The essence of Yoga is to be easeful in body, peaceful in mind, and useful in life.
When you meet a spiritually evolved yogi you will see how peaceful they are and how at ease they are with their body and with whatever situation they find themselves in. They are always calm and comfortable. A yogi is at ease with their body and their mind because they don’t identify themselves with their present body or mind; instead, they identify themselves with eternal existence, that which is beyond the confines of time, that which is love itself, boundless and limit-less joy. How does a yogi get to that place?
Yogic practices like mantra, meditation and asana help us to be at ease with the comings and going of life. When we practice asanas or sit and meditate, we let whatever thoughts, feelings and sensations come, and then we let them go; and we replace those thoughts, feelings and sensations with the internal chanting of a mantra and through practice over time, we get a feeling of being at ease with the comings and goings of relative existence. To be comfortable with the temporary transient nature of existence is a sign of someone who has evolved spiritually. Chanting mantra while you are meditating and practicing asana as well as in “everyday life” situations can help you shift your awareness out of a feeling of constriction to a place of expansiveness.
Chanting mantra can work like magic. Magic is when your perception of something shifts. You see something one way and then magically it changes shape and appears as something else, perhaps radically different from what you first thought it was. Mantra can take our perception from mundane reality to celestial, elevated reality, true reality-what is truly real. What is truly real is eternal; mundane, relative reality is not eternal, it comes and goes-some days you’re happy, some days you are sad; some days you’re tired, some days you’re not; your state of mind and your feelings fluctuate, the highs and lows come and go. Life is supposed to have its ups and downs; this is the nature of Nature-of life; its changeful temperament shouldn’t be a problem, you should want each moment to come and go and to let it come and go, but you should have a way not to let yourself get caught in the middle of a ping pong game bouncing back and forth between the highs and lows.
Patanjali tells us that our preferences can be a hindrance to our happiness and to the attainment of Yoga. He refers of our preferences as raga and dvesha. Raga means when you are attached to things and situations that you like, and dvesha is when you are repulsed by things you don’t like and that make you feel uncomfortable. So you are always trying to avoid what you don’t like and hold on to or go after what you do like and that can be very frustrating, because life isn’t always perfect. The weather will change, an accident will happen and you will hurt yourself, the person you are in love with is bound to disappoint you, and say something hurtful one day. What can you do? Well many people, in fact most normal people, opt for the fight or flight syndrome: either attacking or running away when they find themselves upset and in a difficult situation. They react with negative words or thoughts, and run for cover to what they perceive to be the easiest most convenient quick fix, but they most often discover that that quick fix doesn’t satisfy them for very long and soon enough they are uncomfortable and restless and on the move again, looking for happiness and ease outside of themselves. This never works because peace and happiness are inside of us; to look for it outside of ourselves without looking within first will prove disappointing. Chanting mantra is a way to move inside of ourselves to a place of peace and ease, unfettered by the comings and goings of the external environment. Mantras give us a way to cross over a troubled mind.
A simple way to experiment with the potential power of mantra is to silently chant a mantra when you find yourself in a stressful or uncomfortable situation or when someone says something unkind to you. Instead of retaliating with anger, expressing (or thinking) words of ill will or condemnation or pulling away, instead try silently saying, Hare Krishna, Hare Rama, or whatever holy name appeals to you or even the simple words let go. This way you get out of the blame and into the name! Blame and its cousin anger make us into victims, and victims are never happy, at ease or peaceful people. For example, when your boyfriend or girlfriend says or does something hurtful to you, instead of exploding, silently chant your mantra, or go for a walk or a run or a bike ride and chant the mantra. Before long your breathing will take on the rhythm of the mantra and your mind will have become calm. When you have calmed your mind you can then think clearly and begin to contemplate ways to help the person who you felt upset you and in doing so you become useful instead of being used.
As Krishna Das sings, “Yes God is real and I have finally found a way to live in the presence of the Lord and it’s all in the name…Hare Rama Rama Ram Sita Rama Rama Ram…, and it’s all in the name.” -Sharon Gannon