Meditation

SOHAM MEDITATION

Note that the practice is designed for you to do silently, by remembering the mantra internally. You cannot repeat the mantra aloud with the recording, as you would have to be speaking during your inhalation, which does not work. Instead, you remember the mantra in the mind, the way you automatically remember a song you like. When you practice So Hum Mantra without the recording, it is still done silently and internally.

Training the breath:

As you allow your mind to flow with the Soham Mantra, also gently train your breath. This breath training has a tremendous effect on calming the mind.

  • No pause: Allow there to be no pauses between breaths. Inhalation naturally, smoothly transitions into exhalation, and exhalation naturally transitions into inhalation.
  • Silent: The breath itself is quiet, with the sound of the mantra only remembered internally.
  • No jerkiness: Gradually eliminate any jerkiness or irregularities, so that the breath is smooth. The bumps in the breath come from the mind, and calming the breath will in turn calm the mind.
  • Slow: A comfortably slow breath is very beneficial. The rate of the mantra in the recording will bring your breath to a comfortable rate.
  • Diaphragmatic: Breathe with the diaphragm, the large muscle connected all the way around the inside of the lower rib cage. The muscles of the lower abdomen and the upper chest are not needed to breathe diaphragmatically.

Five ways to practice:

  1. Diaphragm: Place your attention in the area of the diaphragm, in a palm-sized space, just below the breast bone. Allow the inhalation to flow in unison with the sound Sooooo... of the Soham mantra. Allow the exhalation to flow in unison with the sound Hummmm... of the So Hum mantra. Observe the feel of the motion from the inside, and allow there to be no pauses between breaths. Inhalation naturally transitions into exhalation, and exhalation naturally transitions into inhalation. The breath will naturally become smooth and quiet. The sound of the Sohum mantra will gently regulate the speed of the breath.
  2. Spine: With inhalation, allow your inner attention to move upwards with Sooooo..., from the base of the spine to the top of the head. With exhalation, allow your inner attention to move down with Hummmm..., from the top of the head to the base of the spine. You might also look for a thin, milky white stream flowing there with the breath, though that is not necessary if you do not see such an image. Once again, you gently transition between breaths, with no pause between the breaths.
  3. Chakras: Similar to the breath along the spine, allow your attention to flow with So Hum mantra between two chakras, or energy centers that may be needing special attention or balancing. For example, inhale from the navel center to the heart center, and exhale from the heart to the navel; or inhale from the heart center to the eyebrow center, and exhale from the from the eyebrow center to the heart. Whichever two chakras are used, the inhalation is upwards, and the exhalation is downwards.
  4. Nostrils: Place your attention at the bridge of the nostrils, feeling the touch of the air moving in and out of your nostrils. Coordinate the inhalation with the sound Sooooo... of the So Hum mantra. Coordinate the exhalation with the sound Hummmm... of the Soham mantra. If one nostril seems to be flowing less freely, it is good to place the attention on that nostril. When both nostrils flow freely, there is a joy that comes, and the mind wants only to do meditation. It is called sandhya, the wedding of the sun and the moon (ha and tha of hatha), of ida and pingala, the left and right energies of the subtle body. This allows energy to flow in the central channel sushumna.
  5. All three methods above: Sequentially do each of the three practices above with So Hum mantra, starting with breath awareness at the diaphragm, followed by the breath along the spine, and then breath awareness at the bridge of the nostrils. Divide the time approximately evenly between the three, or however feels comfortable and natural. Remember, the difference between the So Hum mantra methods is the placement of your attention, while you continue to breathe smoothly, quietly, and with no pauses between breaths.

40 day practice

The period of 40 days has been widely recognized as an auspicious period both in the East and the West since ancient times. A traditional way to do an extended mantra practice is to choose a number of repetitions per day (e. g., 1-4), and to do that for 40 days.

The mind likes to have a beginning and end to a practice, a sense of completion, such as comes with a 40 day (or longer) practice.

  1. Fixed time per practice session: Mind finds comfort in knowing that it will do the practice of one round of 108 repetitions (or some other number of rounds), and that each round will take a predictable amount of time (17 minutes per round of 108 repetitions).
  2. Same number of rounds: Mind also likes the predictability of doing a certain number of rounds done per day. Mind may resist at times, but once it gets started in the practice, mind likes the habit.
  3. Specific number of days: Mind also likes the plan of knowing how many days or months a practice will take to complete. This can be very beneficial in stabilizing a noisy mind, which is a common complaint.

