Jivamukti Yoga Focus of the Month, December, 2014: Mantra, by Sharon Gannon

IMG_0151-0.PNGThe ancient yogic scriptures declare that God is sound and sound is God: Shabda Brahman. There is nothing but God. God is everything. God is real. God is reality. God is sound. All forms of reality are sound forms—music—their very substance composed of vibration. What we see as material existence, matter, is sound slowed down so that the eyes can see it, the ears can hear it and all the other senses can cognize it. Sound gives birth to matter—in the beginning was the word.

Our minds—through our words, whether spoken out loud or silently—create the reality we live in. Most people are unaware of the powerful force their words unleash upon the world. None of us like living in a world of chaos, conflict, destruction, pollution, disease and despair, yet few of us realize that it is our words that create and maintain such a world. We misuse our words when we use them to deceive, condemn, complain or blame others. Words spoken in anger and despair create a destructive atmosphere.

If we feel bound or limited by our reality, if don’t like what we see, a mantra enables us to change our perception of what is by going beyond what appears as normal to us. The Sanskrit word mantra means to “cross over the mind”: man means “mind,” and tra means “to cross over.” Mantras are magical words with the potency to shift reality, or at least our perception of it, which may well be the same thing. But to utilize this magical potency of mantra to shift our perception of reality, we must acknowledge that mantras are spells, and like all spells, to be effective, they must be uttered with sincere intention and pronounced correctly. Most of us must repeat a mantra many times for the desired effect to manifest. As the alchemists of old used to say with encouragement, “with repetition the magic will be forced to rise.”

One might ask, If God is everything then how come there is so much ugliness and suffering in the world? Think of it this way: Right now the Earth’s environment is being destroyed due to human greed and ignorance. Nature is harmonious with God’s laws. We take naturally occurring, pristine resources and refashion them into all kinds of material things to buy and sell. Money seems to be our God and money is our mantra. Most of the things we manufacture end up as garbage thrown into landfills and the ocean, creating a polluted world and releasing toxicity into our environment. Nearly all of the stuff we have made from the Earth’s basic raw materials we have also altered in such a way that this stuff is unable to break down naturally into components that will biodegrade and re-nourish the environment. The garbage we have made is poisoning our world and causing all kinds of suffering—an indication that we have lost our musical sense and have become out of tune with the Cosmic laws of harmony. God provides the basic raw materials but gives us the option to fashion those materials in accord with the laws of nature or not. In a similar way God gives us voices and a choice to play and sing in His orchestra or one assembled from our own selfish, short-sighted egos. God allows us to choose which words we want to think and say, and our choices will determine the kind of world we live in now and in our future.

It is said in the Bhagavad Gita and in other scriptures that whatever you are thinking of at the time of your death will propel you into your next life. That being said, it is sad to know that many people when they meet death unexpectedly, like in an accident or plane crash say the mantra, “Oh Sh-t!,” unconsciously giving direction to their next incarnation. The great yogi Gandhi was practiced in his recitation of mantra, and when the assassin’s bullet hit him, he remembered to utter “Ram,” which no doubt pointed his soul in a good direction for his journey.

The nature of God is satchidananda—existence (sat), knowledge (chit) and mostly bliss (ananda). God is omniscient and omnipresent, but if you want to know His blissful form—and who wouldn’t?—you must focus on that with every thought or word you say. God is polite and does not interfere with us unless we reach out to Him and ask for His presence to be in our lives. When you want to get someone’s attention, knowing their name is important. It is the same with God: to get God’s attention you must call his name. “Hey you” is not enough. It is better to be specific.

Sanskrit is the spiritual language of refinement. Sanskrit mantras composed of the names of God are particularly potent. Most people unconsciously fill their minds and their world with words that manifest as mundane, destructive forms, ensuring negativity and suffering. The wise work to deconstruct a negative reality through chanting God’s holy names. Sound precedes form. His name (nama) creates his form (rupa). There is no difference between God’s name and God. If you want to dwell in the bhav of the Divine then use the mantras of his holy name to lift your mind from conflict, fear, anger, despair and all ordinary concerns and bring you into the reality of ananda—your true h(om)e.

—Sharon Gannon

Update: 3 weeks since liver transplantation

The two words that come to for me when I consider the past week of my physical and emotional healing process are Pain and Love, respectively. Since last Thursday night and into Friday when I had my 3rd liver biopsy, my internal pain monitor has gone over the top of anything that I’ve experienced in this lifetime to date. By Tuesday, when I had the remains of the staples removed, my pain turned into something worse still.

Meanwhile, my liver enzymes, while not normal, are improving little by little, and the surgeons are content with how the wound looks from the outside, at least.

Tonight I had a last minute CT Scan to try to address where the origin of the pain is coming from, when I could have told them without the CT scan – I HAVE BEEN STABBED! Joking aside, this is actually what it feels like, over and over again every time I breathe or move.

