The Scripture ~ “I Am that I AM” ~ Exodus 3:14
The Spiritual Focus ~ “What you seek is seeking you.”
–Rumi, 13th-century Persian poet, Islamic scholar, theologian and Sufi mystic
The Breath Prayer ~ Inhale, OM- Exhale, AMen
The Devotion ~ So far this year we have looked at spiritual practices that are intended to guide us in spiritual self-care for the purpose of enhancing our relationship with God and each other. The first week was the spiritual practice of giving and receiving blessings. Next was the body scan or “check-in,” then ritual, and last week was drishti, or loving gaze. Not every spiritual practice works for everyone so we encourage each other to try them on and see if they “fit.” One student has incorporated all of these into one practice and completed the spiritual practice by adding a mantra.
A mantra is a short, repeated phrase or word that is used in meditation. A 2015 study published in Brain and Behavior found that silently repeating a single word to oneself quiets the parts of the brain responsible for the mind wandering, thinking about the past, or planning the future. Often the mantra is combined with pranayama or breath, particularly the inhalation and exhalation. In Yogadevotion practices, the breath prayer often functions as a mantra.
Mantra in Sanskrit means, “vehicle of the mind.” The most well-known mantra in yoga is OM. OM is not so easy to define. “It’s big. Om is nebulous, and it’s vague. It can mean almost anything,” says Yoganand Michael Carroll, dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga. In Eastern religious systems OM is a mantra that is intended to connect us to the Divine. OM is often thought to be the sound of the universe. According to their website, NASA has recorded the sound of the earth from outer space and admits the vibration sounds very “OM-Y.”
When used in a yoga class the mantra OM is intended to draw us all together: the universe, God and each other. It is a mantra that aligns body, mind and spirit. When used in private spiritual practice it reminds us that God is who God is and will be what God will be. “I AM that I AM,” the God from our Exodus reading, unites and draws all of us into loving relationship.
Another mantra is OM Shanti OM where shanti means “peace.” Together we seek peace. In Christianity there are many mantra options. Grab a bible, dig into scripture, try on a few and see if they speak to you. A favorite mantra at the intersection of theology and yoga philosophy is “OM shanti shanti OM, Amen.” Together in peace we are one, let it be so.