By running your own experiment for 40 days, you can decide for yourself whether or not the practice is beneficial.

It has been said that there is freedom in discipline; choosing to do a regular practice frees the mind from wondering each day, what will be done today. Once again, it is important not to do the mantra practice with rote repetition, but rather, with feeling and awareness.

Extended practice

A noticeable level of mantra siddhi (power of the mantra) is said to come with 125,000 repetitions of a mantra (Such an extended practice is called a purascharna). This is equivalent to 1250 rounds of a mala. A mala is a set of counting beads with 108 beads. Only 100 are counted, with the other 8 considered an offering to the divine, however you personally hold that.

Listening to this So Hum mantra recording of 108 repetitions (17 minutes) is equivalent to one round of a mala (You can also use the Soham CD). To complete the equivalent of 1250 rounds of a mala, or a total of 125,000 repetitions of So Hum mantra, will take this amount of time:

Rounds
per day

Time
per day

Total
days

Appx.
months

1

17 min

1250

42

2

34 min

625

21

3

51 min

417

14

4

1 hr, 8 min

313

10 ½

5

1 hr, 25 min

250

8 ½

6

1 hr, 41 min

209

7

7

1 hr, 58 min

179

6

Such an extended practice with So Hum mantra can have a tremendous effect in stabilizing the mind in preparation for advancing in meditation. Such a practice simply must be done personally to understand the benefits. It does take quite a commitment to do this practice every day for such a long period, but it is well worth the effort.

In choosing the level of practice per day, it is important to have stability from one day to the next, and to not skip any days. It is best to choose the level that works for you consistently, rather than changing the number from day to day. For example, if two rounds per day is a good number (34 minutes), then it's better to stay with that amount each and every day, not to do none on one day, but four on the next day.

SO HAM mantra meditation

To start with this mantra (pronounced "so-hum") find a comfortable position and start with consciously regulated deep breathing for 2 or 3 minutes. Then let the breath slow down and allow it to assume its own pattern. Just observe the breath without controlling it. The breath will get slower and shallower as we move toward meditation and eventually reach a point in deep meditative states where it seems to disappear (kevala kumbhaka).

If it's the first time with the mantra say it aloud several times to get the feel of the vibration and then gradually make it softer and take it inside. We just set the mantra in motion and then observe it coming up into the conscious mind.

Finding the mantra in the breath. Silently let the mantra float up into the mind with the breath --SO on the inhale, HAM on the exhale. Soham means "I am that", "I am existence itself" -- without form, without quality, without past, present or future--identifying with the absolute.

The mantra should come into the mind as effortlessly as a thought would. Let it eventually become more of a memory of a sound rather than a hard mechanical repetition. Use the mantra with increasing subtlety as the practice progresses -- both within a sitting and over time as your skills improve.

Don't force -- the practice should move toward efortlessness. Be gentle when the mind wanders. Effortlessly re-introduce the mantra each time you're aware of having strayed from the technique. I's a gradual training process of coming back to it repeatedly.

There should be no feeling of supressing any thoughts that arise. Simply observe them and go back to the technique before the thoughts carry you off into an internal conversation. With practice, the focus of the mind will shift from the the thoughts to the mantra and into the stillness of the gaps between mantra repetitions -- the realm of pure consciousness itself. The thoughts will eventually get fewer and the vistas between them will continue to expand. With extended practice glimpses of the superconscious state of samadhi appear. Don't be impatient -- learning to sit and do nothing will take time.

Adding an awareness of energy flow. Each time the inhale comes along, observe it as if it were a rising field of energy (prana) moving from the base of the spine up to the top of the head. With each exhale, envision a descending flow of energy (apana) moving from the top of the head back down to the base of the spine.

Ending a session. Try to sit for at least 15 or 20 minutes. At the end of this time, gently let go of the mantra while still keeping a meditative awareness. Practice meditating without any effort or technique for another minute or two. This is the time to to observe the effects of the practice and see if we can (even briefly) move in a bit deeper. Remember, the real meditation starts when use of the technique stops. The mantra itself is not the meditation -- just a tool to take us there.

After several minutes gradually start deepening the breath and slowly shift your awareness back to the body. Take another minute and gently open the eyes. Always come out of meditation slowly and consciously so you can carry its effects with you into the rest of your life. As an alternate to coming out of the meditation as above, consider lying down on your back in savasana (the corpse pose) for 5 to 10 minutes of deep relaxation.

If you're interested in deeper results, gradually increase the length of your sittings.

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