Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning. Maya Angelou
Every Sunday we host a mindfulness meditation class at our studio. This is a free class, open to all levels of meditation experience, and is an opportunity for students to discuss their practice uninterrupted and free from judgment. Over the past several weeks we have been discussing the power of the words we speak and the words we think. Understanding that the words coming out of our mouths and the words that resound in our heads have the ability to sway our emotions, so how we talk to ourselves is critical. Self-talk can influence and effect mind and body and what we tell ourselves has the potential to mold and sculpt our consciousness because our minds are malleable.
Eventually, we began discussing the topic of Mantras in class which inspired me to lead a free Mantra session beginning at 2 o'clock following Mindfulness Meditation class every Sunday.
The word Mantra is a Sanskrit word, "man" means mind and "tra" means instrument/tool, so Mantra literally means instrument for the mind. Mantras are practiced in yoga to build focus, concentration, and also to protect the malleable mind from outside influences. Marketing experts estimate that most Americans are exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements each day. Advertising putting mantras of their own into our minds; i.e. that we are not good enough as we are, that we need X product in order to be good enough. What is your daily mantra? What are you listening to? What words are you repeatedly telling yourself? What are you telling the world?
Moving through winter into spring I chose the Mantra Om Asato Maa Sat Gamaya. With the intention of chanting it 108 times for the Spring Equinox. The Full Mantra goes like this:
"Om Asato Maa Sat Gamaya
Tamaso Maa Jyotir-Gamaya
Mrtyor-Maa Amrtam Gamaya
Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti"
Lead me from untruth to truth
Lead me from darkness to light
Keep me not in mortality but lead me towards the world of immortality (self-realization) Om, peace, peace, peace.
Deva Premal, renowned singer of mantras, describes mantras as "energetic sound formulas. Sanskrit carries the essence of the object or quality it describes. It is not descriptive, as is our language – it is the actual sound equivalent of the manifestation. Hence, ananda, chanted repeatedly, will bring one into a state of bliss, because ananda is the essential sound of bliss."
Sanskrit Mantras can be a single syllable, a word, or a collection of words, repeated many times by the practitioner. Some words have meanings, while some mantras are made up of only sounds, called bija sounds, or seed sounds, said to awaken, clear, balanced energy centers within the body. Mantras can be done in any language, but the Mantras that we chant are in Sanskrit – a sacred language of ancient India that is no longer spoken. I chose Sanskrit because it is the oldest known language, constructed by a scholar named Panini, and the most systematic language in the world. Sanskrit means refined/perfected.
Alain Danielou (1907-1994) founded the Institute for Comparative Music Studies in Berlin and Venice, author of several books on the religion, history, and art of India said: “It has an immense vocabulary and a very adaptable grammar so that words can be grouped together to express any nuance of an idea, and verb forms can be found to cover any possibility of tense, such as future intentional in the past, present continuing into the future, and so on. Furthermore, Sanskrit possesses a wealth of abstract nouns, technical and philosophical terms unknown in any other language.”(2)
"Sanskrit is constructed like geometry and follows a rigorous logic. It is theoretically possible to explain the meaning of the words according to the combined sense of the relative letters, syllables, and roots. Sanskrit has no meaning by connotations and consequently does not age. Panini's language is in no way different from that of Hindu scholars conferring in Sanskrit today." (1)
My teacher explained to me that Mantras are like yoga for the inside of your body. When chanting a mantra you feel the vibration of sound throughout your body. Even just listening to others chant creates a physical sensation. I cannot say for sure if chanting mantras creates an altered effect on my body and mind, but I will say that I find myself humming the mantra throughout the rest of my Sunday and into my week. The usual chitter-chatter of the monkey mind is replaced with the words, the sounds, and meanings of the mantra. My inner voice is transformed into a kinder and more compassionate cheerleader. Creating a space of peace that is normally bombarded with to-do lists, insecurities, and planning.
At 2 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon, you'll be asked to be heard. Your voice matters. be empowering to someone who was told their words do not matter or grew up feeling they could not speak their truth. Sometimes we are made to feel we do not have a voice at all or we may not know how to speak for ourselves.
Students have shared with me how at first their voices cracked while chanting and over time how they found they can hold a note longer. I have had students tell me how at first no matter how hard they tried the words wouldn't come out. For some students chanting these mantras is giving them back their voices.
At 2 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon, you'll be asked to be heard. Your voice matters.
Your voice is beautiful and you have something worthwhile to say.
Join us every Sunday @ 2pm reclaim your voice, body and mind. Sources: ( Virtue, Success, Pleasure, Liberation - By Alain Danielou p. 17). ( A Brief History of India - By Alain Danielou p. 57-58)