I have been chanting to overcome the pain, and it works. The healing mantra that I have been using is Jai Shri Krishna Sharanam Mama, to be chanted 108 times with my name. I was given this mantra by my teacher, Sharon Gannon, during my Jivamukti teacher training in 2007, however, I had no idea about its depth or importance at that time. Sharon-ji has been educating me about its true meaning, and chanting it on my behalf from New York. She has invited the global satsang to chant and meditate every day on my behalf , and  Jivamukti Yoga in NYC has an altar set up complete with candles and my picture specifically for this purpose. I am beyond grateful for all who aim to participate, for this is not just any mantra. Sharon has explained to me that this is a healing mantra that means total surrender*. It means that all who chant are trusting that I am aligned with the universe, with God–with love itself–that which is boundless and limitless joy. This is the Love I have come to know so clearly this week, best explained by my previous post More on emotions.

The results of the CT Scan are back, and it shows there is fluid buildup on the wound called a hematoma, which is basically a fancy way of saying there is a deep bruise. On top of this, here appears a different fluid on the lungs, and my white cell blood count is up. I await the doctors’ rounds tomorrow when they will decide a course of action.

And with that, sleep. Tomorrow is a new day.
Good night, Good morning.

*In case you are looking for a further breakdown of the sanskrit of the mantra, the Krishna Seva website has explained the mantra as such:

SHRIWhen a Jiva utters this syllable he will achieve blessedness and will also obtain worldly and other worldly benefits.
KRUby pronouncing this syllable one will bring an end to her sins.
SHNAH-This syllable will help her keep the three fold afflictions at a distance.
SHAThis will grant freedom from the cycle of birth and death.
RA This gives an insight into the spiritual sports (lilas) of Bhagwan together with an understanding of the form of Guru.
NAMThis will give birth to firm and unique devotion in the heart of a devotee.
MAThis will encourage deep and ardent love in the devotees for VRAJ and also for the Guru who brightens the knowledge about the form of Divinity.

MAThis will help in obtaining “SAYUJYA” or the intimate union with Shri Hari. Thus the eight letter syllable mantra turns out to be the giver of all accomplishments

This mantra will help keep the three fold afflictions at a distance. These three types of worries are Adhibhautik, Adhyatmika and Adhidaivik, meaning Bodily, Mental, and Spiritual.  The bodily misery comes from thinking it worthless like wheng (cow dung). The mental suffering comes in the form of insult, dishonor etc.,, and the spiritual misery is due to God’s will in delaying the Gracefilled alignment.

Jivamukti Focus of the month, June 2012: Being at Ease with Mantra

The essence of Yoga is to be easeful in body, peaceful in mind, and useful in life.

-Swami Satchidananda

When you meet a spiritually evolved yogi you will see how peaceful they are and how at ease they are with their body and with whatever situation they find themselves in. They are always calm and comfortable. A yogi is at ease with their body and their mind because they don’t identify themselves with their present body or mind; instead, they identify themselves with eternal existence, that which is beyond the confines of time, that which is love itself, boundless and limit-less joy. How does a yogi get to that place?

Yogic practices like mantra, meditation and asana help us to be at ease with the comings and going of life. When we practice asanas or sit and meditate, we let whatever thoughts, feelings and sensations come, and then we let them go; and we replace those thoughts, feelings and sensations with the internal chanting of a mantra and through practice over time, we get a feeling of being at ease with the comings and goings of relative existence. To be comfortable with the temporary transient nature of existence is a sign of someone who has evolved spiritually. Chanting mantra while you are meditating and practicing asana as well as in “everyday life” situations can help you shift your awareness out of a feeling of constriction to a place of expansiveness.

Chanting mantra can work like magic. Magic is when your perception of something shifts. You see something one way and then magically it changes shape and appears as something else, perhaps radically different from what you first thought it was. Mantra can take our perception from mundane reality to celestial, elevated reality, true reality-what is truly real. What is truly real is eternal; mundane, relative reality is not eternal, it comes and goes-some days you’re happy, some days you are sad; some days you’re tired, some days you’re not; your state of mind and your feelings fluctuate, the highs and lows come and go. Life is supposed to have its ups and downs; this is the nature of Nature-of life; its changeful temperament shouldn’t be a problem, you should want each moment to come and go and to let it come and go, but you should have a way not to let yourself get caught in the middle of a ping pong game bouncing back and forth between the highs and lows.

