By Mugs McConnell, E-RYT500, Yoga Teacher Trainer for SOYA
This July there will be a terrific series of mantra workshops in Red Deer and Calgary with Bill Barry from Shelburne, Massachusetts. Bill (Bharata) studied mantra for many years with Namadeva Acharya (Thomas Ashley-Farrand). I love repeating mantras every day. I have worked with mantras since I lived in the ashram 36 years ago and find them as much a part of my life as brushing my teeth. It was Namadeva who introduced me to the therapeutic use of mantras when I started taking workshops with him years ago.
“Man” relates to manas or the mind, and “tra” means to protect. Mantra means “to protect you from your own mind”. Manas is the thinking part of our mind and unless we rein it in and direct it, it will think and think and think an endless number of thoughts. Some thoughts are defeating, distracting, and deceptive while some are loving, harmonious and peaceful. Mantra helps us to establish a discipline of ensuring we enjoy some loving energy in our mind every day.
All matter consists of vibrations that can heal or destroy, cause sorrow or joy. Vibrations from singers can break glass. Vibrations from earthquakes cause buildings to crumble. Vibrations from sacred mantras can affect the mind, emotions and our health.
We can feel the energy when someone is in a bad mood and they come into a room of people. Everyone gets the “vibe”. Equally, when someone is overflowing with joyfulness it is uplifting and infectious.
The science of cymatics shows us how sound vibrations can now be visualized. It is useful for scientific purposes such as analyzing various dolphin calls, but it is also able to reveal the beautiful, transformational patterns that ancient mantras create when their vibrations pass through water. Beautiful patterns emerge, and as the music changes the water responds. Evan Grant, a cymatologist, says, “Sound does have form and we have seen that it can affect matter and cause form within matter.”
Evan introduced cymatics to the public on Ted Talks. His photography demonstrates how sound vibrations create amazing patterns in sand and water. Music played by Beethoven and Pink Floyd created different patterns with their sound vibrations. Deva Premal and Miten sang the sacred Gayatri mantra and Evan Grant transformed it into moving art with cymatology.
It isn’t too hard to understand if we imagine a bucket of water on a wood deck and we start stomping our feet and jumping up and down. The water in that bucket will dance and jiggle from our vibrations as we stomp. Equally so, water jiggles in a much more subtle way from our mantra vibrations.
With this in mind, I started a yogic practice of having a copper vessel of water on my meditation altar. Copper is considered a very pure metal and a great transmitter of energy, just as copper wire transmits electricity throughout our houses. During meditation and chanting the vibrations from the mantras are vibrating through the water in the copper vessel. After meditation I take a sip of the holy water that is now filled with the vibrations of my mantras.
Ok, so sounds and mantras create vibrations.
Mantras are great tools for moving beyond our busy monkey-mind of mundane thought vibrations that distract us, such as “I wonder where I put my car keys?” or “What will I eat for lunch?” Dr. Bruce Davis says we have about 50,000 -70,000 thoughts a day and “the constant mental traffic prevents us from seeing clearly, listening deeply, and feeling our well of being.” Most of these thoughts are unimportant and/or negative and it takes effort to change them or thin them out. So how does mantra repetition help?
When I try to meditate after a busy day with a mind full of thoughts it is really difficult to find that quiet mind. Taking up the mala beads and repeating a mantra 108 times is like sweeping out all those thoughts and by the end of 108 repetitions there is only one remaining thought – the mantra. The resonating silence following the 108 repetitions becomes a peaceful, sacred space where clarity reveals itself and Divine Will is finally able to be heard. Mantra repetition has the ability to replace our thought vibrations from mundane nonsense to positive peacefulness. It creates space between the thoughts where there is stillness, nothing, and this is incredibly powerful. In that space is where epiphanies are received. In that space we can find clarity. In that space many answers can appear on how to solve life’s burning questions and concerns.
So how do we choose a mantra? It is good to note here that some traditions have you choose one mantra to be initiated in and you use it for many years or even for life. This can be a good practice because as soon as you utter those words the mind knows it is time for meditation and there it goes. Peace arrives quickly as the thoughts are replaced with the familiar mantra.
There is another practice of using various mantras for specific needs and purposes in life. This is what Namadeva Acharya taught. For example, say you have run into some financial difficulty and want to choose some mantras to direct your energy towards remedying this situation. One mantra for wealth and prosperity can help, but to approach the problem from several directions you “stack” a few mantras for extra power and oomph! Remember, everything is and comes from the ONE Creator or source of all. Therefore, when we use a mantra directed towards Ganesha or Lakshmi or Siva, we are addressing and awakening these great qualities within ourselves. The gods and goddesses merely represent these qualities in name and form to help us recognize them within ourselves. There are hundreds or even thousands of mantras for all kinds of life situations.
Creating a stack of mantras is fairly easy. You might want to start with a mantra to Ganesha to remove any obstacles on the path to prosperity – Om Gum Ganapatayei Namah.
Then choose a mantra of seed sounds to attune to God’s treasurer – Ha Sa Ka La E I La Hreem, Ha Sa Ka La E I La Hreem (you say it twice).
Then you choose a mantra to Lakshmi, the Divine Mother who is the bountiful provider – Om Sri Maha Lakshmiyei Namaha.
Finally, you choose a mantra for all pervading peace to reduce your stress as you go through the financial challenges – Om shanti Om.
Using your mala beads you repeat each mantra 108 times. Hold the string of beads in your right hand, over the middle finger. The index finger does not touch the beads. Starting at the meru or prominent bead, pull the beads towards you, one by one, between your thumb and middle finger. Each time you repeat your mantra you pull a bead towards you. One bead is pulled per mantra repetition. When the mind begins to wander, bring it back to the beads and your mantra. When you get back to the meru, turn the mala around and go the other direction to repeat the next mantra.
To get the full effect of the mantras they should be repeated at least once every day for 40 days without missing a day. If you go to bed and fall asleep without saying your mantras that day you have to start the 40 days all over again. After 40 days you can’t imagine a day without mantra so you will likely keep going with the same mantras or choose a new “stack” to tackle the next challenge life hands you.
If you are interested to learn more about mantra join us July 14 1:15-4:15pm with Bill Barry at Harmony Yoga Studio, 3160-118 Ave SE Calgary, Suite #200. The cost is $42 and the topic is “Treasures within the Yogi”. Contact Helen at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 403-809-1402
-Bill Barry (Bharata) at www.mantravijaya.com
-Namadeva Acharya mantra teacher training manual and www.sanskritmantra.com
-To learn more about cymatics visit www.evangrant.com
-To view Evan Grant on Ted Talks visit http://www.ted.com/talks/evan_grant_cymatics#
-To view the cymatics created from Deva Premal and Miten singing the Gayatri mantra visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTjiWYPPe9A
-Dr. Bruce Davis on our abundance of thoughts visit http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-davis-phd/healthy-relationships_b_3307916.html