August 12, 2013

Explore the New: A Lesson in Japa Mantra.

Photo: Patrick Dinkfeld/ Model: Flannery

Week 17: Share My Path Series.

Sometimes we set out on a trail only to find that the trail is not the one we thought it was. The trees may look the same. It may take a dog-leg at a similar spot. The wildflowers may bloom in the filtered sunlight. But, the trail itself is different.

Just because the trail is not our intended one though, is no reason to turn back. In fact it should enliven us; adventure is good for the soul.

In order to fill what may be a natural lull, or even end, in readers sharing their paths through this project, Rachel, a Share My Path participant, suggested that past participants of the project could write short instructional pieces; pieces that readers new to a practice, or even still investigating practices, could use to experiment or explore some of the methods that have been shared over the past sixteen weeks.

The trail changed and I’ve followed.  Thank you Rachel!

So, Week 17 of Share My Path is a lesson, fittingly, brought to us by Rachel: be sure to check out the trail which brought her to a Mantra practice.

Japa Mantra (by Rachel Alina)

Yogi Shanti Desai tells me we are living in Kali Yuga: the furthest point we could possibly be from light.  That we are tucked in to the darkest shadow of a 24,000 year cycle.  That Kali Yuga itself lasts for thousands of years.

Shanti also tells me that mantra is our life boat to make it through.  I believe him; because as crazy as our world is, the equally crazy practice of muttering to myself in a dead language brings me an unshakable sense of security.

Japa Mantra is a very simple meditation practice that involves softly repeating the sounds of a mantra to oneself – mentally or aloud—counting the repetitions of the mantra on mala beads.

Japa means to repeat, or remember. Mantra has many translations: instrument of the mind; sacred sound; a word, formula, or phrase. Mala beads are a string of 108 counting beads, with one contemplation bead.

To practice Japa Mantra all we need to do is pick a mantra, obtain a mala and set aside 10 minutes a day to chant one round of repetitions on our beads.

Chose whichever mantra that feels right to you. As an example, this is a mantra for heart-centered abundance that I am currently chanting, broken down:

Om Gum Shrim Maha Lakshmiyei Swaha

Pron. Ohm Gum Shreem Mah-Ha Lahk-Shmee-Yei Swah-Ha

Definition: Om and Salutations. I invoke the Remover of Obstacles and the Great Feminine Principle of Great Abundance.

Om: Seed* of Unity; also used as a greeting of reverence.

Gum: masculine Seed* of Ganapathi, a benevolent energy that re-orders obstacles in our life to clear a path for our highest good.

Shrim: feminine Seed* of Lakshmi, the source of abundance** in all forms; chanting this seed builds our ability to attract and maintain abundance.

Maha: the direct translation is ‘great’; this sound also invokes heart energy to center the mantra in compassion and love.

Lakshmiyei: Yei is a shakti activating sound; shakti literally translates as “to be able” and represents empowerment, or sacred force.

Chanting Lakshmi-yei activates the energy of Lakshmi within us.

Swaha: an offering up to. The alternate ending to such a mantra is Namaha: bowing down to.

For this mantra: if you are younger than 29, chant Namaha; if you are between the ages of 29-35, chant Swaha; older than 35, it is your choice.

Therefore, the full meaning and purpose of the mantra is:

To reorder our thinking, and therefore our lives, to allow for a heart centered abundance to flow through us for the highest good of all.

*Seed (or Bija) mantras are powerful, one-syllable mantras that have no specific translation.  Bija mantras are experiences of energy in their own right.

**Abundance of health, compassion, inner peace, friendship, financial security, opportunity: Lakshmi refers to the source of all abundance. 

The highest state of abundance is love.” ~

Thomas Ashley-Farrand, ‘Healing Mantras:Using Sound Affirmations for Personal Power, Creativity, and Healing’

Malas can be found in most stores that carry other meditation/yoga books, equipment, and clothing. They can also be found online (I recommend an etsy.com search).

Meditation location is unimportant; the only requirement is that it be a place that works for you.

During practice, sit with a straight spine and relax. Allow tension to release in your body.  Relax your mind.

While chanting, pay attention to the sound of the syllables. The shape of consonants in your mouth; the vowels resonating in your chest, head, and mind. Pay attention to the sound rising from and through you. Let the sound nourish you.  Rest in it; for this brief period of time there is nowhere you need to be and nothing you need to do.

Hold your malas in either hand between your thumb and middle finger.  When you complete a round, rest your thumb on the contemplation bead.This bead is also called meru, or mountain; the contemplation bead holds a ‘mountain’ of stored spiritual energy. If you choose to count further repetitions, reverse direction and go the other way.  We should never cross the contemplation bead; we leave from our meru and return to it always.

Completing one round of 108 repetitions can take anywhere from 5 minutes—25 minutes, depending on the speed of repetitions and length of mantra. Chant as quickly or slowly as you like.

I recommend keeping a meditation journal. Both to track your practice, and to serve as a refuge for thoughts that arise from this place. I keep my practice journal online; please join me in meditation any time. practicejournal.wordpress.com

And remember, practice isn’t perfectit’s practice.

“Do your practice and all is coming.” ~ Sri K. Pattabhi Jois


Share My Path is a journalistic archive of the paths taken by practitioners of meditation . Through community sharing of our paths we’ll help others find theirs. 

Share My Path would love to feature your path! e-mail me.

Follow the project here!

Last week’s installment of Share My Path: The Power of a Practice Explored Together.

The installment that started it all: Your First Time: Sometimes it Hurts.

A random installment: Finding the Time for Meditation.

A list of all previous weeks: Share My Path.


Like elephant meditation on Facebook.


Ed: Bryonie Wise

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