Patanjali tells us that our preferences can be a hindrance to our happiness and to the attainment of Yoga. He refers of our preferences as raga and dvesha. Raga means when you are attached to things and situations that you like, and dvesha is when you are repulsed by things you don’t like and that make you feel uncomfortable. So you are always trying to avoid what you don’t like and hold on to or go after what you do like and that can be very frustrating, because life isn’t always perfect. The weather will change, an accident will happen and you will hurt yourself, the person you are in love with is bound to disappoint you, and say something hurtful one day. What can you do? Well many people, in fact most normal people, opt for the fight or flight syndrome: either attacking or running away when they find themselves upset and in a difficult situation. They react with negative words or thoughts, and run for cover to what they perceive to be the easiest most convenient quick fix, but they most often discover that that quick fix doesn’t satisfy them for very long and soon enough they are uncomfortable and restless and on the move again, looking for happiness and ease outside of themselves. This never works because peace and happiness are inside of us; to look for it outside of ourselves without looking within first will prove disappointing. Chanting mantra is a way to move inside of ourselves to a place of peace and ease, unfettered by the comings and goings of the external environment. Mantras give us a way to cross over a troubled mind.

A simple way to experiment with the potential power of mantra is to silently chant a mantra when you find yourself in a stressful or uncomfortable situation or when someone says something unkind to you. Instead of retaliating with anger, expressing (or thinking) words of ill will or condemnation or pulling away, instead try silently saying, Hare Krishna, Hare Rama, or whatever holy name appeals to you or even the simple words let go. This way you get out of the blame and into the name! Blame and its cousin anger make us into victims, and victims are never happy, at ease or peaceful people. For example, when your boyfriend or girlfriend says or does something hurtful to you, instead of exploding, silently chant your mantra, or go for a walk or a run or a bike ride and chant the mantra. Before long your breathing will take on the rhythm of the mantra and your mind will have become calm. When you have calmed your mind you can then think clearly and begin to contemplate ways to help the person who you felt upset you and in doing so you become useful instead of being used.

As Krishna Das sings, “Yes God is real and I have finally found a way to live in the presence of the Lord and it’s all in the name…Hare Rama Rama Ram Sita Rama Rama Ram…, and it’s all in the name.”
-Sharon Gannon

Using Our Voice

Our voice is one of our most important tools in making lasting, positive change in the world. With our voice we can represent all the beings who go unheard; the trees, animals in the forest, babies that are unable to protect themselves. When speaking truthfully from a place of compassion, it can also be the greatest gift we give to those in our lives.

So often in our society we are taught to shut up and listen, yet we end up hearing the wrong voice and wrong messages; messages that make us feel small and insignificant rather than full of unlimited potential and strength. As a result we become inhibited, questioning whether we have something worthwhile and important to contribute to the world we live in. We may be dishonest in fear of upsetting others, and may even use words to manipulate intentionally or unintentionally to shield us from our own insecurities. Our throat and jaw become tight due to the stress of having an over-active, ungrounded mind.

Yoga is about learning to listen to the inner voice; watching the often turbulent sea of thoughts with our ear to the deep waters of our subconscious. We listen to our breath setting the pace of our movement, and through the steady inhale and exhale we stabilise and quiet the mental fluctuations that preoccupy us with the past or future rather than letting us remain truly present.

Sharon Gannon says we can see how our yoga practice is evolving by listening to the sound of our own voice. When we way what we mean and mean what we say our voice becomes more resonant; grounded. Compassion sweetens the voice, and awareness enables us to take the time that we need to find the appropriate words, enabling us to say less while conveying more.

One way of actively listening to own own voice and how it relates to others is kirtan. The practice of chanting sacred names creates a divine subtle energy; exercising the voice through repetition enables us to drop down into the depths of our tonality as a grounding force. By observing how our voice co-exists and intertwines with others we can connect energetically and feel more unified as a group. Physiologically, moving the jaw and relaxing the whole body through sound and rhythm softens the areas of held tension and releases past experiences that may contribute to blockages throughout the body.

A number of yogis I know dislike chanting and would go so far as to arrive late to class to avoid it; I dare say I can relate. About ten years ago I had my first chanting experience in a yoga class; the teacher had a harmonium and began the class with chanting. I was unaware at the time of the relationship between the practice and the chants, and I didn’t return for a full year. When I did return, however, something in me had shifted, and I felt the connection. From that point on chanting has been an important part of my practice to deepen my knowledge of the yoga sutras and as both a meditative and purifying tool. A wise man once told me the things we have an aversion to are the things we actually need to evolve. Though I wouldn’t like to take this too literally (for those of you who know about my aversion to mayonnaise, don’t expect me to start ingesting any time soon), there is some truth to placing oneself in an uncomfortable circumstance to detach from the (positive and negative) preferences of the mind.

A few years ago when I was pregnant with my son I lost my voice due to some traumatic events experienced at the time, including direct trauma to the throat. It took me months of working with a voice therapist to open this area back up, and through that process I found a new appreciation for the freedom of expression through the voice. How blessed we are to have a voice; may we use it to speak our truth, to live more openly and honestly, to have a positive impact on the world. Svaha!

%d bloggers like this: