Why does a baby’s cry instantly flood a mother’s body with a myriad of hormones? How can a song on the radio stir up powerful emotions? Why does sound itself evoke such primal and deeply felt emotions? What are the other untapped properties of sound as a technology for human healing?
Sound is a vibration that travels through air, water and solids and therefore through the human body. Sound has the capacity to shift biology in a profound and unprecedented way. It is a therapeutic tool to heal the body and mind as well as a technique for unleashing hidden human potential. Sound is a fundamental part of survival for every species because our brains are wired to immediately shift in response to it.
Yet there is a hidden power within sound that was understood by ancient civilizations, and it has only begun to be investigated by modern science. The ancient healing tradition of Ayurveda knew about this hidden power of sound, and it used mantras as a way to concentrate and harness therapeutic sound for healing.
Why Mantras Are Powerful
Mantras are primordial frequencies in nature that, when vocalized or repeated silently, have the capacity to heal and reshape biology.
Mantras are sacred sounds charged with power. The ultimate purpose of the use of mantras is to free the individual of all outer conditioning (familial, social, political, physical, mental, etc.) that limits life.
But the practical side effect of the mastery of mantras is a vibrant mind and resilient body. In fact, in ancient times, mantras were as ubiquitous as electricity is in our life today. They were a common part of everyday life used in everything from healing, agriculture, social ceremonies (birth, marriage, death), to business and war. The ancient household was filled with sound just as our modern homes are filled with electricity.
The healing power of mantras and sound is inextricably woven into Ayurvedic medicine. Mantras are a vehicle for raising individual consciousness while addressing both mental and physical disorders.
Bija mantras in particular, which translate into “seed sounds,” are among the most potent sounds for shifting the body and mind. Bija mantras were a crucial part of the Ayurvedic prescription in helping a patient to balance.
Mantras also once played a fundamental role in the preparation of Ayurvedic medicines. Traditionally, the entire process of preparing herbal medicines was, in fact, inseparable from sound. In order to train to be an Ayurvedic doctor, the student would first live with the teacher and engage in a committed mantra practice meant to enliven the consciousness of the aspiring Ayurvedic physician.
When the teacher deemed the student to be receptive enough to receive the knowledge of Ayurvedic medicine, the student would begin to plant the seeds for the Ayurvedic herbs—chanting a specific mantra for each one.
When the herbs were harvested, again mantra was engaged in the process. These mantras were chanted yet again while the herbs were administered to patients.
Over the last several hundred years, however, as Ayurvedic medicine has become more popular and institutionalized in India, it has been taught in a method akin to Western medicine with the removal of the sound medicine aspect of mantra recitation.
Mantra Is a Hallmark Feature of Prajna Ayurveda
Thanks to my childhood mantra practice, I have inadvertently approached the study of Ayurveda in the traditional way. Because of this early exposure to mantra meditation, its profound influence in Ayurveda was a natural connection for me to make as I shifted my neurology practice toward integrative medicine.
Mantra practice remained at the core of my approach to Ayurveda through my personal practice as well as through my sound medicine prescriptions for my patients. That is why mantra is a hallmark feature of Prajna Ayurveda.
Ironically enough, some modern Ayurvedic physicians focus mainly on physical complaints, dismissing mental, emotional and spiritual complaints as irrelevant. Without the ability to purify, strengthen and equip the mind of the healer with a mantra practice, and without a mantra practice as part of the prescription for patients, the benefits of Ayurveda are not nearly as effective.
Long-standing psychological conditions, in particular, are much more difficult to treat through herbs and diet alone in the absence of a mantra practice. As part of our offering in Prajna Ayurveda, we offer you a mantra meditation in conjunction with your Ayurvedic supplements and dosha guidelines.
Returning to the ancient traditions of sound in Ayurvedic medicine is essential to the efficacy of this discipline. Without it, it is difficult to understand the full nature of the human body and mind or its ultimate goal of attaining access to our higher consciousness, which is the source of all health and wisdom.
To that end, we must turn to the earliest practices of sound within Ayurvedic medicine and explore the ancient technology of mantra meditation. Therefore, I offer you two of the most potent mantra practices from the Vedic tradition as part of your healing journey with Prajna Ayurveda. These are the two mantras that I use every day and also offer to my patients.
According to Ayurvedic philosophy, the human body is composed of five elements—space, air, fire, water and earth. These five elements combine to form three fundamental mind-body types, or doshas, that are present in everyone and throughout the natural world. Mantras have the capacity to change the mind and body through the alteration of the five elements through the chakra system.
