I’ve tried many types of meditation and I have not been particularly loyal to any one sort. Up until this year. Every day this year I have vowed to repeat the Gayatri Mantra 108 times.
Om bhur bhuvah svaha
tat savitur varenyam
bhargo devasya dhimahi
dhiyo yo nah prachodayat
I really like this mantra. I was inspired by the Deval Premal and Miten version on their album ‘The Essence’. It is a truly magnificent version and the youtube clip that accompanies it is stunning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlUsoWmso9U
I have never considered that I had a beautiful singing voice, but one of the things I have discovered during this commitment to sing it daily is that when I relax I find my singing voice…or rather it finds me.
I think I fell in love with this version of the Gayatri Mantra. Deciding to sing it 108 times each day was spontaneous. I let Deva and Miten know of my vrata (commitment) and their response was encouraging. So I keep singing it every day.
The meaning of this ancient mantra is something that resonates deeply with me. It is essentially a prayer for the enlightenment of all beings. It is said to be the oldest known prayer and is part of Vedic texts dating back to at least 1500BC.
When I was in my teens I studied Transcendental Meditation and was given a mantra. This mantra has always remained my default meditation technique. I often find myself using this mantra when I least expect it. It arises as a natural response to sitting quietly. Into my head pops the mantra and off I go. After much initial practice it will always be there.
I also did a 10 day Vipassana Retreat when I was nineteen. This was without a doubt the hardest spiritual development task I have undertaken…and so worth it. This is where I had my first real experience of Samadhi – bliss, connection, being at one. It was nice. Getting ‘there’ once does not guarantee you’ll get ‘there’ every time…or ever again. I quickly learnt to let go of trying to ever get ‘there’ again, as the harder I tried the more elusive ‘there’ was.
I tried various Buddhist meditation techniques including Nichiren, which is a particular mantra ‘Namu myoho renge kyo’ – a prayer to end all suffering.
Walking meditation, active meditation, breath meditation, guided meditation, Yoga Nidra, japa mala – I explored many and found all to be beneficial. So I practiced whatever one I felt like at the time over many years.
Meditation has given me the increased ability to remain calm at my centre no matter what is going on in my life. And at times my practice has felt nothing short of life-saving. And so, it is not hard work for me to meditate. I know the results and I want to practice because I enjoy it, no matter the style.
I own several japa mala beads. I love the jade ones blessed by the Gyuto Monks and I began this daily 108 repetitions of the Gayatri Mantra using these beads. Whilst in Bali I got black lava japa mala beads and these are now my favourites and feel the best between my fingers. 108 beads for 108 repetitions.
After the fourth day by the third repetition I was ‘there’…in the zone…where ever ‘there’ is. It is not a short mantra, the Gayatri, especially when I sing it like Deva sings it – I joke that I try to channel her voice. I find my Deva Premal inspired voice and away I go.
For me, my mediation is about developing equanimity. It allows me to remain more even-keeled, no matter life’s ups and downs.
I have shared my 108 daily practice with my students on several occasions. I was a little nervous about singing for 25 minutes to a group…but after the third or fourth repetition I was no longer concerned and just did my thing. Apparently, my students like this very much. That makes me feel happy and just a little bit warm and fuzzy…oh…quite a bit warm and fuzzy really!
I have been distracted from the practice on a few days so far…and I just make sure I catch up the next day. This new-found loyalty to one method has merits that outweigh chopping and changing techniques – I go deeper quicker – ‘there’ is not as far away as it has been in the past. It makes me feel good – relaxed, steady, calm, grateful and compassionate. This practice has been a blessing. This discipline is worth it.