27 Oct Styles of Meditation & Chanting
There are many styles of meditation and chanting enhances the 11th step of Alcoholics Anonymous in a way that is indescribable. Communing with the divine burns away years of negative thinking and old behavior patterns and replaces them with a sense of faith and comfort.
There are different styles to meditate and chant according to what you are into spiritually and what you find pleasant and appealing on a personal level. Finding the style that best suits you will help make the most of your program. It’s not about forcing anything, those days are over; it’s about giving in to the joy of connecting with a power greater than you. Meditation and chanting do not need to embody a particular religion, spiritual path or idea but they can if that’s your deal.
Here are a few of my personal favorites in no particular order:
Vipassana means to see things as they really are and was “rediscovered” by Gotama Buddha more than 2500 years ago. It’s roots are in India and he believed that the cause of all suffering was the push and pull of desire/longing and repulsion/hatred. Buddha sat beneath the Bodhi tree and realized the deep interconnection between mind and body through breathing techniques and disciplined observations to the sensations in the body. Beginning with intense focus on the breath at the “flute” of the nose (just under the nostrils), moving the breath to focus intensely on the body from head to toe and noticing with acutely, the sensations, pleasant and unpleasant with no attachment of judgment is the practice of Vipassana. Through exact repetition, breathing with a circular penetrating awareness on the body from head to toe and then toe to head, a internal movement is created that many have said rockets them into another dimension altogether.
During the beginning and ending minutes of meditation, there will be light chanting as a way to guide you in and out of your journey within. In order to practice Vipassana in many centers, it is required to perform a particular amount of silent meditation days under the tutorage of certified instructors.
Based on the timeless teachings of the Siddha Yoga Guru’s and brought to the United States by Baba Muktananda in the early 1980’s, Siddha meditation uses repetition of the mantra Om Namah Shivaya as a vehicle to attain spiritual enlightenment. Basically, this means, “I honor divine consciousness, the Lord who dwells in my heart.”
There is a guru in Siddha Yoga, her name is Guru Mayi, and she is a spiritual master who has attained oneness with God and can guide others on the spiritual path of liberation. The gurus photograph will be placed on an alter and offerings of money, food and flowers are made as tokens of devotion.
Siddha meditation will begin with chanting one particular mantra specific to the Hindu sect and designed to invoke gods, seek protection, invite peace and increase abundance. Chanting is a preparation for meditation. After approximately 30 minutes of chanting, you will go straight into a meditation where the mantra Om Namah Shivaya is repeated silently on each in and out breath. The glory of Siddha meditation lays upon realizing the Blue Pearl (what Baba saw in his meditation one day) and also in awakening the Kundalini energy that lives in the base of the spine.
Nam Myoho Renge Kyo
Chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is a practice to awaken the Buddha nature and tap into our deepest levels of existence. It has its roots in Japan and the translation is, “I devote myself to the Lotus Sutra (sacred scripture of Buddhism in East Asia).” The lotus flower blooms in a muddy pond and so all people can bloom their inner resources of courage, compassion, wisdom and abundance to overcome life’s obstacles.
A specific altar is used with particular symbolic items: Buddha’s potential to form a correct relationship with the environment (vase of greens), water to purify, incense (signifying the fragrance of the law spreading throughout the universe) and more.
Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is chanted while fixing the gaze on the Gohonzon, a scroll inscribed with ancient scripture. Chanters will hold prayer beads and repeat the mantra in rapid succession for an extended period of time. This form of chanting is known as a meditation in and of itself.
Kirtan is a meditation combining music and chanting. It is an especially joyful and physical way to express devotion to the Divine. The songs are sung in Sanskrit with inflections of English added. All voices merge to create one voice and it makes no difference if you can sing on key or not. Kirtan begins with everyone sitting on cushions in loose fitting, comfortable clothes. The music begins slowly and gradually speeds up. According to each person’s unique involvement, standing up, moving and dancing become expressions of an internal spiritual experience. Kirtan is the universal language of the spirit, the song of the soul.
Find Your Unique Style and Begin
It is said that meditation changes one on a cellular level, that it burns away negative past actions, and creates peace in the collective unconscious and the world. These are just four ways to meditate and chant that I have found particularly soothing and have enhanced my 11th step work. There are many more practices to choose from. There will be talk of God or Lord in certain practices but do not let that deter you. There are many people from different religious upbringings, non-denominational backgrounds and agnostic beliefs who find solace and joy in turning within.