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Confessions of a Yogi & The Power of Mantra

I’ve been curious about something in my life lately.  I’ve spent the last couple of years studying myself and my habits, supportive ones and self-destructive habits.  As a yoga instructor/educator  a very common theme in my classes is to guide my students into getting rid of those things that are no longer serving them.   If I’m telling my students to try something I think it’s only fair that I am practicing the same thing.

I’ve started paying attention to my first thoughts when I wake up in the morning. And to my  surprise I woke up worrying. I am aware that worrying is a classic symptom of not being present. During my waking hours I am always able to return to present moment awareness if I noticed I have strayed. I also understand that worrying is based on the future. I have studied with Erich Schiffmann many times and he helped me realize that the future never really gets here. It is present moment after present moment.  Why would I wake up in the morning projecting into the future? What has my yoga practice taught me in my daily life so far?  For as long as I have been studying the art of yoga I have never run across any  teacher talking about first thoughts upon waking. Time to heal myself.

Let’s explore the Sanskrit word mantra.  The first syllable, man, means “to think.” The second syllable , tra, is related to the verb root meaning “to protect, guide, or lead.” If we put this together a mantra is a thought that protects or guides. A mantra can be chanted out loud or recited silently. According to some scholars a mantra is more effective when silently repeated, internalizing the reverberation of the word.

So I thought I would give this mantra idea a try. I have used mantra for meditation, with my personal favorite at the time of writing the Soham mantra. I’ve been chanting this mantra for several months during my meditations and it helps to calm my mind. If my mind is immediately busy when I open my eyes in the morning it makes sense to give my mind something to focus on, rather than worrying. To intensify the effect of the mantra I started chanting it when I was falling asleep. That made it readily available for me when I awoke in the morning.

After a week of this experiment I am sold on the use of a mantra! It feels wonderful to begin my day feeling centered and grounded. And every night before I fall asleep I allow a mantra to come into my consciousness. It changes almost nightly and I have found that I don’t have to force a mantra, one is readily available to me. It can be a short sentence or a single word. Reciting it inwardly and then letting go of recitation and allowing the mantra to ride the waves is a calming experience. Try it. You may just find it works for you too.

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