Mantra Practice, Week 1

In a departure from the type of things you normally read here, I’d like to write about something a little (okay, a lot) more spiritual this time. (Also in a departure from how things typically go around here, I’m actually writing something. So there’s that. My grandmother will be so happy!) If hippie-ish spiritual meditation shit isn’t quite your jam, it’s fine with me…I won’t be upset if you don’t read this (mostly because I won’t even know if you did or not; hooray internet anonymity!), and I promise it won’t happen here too often.*

So now that that’s out of the way…

As you may or may not know by now, I’m finally fulfilling my life-long—or at least since high school—dream of becoming a yoga teacher. My 200-hour training program started this past September, and I will graduate in April. Yoga teacher training (herein referred to as “YTT” or “yoga school”) has been exactly what I expected in a lot of ways, but it’s also been so much more than that! Remember a few seconds ago when I said it was cool with me if you’re not into this sort of stuff? Well that’s because up until this year, I wasn’t really into it either. Despite 10+ years of practicing yoga, I had never fully embraced the non-asana side of it until I started going to classes at the little studio down the street from me. I never minded oming at the beginning and end of a class, but until my teacher at Forever Yoga introduced me to actual mantras and chanting meditations (and until YTT showed me how truly small a role the physical practice really plays in the yoga world), I had no idea I was missing out on such a fulfilling aspect of my practice.

Since the universe ALWAYS KNOWS WHAT IT WANTS (another lesson I keep learning again and again, both at yoga school and in general), an incredible opportunity to both deepen my practice/supplement everything I’m doing at YTT and help out someone who has given so much to me over the last year presented itself in November. Jessica, my teacher at Forever Yoga, is currently training to be a certified mantra teacher and asked for volunteers for a personalized 40-day mantra program to help gain some experience before taking her exam in the spring.

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How serendipitous!

I met with Jessica a couple of weeks ago to discuss the sort of things I’d like to work on, and even just our initial consultation was eye opening. I thought I simply needed help staying focused on things off the mat, but over the course of 45 minutes with her it became abundantly clear that I had more shit to deal with than that.

About a week later, I bought a gorgeous Italian onyx mala at the studio, Jessica emailed me my mantra program, and I got to work “fixing” myself.

The program

I’m supposed to be journaling my experience with the practice, and that’s what I intended for this post to be (sorry for being so damn wordy just to get to this part). I knew that starting the practice during one of the busiest weeks of the year was going to be difficult, but I figured that just made it even more worthwhile. So without further babbling adieu, here are the notes in my journal from the first seven days of my 40-day mantra program:

Monday, 12.21.15–Day 1  Too excited to wait, starting the practice tonight. Also, the internet said Monday is Shiva’s day and a good day to start things. Also also, it’s the solstice, so that seems like a good day to start something important. Did 108 repetitions of each mantra. Took about 25 minutes, but I’m sure once I can say the 2nd and 3rd ones without stumbling over half the words it won’t take quite so long. Definitely doable for 40 days.

Tuesday, 12.22.15–Day 2  Repeated each mantra 108 times again. Took about the same amount of time. Thank Buddha the intention behind the words is more important than correct pronunciation because I butchered at least half of my repetitions of the 2nd and 3rd ones. So far, “Om Eim Saraswatayei Swaha” is my favorite. I’m not sure what the emotion is, but that one is definitely stirring something up…

Wednesday, 12.23.15–Day 3  Full mala for the first two, then realized how far past my bedtime it was and only did half a mala for the last one. I’m a horrible student, and wrapping Christmas presents is the worst.

Thursday, 12.24.15–Day 4  Half mala for 1st and 3rd, full mala for the 2nd. I know I shouldn’t be cutting the first and third ones short (even though Jessica said it was okay as long as they get equal repetitions), but it made the most sense with the amount of time I had. I also squeezed in a quick 10 minutes of asana. I should start doing that first…maybe tomorrow (ha).

Friday, 12.25.15–Day 5  108 repetitions of each. I can finally do them all without the recordings or looking at my written versions of them. Yay!

Saturday, 12.26.15–Day 6  Half mala for 1st and 3rd, full mala for the 2nd. Bahhhh…

Sunday, 12.27.15–Day 7  Same as yesterday. I knew this week would be more or a less a loss overall, so the fact that I managed to stick to mantra practice every day (even if I didn’t do it “right” every time) is a win in my book.

I wish I had something deep and insightful to say about the practice already; however, pretty much the only thing I’ve learned so far is that 108 repetitions of one thing is A LOT of repetitions! I’m not feeling any less “stuck” or any more creative yet, but I wasn’t really expecting that to happen in just one week anyway. (I did feel like I was able to maintain a sense of balance and calm throughout the week, though, which is no easy feat given all the hullabaloo that goes hand in hand with Christmastime…so I suppose that’s a good thing.)

I am really excited to keep practicing, and to see what the next 33 days will bring. Who knows—maybe it’ll even help me start writing here on a somewhat regular basis again 😉

Counting on you to get me out of this rut, Saraswati (no pressure)

*It won’t happen here often because, if all goes according to plan, I will be contributing to a different blog made just for this kind of stuff in the near future! Stay tuned for more details in early 2016…

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