If light is in your heart, you will find your way home. – Rumi
If light is in your heart, you will find your way home. – Rumi
Om or Aum is a sacred sound and symbol. Om is the universal sound; the first sound of creation. In the yoga sutras by B.K.S Iyengar (1993), “Aum is called Pranava, which stands for the praise of the divine and fulfillment of divinity.” Iyengar continues to say, “Sound is vibration, which as modern science tells us, is the source of all creation. God is beyond vibration, but vibration, being the subtlest of His creation, is the nearest we can get to Him in the physical world. So we take it as His symbol.”
I have been using Om in my pranayama practice. Yogic breathing is called pranayama in Sanskrit. Brown et al., (2005) defines pranayama as “meaning both control of energy and expansion of energy” (p. 189). In other words, Brown says that the breath is energy, and we have control over it. Brown (2005) states, prana is defined as breath or life force. According to Iyengar (1996), “pranayama by nature has three components: inhalation, exhalation, and retention. They are carefully learned by elongating the breath and prolonging the time of retention according to the elasticity of the torso, the length and depth of breath and the precision of movements” (p. 33). Iyengar’s point is to learn to hold the breath for longer periods of time to increase the volume oxygen in the body.
Breath links the body and mind. Yogic breathing techniques can be used to balance the autonomic nervous system and have a positive effect on stress-related disorders. When individuals are under stress, they restrict their breathing and decrease the amount of oxygen coming into their bodies (Wilkinson, 2002). Yogic breathing techniques increase the volume of oxygen in the lungs and help the body to relax and the mind to focus.
When I chant Om, I repeat it three times with a long expiration. Chanting Om has complex effects on the brain; especially in the Wernicke’s area and the thalamus (Brown, 2005). According to Brown et al., (2005), “Even just mentally chanting Om showed decreased metabolism, decreased heart rate, and increased peripheral vascular resistance in seven experienced yogic meditators” (p. 195). Chanting Om also increases synchronicity of particular biorhythms in the brain (Zope, 2013). D’Antoni et al.(1995) state that “mantra production frequently employs the phonemes, m, and n, which are thought to evoke pleasant association and a feeling of release” (p. 309). The chant Om has the phoneme m in it.
Om is magical. I have experienced its effects on my mind and body. I am an emotional person and sometimes I have a difficult time controlling my emotions. According to The Art of Living Foundation (http://www.artofliving.org), “rather than allowing the emotions to alter the breath (and cause physiological changes which may prove unhealthy), one can skillfully use the breath to transform one’s emotional state.” When someone is angry, the breath is short and quick. And when someone is sad or upset, the breath is long and deep. Om can be used to control the breath and balance the emotions.
I had a little health scare this past month. I found a few pink, scaly spots on my face. I was worried that I might have skin cancer. So last week I went to the dermatologist. I made a plan that I would silently use the Om chant while I sat in the office, and during the consultation and treatment. I was surprised how chanting Om helped me to be calm and feel centered. I did not get upset, and my heart rhythm was strong.
I found out that I do not have skin cancer. I have Actinic Keratoses. It’s a common skin disorder from years of sun exposure. Actinic Keratoses is considered precancerous. If left untreated, Actinic Keratoses may turn into squamous cell carcinoma. I am treating my spots (with liquid nitrogen), so hopefully I will not get skin cancer.
I can count on the magic of Om to balance the biorhythms in my brain and in my heart. I have to admit; I was scared that I was going to die from skin cancer. Deep breathing and prayer helped me connect with God and the universe. Life can be scary, so we need to learn to breathe through it.
Brown, R.P., & Gerbarg, P.L., (2005). Sudarshan kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: Part I – Neurophysiologic model. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 11(1), 189-201.
Brown, R.P., & Gerbarg, P.L., (2005). Sudarshan kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: Part II – Clinical applications and guidelines. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 11(4), 711-717.
D’Antoni, M., Harvey, P., & Fried, M. (1995). Alternative medicine: Does it play a role in the management of voice disorders. Journal of Voice, 9(3), 308-311.
Iyengar, B.K.S. (1966). Light on yoga. New York, NY: Schocken Books, Inc.
Iyengar, B.K.S. (1993). Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Hammersmith, London: HarperCollins Publishers.
Wilkinson, L., Buboltz, W. C., & Young, T. (2002). Breathing techniques to promote client relaxation and tension reduction. Journal of Clinical Activities, Assignments & Handouts in Psychotherapy Practice, 2(1), 1-14.
Zope, S.A., & Zope, R.A., (2013). Sudarshan kriya yoga: Breathing for health. International Journal of Yoga, 6(1), 4-10.
I just went on a spiritual pilgrimage to Sedona, Arizona. And now that I am back, I can reflect on my experience. I ask myself the questions: What is a spiritual pilgrimage? What was I seeking? And what did I learn?
According to eHow, a spiritual pilgrimage is a physical journey toward a place of sacred or religious significance. Sedona attracts people from all over the world to experience its vortexes and holy land. Many people travel to Sedona for healing and to evolve their consciousness. The red rocks contain minerals of quartz, copper and iron; both hold healing properties. Copper magnifies energy and opens up the chakras. And iron, like in our blood, creates balance in the body and mind.
