Mantra, from the Sanskrit root meaning ‘to think’. Mantra therefore obviously involves directing your thoughts to a certain realisation or recognition of an aspect of reality.
Most mantras are hard to translate directly into English as they point you into an experience, so remember that ‘it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it’ that is important.
When chanting, try to be as honest and open as you can and be creative about ways in which you personally might engage with the ‘feel’ of words.
Aum shanti, is a brilliant mantra to start with and it goes to work straight away on warming the heart centre. Aum can be pronounced in different ways but why not try by shaping the first out breath with the individual sounds of a, u and m. The Sanskrit word aum has many meanings it is used to exalt phrases that follow it and is associated with feeling connected to all life. Shanti is associated with peace and so the mantra can mean ‘everything to peace’ as an affirmation or as a realisation.
To practice, sit comfortably on a cushion on the floor or on a chair with the spine comfortable lifted. Take a deep breath in, then as you breathe out say the three sounds of a-u-m, letting go from the back of your body as you do. Keep the body relaxed then take another deep in breath and release the word shanti, exaggerating five parts sharrr……..nnnnn…………….tttttt……..hhhh…. eeeeeeee……….on one long out breathe..
Don’t worry too much about how it sounds on the outside, simply find a pitch that is comfortable and begin chanting. You are not singing but simply allowing the out breath to be carved into the words. Really listen to the mantra, feeling it in your body and being with it as it comes from the inside to the point where it first meets the air just in front of your mouth. It’s great to recall that at the point that the sound leaves your body and meets the air around you that it is no longer yours, so you can listen with a more detached interest which can be really fun and deeply relaxing.
It’s at this time of year that we need to gather ourselves in; we all have an inner glow so let’s draw close in to it, so that the seasonal chill does not leave us cold on the inside!