Meditation with the use of the mantra “om” or “aum” is worth learning. It’s a sublimely simple practice. It also happens to be one of the most ancient, and is referenced in some of the earliest religious texts.
This short article comprises an introduction to the history and meaning of “om meditation” as well as written instructions you can try right now. Enjoy…
The Primordial Sound
The notion that the universe is constituted of vibrations (of which sound is one) is gaining acceptance amongst scientists. Michio Kaku, a physics professor, has said that, “The universe is a symphony of vibrating strings.” The sound “Om,” we are told in the Upanishads, is the manifestation of the first vibration, with which the world began.
This notion, however, is not a modern invention. In the Tantric school of Hinduism, it is said that the universe is sound. Very much like how our understanding of the world is made up of atoms, the Tantric Hindus understood the world as being made up of countless vibrations of varying frequencies and amplitudes.
The Bhagavad Gita describe how “Om” was spoken by Lord Brahma at the beginning of time, and is the best word for God. All existence, the story goes, is pervaded by the vibration “Om.” It is the fundamental self, the foundation, the source. The Latin word “omne,” is derived from the same root, part of omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent (all traditionally used to refer to God).
It is a common part of Hindu devotional practice and prayer. The symbol is perhaps the most recognizable feature of classical Indian art.
How to Pronounce Om
Begin by pursing your lips, as if you were going to say, “You.” The first part of the syllable is the same sound as the “oh” in “home,” as opposed to the “o” in “octopus.” So we start with “ohhhhhhh” (keeping the lips pursed) and then bring our lips together to make the “mmmmmmm” sound. The result is a long “ohhhhhmmmmm.” It is best chanted in a low note rather than a high one. Doing so deepens the sensation of the vibrations in the body.
If you would like to use a similar-sounding word from your own faith then that’s absolutely fine. The Hebrew word “shalom,” Arabic “salaam” or even “amen” all work as mantras. A word with positive personal connotations is best. You can use this as a complete practice in its own right or as a preamble to another type of meditation. It works equally well as both.
- You can do this in any position but it is best done sitting down. Close your eyes.
- Settle yourself by taking a handful of deep, calming breaths. Let each exhalation be a “letting go” of any tension or worry you are carrying in your body.
- Take a slow, deep breath. On the out-breath chant the single word: “Ohhhhhhhmmmmmmm.”
- Repeat again. Bring your attention to the vibrations in your body, especially along your spine and in your belly.
Research has been conducted into the effects of “Om” meditation. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to study the activity of certain parts of the brain both before and after chanting. The results show “significant deactivation” of brain-areas associated with emotion processing, particularly the “limbic system.”1 This means that the practice can be useful in regulating negative emotions.
If you like the sound of “Om” I suggest that you treat yourself to In the Om Zone 2.0 by Steven Halpern. It’s a great CD for relaxing or chanting along to. Each track is slightly different but centred around the sacred syllable.
You can always download one track to get going.
p.101, The Healing Power of the Breath, by Richard P. Brown & Patricia L. Gerbarg.