling under enormous pressure with greater financial demands in busier and busier lives. It seems to me society needs its elders just as much as it ever did. Eldership is something that is not well understood or valued today, yet everyone has wisdom to share, wisdom drawn from lived experiences and intuition that is within us all but often not trusted. The challenge now is for us older people to reject the moniker of elderly and find a way to contribute our wisdom to improve society. To step into our power and reclaim the vital role of eldership.

I believe the starting point is to find a way to bring ourselves to our community. The secret is to share the stories of our life experiences and in doing so help others gain a deeper insight into their own lives and their own potential. What does all this have to do with chanting? Well, I understand that as an elder in my community I have something to offer in my areas of interest and expertise. I now realise that through teaching people to chant I bring my eldership to the world.

When teaching a student to chant the mantras of the Vedas, one of the most important aspects is the relationship that forms. A positive teacher/student relationship is something that is always emphasised as a vital part of the healing process. In a chant lesson whatever is going on for the student tends to bubble up to the surface and the space for sharing arises. Any wisdom I have to offer is informed not only by my lived experience but also by the Vedas.  Students have often said to me how good it feels to share what is happening for them and to have something reflected back which helps them to develop a more peaceful attitude towards their situation.

Chanting is a tool of yoga for health and healing. One of the first things we learn when we begin to chant is that the word mantra means ‘that which protects you’. I chant every day and somehow my life is blessed. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have challenges but rather that I feel I can handle whatever happens without losing my equilibrium.

Chanting helps to relieve any tightness and constriction around the heart caused by our emotions, and it makes us feel lighter.  It is a practice to connect us with our own heart, and helps us to see that the answers to our problems are closer than we think.

Vedic mantras have the potential to reduce our suffering. They give us guidance on how to live our lives.  We are constantly learning that everything we need is within us.  We have all the courage, confidence and clarity within. By developing a practice of chanting the mantras of the Vedas we gradually cleanse ourselves of impurities, clearing away the obstacles that stop us from seeing what we already have inside. A teacher is a vital part of this process.

My job, as a teacher and as an elder, is to hold the space, to encourage and gently guide students towards their own realisation of this holistic understanding. Step by step students learn discernment, how to distinguish right from wrong, to nourish themselves by linking with positive aspects of nature, and how to delink from the negative. These are simply good principles to live by.

I have students who are elders themselves and in becoming teachers of chanting are now sharing their wisdom with grateful students. Chanting nourishes and supports us physically, energetically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – helping us to realise the light we have within ourselves.