How to Use a Mālā?
When chanting or meditating using the mālā, hold the beads in your right hand. Let the beads drape over your middle finger, ring finger and little finger. We want to keep the index finger (ego) away from the mālā as it is believed that using it to rotate the beads is unlucky in mantra meditation. We use the thumb of the right hand to rotate the mālā from one bead to the next. The thumb represents the divine spirit or God Himself.
We start with the first bead to the right after the meru, Say your first mantra. Then using the thumb, rotate the next bead and say the mantra again and so on, until you have repeated the mantra on all 108 beads. The direction of the mālā as you work through the beads is towards the palm.
Once you have finished 108 and you wish to do another round, turn the mālā beads and start rotating them in the other direction. We avoid saying a mantra on the meru bead or cross over it.
After your practice, you can either wear your mālā around your neck or place it on your shrine or altar if you have one. Respect it with sacredness, and do not let other people touch it.
Attaining Sadhana | Cultivating Self-Discipline
Sadhana is the process of attaining a deep spiritual practice through meditation, chanting mantras, and prayer. The physical elements of asanas and even pranayamas (breath regulation) are not as important as the spiritual observances in the practice of Sadhana.
One of the goals of Sadhana to cultivate Self-discipline. This shall require a change of your mindset, discipline in speech and mindful actions. Meditation requires energy and it comes from having a healthy body. Our diets, physical fitness, and overall lifestyle management would have to be considered too. When the body is weak and always sick, then sustaining a rigorous meditation practice would not be possible.
On top of them all, you need to exercise strong willpower, dedication, sense-control and determination. This is not easy, especially for a beginner, thus the guidance of a teacher is essential. The teacher shall give you a progressive programme which you need to follow strictly. Your teacher knows what you are capable of doing. He trusts you and will not give you something which is impossible to attain given your level and personal circumstances.
It is important to pay attention not only to your teacher’s instruction but to your daily experiences, tasks and obligations – the amount of time you spend thinking and doing something, planning, evaluating, managing your tasks and scheduling them properly. If we know when and how a particular task is to be accomplished given the time we have on our hands, then our minds become more focused on accomplishing something productive. It is not healthy for the body and the mind to be doing many tasks all at once. At first, it would be helpful to have a list of the things you intend to accomplish for a given day. Then, put the most important tasks on top of the list. Assign a time for each task and try your best to follow your plan.
As time passes, you will be able to determine which is essential and which is not, then you will likely to accomplish the important ones first. As your mind becomes less distracted, your day becomes more productive. As you see more positive results, you are likely to keep it going and growing.
It does not mean adding more tasks on the list. Actually, you are cutting the list down to only important ones. You will be surprised by how much time you spend in doing less important things. Some of them might not be important at all. Then, contentment arises because you are accomplishing more in less time. And you will have more time to spend for yourself, for your meditation, for your practice, and for your loved ones.
The thought of change could give us the fright. A lot of times, our minds sabotage the process of change by suddenly becoming ill. Our minds do not like to be commanded or restricted. The road to attaining Sadhana is rough and not always straight. There will be many obstacles which may seem impossible to overcome at first. We need to make sacrifices for a higher purpose which is not material at all.
With consistent practice, you will gain the inner strength to overcome each obstacle as it arises. Start stacking the building blocks and make that first important step, right now. It may be as simple as cutting the time you spend in social media interaction, and channel the time you save reading about meditation instead.
Whatever your goal is, you need to work through it slowly, mindfully and willingly. We make gradual changes with perseverance, determination and consistency. However, we do not want to force ourselves to do something which we are not ready and capable of sustaining, given the many aspects surrounding our lives. If the practice feels heavy and burdensome, then, it might mean giving it more time to grow organically by going to group meditation sessions instead or simply by listening to recorded mantras (songs or chants).
SO HAM – I AM THAT / I AM THE SPIRIT
General Principles and Guidelines for Mantras | Kriyas | Japa
For this exercise, let us use the SO HAM mantra (pronounced as ‘So-Hum’).
The awareness of the natural flow of the breath is integrated with the mantra. ‘So’ means ‘I am’ and ‘Ham’ means ‘That’ (‘That’ meaning Spirit, Divine Consciousness).
The following practice of the SO HAM increases awareness and concentration and is one of the most powerful of all the mantras. Most bij (seed) mantras are high-energy producing ones, the So Ham, on the other hand, is not as dynamic but so effective in stilling the mind. We could achieve pratyāhāra (sense-withdrawal) by mastering the practice of this technique:
Preservation of our energy for the Meditation
We need to give a separate time for our meditation practice on top of the asanas. Although, the practice of asanas at this stage would have to be controlled as well. Meditation which requires us to control the flow of the breath needs a lighter type of energy to sustain. We cannot comply with its requirements if the body is too full or hungry. We cannot stay still and sustain the practice of we are tired, sluggish or intoxicated. Neither could our minds relax of we are so energised and restless. This shall require us to plan our daily lives – from the time of our waking up, to the time for recreation and relaxation, our eating times, our practice times, our meditation times and duration etc.
All of these would have to be scheduled properly and we must adhere to it consistently. We cannot just wake up every day without a plan and just do our activities randomly. The energy does not develop that way. We are just wasting our precious prana doing that.
The Organic Change
To be able to sustain a meditation practice is not easy. It takes time and a change of mindset. Personally, I followed the way which starts with the physical body and breath regulation (kriyas). I started really low and some of you might have transcended way ahead spiritually. Nevertheless, be it through the body or pure concentration, organic changes will manifest. Once we see positive changes in our health and total wellbeing, the energy of the mind increases.
There are indications that Sadhana is already happening to you. You might be feeling most of these already. In that case, move backwards by developing it in your body and breath. That’s the way our energy works – either from the mind to the body or body to the mind. The manifestations below are very Satwa in nature. Kundalini Awakening when it happens through the Hatha Yoga, gives a more energetic indications and symptoms as we will tackle later in the course.
I did not have a teacher to guide me through all the sensitivities of the practice. Experience is my teacher. But looking back, I fully encourage you to seek guidance of a teacher for health, safety and wellness.
Get regular updates, special tutorials and events from Sukha School of Yoga.