Mantra vs Affirmation

Actual Question: “…and then lately at a facility I go to for Meditation, they give us phrases or sentences for what they called “mantras”. My knowledge has led me to believe this is wrongful use of the term and practice. I notice in your meditation last week you used the word “affirmation”, and that makes sense to me. Why are other teachers calling these Mantras? Can you explain the difference?

Answer: Dear XXXX, Without knowing an example, I’ll do my best to explain what a mantra is. First, what is an affirmation? An affirmation is a word or group of words that have a special or ‘positive’ meaning. An example would be: “Let there be peace” or “I open my heart to love”. A guide might ask you to repeat this silently or as a group over and over. Its a nice way of telling yourself something nice! Nothing wrong with that, why not? A mantra has much deeper work and can be create quite a profound change and permanent change in one’s life. Allow me to transfer information from one of my early teachers at the Himalayan Institute.

vibration of mantra

It is not due to the meaning of the words that the mantra has its impact. It is the effect of the sound that helps the mind to become still and eventually go beyond sound, to experience the silence within.
Mantra will naturally move inward through stages, if allowed. It is important to remember this, so as to not unintentionally keep meditation shallow when it is trying to move into deeper peace.
For example, the word shanti means peace or tranquility. The feeling that gradually emerges is more internal and peaceful than is the repetition of the syllables alone. When the syllables drift away, one might then meditate on the feeling of peace itself, which is more subtle. Initially, this feeling might fade quickly, and be resurrected by again remembering the syllables of the mantra.
Gradually, that feeling has fewer breaks or distractions, and becomes a somewhat constant, pervasive awareness.
This eventually leads inward to a deep awareness that is the root of the sound. It somewhat defies description, but as a root of the sound, it is like a soundless sound of the mantra that is resting in silence.

Dealing with thoughts
Mantra can unwisely be used to repress ones thinking process. Mantra should not be used to avoid life and dealing with mental and emotional issues. At meditation time, one can easily get into an inner fight between the mantra and the stream of thoughts. This is not the best thing to do.
Better than fighting, is to allow a period of time for inner reflection or internal dialogue to explore and deal with those thoughts and emotions. Then, it is much easier to remember the mantra as it naturally arises in the stream of the mind.

I sit down, and I observe my whole being listening to the mantra. I do not remember the mantra or repeat the mantra mentally, because then the mind repeats many things. Instead I make my whole being an ear to hear the mantra, and the mantra is coming from everywhere. This will not happen to you immediately in meditation, but when you have attained or accomplished something, then this will happen to you. Then, even if you do not want to do your mantra, it is not possible to avoid it. Even if you decide that you do not want to remember the mantra, it will not be possible. Finally, even the mantra does not exist; only the purpose for which you repeat the mantra is there; you are There. The mantra might still be there, but it exists as an experience that overwhelms your whole being, and is not separate from you.

I look forward to continuing our discussion if you would like to learn more about mantras. Please give a call when you are ready or stop on in. My office hours are Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday 11-4.

(Thank you Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati for your teachings.)

End of Life 5 Lessons

5 Brief Lessons: End of Life

  1. Don’t wait
  2. Truly welcome everything – even that what you resist
  3. Bring your whole self into the experience (de-fragment)
  4. Find peace in rest (remove busy – see whats there)
  5. Cultivate the don’t ‘know mind’

Pranayama Before Meditation

In yogic meditations, one would traditionally perform two types of pranayama (one being a kriya) prior to settling into their meditation practice.

Below is one of them. Perform for a minimum of 5-10 minutes.

Nadi Shodhana ….

……..is one of the most commonly practiced pranayama techniques in yoga. The word “nadi” means “nerve channels”. In fact, in yoga the term nadi is applied to channels associated with the flow of prana (vital life force). According to some ancient texts, there are 72,000 such nadis in a human system. The word “shodhana”  means “cleansing” or “purification”. So the term “nadi shodhana” literally means cleansing of the subtle nervous system.

Level 1

  1. Sit in any comfortable sitting posture with the spine erect, eyes closed and shoulders relaxed.
  2. Make the Vishnu Mudra with the right hand – make a soft fist, lift the thumb and the last two fingers up, keeping the middle two fingers at the base of the thumb. During the practice using this mudra, the thumb is used to close the right nostril whereas the ring finger is used to close the left nostril.
  3. Use the right thumb to close the right nostril. To get started, exhale through the left.
  4. Begin the first round by inhaling through the left nostril.
  5. At the end of inhalation, close the left nostril with ring finger and open the right. Then exhale through right nostril.
  6. Inhale now through the right. At the end of inhalation, close the right nostril with the thumb again and exhale through the left.
  7. This completes one cycle of breathing. Continue for about 15 similar cycles. Make sure to use natural breath in and double or triple the exhale out.

Level 2 (once you are comfortable with Level 1 – the “real” breath format is as follows:

Same as the above, but using a retention of the breath of between the inhale and exhale for a COMFORTABLE 5-20 seconds. You would work your way to longest comfortable retention. You should never have to gasp for breath. As with anything – it becomes second nature and once the process/practice feels natural and not awkward…..the magic of it comes.

Benefits

  1. Long, slow breathing brings in increased supply of fresh oxygen into the system. More oxygen means more pure, oxygenated blood going to every cell of the body. This also means that more of carbon dioxide and toxins are eliminated from the body.
  2. This breath helps calm the nerves which can help with the management of anxiety and stress.
  3. Alternate breathing brings about a balance in the system – balancing the dualities like hot/cold, good/bad, honor/dishonor etc. This also helps balance the two sides of the brain – the analytical and the emotional, thus developing a more balanced personality.

Balancing the breath between the two nostrils implies balancing the Ida and Pingala nadis. When these two nadis are balanced, then the prana (vital energy) can flow through the central channel of energy called “sushumna nadi” thus clearing the passage for the rising of kundalini energy.

Raising Peace

We are happy to announcing Raising Peace program is returning! Read our blog post  from last year………

Since 7am this morning we welcomed 14 ‘homeless’, 21 ‘substance abusers’ 2 ‘runaways’ and 17 ‘normal people’ sad, lost or alone during the holidays. In warmth, song, dance, food, hugs, laughter, and conversation we came together.

Compassion for all ‘creatures’ affirms the sacredness of life. These values are reflected by Grounded by Yoga as we expand our outreach program. Today we kicked off our compassion for people through compassionate food program, “RAISING PEACE”.

If you know anyone who needs a friend, loving food or a warm place to go on December 24th, 25th, 31st or January 1st, please reach out to us. We also may need volunteer homes.

THANK YOU to all begins behind this program and who helped today! Chel, Chad, Suzella, Mark, Vicki and Susan! With everyone’s help, we were able to rotate throughout the day and keep our traditions with our family/friends. Now, THIS is a perfect day……Sandy