With Every Breath: Silent Mantra and Simran
In the practice of Kundalini Yoga, students are often instructed to use a silent mantra with the breath as they inhale and exhale, or as they move from left to right or up and down (“Inhale Sat, exhale Nam.”)
The silent mantra helps direct the flow of prana through the body and focuses the mind.
Yet the practice of silent mantra with the breath is actually more profound than that, and can lead to a constant elevation of consciousness and a transcendence of death.
Coupling a mantra with the continual pattern of the inhale and exhale breath cycle is an ancient yoga practice that is common in many traditions.
The mantra “So Hum” has often been silently chanted with the breath (“Soooo” on the inhale, “Huuuum” on the exhale) and is loosely translated as: I Am That, or identifying the finite self (“I”) with the infinite self (“That”).
In Kundalini Yoga, we use the Laya version of the mantra, “So Hung” or the complete form, “Ong So Hung” (Infinite Creative Conscious, I Am That).
If we can place any mantra on the breath (“Wahe Guru,” “Sat Nam,” or even a longer mantra such as “Guru Guru Wahe Guru, Guru Ram Das Guru”) in a consistent or eventually constant fashion, we can experience Nam Simran, or the continual remembrance of the Name, a practice in Kundalini Yoga and other spiritual traditions, that can lead to the realization of infinite consciousness.
We breathe 21,000 times per day. What if we repeated a mantra automatically, silently 21,000 times a day, even while sleeping?
What if the repetition of the mantra on the breath became so automatic that with the last breath we took in our lives, we chanted the mantra?
Then it is said that we are carried on the other side of death to the next realm of consciousness. This automatic use of a mantra on the breath at the time of passing, according to Yogi Bhajan, is called Pran Sutra, the thread of vital life force that is transferred when the subtle body leaves the physical body.
Such a silent mantra practice begins with the awareness of the breath and the use of mantra in our regular yoga practice, and then gradually extending it into other moments of our everyday lives, such as while walking, driving, preparing food, or transitioning into sleep.
It can be become automatic, Ajapa Japa, the automatic repetition without effort of a mantra on the breath.
To begin, let the last note of the mantra you use with your breath slightly linger before you repeat the mantra again. Allow the mantra to naturally fall into the rhythm of your breath.
In other words, make sure that the mantra follows your breathing instead of using your mantra to control the breath. Otherwise, you will not allow this to become effortless and automatic.
When a mantra is patterned on the rhythm of our life force, we powerfully change our frequency and projection.
There are several ways to begin this practice. First, use it in your Kundalini Yoga classes and home practices when you are more fully aware of directing your breath and focus anyway.
Next, use the practice as a meditation in itself by either focusing on the rise and fall of your diaphragm as you sit with the breath and mantra. Or, attune your breath pattern to the nostrils, and repeat the mantra silently as you feel the breath entering and leaving the nose.
A most powerful practice is to do this in bed when the transition from wakefulness into sleep occurs. This practice prepares you to take this repetition automatically from the conscious state to the subconscious state. See if you can fall asleep with mantra, relaxing the mind and allowing the breath to carry the mantra.
Success is usually assured when you have the experience of waking up in the night or morning and the mantra is still with you.
With every breath you take, may you hear the whisper of the divine. Sat Nam.