Musings by Veronica Yacco
What we call practicing yoga is the purposeful repetition of habits and techniques designed to dissolve the obstructions that prevent us from being consciously aware of our true nature. Like the smoothing of a stone by constant friction, the experiences that we cling to that are our reasons to remain separate slowly begin to lose their importance. They no longer stand out and what we find ourselves in is a state of equanimity. The highs and lows of life will continue, but like water flowing to the sea, we are not caught up or disturbed by the terrain. We flow through it with ease regardless of how much effort is required of us (the babbling brook and the rushing river are the same flow with different intensities). Saraswati, as "the Flowing One" helps to merge our awareness of thought as discreet objects (individual thoughts or experiences) into the more complete awareness of consciousness (not limited to thought alone) as flow. When there is no resistance in us to the direction of that flow of consciousness, we can find ourselves carried upon it (or maybe within it is more appropriate). This flow draws us to/draws to us the circumstances that best suite the movement of consciousness. That means that whatever we need to feel fulfillment of our true desires we will find ourselves connected with, sometimes through unexpected situations. If this feels like it might be a very passive approach to living, remember that the flow simply directs the circumstances that happen around us. We are still required to (and will be drawn to) participate in those circumstances. Conflicts that we have a unique ability to help resolve will be in our path. Situations that allow us to uncover deep places of feeling in ourselves will engulf us and those we are close to so that we may all experience what it is to heal and support. We may have challenges to our faith or beliefs so that we may strengthen our understanding of openness...and maybe help whoever is on the other side of the situation become more open too. Everything that can be done is still available to do, if we wish, but the feeling of being "in charge" of how it all fits together is dissolved. We are free to be exactly who and what we want to be in each scenario. What we choose may subtly alter the flow that we are carried upon. That is the law of karma. But the flow is ultimately the freedom to not have to create the future based upon the past. You will be carried to the next great moment of fulfillment by that flowing energy that is Shakti itself.
So, how to get to the state of flow...
We start with the understanding that repetition is everything. It is the basis for the habits that we have now that limit our perception of things. And it is the basis for expanding our perception to see more clearly. There are innumerable practices that can be effective tools to begin the softening of our clinging to individual thinking and to facilitate the awareness of the subtle. One of the practices most directly related to Saraswati is mantra. Saraswati represents all forms of expression, but particularly the spoken word. She is also deeply connected to spiritual study and practice, so mantra is right up her alley. She is even said to be what flows with the sound of OM, the first and most fundamental mantra that there is (it contains within it all other mantras). And what is a mantra? Particular words or sounds that carry vibrational potency and meaning. In the case of Sanskrit mantras, the pronunciation of the words themselves carries vibrational effect. And what do we do with mantras? We repeat them. (Interesting that for many people the world mantra is synonymous with repeating a word or phrase). Through repetition, the vibration of the mantra begins to take root in our minds and energetic fields, and the grip we have on other thoughts starts to loosen. As the habit of mantra becomes stronger and more "dominant" in our minds, we no longer may even feel the need or desire for the older mind habits. The grip gets looser and in that open space our innate state of calm and peace starts to arise. Wherever there is no resistance to that state, nothing in the way of it, it will become the state that we are not only aware of, but comfortable and familiar with. It may then feel like effort to let things draw us away from that state (not that it won't ever happen). Even when we do get lost in the mind again, the tether of the mantra can remain a powerful tool to help us find the way back out of the tangled-ness of individual thoughts. The power of repetition remains, even if we get distracted.
Whatever we repeatedly come in contact with we form a relationship to. Whatever we study we will increase our understanding of. What we become very familiar with we have a tendency to identify with (part of our problem to begin with!). So if we are repeating a mantra we will naturally form a relationship to the meaning of that mantra, begin to absorb an understanding of that meaning, and begin to identify with the vibration of the mantra itself. We, meaning our individual mind - awareness, begin to merge with it. Repeat Sat Nam or Soham and we begin to identify with an awareness of the "I AM". Repeat Lokah Samasta and we begin to identify with peace and selfless service. Repeat the mantra for any deity and we begin to feel the Presence of that deity within ourselves. Repeat the sound of OM, really using it as a mantra, and we begin to identify with the qualities of the Infinite. There is no wrong choice, only open doorways that either feel like they are the right size for us or not. The mantra is not a magic spell, but the practice of repetition and letting the mind merge with a new vibration can seem like it transforms everything (almost like magic - or maybe just a demonstration of how magic works in everyday ways). The power comes from directing the mind towards something that is expansive enough to immerse it, like gathering many small streams into one channel, the flow becomes much more potent. As we practice, that gathering and merging can happen on many levels to the point that maybe, that flow of consciousness that we know as "I" reaches the ocean and there simply is ONE. The call to that ocean is already inside of us. The practice is just the way we redirect our errant energies back in that direction, the way that we dissolve or let go of our resistance to Oneness.
We repeat a mantra with our minds, but we also feel the reality of a mantra with our hearts. You could say that when we have a true belief in the mantra that we use that we are giving voice to the heart, maybe even the Soul (the jiva - atman resides at the heart). The repetition of your own heart's voice can draw to you the fulfillment of your spiritual desires (the worldly ones too). That great space of openness that we can call Nirvana (emptiness) is like the echo chamber for that inner voice. With mantra we repeatedly call out and that openness echoes back to us our own call, the ocean inviting the river to merge in an ecstatic embrace, like Shiva and Shakti reunited in bliss. Don't neglect your practice. Remember your mantra or, if you don't use one, remember to let your practice be the voice of your heart. Live your life from this place of the awakened heart and a mind that is always ready to seek out what is greater than itself, always willing to merge with the flow of the Infinite. OM shanti, shanti, shanti