A yogi/ni strives for physical and mental balance. Not just to maintain a sense of inner peace but because it is believed in yoga that mental waves vibrate and radiate out into the subtle atmosphere. Thoughts are considered imperishable because energy can never be destroyed, only transformed. Gulp. Now that’s a daunting thought!
The above photo sits on my bookcase. It's is a photo I took years ago travelling in the Yukon. This image makes me think, "As above, so below" to which I sometimes add, "As on the inside, so on the outside". I look at it often because it reminds me to be calm and inspires a state of serenity I wish I could sustain.
Luckily for me I also have a hypersensitive young child who seems directly plugged into my inner state. She has an uncanny way of knowing what I’m thinking and feeling, and exhibits great talent for mirroring it all back to me. She helps me keep my act clean. Thank God for intimate relationships! They propel us towards growth like nothing else can—even more than those attempts to "get away from it all"!
Our thoughts are dynamic forces. They create our inner life and stimulate resonant experiences in our outer life. We all know this to some degree but this was really driven home once when I was away on a retreat.
Some years ago now, I went to a yoga centre for a five-day retreat in which a high-ranking Tibetan monk chanted mantras many hours a day while we participants laid on the floor, snuggled up in our blankets and cushions. There were occasional drums, horns, and bells punctuating the chanting. I loved it! I surfed in and out of deep states of consciousness, released blockages in my body/mind, and felt both relaxed and elated when it was over.
On the last morning, participants were doing the usual rounds saying their good-byes. I was quiet, not wishing to ruin the state I was in by interacting with others. My mind was immersed in a beautiful state of stillness. As I folded up my mat and put away my blankets, I noticed the monk’s young male assistant across the large room and in that moment an innocent thought leapt forth, “He’s cute!” He immediately turned around, smiled at me, and started walking towards me purposefully. I jumped, turned around, and hightailed it out through the nearest door!
I scurried down the hall, my sense of beautiful stillness completely disturbed. Now I felt like … hmmm… a stew cooking on the stove. (Ok, it’s not a great metaphor but it’s the only one I can come up with!) Feelings, thoughts, and emotions of different densities, weights, and sizes seemed to be cooking at different speeds, floating at different levels, and moving at different rhythms within my body/mind. I was acutely and viscerally aware of a mélange of energies that were usually below my radar. In short, I felt pretty weird.
Without going into the details, the day more or less continued in this manner. This state of hyper-awareness wore off within about 24 hours though and I was back to good ol’ mostly unconscious. It felt much more comfortable.
I’ve had a few similar situations since in retreat settings where the fabric of the moment becomes so tightly woven. It only happens under the energetic wings of an auspicious master teacher. A few "lessons learned" were much less quaint than my cute guy story.
Needless to say, I do not live in that profound state of connection and unity in my regular, daily life. As a householder, a mother, and an employee my days are busy. So is my mind. But those experiences changed me.
Your thoughts, attitudes, and emotions are Shakti.
Shakti means power.
How are you using this power?
What are you doing to yourself?
And what might you be doing unconsciously to those around you?
There are a variety of yogic techniques to shift our mental states including asanas, pranayama, and meditation. And of course, mindfulness techniques derived from the Buddhist traditions are increasingly popular. But mantra is the classic yogic tool to refine the mind.
The mind is based on words, which are based on sound vibrations, that sustain particular images, emotions, and feelings. Mantras tap into beneficial archetypal energies latent within our being and also align ourselves with these same archetypal structures outside of our being. By shifting the prevailing vibratory pattern through the use of mantra we can dissolve or transform negative thinking habits. Japa, mantra repetition, not only reigns in the conscious mind through the use of a mental anchor, mantras also work on the subconscious level as well. While affirmations have become the rage in conjunction with positive psychology, mantras are different. Instead of starting at the level of the conscious and through repetition working an affirmation into the unconscious, mantras are drawn from the deepest levels of Consciousness itself.
So on a practical note:
And take a good look at your life. How might you be sustaining situations through internal negative thought patterns and harmful emotions? Your thoughts are creative, whether you are aware of it or not. Luckily a yoga of sound provides us with methods to make deep and enduring changes in our psyches to promote harmony, both inner and outer.
I have been having great success teaching private sessions virtually. For this month only I will be offering 20% off 20-minute sessions, which are normally $25 dollars. Go to Private Sessions here on my website and enter the coupon code "mantrayoga". Then contact me in the form provided and we'll schedule a session.
I will be part of a summer solstice celebration on Thursday, June 22 hosted by Transition NDG at art space, Meteque. Learn traditional mantras to the Sun to energize an inner sense of radiance and illumination. More details will be up soon on the Events page.
Here are my "musings" on mantra and sound as a transformative path.