Have you ever craved peace or freedom from anxiety? Has your day, your life caused you to seek a space and time for meditation or relaxation in the infrared sauna at the studio? Are you wondering why Yoga and meditation are being encouraged, often prescribed by doctors? In this blog we will look at mantras, reference the science behind them and the calming benefits of chanting a sacred text.
Recently I have been seeking a deeper experience with my own practice. My life, just like yours I’m sure, seems to become more and more complicated. We can run from our problems or we can sit in the calming presence of a repeated chant and find a mental peace that passes all understanding. My father passed away a few years ago. I was still teaching school on a 5th and 6th grade campus in Mansfield. I received a call from my mom on a Monday morning during the last week of school. Dad passed away a few hours later. During the next week I planned a funeral, gathered the family, was the main comforter and compass to my sweet mom and played hostess to over 50 people at the gathering that followed the memorial service. My husband and sons traveled back home to Mansfield and I stayed a few more days to get mom settled. I went to a yoga studio in El Paso, rolled out a borrowed mat and settled into the familiar flow of a Hatha practice. The instructor played Deva Premal’s version of the Gayatri Mantra during savasana and I finally cried. Those beautiful words, the repeated mantra and the voice of an angel released something inside of me. I finally had the space and the sacred familiarity of the chant and music to let my emotions rest, heal, accept, mourn….. you get the idea!
Several things changed in my life that day. I said goodbye to my dad and hello to a new-found comfort and joy. I was familiar with the Gayatri Mantra but I was not prepared for how comforting it could be. Why and how does a mantra work? According to an article in the April edition of the magazine Yoga Journal titled “The Magic of Mantra” our brain is able to clear out the clutter and distractions by repeating a chant. The author, Susan Moran, cites several studies that chart the neuroscience behind mantras. Susan writes, “When we are beholden to our discursive mind, we can easily be led down the path to negative head space — further away from our true, relaxed nature.” She goes on to discuss that research shows that the mantra does not have to be ancient or from a specific religion. It can be a word, a phrase or a well know prayer. The key is the repeated chanting which calms down the monkey mind!
When we are beholden to our discursive mind, we can easily be led down the path to negative head space — further away from our true, relaxed nature.
The Sanskrit word mantra means mind and tool. Think about that! You are using a tool of sound and vibration to bring peace and stability to the mind. The Gayatri Mantra is considered to be the oldest and most sacred of the mantras. It can bring healing, clarity and peace of mind. Experts believe that it is not just the words or their meanings. Rather, the healing comes from the vibrational effect on the body and that is one of the many reasons that mantras are repeated over and over. My daily routine is to listen to Deva Premal and her partner Miten sing the Gayatri Mantra. I play this each morning as I prepare for mediation. Their version lasts about 10 minutes, the music is soooooo good and the repeated words help me to greet the day and center my thoughts. I’m sharing my routine only to say that it is a routine and that is the key. Find time, space and a place in your life to use mantras. Find one that speaks to your soul and personal taste. I highly recommend Deval Premal and Miten’s music and I know that Carla will agree. She was fortunate to see them in concert a few years ago.
I am closing this blog with a translation of the Gayatri Mantra. I hope that these ancient words bring you peace and that the light within you guides you in your search for tranquility and meaning.
Om, Bhur Bhuvah Suvaha
Tat Savitur Vareniyam
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi
Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayath
Here is my favorite translation:
Oh Supreme Divine, Thou art the Creator of this Universe, of Earth, Space and Heaven.
We adore your radiant splendor
Thy pure form – the Source of all Creation
We meditate upon The Divine Radiance
Thee we behold
Inspire all our thoughts, guide our soul, open our inner eye, the eye of Wisdom
Grace and Peace,