Although many of us appreciate a good challenge, myself included, it is certainly nice when things happen smoothly and easily. When we are trying to do meditation, we are faced with plenty of challenges aside from the actual exercise we are trying to do. Many meditation exercises present us with many challenges as we try to find a suitable place and time free from distractions, exercise control over the physical body while doing the meditation, and have control over the various factors which can break our meditation. All this before we can even think about trying to ‘meditate’.
At our classes and meditation parties, we teach and practice 3 different exercises which i will explain in this article. This meditation practice is a mantra meditation, so the focus of the practice is the mantra which is being chanted during the meditation. Each meditation practice keeps our senses engaged in doing the meditation. When the senses are engaged, our mind can more easily be directed because the mind and senses will be working together. The mantras used in these meditation are described in the texts of yoga as having a spiritual quality. Spiritual quality means they go beyond the physical effect of relaxing the mind and body, and can nourish and purify us, the tiny spark of spiritual energy who is occupying the body. The mantras have this quality because of their reference to the Supreme Soul who is the origin of both material and spiritual energies, and with whom we, the spirit soul, are ment to have a connection of loving service, or yoga.
This is a very ancient practice based on the yoga system. The practice and philosophy has been passed down through a traceable lineage of spiritual teachers for thousands of years.
Gauranga breathing is a very simple breathing or praynayama meditation. The work Gauranga means “He whose body is more beautiful than molten gold”. Gauranga breathing can be done in any physical position, but we usually practice it sitting down. Also it is normally done with the eyes closed, although this is also not necessary.
When we inhale for the Gauranga breathing we do so slowly, gently,and deeply through the nose. On the outward breath you say the mantra Gauranga, pronouncing it in 4 syllables, ‘Gaur-Ra-An-Ga’, using he full outward breath to say the mantra. On the inward breath you say Gauranga softly in the mind. This helps to keep our attention on the mantra the whole time.
Naturally, the mind will want to wander off. When we notice it doing this, we bring it back to the sound Gauranga. This may happen often as you do the meditation. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you are blowing it! The potency of the meditation is in the sound of the mantra, so even doing the meditation inattentively will still be of benefit. Although we try our best to focus on the mantra we are chanting. You can do Gauranga breathing for any length of time you like. There is no hard and fast rules for doing this meditation.
Japa is a meditation that is done with beads called japa beads or a japa mala. Japa beads normally have either 54 or 108 beads and one head bead. The mantra that we us during japa meditation is called the maha-mantra, or Hare Krishna mantra. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. ‘Hare’ refers the devotional energy of the Supreme. ‘Krishna’ means the all attractive supreme personality. And ‘Rama’ means the giver of spiritual happiness to those who render loving service to Him. This is by far the most famous mantra in the world and it is used by many different people.
Japa is done by saying the full maha-mantra on each bead as you go around the string of beads. As you say the mantra, you roll a bead between your thumb and middle finger engaging your sense of touch. When you have finished saying the maha-mantra on the the current bead, you advance to the next one. The japa practice begins and ends on the head bead. To begin, you touch the head bead and say the mantra Gauranga. Then say the maha-mantra on each bead until you get all the way around to the head bead again. When you get back to the head bead you touch it and say ‘Haribol’. This is called one round. If you want to continue, you turn the beads around so the the last bead you chanted the maha-mantra on will now be the first bead for your next round. (Haribol means sing the spiritual mantras. ‘Hari’ means the thief of everyone’s heart, and ‘bol’ means to sing or chant.)
The purpose of the beads is to help make the practice regular by counting how many times we say the mantra. It is advised to set a minimum number of rounds to do each day and stick to it. This helps our progress with the meditation to be smooth and steady! At the ‘Intro to Mantra Meditation’ classes we give everyone a set of japa beads.
Kirtan is the group ‘call and response’ singing of mantras, usually with music. The person leading the kirtan will sing a mantra while everyone listens, then everyone responds in the same way. Kirtan can be relaxing or very energetic, and can be done with any melody or style of music. It is a fun type of meditation where we can get together with others and at the same time be doing a highly potent meditation practice.
All of the techniques we have discussed are taught and practiced at the different meditation programs we offer. They are always free and open to everyone! Hope to see you soon!