Advanced Yoga Practices
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Lesson 106 - Mantra and Breathing in Meditation
New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the archive, as previous lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, “Why This Discussion?”
Date: Thu Feb 5, 2004 11:39am
Q: As I attempt to develop a better habit of meditation- which though fairly new in the process I am enjoying tremendously- Does it matter if I imagine/hear inside myself saying “I” on an inhale, “AM” on an exhale OR if I hear “I AM” “I AM” “I AM” on an inhale and then the same on an exhale, etc…?
A: Some systems of meditation involve using mantra with breath. The approach in these lessons is to not do that. So, no, it doesn’t matter if the mantra is with the breath or not. We just let the breath go in meditation and don’t mind what it is doing. The reason is we want the mantra to be free to change naturally in speed of repetition and degree of clarity so the mind is free to go to stillness easily. We want meditation naturally leading the breath, not the other way around. If we favor the breath leading the mantra, we will drift into pranayama mode of cultivating the nerves on a less subtle level than the mind will go if given the opportunity in deep meditation. This is a fine point that is easy to miss. It will become clearer when we enhance the mantra, giving it more syllables.
Cultivating the nerves is very good and pleasurable, and we do that in pranayama. But meditation with breath leading is not as deep as meditation without breath leading. In deep meditation when the mind comes to stillness, the breath and metabolism will automatically suspend. We’d like to be free to pick up the mantra on very subtle/quiet levels in the mind without having it habitually tied to breath. If the mantra follows the breath, we don’t favor or push the breath out. We just follow the procedure of easily favoring the mantra on whatever level of stillness we are at in the mind. Then we will be going to more stillness and purifying the entire nervous system from deep within with the rise of pure bliss consciousness.
So, pranayama is for cultivating the nerves with attention and breath, and meditation is for letting the mind go deep — awakening the silent seed of pure bliss consciousness deep within the nervous system. In this approach we do not cultivate and plant at the same time. There is further discussion on this in lesson #43, “Pranayama Q&A — Relationship to meditation.” You will find if you let the breath go in meditation, you will go much deeper into silence, especially if you have done spinal breathing pranayama before meditation.
The guru is in you.