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Friday, May 27, 2011

The mystic sound of OM

 Friday   5-27-11   8-9am   Meditation based upon The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Taught by sisters Saraswati Andrea Lee and Chitra Jessica Sunshine Klein
Starseed Yoga and Wellness in Montclair, NJ

Class began with breath awareness with the help of a blend of oils called chill out, which contains lavender and chamomile.  Rub the oil in your hands in a circular motion to activate the oil.  Then apply to any area of interest, the third eye, the throat, the heart, or just continue to rub the oil in your hands.  Now open the palms and hold in front of your nose and just breathe.  Take three slow and even breaths through the nose and let the oils help relax you.  Welcome to meditation.  Take note of your posture now as we check into the alignment.  Ground the sits bones down into the earth as your side body rises up to the heaven.  Root down to rise up.  Check to feel your ears directly above the shoulders, and shoulders directly above hips. 
3 OM's and Hari OM call and response chant.

Patanjali Yoga Sutra 1.27  The expression of Ishwara is the mystic sound OM.

In the Sanskrit language there is no word in the dictionary that reads OM.  It is rather known as pranavah, or the humming of prana.  You can hear it all throughout nature like in the roar of a fire, the deep rumble of the ocean, or the ground-shaking rush of a tornado's winds.  You can also hear the hum of OM within the body as well.  Tune in to hear the mantra inside, then lock onto the frequency and listen to it. Pranavah is hard to pronunciate so we use the term AUM/OM.  In Sankskrit word when "A" is followed by an "U", the two letters combine to make an "O" sound, so both spellings are correct and acceptable.  Below is a chart of each letter and its representation. 

A                                                              U                                                      M
creation                                                    evolution                                           dissolution
sound formed as you open mouth               sound rolls forward                            sound comes as lips seal
outer consciousness                                  inner consciousness                         super consciousness
waking state                                              dreaming state                                 deep dreamless sleep

Beyond these three states is a fourth state, the Absolute, the silence that transcends all limitations.  Chanting OM envokes Ishwara - the Supreme Purusha, God, unaffected by afflictions, karmas, or desires; the omniscient teacher of all teachers.  We have previously discussed the idea of Purusha and Prakriti, the principle that there is an identical Purusha within all of us.  So through meditation we join our individual consciousness (Purusha) with the Supreme consciousness (Supreme Purusha).  It is through meditation that we feel this connection, this bliss.   As the source of all mantras, OM is found in most but not all mantras for meditation.  Some examples:  OM Shanti, Hari OM, OM Namah Sivaya, OM Mani Padme Hum.

"We should understand that OM was not invented by anybody.  Some people didn't come together, hold nominations, take a vote, and the majority decided, "All right, let God have the name OM."  No.  He Himself manifested as OM.  Any seeker who really wants to see God face to face will ultimately see Him as OM.  That is why it transcends all geographical, political, or theological limitations.  It doesn't belong to one country or one religion; it belongs to the entire universe."  - H.H. Sri Swami Satchidananda

In Yogic philosophy the Self is understood to be covered in layers, formally known as koshas. There are five koshas including the outermost layer which is the flesh and skin which we can discern with the naked eye, as well as four others that are composed of prana, and the energies of the mind, intellect and bliss. Underneath the most visible kosha (flesh and bones) is the pranamaya kosha. Prana, as we’ve discussed, is vital energy that permeates the body and it is the energy related to breathing. The pranamaya kosha is also very important for healing. Efforts to heal ourselves are much better absorbed when the pranamaya kosha is active.

The pranamaya kosha can be activated through the various practices of pranayama, or breath control, as well as through postural sequences that are focused on the movement of the breath. Today we will be practicing Deergha Swaasam Pranayama, one of the fundamental breathing techniques, also known as three-part breathing. Let’s begin first by closing the eyes and tuning into the current flow of energy in the body. Breath normally without any focus on controlling or restraining the breath. Just allow the oxygen to flow in through the nostrils and exit through the nostrils. After a few more rounds open your eyes and think about what parts of your body were being used most while you were tuned into the breath. Where did you feel the the oxygen flowing most notably?

