Many people talk to me about the struggle of overcoming the mind. It’s interesting to note that this often appears to be a unique problem that we each are struggling with much more than other more well-adjusted people. Luckily, that this struggle is unique and separate is only an illusion. The busy chatter of the mind is one of the blessed challenges that we’ve been gifted with overcoming as part of the One Human Condition.
We’re offered many options from different cultures and religion for how to overcome the monkey mind, from devotion to others, keeping too busy in our external worlds to listen to the internal messages, and of course, prayer, yoga, and meditation. Patanjali speaks of using a mantra as a connection to the divine by repeating mantra while seated in meditation and throughout your day. This is called Japa Yoga, and I’ve found it to be very helpful in interrupting negative or repetitive thought patterns.
I’ve found the practice of Japa useful in my life and I’m eager to share it with others as a solution to the constant noise of the mind. First, it’s helpful to chant your chosen mantra out loud while in a meditation – either within a classroom experience or with a CD. This gives you an opportunity to notice the way your body and spirit resonate with the mantra. If the mantra feels good as you chant it, that’s a good hint that you’re on the right track.
To continue the practice of Japa Yoga, begin to train yourself to notice when your thoughts have taken you away from the present moment. When you identify that you’re lost in thought or stuck in a negative thought pattern, begin to chant your mantra — either in your mind, whispered, or out loud. Do this throughout your day — notice when your mind is clouding your connection to the moment and drop a mantra or prayer in place of your thoughts. You should find that stress falls away and begin to experience greater satisfaction as you’re able to pull away your identification with the monkey mind and instead find appreciation in the present moment.
One mantra that’s been chanting me lately is Om Namah Shivaya. I’ve woken with this mantra on my lips many times over the past few weeks, and I feel blessed that it’s seeped into my dreams. This mantra, a blessing to shiva, symbolizes a connection to eternal truth.
Om Namah Shivaya
The Om in the mantra is a powerful seed mantra, one that represents the vibration at the heart of all of reality. Om represents all that was, is, and will be, or the three states of consciousness – waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. When chanting OM, bring your focus on the subtle sound changes present within this seed mantra — the Aaah where the mouth opens and the breath and sound begin to rise, the Oooh which makes up the center of the sound and vibrates right at the heart chakra, and the Mmmm sound which seals the mantra within your subconscious.
Namah is our connection to self. Not the self we usually identify with that’s made up of our ego, physical appearance, and our outward personality. Rather, Namah reminds us of the eternal self that resides beneath the mask and beneath the chaos. The empty self that is perfect, peaceful, and divine. In connecting here, we remind ourselves that we are more than our story.
Shivaya represents Shiva. Although this mantra actually pre-dates Shiva, and originally this syllable meant “auspicious, benign, and friendly.” In chanting Shivaya, we are again reminded of the reality that underlies all realities, and the abyss from which all rises. This is our connection to manifestation – drawing ideas and dreams into reality, and then letting them sink back into the great unknown when we have gleaned what we need.
Allow yourself to sit in this mantra and remember the truth of you and your connection to all beings. Remind yourself that you are always enough in each moment, and that you receive exactly what you need throughout your life.