From chapter “VITAMIN M”
M is the supreme consonant. Humming “M” is the antidote to anxiety. M is the sound of yourself. M draws you inward to the point of inner peace. M is the opposite of ego. Humming is especially useful if you are “shamed” about your voice and find singing or chanting challenging to try. Internationally renowned sound healers Jonathan and Andi Goldman have recently written an entire book on humming: The Humming Effect, in which they explore the science behind the many spiritual and therapeutic effects of this self-administered therapy. Ritually, the sound of humming, MMMM is found at the end of OM, AMEN, and many of the other sacred seed syllables (see Vitamin V - vowels). We even make a humming sound when we make a discovery or find ourselves in agreement with another’s statement. It is a life-affirming sound.
Mantra is a Sanskrit word which means: “that which protects and purifies the mind”. It can be more simply translated as: “man” = mind and “tra” = tool. Mind is intended in the broadest sense of thoughts, and the emotions associated with them.
The sacred sound of the mantra contains “seeds” (bija syllables in Sanskrit - see Vitamin V: Vowels). These syllables, when repeated, take seed in the mind and act as a catalyst for change.
Mantras can be vocal or mental. Whereas chanting eventually requires vocal engagement, a mantra is designed to work internally as much as externally. When done inwardly, with just the mind, no note or tone is necessary, just a steady rhythm. This is a useful practice to cultivate as it can be called upon at any time and in any situation to gain calm, balance, and objectivity, especially if our thoughts and emotions are running away with us.
Mantra can be described as sound forms of the consciousness--or divine if you prefer that term. All the major wisdom traditions speak of this. They teach that the power of mantra, if used regularly over time, will take you into clarity and awareness, wholeness, or holistic resonance. Mantra is sometimes accompanied by the use of a mala, a circle of 108 beads with an extra guru bead which is often offset and larger than the rest. This is so the fingers can find it when eyes are closed reciting the mantra. Some malas have a different shaped bead every 27th bead as a guide to where you are in the cycle. A mantra is said for each bead. Fingering the beads while chanting a mantra, either silently or vocally, helps to keep a steady rhythm and thus control and slow breathing.
When we realize the power that sound has in the universe, then it follows that this practice is a wonderful tool for healing when unleashed with intent into our consciousness.
Although we are probably most familiar with Sanskrit mantras, sacred words exist in many languages: Hebrew, Arabic, and other languages. Your own name is a wonderful mantra (see Vitamin N).
Using mantra takes us from the outside world, to our inner awareness and deep into the subtle layers of the mind. When we engage with our inner world, far from contracting, we can experience a vast openness and clarity. Our perception has far more room in this great inner space, than in the thought clogged thoroughfares of our external consciousness in daily life.
WAYS TO TAKE VITAMIN M
When you decide to spend time working with a mantra, preparation will bring great reward.
Take time to go into a quiet place where you will not be disturbed and there is not background noise. If you want to be vocal and chant, you need free airways, so standing is ideal, or sitting with erect spine to allow the abdomen to expand. Center yourself by taking some long, slow breaths and exhaling fully. Think about your intention. What do you hope to achieve?
Before making any vocal sound, focus on the sound you wish to produce. It might be spoken, chanted on one note, or it may be a more complex mantra with a tune. Hear it inside you. Allow the intent to fill you, pushing away outside interference.
Starting chanting silently. When you are ready, after thirty seconds or so, you may begin to vocalize the mantra. When you have finished, diminish the mantra to internal. Finally, release the chant, rest, and maintain silence for at least a minute. It is preferable to spend double the time in silence at the end than you did in the beginning. When working with vibration and sound, much of the healing takes place once the resonance has died away and the effect is internalized (Vitamin S, silence). This is also true of tuning forks (see Vitamin F).
Which mantra to choose? We have already met one of the major and most popular mantras, Om Mani Padme Hum under Vitamin C, chanting. If you have found some proficiency in working with breath (vitamin B) and toning on a single note for chakra tuning (vitamin C), you may feel it is time to intake some of the more complex mantras.
A mantra is a much more complex concept than a mere chant because it is a tool to unite sound, body, mind and soul in a deeply philosophical or spiritual experience.
There are a great many to choose from. Below I have picked three mantras which are among my favorites and hold powerful transformational possibilities. In your preparation you could choose to dedicate your mantra to a situation in the world. Never think you are too small to make a difference. You are far more powerful than you think.