I have a strange phobia. I dislike being photographed. I’ve never considered this a “problem,” primarily because I grew up in a pre-selfie era, and it wasn’t a common practice to take pictures of yourself – and post them on Facebook – on an hourly basis. If you didn’t wish to be photographed, you simply didn’t step into the frame, so to speak. But now, I have reached a point in my life (as in, now) where being photographed has literally become a requirement.
For example, a few years ago, as I prepared to release my first mantra music CD and launch an Indiegogo campaign to fund the project, and everyone kept asking me for promotional videos, marketing materials, and head shots. To be honest, I knew for a long time that I would eventually have to hire a photographer and a videographer and all that jazz, but I kept putting it off. Why?
Well, we don’t really need to get into why I am so phobic about being photographed, because the point of this blog is to share information on how I am working through it. Let’s just say that it became more and more apparent to me, as I moved closer and closer toward releasing the album and becoming a “visible” presence on the kirtan scene, that I’ve always been one of those people who prefers to remain invisible, stay behind the scenes, and remain quiet and unseen.
It’s not exactly rock-star material, in other words, but I’ve always felt that quiet people have just as much a place in this world as louder ones. Perhaps we quiet people simply feel that it’s safer to be quiet. Perhaps one could say that all inexplicable phobias boil down to that: issues of fear and safety, and that photo-phobia is related to a fear of being seen.
All I know is that whenever someone points a camera at me, part of me flees, checks out, disappears. And the end result is a photograph of a hollow-looking person with a look of discomfort on her face. That’s why on my Facebook, you’ll see more photos of dogs and sunrises than of myself.
“But cute pictures of your dog aren’t going to help promote your music,” my tell-it-like-it-is, big-time manager friend said. “Photographs, professional-quality campaign videos, and promotional material will.”
As he said these words, I felt that familiar feeling of fear collect in my third chakra. Isn’t it funny how, the closer we get to realizing our dreams, the more fearful we can become?
“So why not use this as an opportunity to clear the phobia?” my tell-it-like-it is (in a more loving manner) Kundalini Yoga instructor/goddess friend said. “You know this mantra music album is going to help a lot of people and you need to allow it to get out there.”
I liked her approach much better. That’s what our yoga practice is all about, right? It invites us to see every so-called challenge as an opportunity to evolve, clear old patterns, and heal. My mantra music album isn’t about “me” anyway. It’s about helping others. Why would I let a small phobia continue to stand in the way of that, of fulfilling one’s life purpose?
We decided that the best mantra for me to practice to help clear my “being seen” phobia would be Chattra Chakkra Vartee. This popular and powerful mantra is used to remove fear, anxiety, and phobias, and it helps one experience a state of victory. This mantra, which is also spelled Chatra Chakra, is taken from the last four lines of Guru Gobind Singh’s Jaap Sahib and is also known as a powerful antidote to depression. The complete mantra is:
Chattra Chakkra Vartee,
Chattra Chakkra Bhugatay,
Suyambhav Subhang Sarab Daa Saraab Jugatay.
Sadaa Ang Sangay,
Now, those of you who know me know that I already practice a lot of mantra on a daily basis. Plus, I’ve been in a recording studio most of the summer, which means that on some days I was singing mantras for upwards of eight hours. Sometimes, when I am introduced to a new mantra or kriya, a part of me asks: how are you going to find the time to introduce yet another practice into your life? Even if it’s one that will absolutely help you?
The good news is even just listening to this mantra can change your life. Chattra Chakkra is one of those mantras that Yogi Bhajan encouraged his students to play around the house 24/7. One need not even play the mantra at full volume: just the vibration of the mantra alone, whether it’s audible or not, is going to start the shift the vibration in your environment, and shift all those within. I began to play Chattra Chakkra non-stop, keeping it audible during the day and nearly inaudible at night, while I slept. I began to notice a difference almost immediately.
First of all, my I started to sleep more deeply, and no longer woke up at 3:30 am with that “Oh my gosh, I have so much to do!” panic. As an aside, this mantra is particularly beneficial for insomniacs and children who experience night terrors. I’ve even heard stories of this mantra being particular helpful to empower children who are experiencing bullying at school. This makes my fear-of-being-photgraphed seem lame in comparison, but there’s no sense in comparing one irrational, fear-based thought to another. Because fear is fear, whether we understand its origins or not.
Yogi Bhajan once said: “Chattr Chakkr Vartee is the mantra for the heart center, it gives direct energy to it. When you are sinking, if you know this mantra and can sing it, you can totally recuperate yourself.” And it makes sense that anything that connects you with your heart is going to help abolish phobias and fears.
There are many terrific versions of this mantra available at this time. My personal favorite is the classic version by Kulwant Singh, from his album Healing Sounds of the Ancients, Volume One. Kulwant Singh recorded this track according to Yogi Bhajan’s specifics and it’s excellent for home practice.
I also love Snatam Kaur’s version, from her album Ras, which features the exquisite esraj of Benji Wertheimer. Who can feel fear in the presence of such sublime sound? I can’t imagine a better way to fall asleep.
After listening to this mantra for just a few days, I was finally able to call a photographer and schedule a session. I know that might seem like small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, but it was a big step for someone like me. I’ll keep you posted on how things go. And in the meantime, we’d love to hear about your experiences with this mantra. May all beings benefit from its healing, transformative power. Sat nam!
Mirabai Ceiba’s amazing album Sevati has an absolutely stunning version Chattr Chakkr — and the digital version contains an extended deep relaxation bonus track.
Lee Mirabai Harrington wrote this piece for Spirit Voyage, and we are delighted to let you know that she has since releases a CD of her own! Beyond The Beyond: A Mantra Music Experience is a fun, soulful, eclectic and ultimately transcendent mix of mantra music from the Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh traditions, in styles ranging from gospel to rock, traditional, disco and beyond. Featured artists include C.C. White, Gaura Vani, Drukmo Gyal Dakini, Steve Gorn, Hans Christian, Radharani, Adam Bauer, and Lamas Karma Drodhul and Karma Thendup of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Monastery. Be sure to check it out!
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