Going Beyond the Face Value of Words
As westerners, most of us relate to words in terms of their face value: what meaning, or shade of meaning, are they meant to convey? Usually, whether they are heard or written, we perceive, parse and take in words through our mental reasoning and there, we believe, the matter ends. But according to yogic masters, and more and more western thinkers, this is really only half the story. They tell us that words carry with them a specific vibrational frequency that affects both the speaker and the listener, the author and the reader. From the yogic point of view, the first and most powerful word is “Om”, the cosmic creative vibration itself that, with meditative concentration, can be heard emanating from within. And while this quintessential sound is associated with Hinduism, it is also familiar to the Christian tradition in which it is known as “the Word” or “the great Amen”.
The Power of Mantras
East or west, we have all experienced the vibrational power of words. Kind and understanding words fall on our ears like a balm to soothe our hurts and anxieties. Angry, spiteful words can explode on our awareness like a bomb, throwing our thoughts and emotions into chaos. Taking responsibility for the effect of our words on others is part and parcel of becoming a mature person. Understanding and using the power of words in a constructive way for one’s own benefit and the benefit of others is a sign of a mature yogi. The use of a mantra (mental repetition of a word or phrase) is a sublimely simple and effective way to focus the mind and bring it to one-pointedness, the state of meditation known as Dharana. Mantras may be imbued with the spiritual blessing of a guru, may focus the mind on a chosen object of spiritual devotion, or may simply provide a branch floating in the river of thought to which the wandering attention may return again and again until concentration is perfected.
Affirmations: Antidotes to Negative Thinking
As mantras are to the stillness of meditation, affirmations are to the world of our active lives. In the midst of daily activity and concerns, it is easy for thoughts to slip unbidden—and often unseen by conscious awareness–into old grooves of negative postulates. These negative seed thoughts can be as seemingly insignificant as “I always catch a cold in winter” or as deeply imprisoning as “I am not worthy of love”. It is not always easy to uncover the hidden channels carved by early experiences, to “hear” the subtle repetitions of emotional beliefs that vibrationally create unwanted outcomes. But we have the power to bring conscious choice to bear through the use of antidotal affirmations, such as “In all times and seasons, I am well” or “I easily attract the love and support I need”.
Affirming Ourselves and Others
Positive words repeated with loving conviction can bend the river of mind toward health, toward one’s better angels. Even in the midst of activity, when a negative assumption is recognized, we can counter it with an affirmation of the conscious truth we choose for ourselves. Whether we repeat it aloud or mentally, address ourselves in a mirror or write it in a journal, affirmations put the vibrational power of words into our hands. And, in perhaps its highest form, affirmation can become the upliftment of others in prayer, an expression of creative vibration whose efficacy science is beginning to confirm.
For those interested in learning more, I highly recommend:
Scientific Healing Affirmations by Paramahansa Yogananda
You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay
Yogasync Me! Try Sun Salutations with Mantra. Do you notice any subtle differences from the practice without mantra?