Meditation Mantras

Begin by singing or humming the vowels in any way that occurs to you, at any volume, speed, or pitch. Just get playful. Feel free to change the order after a while (u-e-a, for example). Change the pronunciation however you like, for each sound has a dozen or so different ways of being said. Your personal preferences are important and may change with the time of day, according to how tired or energetic you are, and according to whether the sound is external and audible or purely internal and audible only to the mind’s ear.

Select two vowel sounds, a-u, e-o, or any combination you prefer at that moment. Say the sound over and over softly, in a kind of chant. Let the sound become quieter over the course of several minutes and simply enjoy the rhythm of the sound, the vibrations in your head and throat, the subtle movements of your tongue, and the flow of the breath. Your eyes can be open or closed, and you can go back and forth between open and closed. At some point in the next several minutes let the softly audible chant become an internal chant. Let this transition happen in its own time, very gradually.

As the chant becomes internal, it may change in various ways. Sometimes it continues as before and you are simply listening to the sound mentally. The chant can fluctuate in volume, from being loud and distinct in your inner hearing to being soft and faint. Then it may fade away, leaving you there listening to the silence, or to the absence of sound. Welcome this nothingness, or blank space, or “forgetting,” and train yourself not to panic or to think you have failed when your mind goes silent. At some point there will probably be little interludes, little quiet spaces between sounds in which you can feel your body vibrating.

As you listen inwardly to the sound or sounds in a restful way, you may notice relaxed feelings coming over you, alternating with thoughts about what time it is, what you have to do next, and any worries you have. Train yourself to welcome this process, then gently return to the vowels. Do not concentrate, even a little. If the vowels are interesting to you, you will enjoy playing with them. If you do not enjoy the sounds themselves, then don’t do this exercise at this time. The amount of effort you use to pay attention to the vowels should be slightly less than you use to read – about the amount of effort your eyes make to glide across a page.

Use this simple exercise to cultivate your sense of preference for sound, and in particular to heighten your appreciation of how beautiful the vowels are. Give yourself the freedom to discover what you love about sound, both inner sound and thoughts, and the sounds we use in speech. You may discover that you love the space before speech when you are looking for an appropriate word or sound to express what you are feeling, or possibly the silence after speech, when you have said something. The essence of meditation is to discover, not impose.

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