This gorgeous Mala is available from North Carolina mala crafters Japa Mala Beads.
One of my goals for this year was to start a formal mantra practice. I love chanting mantra and have been doing so since I was given my first mantra in Transcendental Meditation at age 5, but I have never done a formal 40 day practice. Over Thanksgiving I was in Tulsa, OK visiting family and went to one of my very favorite bookstores on the planet, Peace of Mind Bookstore. I have been going to POM since I was 15 and it is an amazing incense-filled, garden of treasure. Every time I go there I stumble upon some incredible books that end up changing my life. This time I found several including Healing Mantras and Mantra Meditation by Thomas Ashley-Farrand.
I think these books are absolute musts for anyone looking to develop a mantra practice. Mantra Meditation comes with a CD and this is what I used to make sure I learned Gayatri Mantra with correct pronunciation. Why is this important? And why a Sanskrit mantra rather than something in my native tongue?
Sanskrit is a very ancient language based on an alphabet with very particular energetic qualities. These mantras are extremely pure and energetically focused on enlightening and tuning the mind to higher frequencies. It is critical that whatever is used as a mantra is absolutely pure because it will be repeated so many times and have a profound effect on the mind. Thomas Ashley-Farrand explains it this way in his book Mantra Meditation:
"Ultimately, when practiced repeatedly, the mantra will result in a subtle change of the state in the organism, where the organism vibrates at a rate in tune with the energy and spiritual state represented by and contained within the mantra."
He goes on to say that:
"For thousands of years, the use of genuine Sanskrit mantras and spiritual formulas has been practiced in order to work in very specific ways to reduce karma and to attune our minds, bodies and spirits to the various invisible energies that exist in the universe. Systematic work with mantras also deepens our breath and automatically increase our ability to concentrate. As the mind becomes clearer, new kinds of perceptual information appear to us as our outer awareness expands. Inner awareness also grows as our karmic struggles are burned away through the repetition of these ancient sacred formulas. We begin to see in new ways, hear in new ways and understand in new ways."So, you can see there are amazing benefits to beginning a mantra practice. It is not only one of the most powerful and transformational forms of meditation, but it is also one of the most accessible for most people. Repeating the mantra silently or aloud while keep count on a Mala (a string of 108 beads...check out these beauties from Japa Mala Beads made just up the road in Asheville, North Carolina) occupies the mind so much that it can be an "easier" way to start meditating when compared to other techniques such as following the breath.
I started my forty day practice with Gayatri Mantra on January 10, 2010 and it has been a really wonderful new dimension of my yoga sadhana (practice). I have not been very strict about always chanting at the same time of day; sometimes I do my 108 repetitions in the morning, sometimes in the evening and occasionally (though this is not traditional) I do them while I am crocheting or needle felting hats. Sounds strange I know, but I can do one repetition per stitch and it is incredibly peaceful and I love that all the good energy from my practice is going into the hats I make for people.
When I practice my mind usually at first runs around like a monkey going through a catalog of all my thoughts of the day or things that have been occupying my mind. As the practice progresses this changes often into images, flashes of insight, words "written on a wall" (of my mind) and a general slowing of my thought process. My breathing becomes slower and deeper and sometimes sensations or colors in my third eye point begin to appear. Often the answer to some question I have been pondering will just "pop" into my mind. Sometimes I will have a sudden insight or "knowing" about something connected to another person or some event in my life, past or present. These are all just some examples of things one can expect to experience during a mantra practice. Everyone's practice will be different and each time we practice things will be different.
The long form of Gayatri Mantra is a longer mantra and it is not necessary to practice with something that long. You can start simply by repeating "Om" or Om Mani Padme Hum (the Jewel is in the Lotus...or "all that we need is inside us." Just start with a simple mantra and be consistent. Do a 40 day practice, or simply repeated it aloud and silently as many times as you can during the day.
Please post comments and questions (or email me). I would love to hear about your mantra practice!
For a little inspiration below is a short clip of me chanting the long form of Gayatri Mantra.
Sat Nam and peace to you all. – Teal