As usual I am also going to offer something you can do right now to deepen. We often have a tendency to ignore simple practices feeling that to be of real value something needs to have complexity. Yet most mystics are personifications of simplicity offering simple and direct ways of realization.
The following technique if practiced with diligence and devotion will help deepen the awareness of the inner life and help remove our addictive attachment to the thinking mind at least temporarily. Life is much more than thinking. Awareness of the deeper realities of our being can only be really experienced beyond the thinking mind.
One afternoon during our retreat at Lake Doniphan a few friends were walking around the lake talking and enjoying our time together. As we stopped to take in the view there was a moment that captured the stillness and a perfectly reflective mirror image on a beautiful sunny November day. See the above photograph. Pir Shabda Kahn as always with camera at hand captured the image perfectly. Incredibly the stillness seemed to last for some time as we marveled at its beauty. Generally such moments are often transitory yet there are rare times when atmospheric conditions seem to combine in a seemingly miraculous way to produce such a sense of beauty, stillness and clarity. This is why such things make such a strong impression on those who notice.
Also take a look at the photograph below of another equally beautiful day when the wind was working its magic on the water causing it to lose any sense of reflective clarity or stillness. Same lake, different day, different atmospheric conditions.
Mystics often use the image of a mirror or a still pool as a metaphor for the mind. What are the inner and outer conditions that can create stillness in the mind? How can we allow the depths of our mind to reflect the light of the One as clearly and perfectly as the lake in the above photograph? Will it simply happen by accident or are there ways to cultivate a consistent sense of peace and stillness of mind? Are we always to be dependent for our peace of mind on external conditions?
Stilling the waves of the mind at least for a short time is actually a daily necessity. The results are invariably revitalizing, relaxing, and healing.
Many techniques do exist and while most of them are extremely simple it is by no means easy to allow the mind to be free from thought even for an instant. With practice however it can become our reality and something that we make sure we incorporate into our daily lives.
Chanting Om or AUM
Chanting Om was actually one of my main daily spiritual practices for quite a number of years. The first time I was introduced to it I found that it resonated more fully with me than anything else I had ever tried. I have always seen this practice as a back-door method of stilling the mind. My mind was so busy many years ago that I could never get anywhere by trying to tackle directly. It was really frustrating to realise that I had no power with me at that time to control my mind even slightly. People instructed me to concentrate on the gaps between the thoughts. For me there were no gaps! I needed something less directly confrontational but nevertheless effective at stilling the mind.
The cosmic sound Om or AUM is the origin of all other sounds. It symbolizes Brahman or the essential spiritual reality. AUM is ideally chanted in three parts with equal time given to each part. A – U – M.
The three parts contain the whole range of the sounds that can be produced by the human vocal system. There is much written about the meaning of Om and its wider symbolism. For me the real meaning of any sacred sound or mantra is how it resonates within my own being – the meaning is experienced beyond words rather than through words.
Click here for a downloadable MP3 recording of a guided practice using the mantra Om. It will take just over 15 minutes to listen to the whole recording. Add it to your phone or MP3 player.
When chanting sit in a comfortable position with the spine naturally straight but not stiff. Allow the breathing to be free and easy. Don’t strain in any sense. Feel that the body is breathing and you are aware of the breathing process without needing to change it. Follow the breath in this way for a few minutes and simply watch the inner being. The breath will deepen of its own accord. Notice how you feel. Watch the flow of thoughts in the mind. Don’t try to change anything, simply witness the stream of thoughts but be aware that you are watching the thoughts. The thoughts are not you. Feel an underlying awareness beneath and beyond the thoughts.
Part One – Chant AAHH
With the awareness in the abdomen breathe in make the sound AAHH. Choose whatever pitch of sound is the most comfortable. Feel the resonance of the sound in the abdomen as it is intoned. Feel the silent space at the end of the sound. Repeat this twice more.
Part Two – Chant UUUU
With the awareness in the centre of the chest breathe in and make the sound UUUU in the same way. Feel the resonance of the sound in the centre of the chest as it is intoned. Feel the silent space at the end of the sound. Repeat this twice more.
Part Three – Chant MMMM
With the awareness in the head breathe in and make the sound MMMM. Feel the resonance of the sound in the head as it is intoned. Feel the silent space at the end of the sound. Repeat twice more.
Part Four – Chant A-U-M
Now combine the three parts of the whole sound together giving equal time to each syllable. Feel the resonance of the sound in the different parts your body as you intone. Feel the silent space at the end of the sound. Repeat twice more.
Part Five – Stillness in the Silence
Without words feel the sensations in your body as the sound enters the silence. Allow the breath to be easy and relaxed. See if you can feel an underlying sense of spaciousness in the whole being.
If there are still thoughts let them come and go without giving any attention to any thought in particular. Experience any thoughts as being simply subtle forms of energy that are happening within you but which are of no concern to you. Allow yourself to be centred in pure awareness beyond any thoughts.
Take as much time as you have available. To complete the practice, breathe more deeply before you move your body. Open the eyes and make contact with your surroundings. Then move your body, stand up, stretch perhaps and then carry on with the rest of your day.