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Respects Me When I Work,
and Loves Me When I Sing!
Transcending the Limits of Matter
a vibration of the ‘eternal now’
Way back in time, my godmother was chaperone to my very first rock concert. My life got larger when I saw the Fifth Dimension perform at the Allentown Fairgrounds. Although I recognized the music from radio and piano scores, the implications of the band’s name were lost on me. Decades later the Age of Aquarius would be a phrase that echoed in functional description of career and personal philosophy. At the same time the third dimension would account for the conventions called maya, or physical world.
Somewhere between these dimensions the world’s unexplained phenomena is encountered. A reverent respect for life’s inherent mysteries requires a loosening of perceptual and scientific certainties. These too are conventions of accepted thought which help us to function in the dense realities of matter. Without much effort we can find a poetic link between the things we physically hold and the intangibles that matter to us. Each may weigh us down with unconscious attachment. Much of our effort through yoga practice is to release from unwanted attachment, that matter which no longer assists our growth.
Phrases including higher plane, good vibe and elevated thought are often employed to suggest conscious activity beyond mundane limitations. Few of us would be confused as to their meaning, yet few of us could solidly define them. In seeking extraordinary experience, a mind expanding awareness, if you will, we find an invitation to chant. Like a calendar date for one’s first game of “spin the bottle”, the moment carries intrigue as well as trepidation. Just where will this opening lead?
Although many embrace the pop versions of devotional music in live kirtans and recordings, there are common points of resistance regarding actual practice. The first tends to be, “I don’t sing well enough.” The second follows closely with, “Is it safe to invoke the unknown?”
Considering these issues, where does one start?
First try to sit in a safe space. Allow yourself to experiment with your singing voice in an environment free of criticism and risk. Finding a friend in your own sound can take awhile. A vulnerability is exposed when the spoken voice shifts to song. Once you’re sitting, attempt to tone, which means sustaining a vowel sound in your singing voice. You may notice qualities of strain or strength. It may be that vocal cords are too weak to really embrace a consistent pitch. You may find that one single sound in a raised vibration frees several feelings from internal storage. This process is like the asana of sound; remember how that very first hatha practice felt?
After the voice experiences permission to play, consider a bija mantra. Bija means seed sound and consists of a single syllable. Aum is familiar to most. Sounding the voice in Aum is also effective in calming trepidation. Other bijas relating to different chakras are a good way to continue the exploration. Consider resonating in Gum,
Vam, Lam, Ram, Yam and Ham. If you practice each for several repetitions, you may notice different qualities stirring within your body/ mind connection. An immediate benefit tends to be a stilling of the internal chatter which challenges meditation. Once that stillness permeates, sitting in dhyana feels increasingly welcome.
After you feel comfortable practicing with sound, a longer mantra will find appeal as a tool for specific intentions as well as rhythm and melody. A useful resource for selecting longer mantras is a book called Healing
Mantras by Thomas Ashley-Farrand. This resource is popular for its cultural diversity, spiritual translations, and gentle coaching. In other words, it’s not necessary to open the Hindu pantheon to practice Nada yoga, the yoga of sound. Your own spiritual history may be celebrated in Hebrew, Latin, Japanese, Aramaic, etc...
Personally, I’ve found that a daily practice offers access to guidance and clarity. My intentions, emotions, frustrations and confusion are offered as fire wood for the burning of attachments. In repeated mantra all feelings both conscious and hidden are touched by the vibration of my own singing. This ritual transmutes that symbolic wood into a process of seeing my own dance amidst the abundance of life’s characters and dramas.
The willingness to participate in the resonance of chant enables this frontier of time and space to yield its mask. Our infinite and eternal essence is the place from which authentic love, unconditional and relentless, connects with all creation. Nada yoga is one very intimate route between this dimension and those beyond.
Divine fairgrounds await your personal concert!
in Yoga Living --
January 2007 issue