Negotiating Change

Being alive means constantly adapting to the changes in our internal and external worlds. Change can be a cause of suffering if it is forced upon us, or if we resist it. But when we choose to make a change, and observe ourselves in the process of transformation, we can learn a lot about our patterns, and the degree to which we are able to free ourselves from the ones that cause suffering for us.

Certain mantras (chants), and specific āsana, prānāyāma and meditation practices, can support us through the various stages of transformation. With the help of these tools we can begin to see the way we personally negotiate change, and how we could embrace it in a positive way, using the practices to help us let go of negative patterns, and establish new, healthy and helpful ones. In this way we can actively support our own evolution.

In recent weeks, we have been exploring the ways in which our practice can help us negotiate change. Some of you who attended the sessions have expressed an interest in continuing this theme in your personal practice, so I am offering you the following notes, which can be read alongside the practice notes you received at the end of each class.

The vyāhrtis – mantras for the seven levels of transformation (parināma).

The seven vyāhrtis are often chanted at the start of the Gayatri mantra, as they cleanse and prepare the chanter to receive the energy of this sun chant. Each vyāhrti is a complete mantra in and of itself, and can therefore be chanted in isolation, although traditionally they are chanted after the mantra OM (see below).

The seven vyāhrtis can be linked to the seven cakras, and like the cakras, each one indicates a step in the process of transformation, and a refinement of our self-awareness. They are also known as distinct realms, ranging from earth to heaven and beyond.

The first three vyāhrtis (om bhuh, om bhuvah and om suvah) are known as the maha-vyāhrtis. They represent the earth, water and fire elements. These three together can help us to set our intention. Through the earth element we link with our present reality, and discover what it is that we would like to transform. The water element reminds us that it is possible for us to move from our present situation, and the fire element gives us the clarity to see what we would like to manifest.

Once you have chosen an area or an aspect of your life in which you would like to make a change, set your intention for this transformation. Sum this intention up in a short, positive statement, so that you can easily connect with it throughout the practices. This is your samkalpa (pronounced sankalpa). Take it into your heart, and remind yourself of it each time you step onto your mat.

The mantras:

A+U=O in Sanskrit, so AUM becomes OM. From O to M, the sound travels from the back of the throat to the lips, and fills the entire mouth with sound. The mantra contains all the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, which means it contains everything that could be expressed. Following OM there is always a short pause, to allow the sound to resonate.

Om bhuh
Earth element. The gross, physical plane. Relates to your current reality, that which you wish to transform. Implies heaviness, hard work.

Om bhuvah
Water element. The more subtle consciousness. Relates to that which is manifesting, a new reality you wish to create. The potential for change.

Ogm suvah
Fire element. Clarity, something coming into focus. A sense of lightness, and a step towards renewal.

Om mahah
Air element. Mahat refers to impressions from the past, old habits and behaviours, what we must release in order to embrace the new.

Om janah
Space element. Janah is a place of birth, where something new takes shape. A new aspect of you is manifesting.

Om tapah
Intelligence. Tapas is discipline. The effort required to nourish and sustain new patterns. Yukti is your special intelligence, based on all you have learned about yourself so far. Use your yukti to determine what discipline means for you.

Ogm satyam
Integration. A new reality is attained, no longer influenced by old patterns. This new truth becomes your bhuh, the place from which the next transformation can begin.

As you work with these mantras in your practice, it is important to remember that change is often messy and unpredictable. You may wish to stay with one mantra, and one practice for a while, until you feel ready to move on. For instance, it may take a number of weeks before your intention becomes clear, so you can repeat the first three levels several times. Then you may discover that a pattern that you have chosen to work with has deep roots, and letting go is not so easy! Just take your time, and trust yourself. This is an ongoing process, so there really is no hurry.

Enjoy your practice. Namaste.

Lynda x

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