Stilling the mind, falling into silence… this is my favorite style of meditation. Mine… as in that’s the flavor of ice cream that I like best. Are there other flavors… yes, as many as Baskin Robbins… and more. Part of the fun of meditation is exploring different styles. What might feel a bit tedious or too busy for me might be just what you need. To plumb the depths of my inner wisdom requires silence for me. But are we always in the mood or do we have time for that sort of exploration? No. And sometimes silence isn’t what you want… maybe a bit of raucous noise with a group is more what you need to get out of a place your heart and mind is stuck in. So… while we may not get terribly raucous today… we will make some noise.
What is a mantra?
(originally in Hinduism and Buddhism) a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation.
A Vedic hymn or a statement or slogan repeated frequently.
In the 70’s, it was common to think that we needed to voyage to India, find our guru and he would give us our mantra. It seemed like that magic wand, ticket to ride, missing piece of the puzzle to me. Alas, I haven’t voyaged to India YET but I have sat with lovely beings considered gurus by many. And what is my magic mantra?
Back then and still today in some circles, a mantra is considered to be a phrase in Sanskrit. Sanskrit is thought of as the oldest of languages… perhaps sort of the root of all ancient tongues as Latin might be the root of much of our language. Tradition holds that the sounds of the syllables in Sanskirt are powerful and just repeating them creates an energy to help the speaker. Understanding the meaning of the syllables isn’t important to many teachers as is the repetition.
Have any of you sing in kirtan? If any of you have participated in a kirtan- a group chanting event- you will likely have repeated many of these Sanskrit phrases along with the group. The experience is quite other worldly, fun, energizing and refreshing. At some point, depending on the size of the group, we may do more of that. But there are kirtans in Canton… Yoga Central hosts them from time to time.
“I’m not a singer!” Aughh….. 😉
Sometimes chanting is speaking or often the phrases are sung. Before some of you get that deer in the headlights look on your faces, “OH no… she’s going to want me to sing!” just relax and let me talk about your voice for a bit.
Unfortunately, we live in a country that has interesting values. No… not time for a political discussion. I’m referring more to the fact that while at age 5 or so… most people are singers. They’re also artists, dancers, actors… very free little spirits. But soon, somehow, our creative expression gets squashed by the concept of “good enough.” We don’t paint, or dance or sing because we have been convinced that those are skills just given to a rare few. And that my friends, is a lie. We all can sing. We all SHOULD sing and here’s why.
The body is vibrational. Each cell, each organ vibrates at a frequency. Some believe that illness can be helped by supplying the right vibration to a diseases organ. Without going all quantum psychics on you… what is a right vibration? Well for each of us, a truly healing vibration is the natural vibration of your voice. Yours is unique to you, made to help you, keep you healthy and well balanced. So even the act of speaking can be healing to you, especially if you’re saying something affirming about yourself. Beyond that singing and even humming is very healing to your body, mind and spirit. I wish we could all get past the idea that “My voice isn’t good.” Your voice is perfect. You may not use it a lot and aren’t relaxed when you sing. Or you may not have sung in so long that your muscle control over your vocal chords is a bit rusty. But your voice is glorious… please relax and use it.
In chanting and mantras, there is no good or bad. I was a very shy child. I couldn’t sing in front of people most of my life. I didn’t get accepted into choir in school as I was just too nervous to sing out in front of others. Some of you may know that I certainly can sing now. It can from practice, positive experiences and also learning about the solid healing energy that is in each of our voices. So… please my dears, just get over yourselves and open your mouths.
The vibration that you make is good for you and your body. Your vibration adds to our group vibration and creates something quite lovely.
(a little vocal practice) close your eyes and hum.
A friend of mine teaches that basically all these Sanskrit mantras are saying, “Yeah god” and perhaps we don’t have to worry a bit about translation. I like that. A well known and loved chanter and teacher, Krishna Das will often says something to the effect of, don’t worry about the meaning… just sing.
The repetition of one phrase again and again keeps our busy mind occupied.
Om Namah Shivaya- I bow to the wisdom within or I bow to the help of the face of the spirit known as Shiva
Om shanti shanti shanti- om peace peace peace
Just Om by itself is lovely (that’s AUM or Ahhhh Ooooo Mmmmm for some)
Om gam ganapataye namah- Calling on the face of the spirit of Ganesh, who is the remover of obstacles
Lokah samasta sukinoh bhavantu- may all being know peace, good fortune and happiness
Sat Nam- truth is my name, truth is within me
Buddhist chant- Nam myoho renge kyo
The mantra is an homage to the Lotus Sutra which can translate as devoted to the miraculous law of the lotus flower scripture, a basic scripture of Buddhism.
What if I can’t remember these, or I don’t like mumbling in a foreign tongue? I think that each of us can find our best mantra if we need one. Each of us is calmed by different words, or we aspire to build different strengths in ourself. A mantra could be love… peace… breathe. I have a friend who could never get into the idea of the divine. But she deeply loved her dog MacTavish. She came up with Tavvie Love as her mantra because that described a real and deep love in her life.
My magic mantra? It has evolved over years of study and life challenges. My mantra is “I’m okay, you’re okay, we’re okay.” Mystical? Nope. Effective to me? Oh yes.
Go, sit, meditate, chant, stay calm and have fun!!
The two recordings played during class are available for purchase and download on amazon.com
Om Namah Shivaya- Robert Gass, On Wings of Song
Nam myoho renge kyo- Universal Mother, IndiaJiva