From Rami Shapiro: Beginning a Mantra Practice to Shift from Narrow Mind to Spacious Mind

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JeniferW
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From Rami Shapiro: Beginning a Mantra Practice to Shift from Narrow Mind to Spacious Mind

One of the things that came up in our first conversation was the use of a mantra. Let me take a moment to summarize my thoughts on this and lay out the “homework” associated with it.

For me, using a mantra a simple, effective, and straightforward way to shift from narrow mind to spacious mind (mochin d’katnut to mochin d’gadlut in Hebrew). Both minds or dimensions of consciousness are operating all the time, so it isn’t about getting something you lack at the moment. Rather it is about allowing narrow mind—the defended and often defensive ego—to be surrendered into the greater reality of spacious mind. When this happens, the fear, anger, arrogance, and ignorance in which narrow mind often becomes trapped, simply drops away. And when it does, forgiveness happens.

Remember at the heart of my approach to forgiveness is that forgiveness isn’t a willed act, but a gift of grace that arises of its own accord when we shift from narrow to spacious mind. The exercises associated with the Challenge are about exploring narrow and spacious mind rather than a self–help check list for forgiving self and others.

The conscious repetition of a mantrum (mantra is the plural) slows our breathing, unclenches the body from its reactive stance of fight or flight, and allows us to see what is rather than be caught up in thinking about what is. When we see what is, we see that we are all, as Randy mentions, caught in our own traps. These traps cause us to act in ways that are hurtful and often harmful. Seeing the trap is the first step (and maybe the only step) to freeing ourselves from the trap.

When I was initiated into the Ramakrishna Order of Advaita Vedanta by Swami Swahananda, Swami gave me a mantrum. When I learned Centering Prayer from Father Thomas Keating, I was encouraged to find my own mantrum. When I learned mantrum practice from Eknath Easwaran, I was again taught to find my own sacred word or phrase. Judaism, too, suggests you find your own mantrum. I use the one taught by the 18th century Hasidic rabbi, Reb Nachman of Breslov: harachaman.

Harachaman means “The Compassionate One,” and its root is rechem, “womb.” Compassion arises naturally (along with forgiveness) when we recognize we are all sisters and brothers arising from the Womb of God or Reality. I repeat harachaman throughout the day. The chant I taught you added the word hareh, “to see or behold,” but harachaman works perfectly well all by itself.

Harachaman may sound too alien to you, and you might want to find your own mantrum. Please do so. According to the rabbis you should recite your chosen mantrum daily for forty days. If you make it through all forty days, the mantrum is ingrained in you and begins to recite itself even when you aren’t aware of it. Of course there is no way to know if that is true, but the idea is that the mantrum is always readily at hand for you recite consciously and slip out of the trap whenever you find yourself ensnared.

If you don’t stick with the mantrum for forty days, the rabbis say this is your clue that you are using the wrong word; find another.
What I love about mantrum repetition is that it is an experiment whose results are visible. Whenever you find yourself tightening up, resisting what is rather than opening to it and learning to navigate it with grace, humor, courage, and love, recite the mantra and see if the shift happens or not.

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Mantra

Any way to get a copy of Haraachaman to sing to up as part of this course?  I sang it on Wednesday and I don't remember how to sing it.  I know it will be on the video once that goes up, and I'm not sure that I will watch the video daily to come to know this mantra.  Any possibility of just Harachaman to chant along with?

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Hebrew mantras

My teachers in all things Jewish-chanting are Yofiyah and Rabbi Shefa Gold. The HaRachaman chant is Yofiyah's. I think it is on her first CD, though she does it with a full band. I simply these things for my personal use.

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Mantra

Do you have any guidance on how long or how many times a mantra should be chanted each day?  Is it better to sit quietly and chant, or to say it (silently or not) while you are doing other things?  And are there any suggestions on how to seek a mantra that "fits" aside from waiting 40 days?

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Mantra Guidance

My suggestion is to read Eknath Easwaran's book Meditation. He talks wisely about mantra practice there. My book Minyan: Ten Practices for living a life of integrity (the title is so pompous) talks about this practice as well, and offers some Jewish options. I practice mantra is three ways: I recite them (I use a string of texts following Easwaran's Passage Meditation system) formally in the morning, usually around 2am. This reflects the vagueries of my sleep pattern. I also repeat a short mantra like Harachaman or Jai Ma throughout the day. And I use Harachaman specifically when I find myself in a conflict, either with myself, my situation, or another person. In each case the mantra helps me shift from narrow mind to spacious mind, and I become more calm and kind. As for duration: I know people whose formal practice goes on for hours. They have no other life. Andrew Newberg, the PhD who studies the science of contemplative practice says 18 minutes is the minimum needed to make the shift, or at least to have the shift show up on his brain scans. Personally, I'd just experiment and see what works for you.

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Mantra

The course is almost ending but the enlightening realizations keep happening.  Since reading this post near the first day of this course, I've been on a quest searching for my mantrum.  Words in a foreign language did not appeal to me.  I've written words and sentences and phrases over the weeks but nothing resonated.  I looked for quotes, and found quotes but not mantra.  I wrote beautiful things but nothing that repetitively sang to my soul.  Then, the other day in a moment of stress, I listened to my self and I was saying something in my mind that I frequently say to quell the uneasiness of life and to bring me peace.  "All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well."  It's an adaptation of Julian of Norwich's quote.  And I realized I didn't need to search any longer, I had my mantrum all along.

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All shall be well

How wonderful! Now share with us how you knew/know this is your mantra? Did you feel something? What does reciting this do for you that the others did not? 

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All shall be well
I just knew.  I recognized it, like it was always a part of me.  Everything else felt forced or contrived.  How does it make me feel?  A sense of centering and calm.  In a way, I transcend the situation, and recognize the impermanence of things, sort of that thought in 100 years none of this will matter.  I fall away from this reality for a moment and touch a bigger picture, which brings peace.  It's a feeling of "expansion" and "knowing" and I feel like I can fully breathe.
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