Monday is AUM-day; in search of meditation.
Last week we took a little adventure along the slopes of meditation, as it were, glimpsing some of the stages which will arise in the progress from the material world through to yoga. The inner trek can be every bit as arduous and hazardous as attempting Mt Everest. Practiced along with saadhana exercises such as japa, mananam and the daily self-monitoring of the saadhana chatushtaya we will inevitably be faced with our personal hurdles. All the little 'time bombs' of our personality will bubble to the surface, both during meditation and as we progress in Vedantic study… for those readers who may have, till now, been only following the AUMday posts, now would be a good time retrace your steps and pick up one or two other threads. For example, if you read only on Mondays, you will have missed the 'Workings-day' posts about japa and use of mala.
Certainly, it is possible to gain much from sitting in aasana, working on praana and using japa of OM without at all taking up other researches. If the chanting is being undertaken correctly, however, there will come a point at which it becomes clear there is something within which is beyond the sound itself, even beyond its vibration; and this is where the need for knowledge arises. Conversely, to work on the knowledge-gain alone, without at all undertaking appropriate meditation - well it amounts to little more than 'intellectual gymnastics', as Gurudev was fond of saying.
Okay. OM is our focus now. What to do with it?
Firstly let it be noted that for the purpose we are talking here, you as the sadhaka must be doing the chanting. Use of pre-recorded OM-sessions, of which many are available online, can actually detract from process at this point. As you check out each of the techniques/processes which will now follow, it is imperative that you are sitting only with yourself. Body, Mind and Intellect working together. (There will be a discussion on the use of recordings in due course.) Secondly, for these exercises, do not concern about use of mala. Japa is simply repetition and for this purpose, counting is not of urgency.
Recently we have explored, intellectually, the A,U & M. To chant the OM is to draw a long, deep but unstrained breath, hold it for a fraction at the base of the lung, then on the exhalation, which ought also to be controlled and extensive, allow the sound to flow naturally; first out of the larynx 'aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa' then under the uvula and into the palate 'uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu', then over the lips 'mmmmmmmmmmmmm' and into turiiya '……………………………' as the expelled breath drifts away from one and fresh breath is taken.
Do not force AH, OO, MM (huff)!!! Let the sound be totally natural. The 'a' is more to the 'uh' pronunciation which drifts into 'oo' with little difficulty whilst the 'm' becomes almost nasal.
The mind must be focused fully on ajna - that 'inner eye'. To best engage this, do not close the eyes totally. Allow the lids to fall only three quarters shut. Focus your vision at the junction between them and the nose. If it helps, visualise the 'ॐ ' itself there. It is possible to utilise an actual image to begin this process; looking at the centre of the meditation image to begin the japa, then allowing the eyelids to gently fall as the rhythm takes hold.
That is the key to live chanting. Rhythm… rotational sound… feeling the vibration of each in and out breath. Find your own rhythm. It may, initially, be quite quick. Partially due to inexperience, possibly due to some nervousness or maybe even that the lung is still adjusting to the unfamiliar exercise! Gradually, though, the speed of the cycle will naturally slow and also the sound you produce will deepen. Again don't force and have no expectation. Simply allow 'process'.
Practice this for not more than the established 20 -30 minutes over the next week. It can be quite disorienting if it truly takes hold. Have a care when emerging from such a session. Do not immediately jump and say 'that's that done'! If you can do this, then you have not truly sat in OM. There ought to be a sense of tranquillity and minimal 'mind' action.
Test your commitment to full meditational practice. Adhered to correctly, almost certainly you will experience an 'echo' throughout your day. OM is ever with you. An anchor for your tasks.