Posted by Julie Andres on Saturday, January 4, 2014 Under: svadyaya
Over the past months I have been in solitude much of the time and even though I entered this unanticipated phase kicking and screaming (okay, in child's pose with the occasional sob-fest), it has turned out to be a godsend. I begin each day with pranayama, japa, silent meditation, asana, and studying for my 500-hour certification--this takes me three to four hours each morning before I eat and start work.
Yep, I get up very early.
I also chant, meditate and practice pranayama in the evening for 30 to 40 minutes, just to top things off.
Japa--mantra meditation with a mala of 108-beads--has been nothing short of remarkable for me. The effects crept up on me slowly, over several months, but now each time brings profound gratitude along with a strong connection with something I struggle to describe. Instead of finding a reason not to sit for 20 or 30 minutes, I find myself truly cherishing this time.
Here is how it came to be: Because I had been through a very difficult family and financial crisis, and because yoga opens up the soul big-time, the day before I left the SOYA 11-day intensive in Water Valley at the end of August 2013 I had a shattering meltdown. Mugs, in her sweet, compassionate way, spent a good deal of time with me, talking and sharing. She listened and told me about some of her own struggles. Later she came to me and handed me a scrap of an old envelope with five or six Sanskrit mantras she had written on it. I started that day. I completed a 40-day cycle of four of those mantras and since have completed a second 40-day cycle of one of the other mantras she gave me. Between each of the 40-day cycles I practiced week-long intervals of selected mantras mornings and evenings. Now, every day no matter what, I find myself chanting various mantras--usually two or three--in evening and morning sittings or as I walk.
Right now I am into the home stretch of another 40-day cycle, this time chanting the Gayatri Mantra. I have chanted the Gayatri on and off over the past 3 years, sometimes for many consecutive days. In the beginning it was very challenging--it seemed to take forever--about 45 minutes--and I had a very difficult time staying focused. But gradually, with persistence, things shifted ever so slightly. Then a little more. Each bead of the mala became like a new world to me, or the dawn of a brilliant new day. As I move each stone from left to right with my thumb it brings a fresh opportunity to be in that moment, to steer my wandering mind back without judgment, to receive the wisdom and power that the mantra has to offer, one breath, one bead, at a time.
The Gayatri Mantra originates from a hymn in the Rig Veda and is attributed to the sage Visvamitra. According to a recorded commentary by classical Indian vocalist Pandit Jasraj, the Gayatri encompasses varnana - description, dhyana - meditation, and pradna - prayer. For me it feels more and more prayer-like, more and more as though I am communing with the creator, day by day, bead by bead, word by word.
Rather than including a translation in this post, if there is interest I simply invite you to explore it for yourself. (The first translation I encountered is in Swami Vishnudevananda's book Meditation and Mantras; online, a good source is magicofgayatri.com.)
In the Bhagavad Gita, the Beloved Lord's Secret Love Song, Sri Krishna says that, among the mantras, he is Gayatri. And in a biblical passage St. John of the Cross says that in the end all there is is silence and work. While some think that this sounds bleak, I feel otherwise. Silence and work sums up the beautiful and enriching time I find myself blessed to be immersed in these days.
ॐ भूर्भुवः॒ स्वः ।
भ॒र्गो॑ दे॒वस्य॑ धीमहि। ।
धियो॒ यो नः॑ प्रचो॒दया॑त्॥ ।
In : svadyaya
Tags: yoga niyamas meditation chanting meditation gayatri