Book Review – A little bit of Mantras

I grew up in a traditional Hindu Brahmin family where mantras and rituals were a part of daily life. There was a time when I was reciting hanuman chalisa every morning but I soon gave up that practise. I picked up this book to explore the science behind mantras to see if that is something I want to get back to. The book gave me the apt information I was looking for. The book starts with quoting scientific studies on people where mantras have helped in well-being. When seeing images filled with fear, people who were reciting a mantra felt calmer than people who didn’t. Then the author goes further quoting different mantras and their uses and the right way to do them.

 

Key Learnings

 

  • While there are a lot of affirmations you can say to feel good, reciting a mantra is more helpful as they have the power which has been transferred since ages
  • Scientific studies on mantras revealed its impact on relaxation, lower blood pressure, reduce obsessive thinking, improve focus, increase resilience, fight alzheimer’s disease.
  • Mantra practise involves – gathering attention, notice the mind wander, let go distraction and bring back attention
  • There are three ways to practise – speaking, singing and writing
  • Using a mala helps in counting the mantra and doing it for the right number of times
  • Mantras have to be written in the right strokes for them to be helpful
  • Mantras for peace are Aum, Aum Shanti, lokah samastha sukhino bhavanthu. If you are reciting them, it is helpful to recite it 108 times with a mala  
  • AUM denotes four aspects
    • A – waking state
    • U – dream state
    • M – dreamless state
    • Silence after sound – Transcendental space 
  • Mantras for healing are called bija mantras. They are Lam, Vam, Ram, Yam, Ham, Aum. They need to be practised associating each of them with the chakra they belong to.
  • Soham is the mantra for ‘I am that’. It helps in connecting with the divine
  • Mantras for clarity are Gayatri Mantra and aum asato ma sadgamaya. Gayatri mantra is associated with Goddess Gayatri and the Sun God.
  • Mantras for strength are Maha mantra, ram, jaya jagatambe ma durga. They are associated with Vishnu, Ram and durga respectively.
  • Mantras for liberation are aum gam ganapathaye namah, aum namah shivaya, jai gurdev.
  • Mantras can be effective to replace negative emotions, empowering yourself, infusing food with positive energy.

 

Should you read this book?

 

For an atheist or non hindu, this book provides the scientific research behind the power of vibrations of certain sounds. If you can disassociate yourself with the thought of god and devotion and consider this as a power of vibration of certain words, go ahead and read it to learn about different methods to change your life.

 

Happy chanting!

Book Review – Eckhart Tolle -The Power of now

Power of Now was in my to-read list for 3 years. All I knew about it was the story of a man who went from suicidal feelings to a joyous life. In my pursuit of mindfulness, I ended up picking this as the first book.
 
The entire book revolves around one concept “Now”. The past is for regrets and the future is for anxiety. The only moment you have control over is now. But you are wasting it away in the past or future. 
 

Why should you read this book?

 
I felt motivated to stay in the present after reading the book. There are a few instances in the book where Tolle questions you and gives you tips to stay in the present which are quite helpful. Apart from that the book is mainly theory on mindfulness which helps you catch yourself from drifting. 
 
Two main concepts which influenced my life.
 
1.Timelessness
 
We measure time in seconds but when you stay in the present is when you go into timelessness. It sounds absurd but at the same time means so much.
 
2.Giving energy to an emotion
 
After reading the book, whenever I experience a negative emotion, I keep a check on what are the thoughts I am holding to which is providing energy to the emotion and fueling it. I don’t live in the present like Tolle but this sort of awareness will definitely help me get closer to it.
 
This book is not for someone who is looking for readymade solutions. It is like the textbook on mindfulness concepts.
 

Notes

 
“Have you found the off button?”
 
That’s a very strong question to which a lot of us have a wrong answer. We don’t switch off. We switch the channel. If only we learn how to off our minds whenever we wish our lives are so much under our control.
 
“Just become intensely conscious of the present moment”
 
This sounds like a very tough job. But he gives a practical way to do this. If you are walking, pay your complete attention to the steps, movement and breathing.
 
“Everytime you create a gap in the stream of mind, the light of your consciousness grows stronger”
 
If you have 100 thoughts bombarding you at the moment, if you can let go off the 101th thought, it is a little success to celebrate.
 
“80 to 90 percent of most people’s thinking is not only repetitive and useless but because its dysfunctional and often negative nature, much of it is also harmful”
 
When I did my thought tracker exercise a few years ago, I realised how I was wasting away my life worrying about the same things daily.
 
“To the ego, the present moment hardly exists. Only past and future are considered important.”
 
The very reason why we are either regretful or anxious.
 
“No-mind is consciousness without thought. Only in the way is it possible to think creatively, because only in that way does thought have real power”
 
Tolle explains the creative artists and scientists get their breakthroughs in no-mind state.
 
