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The Sound OM

An Uber is picking me up in the middle of the night tonight—3am to be exact—to take me to the airport. Long story short: what was supposed to be a weekend trip in January to Orlando, FL for a kirtan event (call and response devotional chanting) with Mirabai Moon and friends ended up

being a trip this weekend to Taos, NM to visit gratefully once again the Neem Karoli Baba Ashram and Hanuman Temple.

Some of you have probably heard me mention Maharaji and/or Hanuman (lol), and there are pictures of Maharaji in the lobby of the studio. He’s the grandfatherly looking man in the blanket in case you were wondering, and he’s my Guru. I’m very excited to be returning to his ashram for a few days to spend time receiving His darshan, offering seva, and soaking in the good Bhakti vibes. So I’ve got laundry going, I still need to pack, and I’m hoping to get this newsletter out before leaving town for the ashram. (Update: The newsletter didn't get done before I left....I'm at the Ashram right now, finishing it:-) 

The Jivamukti Yoga focus of the month for June is called The Sound OM. It was written by Anna Lunegova. There is quite a lot to be said about OM. OM is, after all, the most potent, powerful mantra, said to contain the very essence and wisdom of the Vedas (which are very, very old scriptures containing the earliest recorded teachings of Yoga). OM is known as the unstuck sound, or anahata nada, and the internal OM is that which we listen for in Nada Yoga practice (the Yoga of Sound). OM is the sound that represents the constant universal vibration or hum of everything in manifestation. OM is known as that which is ever renewing. One of my teachers calls OM the “Cosmic Eraser.” All sounds are said to manifest from OM. OM represents the four stages of consciousness. One of the most beautiful Upanishads—called Mandukya—is all about OM. The OM cycle—the cycle of beginning, middle, and end—applies to everything in manifestation. When we chant OM we are reminded that we are in the Universe and the Universe is also in us. Chanting OM reminds us of the Oneness of Being….

So as I was wondering which way to approach talking about OM for this news letter and being pressed for time, the “daily inspiration” email from the Love, Serve, Remember Foundation containing a quote from Ram Dass arrived with perfect, divine timing. In the quote, Ram Dass talks about mantra, specifically OM.

I’ve spread out the Ram Dass quote into sections below because each piece of it, at least for me anyway, warrants some thoughtful consideration on its own:

"A Mantra, which is a repeated phrase, is designed to keep your  consciousness centered.”

“It’s a perspective giving device.”

“It’s adding a third component to every relationship you have with  object in the universe.”

“This could be OM, this could be the sun, this could be Buddha consciousness, this could be called the witness, it’s Self-remembering in the Gurdjieff system.”

“It’s a technique of adding a third component in order to get free of the identification with either of the other two.”

“You can use the mantra to find a center in yourself and to keep that third component going. Which allows you to watch your own drama all day long.”

“It’s all a vehicle, and it’s going to have to go. But mantra is a useful vehicle."

I invite you this month to spend some time working with chanting OM, both aloud and silently. Perhaps spend a little time thinking about, journaling about, or mediating upon sections of the Ram Dass quote above. Try to listen for the OM in the sounds you hear. Practice seeing all things as having a beginning, a middle, and an end—the OM cycle—as a way of working with the Truth of impermanence. I highly recommend reading the Mandukya Upanishad as well as the book “Nada Yoga” by Sri Brahmananda Saraswati.

We have a wonderful opportunity this month at Satsang Yoga to practice Bhakti yoga (the yoga of devotion) by chanting mantra in community during a kirtan led by NY-based musician and Neem Karoli Baba devotee Mirabai Moon. I was blessed to meet Mirabai in India where she was the kirtan leader for our Himalayan Yoga Yatra. Mirabai will be at Satsang on Saturday, June 8 from 7-9pm for kirtan (and we’ll have an optional vegan potluck prior at 5:30pm). Kirtan is call-and-response chanting of mantras, and it is easy to do. No experience is necessary, just a willingness to open your heart. And If you are interested in learning to incorporate a harmonium and chanting OM or other mantras into your practice, Mirabai is also offering an Introduction to the Harmonium workshop for beginners on Sunday, June 9 at Satsang from 2-4pm.

Maharaji repeatedly taught his devotees “It’s all One.” The One is what we tap into when we chant mantra. As it represents the universal vibration or hum and as it contains the wisdom of the Vedas, chanting OM in particular reminds us of our interconnection and interdependence with all other beings—it reminds us that it is all ONE. The word Yoga means “Union,” and the sound OM represents that Union, Wholeness, and Oneness.


Sharada Devi

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