Connecting the five elements and the three doshas in the body is an energy system, called the chakras, that relays information to the different organs in the form of vibrational impulses.
In the same way that humans have a physical body, they also have an energy body composed of different vibrating frequencies. Chakras are points of energetic intersections that modify the five elements and directly allow mantras to impact our physical, mental and emotional states.
The pronunciation of the mantra is as follows:
- Hari Om
- Nam Lam
- Mam Vam
- Sim Ram
- Vam Yam
- Yam Ham
- Shiva Om
Begin with chanting the mantra out loud for five minutes daily for three days. Increase it to 10 minutes per day for three days, and then increase the duration again for a total of 15 minutes per day for three days.
Once you have the mantra memorized, chant it silently in your mind for 20 minutes a day and watch your health and mind spontaneously transform into a state of greater balance.
Om Namo Narayani
Om Namo Narayani is a Sanskrit mantra for the universal divine feminine energy. Just because this mantra helps to increase the divine feminine energy does not mean it’s for only women. Remember, everyone has both male and female energy, and success in life requires that both of these energies be balanced.
The reason that I so highly recommend this mantra is because at this time in history, most of us have depleted divine feminine energy, and this is the energy that brings us abundance, health, creativity, intelligence, compassion, and makes our journey in the world more joyful. It is also an energy that’s deficient on the planet as a whole. So, as we do this mantra, we’re helping to not only balance our body, mind, and family, but also the entire planet.
How To Begin a Mantra Practice
Here are some simple guidelines for beginning a mantra practice.
First, find a position where your spine is straight, but relaxed. This could be in a chair, sitting on a cushion on the floor, or sitting upright in your bed.
Next, begin with a Sankalpa—an intention typically associated with a vibration (or mantra) for the purpose of healing. The Sankalpa can be something really simple and non-specific, like, “My intention is for world peace;” it can be focused on a loved one who is struggling; or it can be something towards an area of your life that you want to improve.
The Sankalpa gives an instruction to the mantra, almost like saying, “Hey, mantra. This is where I want the energy to go.” Consider the Sankalpa like inputting an address in your GPS—it gives your mantra direction.
Relax in your seated position, and set your Sankalpa. Then, place your attention in your heart center.
The heart chakra, which is located in the middle of your chest, is a massive energy reservoir for the body, mind and spirit. When you place your attention in that area, you will empower your mantra practice with the infinite energy that is held within the heart chakra.
If you are able to focus your attention just to the right of your sternum, you will find an energy point that dramatically increases the power of your mantra and will ultimately help you to bring greater peace and joy during your mantra practice.
If you are new to mantra meditation, you can begin by first saying the mantra out loud. This helps you to get familiar with it. After a few recitations out loud, begin to recite the mantra more quietly until eventually you are only repeating it in your mind.
After your mantra meditation practice comes to an end, take a few moments to slowly come back into your body. Begin to bring your awareness to your extremities by moving your feet and hands. Then bring your awareness to the environment around you.
Take a few deep breaths and sit in silence. This allows you to integrate the energy of your mantra meditation into your body and environment without suddenly interrupting any inner process that was taking place during your meditation. It also prevents any discomfort such as irritability or headaches, which arise when you suddenly jump out of the deep state of meditation. Even when your meditation is filled with thoughts, it is still a deep mental state and you need to come out of it gradually. Slowly, after a few minutes, begin to open your eyes.
Seeds of Wisdom
For the great, enlightened masters who brought Ayurveda to the world thousands of years ago, matter and energy were interchangeable, and consciousness (intention) was the power to direct it.
Modern science has come to the same conclusion—matter and energy are the same. Matter, energy and consciousness merge in the realm of sound vibrations, which is the birthplace of mantras.
Sound is a key to connecting with the powerful, endless, natural energy reserve held within each of us. Our modern scientific discoveries about the vibrational nature of life seem to be consistently leading us back to what these ancient masters already knew: The universe is singing. Mantras allow you to choose your song, deliberatively, so you can heal, thrive and experience peace.
Mantra meditation has been one of the greatest gifts of my life. Mantras helped me transform my inner and outer world since I was 9 years old and led me down a path of increasing joy and peace. As a child, mantras were a safe inner sanctuary where I learned to connect with a vast, universal intelligence that held a reservoir of healing energy, which has guided me through many challenges throughout my life.
I cannot imagine life without a mantra meditation practice, which is why I offer it to my patients as part of their comprehensive Ayurvedic program. Now I offer mantra to you as part of Prajna Ayurveda. There is no greater gift I can give you than the true understanding and experience of sound as medicine.