“Emotion arises at the place where mind and body meet”
“Research shows that strong emotions even cause changes in the biochemistry of the body”
 
“If you cannot feel your emotions, if you are cut off from them, you will eventually experience them on a purely physical level, as a physical problem or symptom”
 
It is one of the signs of the negative energy which is stuck in your head and shoulders as tension.
 
“What’s going on inside me at this moment? That question will point you in the right direction.”
 
“If there is no emotion present, take your attention more deeply into the inner energy field of your body”
 
This is one of the practical tip which helps you deal with identifying how emotion is affecting your body.
 
“Vibrational energy of the emotion keeps feeding the original thought pattern”
 
The very reason why you should be aware of that you and your mind are different entities and everything your mind says should not be bought.
 
“Pleasure is always derived from something outside you whereas joy comes from within.”
 
The reason why you are never satisfied with pleasure but joy makes you satisfied.
 
“The greatest part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life.”
 
If your mind dictates how you should feel, you have no control over your happiness.
 
“All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present”
 
When you stay in a state of denial, you are stuck in the same thoughts which broods negativity.
 
“To complain is always non acceptance of what is”
 
A simple truth which is very difficult to follow.
 
“You attract and manifest whatever corresponds to your inner state”
 
While other self-help books simply tell this, here he explains how to check the sanity of your inner state.
 
“Feeling sorry for yourself and telling others your story will keep you stuck in suffering”
 
I definitely noticed how self-pity reduced once I stopped complaining about how bad my life is.
 
 
Check out the book here in case you want to give it a shot.
 
Happy staying in the present!
 

Book Review – 10% Happier

 
After reading Power of Now, I was in search of a book with practical advice on mindfulness. One of the suggestions was 10% happier. I started the book with a 10% increase in excitement to know how to implement the power of now. 
 
By the end of the first chapter, my excitement levels became neutral. I thought Dan Harris was introducing himself. But, near the end of the second chapter, I doubted if this book was about mindfulness or not. I wavered between giving up on the book and skimming through it. I felt it was not worth my time to read what Dan Harris did for a living and his experiences as a reporter were. There might be a lot of others who had that sort of free time to read about him and get to know Dan but I didn’t. My goal was clear. I wanted to understand how to live mindfully daily.
 
Luckily, I came across a page, how he sits up all through the night reading ‘A new earth’  by Eckhart Tolle. This reminded me how even I read Power of Now because I could not keep it aside. Finally, he gets to interview Eckhart, that is where the story gets interesting. Dan looks at Eckhart, the man who is spiritually awakened as an alien and whatever he says seems practically impossible. That is exactly how I felt about mindfulness as described in Power of Now. Later, when Dan meets Deepak Chopra, he realises how Eckhart was genuine and Deepak was just a fraud who claims to know it all but can’t practise the same in his life. While Eckhart has just one secretary, Deepak has an entire business product range to run. The funniest part of the story comes when Dan meets Vitale, who speaks in the DVD version of Secret. Vitale said that thinking should be coupled with action which is glaringly obvious. But they still made millions of dollars out of that.
 
In search of practical solutions, Dan gets introduced to works of Dr.Mark Epstein by his wife. After reading endlessly all the works of Epstein, he felt that Epstein conveyed the message in a more practical way than Tolle. As usual, Dan now goes on to interview him. Unlike the previous people he met, he found him human who just embraced Buddhism and implemented those principles in life. Through him, he gets introduced to meditation and a retreat program.
 
The crux of the book starts here. Dan goes on to describe the experiences he goes through in the process of meditating daily and how the retreat program went from undoable to bearable. Similar to Dan,I always wanted to go for a Vipassana retreat but I always feared it. I also went through a lot of arguments in my mind about meditation to make peace with it as it is today. In the next few chapters, as he talks about his journey I could empathize with him and felt that I am not alone in the journey of mindfulness and everyone else out there also goes through the same stages.
 
In the last few chapters, he talks about incidents how people took him to be weak and not so ambitious just because he is into spirituality. He beautifully explains and sets things right in his career by showing that going after mindfulness and being relaxed is not the same as being lackadaisical. 
 

Why should you read this book?


Throughout the time I was reading the book, there were multiple moments when I thought this is the line which my friends who think spirituality is pseudoscience should be reading.
 
You should read this book, if you want to understand how meditation has got nothing to do with religion or spirituality and how you can practise mindfulness as a normal human being. 
 
You should not read this book if you are looking for tips on how to meditate. This book is mostly about the journey of Dan. 
 
This book is best for those who are struggling to meditate and are not sure if they are on the right path. You will find a virtual companion through this book.
 
In case you plan on reading it, here is the Kindle version.
 
Happy becoming 10% happier!