I traveled with three other spiritual seekers: Sister Lucy is a Franciscan nun, Joe studied Shamanism in Peru, and Trina is a Vietnamese energy healer and medical interpreter. Our group theme for the trip: trust and let go. We trusted God to guide us.
What was I seeking? I was seeking spiritual transformation. My first transformation was at the Chapel of the Holy Cross. This beautiful, little Catholic church was built in the red rocks. When I entered the chapel, I felt the presence of God. I could feel the energy of thousands of past visitors. As I sat on the simple wooden bench, I felt the mercy of God. The love and forgiveness of God swelled in my heart. God has mercy for all.
Chapel of the Holy Cross
My next transformation was at the Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park. A stupa is a Buddhist shrine. The park holds a large wooden statue of Buddha, a medicine wheel, and two Stupa’s; one masculine and one feminine. As I walked the grounds, my heart opened up like never before. I could feel my heart chakra – it was turning and turning. I couldn’t help but to cry. I could feel every wound that I have ever experienced in my life. I was grieving and letting go at the same time. I was purging everything that no longer serves me.
I had to walk by myself to process my feelings. I walked down to a ravine. I sat and meditated. As I sat on the grass, I could feel spirits all around me. I was not alone. I am never alone.
After spending some time by myself, I joined the group. We walked the medicine wheel. I connected with the energy and sacredness of our group.
That evening (after visiting the Stupa), in my hotel room, I had an unusual experience. I was sleeping until a loud bang woke me up. The noise seemed to come from the wall. I thought maybe it was the pipes. Then I heard another noise near the bathroom. The noise was loud, and my body jumped when I heard it. Then I heard it, again, near the television. It was like energy was bouncing off the walls. The last bang that evening was two feet above my head near the headboard. I have never experienced anything like this before. I was scared. I had to breathe deeply and call on my guides.
I did not hear any banging noise during the rest of the trip. It is a mystery – I don’t know what was banging. I did feel challenged, and there is one lesson that I learned from this: I need a strong mind. I can develop a powerful mind through meditation and breathing exercises.
When I was on this trip, I thought a lot about relationships. It’s interesting that no matter where we are in life, our relationships come first before anything else. I remember hearing a story about a counselor who went to Haiti after the earthquake. She was there to help people process the tragedy but all the people wanted to talk about was their relationships.
At the end of the trip, I started to miss my husband. I realized that I have one person who cares about me and is there for me. Sedona has opened my eyes. I now see that I have taken my marriage for granted. I treasure my husband, and I want to become a more loving wife.
My next spiritual transformation was with a Native American guide. Joe, Trina, and I hired a Native American guide to talk about the land and lead us on a shamanic journey. We laid down on the warm, red rock as the Native American guide drummed for us. He told us to envision a bridge to a mountain. And when we got to the mountain, we would see a cave. He said that there was a bright light coming out of the cave, and inside the cave was a gift.
During my journey, I imagined a rope bridge that was partially invisible. When I arrived at the mountain, I saw the rock cave and a bright light coming out of it. I walked into the cave and saw a red, rectangle box on a table in the middle of the cave. I opened the box and a cosmic egg made of light surrounded me. This light balanced all of my chakras. Then I saw my wolf guide standing by the box. I asked the wolf his name. The wolf took his paw and wrote in the sand: SHIVA.
The Native American told me that it is a blessing to have the wolf as my guide. The wolf is a protector and leader. The wolf is good medicine.
Mitakuye Oaysis – All my relations
Now that I am home, I am still in spiritual transformation. My heart is still opening up, and I can feel the holy fire of love igniting in my heart. I need to let this fire warm up my whole being and allow myself to feel. As one Sedona resident said to me, “It’s okay to feel.”
I trust God. Even though there is heartbreak in life, there is also beauty. I ask myself, “What do I want to see?” I am the artist of my life. What am I going to paint?
Sedona is a sacred place, and the vortexes are real. This energy of the vortex spins the heart chakra open. There is no hiding in Sedona. This holy place wants you to feel – to your core.
About two weeks ago, my mom was having health problems, and I had to call 911. It’s been about ten years since I called 911. I was a little shaken because my mom couldn’t walk. As I talked to the 911 operator, she told me, “Take some deep breaths.” I did as she asked and I felt much better afterwards. I just needed to hear those words: take some deep breaths.
In this emergency situation, my deep breathing was different than I expected. I inhaled into my nostrils and exhaled out my mouth. I remember puckering my lips as I exhaled – like blowing out candles. After breathing deeply, I was able to gain composure and continue with the call.
Deep breathing increases oxygen to the whole body. It is best to use the respiratory system to its fullest; especially in stressful situations. Deep breathing relaxes the body and mind.
Here is a breathing technique to help you reduce your stress and anxiety:
Deep Nostril Breathing and Mouth Exhalation Technique (taken from “Science of Breath: A Complete Manual of the Oriental Breathing Philosophy of Physical, Mental, Psychic and Spiritual Development,” by Yogi Ramacharaka):
I hope I will never have to call 911 again. But if I do, then I will remember to “take some deep breaths.” I know that increasing oxygen in my body will help me face the challenge before me.
May you go forward in peace.
Your breath touched my soul and I saw beyond all limits. —Rumi