If you follow my Instagram feed or are in the advanced yoga training program with me, you may be aware that I have been doing a daily mantra meditation, which started on January 1. I’m on a 70-day streak! And am shooting for 80. Any of you who subscribe to my yoga newsletter have likely read most of this story. It was rather long for a newsletter story, but I want to share it here, too. I’ve added a few things.
What this “daily meditation” entails
Each morning, I wake up and sit up. I prop my butt up on a pillow so that sitting cross-legged is comfortable, and I pull on a blanket or a hoodie so that I’m warm for the next 10 or so minutes. I’m still on the bed, and though this is sometimes advised against, I’ve found this arrangement helps me keep at the practice, so I’m sticking with it, for now.
I keep a mala – a necklace with 108 beads – by my bedside, and I take it in one hand, with a bead near the guru bead (here’s a mala glossary) held between thumb and middle finger. I close my eyes, and rest both hands on my knees, and I repeat the above (in this post title) Sanskrit syllables. After each repetition, I work my finger and thumb to the next bead. Rinse, repeat. Until my thumb is back to the guru bead. Done. In less than 10 minutes. I get up, brush my teeth and proceed with my day. I did this first for 40 days. On that day in February, I didn’t have a different mantra in mind to switch to, so I’m going for another 40.
Sometimes I repeat it silently, sometimes not: it mainly depends on whether I’ve got a sore throat or if my husband is attempting to keep sleeping, next to me.
This meditation: how it goes, and it seems to do
Thoughts, plans, aches, memories of dreams, fusses from the previous evening drift in, and when I notice them I bring my focus back to the bead, and back to the mantra. So, you can see that if nothing else, it’s a concentration exercise, and a way to discover what may be hounding my consciousness, each day.
In the same way, it’s like a sports drill: keep practicing a core element of some skill you’re trying to master. At some point, it will be come muscle memory, almost instinctive. And the particular skill I’m working on is the one of letting go, of moving on, maybe to the next stressor but maybe on to the next thing that won’t be a stressor. It’s brilliant. About 20 days into it, I was doing laps at the pool. I’m not great at timing my flip-turns with my breaths, and so I often opt out of them. And yet on this day, I didn’t even think about the timing, the breath, the fear, et cetera. Before I knew it, I’d executed not just one flip turn, but three. On that day I’d set out with no special intentions for the workout: just an easy swim. And it ended up easier and more awesome.
Wee victories! I think the mantra itself had something to do with that unexpected ease and victory. It’s an invocation of Ganesha, a Hindu deity who is known as the remover of obstacles and the blesser of new ventures: a sort of progress accelerator. January first is a common and logical time of year to set a new goal or to revisit old goals. And it can be hard to stick to them! Doing something new but simple every morning to at least remind yourself of a goal can be helpful, if not transformational!
Maybe you’re not comfortable with calling upon a strange god (one of thousands, for Hindus), or any god at all. All depictions of Ganesh are intriguing to me but I too have my doubts about borrowing him from a religion or philosophy that I know little about.
And yet, consider this action not so much one of worship of an entity, but one of mindfulness of an objective or intention? It can be “Ganesh, I’d like your help” or it can be “I want to do this and if I keep reminding myself of it, and taking actions, I have an effective tool for transformation.”
A goal I set on January 1 was to make beautiful things in 2018. I love to create, but I’d gotten out of the habit in the last several years. Doodles in my journal count! I’ve made inroads in other ways, too, though not yet in my 3-years-and-counting sock knitting project. Boo. I think it’s helped my speaking, as referenced in my last post. Beauty can the telling of an insightful, organized story, right?
One other beneficial aspect of the practice appears to be with my spine and hips, of late. My first few steps every day are rather painful and unstable, hips wise, for the past year or two. It’s likely that my age, 30+ years of being a runner and maybe those 11 years of rugby are to blame, in some ratio. And yet sitting up for about 10 minutes, with a nice neutral spine, and then moving on with my mornings seems to be improving things, in the hip department. This seems to be another win for the meditation practice.
If you’re curious about the melody and rhythm of this simple mantra, here are a few recordings I enjoy: