Mantra meditation [japa] gets you in a state of alertness and deep relaxation at the same time—the blood flow to the brain increases while the body relaxes. The repeated chanting of the mantras not only keeps the external chatter at bay but also brings the mind back to the original object of meditation. The vibrations produced by repeated chanting of mantras help in reactivating the chakras [energy centres in our body]. This reactivation paves the way to be in direct communion with your divinity and evokes spiritual forces.
It also results in different levels of activity in the brain and enhances its ability to learn and change.
What to chant
Proper selection of a mantra for meditation is important. Chant a mantra given to you by your guru. If you don't have one, you can chant the bija [seed] mantra, Aum, or Om namah shivay meaning 'I offer my love and bow to the primordial Lord Shiva'. You can also choose the Buddhist mantra, Om mani padme hum, which means 'Behold or the jewel in the lotus' or the ancient Christian mantra, Maranatha meaning 'the Lord is here'. Each mantra has its own vibration frequency. You may select the one, which creates the right vibration for you.
Those who prefer to chant a mantra devoid of religious connotations can chant 'So hum' [meaning I am that]. This is a universal mantra. Its vibrations already form a part of our breath. 'So' is the natural sound produced when we inhale, hum while we exhale. The mantra moves automatically with the sound of inhaling and exhaling and serves as a bridge between the mind, prana and consciousness.
The proper way to chant
Japa is the repetition of mantras. If you do it right, you can derive immense benefits from it.
- Sit in a comfortable posture with your eyes closed. You can also do this meditation sitting on a chair. Do not sit in a reclining position lest you fall asleep.
- Create a sacred space around you.
- Begin by chanting the selected mantra loudly. Then, whisper it. Finally, chant it in your mind. Loud chanting has high sound frequency, which can kill the micro organisms present in the environment. But chanting may gradually be allowed to tend inward to acquire more power. Mantras chanted mentally are the most powerful.
- Allow the mantra to rise rhythmically with whatever speed that comes naturally, slowing down on its own. Slower the speed of recitation, the greater is the power of the mantra.
- While you chant, try to focus your attention on the space between the eye brows or at the heart centre—space between the breasts. Observe and experience the subtle vibrations in the body and the mind.
- While chanting, be aware but remain uninvolved with the meaning of the mantra. It is important to adhere to the right pronunciation of the words and phrases [wrong pronunciations will not have the desired effect].
- Use a rosary of beads to help focus on the mantra repeatedly, though Japa can also be done without it. The advantage of rolling the bead with each repetition is that it helps bring your wandering mind back to the object of meditation—the mantra.
- Chant the mantra for 15 minutes or continue as long as you feel comfortable. For better results, you can even practice Japa twice a day—early in the morning and after the sunset.
How it helps
- Stills the mind, stabilising and clearing it
- Helps combats stress and anxiety
- Lowers blood pressure and cures cardiovascular diseases
- Improves mind focus
- Decreases insomnia
- Increases intelligence
- Provides emotional stability
- Helps improve control your body, mind and the soul
- Leads to deeper spiritual awakening.
Mantra japa is a great way to control your thoughts, to live in the present and commune with a higher power. The resonance of the mantra sound waves enables the mind to experience bliss. This not only helps you address mental, emotional and physical disorders, but also helps you evolve spiritually.
Meditation alters brain functions
Enshrined in the Vedas, is the secret to transform our lives through the development of our buddhi [intellect]—by the repeated meditation of the mantras. The Gayatri mantra emphasises on acquiring subuddhi [good intellect] to lead us on the right path so that we do not go astray. The buddhi, when cultivated through repeated positive thinking and meditation, can lead us to bodhi [the divinity]. On the other hand, Kubuddhi [bad intellect] can put us on a destructive path. So it is the buddhi that can make or mar our lives.
Until recently, it was thought that the brain structure and its functioning cannot be changed but recent scientific experiments conducted by a neuroscientist in collaboration with the Dalai Lama at the University of Wisconsin has thrown up interesting findings.
The experiment was aimed at finding out if it was possible to alter the brain functioning by meditation and repeated physical and mental activity. In the experiment, the brain activity of novices v/s highly practiced Buddhist monks was measured. It was found that the monks, who meditated generated more powerful gamma waves [waves responsible for higher brain processes like perception and consciousness] than the novices.
Repeated thinking, learning and acting can affect our DNA and turn on the genes to produce proteins that can change the structure of neurons to such an extent that they become better communicators.
The stunning discovery has far-reaching implications such as treatment of Alzheimer's and various other brain-related ailments including disorders of cognition.
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