When we OM in class, my teacher often encourages shy types or newbies by saying when you OM no-one can hear you. Well, maybe not technically true… but I try to suspend my disbelief with things my teacher says that I don’t immediately get. What d’ya know – there’s always some wisdom in there, even if I can’t see it at the time!
So I’ve been playing with my OM recently, assuming it’s not off-putting because no-one can hear it anyway! I was listening to Richard Freeman’s Yoga Chants and he really makes me laugh when he says that OM is his favourite chant because he never forgets the words!
But it’s a pretty weird word, isn’t it? In both the meaning and the pronunciation. The sound of it intrigues me and it’s interesting listening to how different teachers sound it. My teacher seems (if I could hear him, which obviously I can’t! 😉 ) to have an initial ‘a’ sound. Most others just go for a very English ‘ohm’ pronunciation. I heard one teacher who was more on the ‘aw’ end of the sound which I think is how I prefer it since I can feel it further back in the mouth that way and then roll it forward. Intellectually this seems closer to what I understand of the pronunciation of Sanskrit vowels.
Some time ago my teacher talked quite a bit in class about OM and explained about the different points of articulation of the sound, partly as a phonetics thing (moving across the soft palate) but partly as something else that I don’t fully understand – about the sound coming from deep within the belly, and moving upwards into the brain. Is that a chakra thing, I wonder? I didn’t really get it in my brain, but in my body I think I can almost feel it: if I’m relaxed enough OM seems to come from a much deeper place, it rises out of the core of me. And when that happens my brain lets go of trying to fathom the meaning and instead I just roll along on the vibrating sound. It carries me. And somewhere, just out of reach of my conscious mind, the meaning is clear. I can sense it. It’s on the tip of my tongue, so to speak! OM might be a short word, but it’s a weirdly powerful one.
I’m setting great store in PYS 1.28 about the meaning revealing itself through committed practice to chanting (tajjapas tadartha bhāvanam). For now I’m enjoying feeling the OM resonate in my body and experimenting with the articulation points in the mouth. All said, it’s just as well no-one can hear me!