- Hum a little while on one note. Where do you feel the vibrations? If you’re like most people, your lips are pressed together, and all the resonance is in your lips, teeth and jaws.
- Now try humming as though you had a raw egg in your mouth, and you didn’t want to break the yolk. Your jaw is slack, your tongue down, and your lips just touching. Most people report that the resonance drops down into the chest and even the belly when they hum this way.
- I usually practice five to ten minutes of body-awareness chanting–generally on the bijas,or “seed-mantra” syllables “MA” or “OM”–as a “warm-up” before mantra meditation. But occasionally, I devote the entire practice period to body awareness through meditation on the chakras.
The Tantric tradition from which this sequence is derived never had a central authority that determined any specific methodologies and so there exist a variety of possibilities within the tradition offering a number of variations on the same practice.
Not wanting to take sides, I have devised my own method, in which I chant each bija for a given time period, with my awareness resting at each chakra on the way up.
I felt free to devise my own method because, for me, chakra meditation is strictly about awareness and intention. I do not know what it means when teachers say that a certain bija “opens” or “activates” its associated chakra–in fact, though I try never to rule anything out, I am generallyskeptical about claims that mantras, mudras, “healing sounds,” or other aids to practice have an empirical effect on us. For me, a bija mantra is a string around my pranic finger, helping me to focus on the area of my body to which it points by dint of association built up by repetition and practice. I suppose it’s almost Pavlovian in a way: just as my dogs know food is coming when they hear me pick up their bowls, my awareness goes straight to my muladhara chakra the moment I begin chanting “lam.”
Here is the version of the chakra bijas that I use: the “a” is pronounced like the “o” in “come,” and the “l” is pronounced with the tip of the tongue on the hard palette:
Muludhara (“root”) Lam
Swadhisthana (sacral) Vam
Manipura (solar plexus) Ram
Anahata (heart) Yam
Vishuddha (throat) Ham
Ajna (brow or “third eye”) Sham (Aum is also common)
Sahasrara (“crown”) Om
Some systems have “Om” on the Ajna chakra and silence on the Sahasrara, but I like to keep chanting right up to the end of the practice. Imagine that you are chanting each bija “into” the associated chakra; see if you can feel the resonating vibrations of your voice in each part of your body. By the time I’m done doing this for half an hour, I feel like all the chakras are lit up and buzzing; it’s wonderfully energizing. This is the one practice I can always do no matter how tired or out of sorts I feel.
Although there is a classical system of Kundalini Yoga that has been standardized and which must be respected, it is also necessary that we stay true to our personal experience and experimentation especially if it is rigorous and put to the test over a substantial amount of time. Rather than have our powers of perception dulled and our awareness lack the conviction of personal experience, mantra shastra is, in the final analysis, a science that is based on research and experimentation. Furthermore, there are exceptions to every rule, so we must learn to learn from our body as much as from our head…At the very least, you will know what works for you.