“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
I know what you’re thinking: “Tracey, don’t get all New Testament on me.” Don’t worry, I haven’t recently found Jesus or anything. But the idea of the Word being God is so striking to me… and dare I say familiar? It makes me think of Bhakti yoga, specifically the practice of chanting mantra.
The first time I ever chanted in a yoga class, It felt like something I was made to do. I didn’t know what the words meant, and it didn’t matter. I was breathing and making sounds with a roomful of people I’d never met, and it just felt right. For a second I was able to get out of my head and connect with something other than the annoying, neurotic track that usually plays on a loop inside my brain.
Chanting allowed me to access something bigger than me that was moving through me as me.
I felt all lit up inside. I felt peaceful and energized simultaneously.
What was it about this practice of chanting the holy names that permeated me so deeply? I’ve thought about it a lot and this is what I’ve come up with so far: chanting is like doing asana with your mouth. Allow me to explain…
When you put your body in the architecture of trikonasana, for example, the breath moves through you in a very specific way and there are energetic effects. You feel differently in trikonasana than you do in say, uttanasana. Likewise, when you arrange your mouth in different shapes to make the sounds that form certain mantras, it invokes different feelings inside of you. Intoning the names “Krishna” and “Radha” make you feel differently than saying the names of Shiva.
When you chant the holy names, you actually bring forth the energies associated with the deities. You say the names of god, and you conjure the divine.
No wonder chanting can be so transcendent!
Have you ever chanted “Om” in a yoga class and had the experience where it felt like the sound was coming both from outside of you and inside of you at the same time? It’s as if all of the other yogi’s “Oms” permeate your skin and fill you up as your own “Om” vibrates throughout your body and enters the bodies of others. It feels amazing! The word Om can connect you intimately with people you’ve never even met. It’s a moment of communion.
This is some pretty powerful stuff.
Neem Karoli Baba said: The best form in which to worship God is all forms. His student Ram Dass further explained, “Everyone you meet is Ram who has come to teach you something. Mantra is remembering that place in the heart – Ram, Ram, Ram, Say it, mouth it, think it, feel it in your heart. You are continually meeting and merging into perfection… The divine is present in the soul of all living beings and in the Universe.”
You chant to Krishna and suddenly he is right there, playing the flute on your tongue, dancing beside his beloved Radharani. These lovers, these deities, these archetypes of the divine actually show up and fill you with feelings of love, devotion, and the yearning for union.
You chant the word. And the word is with God. And the word IS God.