Practicing mantra occasionally, like chanting with a group, is fun and enjoyable. Many, unfortunately, becoming addicted to this form of chanting and neglect their private practice, which seems drab in comparison with no musical accompaniment or extra voices.
But private and personal mantra is really where the process goes deep. This is how we “polish the mirror of the soul”. This is where we learn to culvitate deep glimses into the nature of reality and long gazes into the depth of our souls.
In this blog, I want to share with you 5 supports that can help you sustain a strong and daily practice of mantra in your life. You can use them in the morning, before you set out for work or begin your day; or in the evening, after you return home. Or at both times. Read on …
The first half of my book, The Yoga of Sound, is on theory i.e. the history, science and cosmology of sacred sound unfolding in yogic experience. And it is supported by appropriate “practices” in the four appendixes provided at the end of the book.
The entire second half of the book, however, is entirely devoted to “practice” i.e. on the how-to aspects of using sacred sound in your own spiritual practice. It begins with this beautiful passage from the Katha Upanishad.
The Creator made the senses to flow outward going; they go to the world of matter outside, not to the Spirit within. But those sages who seek immortality turn within and discover their own soul.
If you observe the flow of attention that happens throughout the day, (and I do this all the time, every day), you will find that their is a natural flow outward. Even if we are introverts, (and I am one for sure), the outward pull through the senses is strong and continual.
The yogi (and yogini) is constantly releasing oneself, one’s consciousness that is, from this outward flowing movement and withdrawing into a self-collectedness, a recollection within. We nurture an inward gaze that is constantly adjusting itself to the inner reality.
This “innner reality” is often clouded over by thoughts or images or feelings. So just because we withdraw from the outward flow of the senses does not mean we automatically tap an inner spiritual reality.
The essence of self, what is known as the “Self” in Yoga, is “colored” by all sorts of content, phenomena and interpretations. These colors need to subside into the colorless essence of Self and for this patience is required. And this is what Yoga is truly about.
Patanjali tells us in his early sutras that Yoga is about controlling this flux of conscious mental content (citta), the “mind stuff”. Why? So that the Self, a vital aspect of our own deep nature, can be revealed. But it, the Self, is usually mixed into all the mind stuff so it remains undetected.
The 5 Supports for Your Mantra Practice
The first recommendation I make in the prelude to the second section of my book, The Yoga of Sound, is “time of the day”. If you can time your practice at dawn and at dusk, you will find yourself naturally drawn into the nature of the essential Self.
But you cannot take this for granted. This is why the practice of mantra can help greatly. Even Patanjali speaks loud and clear about the power of the OM repeated with the conscious intent being a sure way to the realization of Self that is the goal of Yoga.
My second recommendation in this section, which is on “Preparation and Mantra Shastra”, is to commit to a set number of repetitions of a mantra or a set number of minutes that you say the mantra. Once you commit to a number, adhere to it lovingly. This commitment to a specific number prevents your mind from wandering or guessing.
Third, is your environment. Make sure it is clean and that you are also clean. And being clean also means being tidy. It is ideal to bathe or shower before our practice. This external cleanliness (and tidyness) facilitates an internal cleanliness (and orderlineness in the mind). Of course, the content in our mind need not be “clean” but every prop helps and this one sure does.
Fourth, harmonize yourself with your environment. In other words, do not resist what is going on in your environment. If you hear the sound of traffic, accept it. If you neighbor is moving his lawn, accept it. If there is pulsating music from your teenager’s room, accept it. If there is dog barking, accept it. This acceptance is key to going deep.
Fifth, there is diet. Even if you are not adhering to a clean diet during the day, at the very least, do not eat junk food or anything that will affect your consciousness negatively just before your practice. Like, do not eat a bag of chips or french fries and then sit to practice. If you are a hungry, eat some fruit or drink some coconut water.
Often, we may be committed to a personal practice but find ourselves worn thin by it. When you use the supports just mentioned, you will discover exactly how much your practice is actually supported by these props. These are actually more than just props. They are key elements of the methdology of mantra practice that are, in fact, inseparable from it.
Adapted from Part 4 of The Yoga of Sound: Tapping the Hidden Power of Music and Chant from New World Libary.