So often when we are not tuned into the breath we breathe in our upper chest alone. This way of breathing is typical for many but it doesn’t make the most use of the prana in our bodies nor does it work effectively to draw out stale prana and breathe in fresh prana. That is where Deergha Swaasam Pranayama comes in. During this pranayama exercise we will be directing our breath and prana into the belly and up through the chest and out through the nostrils. Instead of stopping at the lungs we will draw the prana deeper into the abdomen, allowing the belly to expand upon inhale and contract upon exhale.

To begin sit in a comfortable position with the back erect and the shoulders down away from the ears. Place one hand on the abdomen and the other on the upper chest. Take a few normal inhalations and exhalations feeling where and how the breath lifts up your palms as your breathe. At first you may feel movement predominantly in the upper chest. I will guide you as we move into deep belly breathing and into the three-part breath.

Begin to inhale deeply through the nose. On each inhale, fill the abdomen with your breath. Expand the belly with air like a balloon and feel the slight pressure on your palm. On your exhale, expel all the air out from the abdomen through your nose. Draw the navel back towards your spine to make sure that the abdomen is empty of oxygen. Repeat for four rounds. On your next inhale, fill the abdomen up with oxygen as before. When the abdomen is full, draw in a little more breath and let that oxygen fill up into the rib cage. On the exhale, let the oxygen go first from the rib cage, and second from the abdomen. Repeat this for three more rounds. On your next inhale, fill the abdomen and rib cage up with oxygen. Then draw in just a little more oxygen and let it fill the upper chest up to the collarbone, and feel the upper chest rise. On your exhale, let the breath go first from the upper chest, then from the rib cage, and lastly from the abdomen, drawing the navel back towards the spine. Return breathing to normal.

Mantra Meditation - All objects are vibrating and creating sound.  Mantras are heard realities that are sound syllables representing aspects of the Divine.  They were heard in meditation many thousands of years ago by sages.  Chanting a mantra connects us to the subtle vibratory essence of things presented as sounds that can be repeated.  Sounds have to power to soothe or agitate us.  Mantras are sounds that calm and strengthen the mind.  It brings us to a peaceful, clear, and one-pointed state of mind.  The vibratory power of the mantra enhances the experience of the meditation.  All mantras remove obstacles and bring the energy up.  One final note, chanting is not singing.  It is rather emphatic speaking with a natural voice, anyone can do it!

For today's practice we will utilize the OM Namah Sivaya mantra in three ways.  First I will begin and repeat the mantra three times so you can hear it.  You can join in when you feel comfortable and we will to continue to repeat the mantra together.  The second way is using only lip movements and we will repeat the mantra this way for several rounds.  Feel free to glance at the hand-out to follow the words.  The final and third way we can use this mantra is by listening for it internally.  If you forget the words you can simply repeat OM on each exhale.  So the three ways of using a mantra for meditation are repeating it 1) out loud, 2) with lip movement, and 3) silently, listen for it internally.

OM Namah Sivaya Gurave                                         The Guru is Auspiciousness
Satchidaananda Moorthaye                                         Embodiment of Truth, Knowledge, Bliss
Nishprapanchaaya Shaantaaya                                    Salutations to the One who is beyond the worlds
Niraalambaaya Tejase                                                 Peaceful, Independent, and Radiant.

 The practice of the OM mantra gives voice to something that is typically impossible to put into words -- the depth and beauty of consciousness. In the Dhyana Bindu Upanishads it reads:
“Let OM be the bow, the mind the arrow, and Higher Consciousness the target. Those who want enlightenment should reflect on the sound and the meaning of OM. When the arrow is released from the bow it goes straight to the target.”
I wish you strength and courage in aligning your bow and arrow of peace with the target of liberation.

Closing Peace Chants
Asaato Maa Sad Gamaya
Tamaso Maa Jyotir Gamaya
Mrityor Maa Amritam Gamaya
Lead us from unreal to Real.
Lead us from darkness to the Light.
Lead us from the fear of death to the knowledge of Immortality.
OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti!
Lokaah Samastaah Sukhino Bhavantu
May the entire universe be filled with Peace and Joy, Love and Light.

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