My teacher’s on a thing with Om at the moment. So that kind of means I am too. We’ve been beginning class chanting PYS 1.28:
By chanting Om one realizes the meaning of Om
He’s talked to us about the three sounds that make up Om (AUM) and how they relate to the body — how Om can be thought of as arising from the muladhara chakra (A), then the heart (U), and the head (M), with the sound of silence (the turiya) then being released. And how Om is the vibration of the universe and a way to connect with that. He’s been encouraging us to incorporate Om into our āsana practice. During class he has us pause in certain āsanas to Om out loud and also to offer silent Om during other āsanas. And he’s used his description of Om within the body to inform our alignment, cuing us not so much with anatomical instructions but rather to ‘feel the Om’ in each asana.
Crazy stuff? I confess I’m not (not yet? — all things change!) big on the whole chakras deal. Just because I don’t really understand it. But even so this is proving powerful stuff for me! It’s new and feels pretty weird so I’ve had to suspend disbelief or discomfort and just go with it. I trust him.
And really? — aligning my body with Om is pretty sensational, in both meanings of the word! It’s a way of feeling into alignment body first, head last, or (even better) head not at all. No logical thoughts about where my hips are, fretting about my SI joint, are my shoulders hunching. Nope, just a sense of energy flowing, the body taking over, and everything being somehow right. sthira sukham āsanam maybe. But because it really is, rather than because my brain tells me I’ve made all the correct modifications and lined up as best I can.
I reckon this way of practicing is about the closest I have got to any sustained sense of ego-less (if not ego-free) practice. Somehow this focus on Om makes the shapes of āsanas both everything and nothing. They are the only thing that’s important in that particular moment, and everything else falls away; but in a bigger sense there’s an awareness that striving and achievement isn’t necessary at all, and the shape will just be how it is. Om tat sat.
In class we haven’t taken in the following sutra on Om but I find it pretty interesting too:
tataḥ pratyak-cetanādhi-gamo ’pi-antarāya-abhāvaś ca
From repetition of and reflection on Om, comes Cosmic Consciousness as well as the destruction of physical and mental diseases
A pretty big claim! And one I would previously have passed by without too much of a second glance. I don’t get it, I don’t believe it, so I don’t waste time on it. But the other week in class I had such an intense ‘Om experience’ that I’m forced to re-evaluate my judgmental attitudes just a little. I found myself in a state of such deep tranquility and contentment about my physical weaknesses, about everything. True contentment in my heart, not in my head. And THE most overwhelming sense of gratitude. EVER. As if everything that had ever happened was just fine like that, no need for dramas, ego-narratives, let alone resentments and griefs. It was the most disorienting feeling ever. Where was I? Who am I? Without any emotional baggage might I not just float away?
So anytime I’ve ever convinced myself I have in the past felt saṃtosha (contentment) — nope, not even close! This heartfelt sense, an embodied experience maybe, is way deeper than I ever knew possible. A total immersion.
A glimpse of what surrender might be like.
Just as well Hubby was there to pull me back from some existential evanescence by suggesting that chanting Om was really no different to the healing power of a cat purring:
image source: http://www.toxel.com/inspiration/2012/02/05/yoga-cats