OM: An Instant Cosmic Tune-Up

By Marcia Miller

I have just finished 22 days of a 21-Day Immersion in OM, and I’m not done yet. The practice has been simple: I have been chanting OM for at least 5 minutes a day. Some days I have done it twice a day and sometimes, once I get going, I lose track of time and go on for much longer. I’m not ready to stop; the way I’m feeling now I may keep this going indefinitely.

I LOVE the feeling of OM resonating in my body. I can feel the vibration of it especially along the soft palate at the back of the roof of my mouth. When I notice it here I often feel it expanding into my whole body with a resonant inner pulsation. This resonance feels so delicious it attracts my full attention and I am easily and fully engrossed in meditation.

Sometimes when I am chanting the OMs my mind can also be active. This morning my mind was busy throughout, thinking about this blog post that I was intending to write when I got up from my practice. The meditative experience often opens up space for creativity to flow and sometimes that flow is named as “distraction.”  In this instance, I was grateful that my mind was already at work AND I was simultaneously able to ride the waves of vibration that started along the palate and flowed throughout my head, chest and belly.  I didn’t have to become attached to my mind and my ideas—I could let this creative flow move through me as a way of starting the writing process, so when “I” showed up about 20 minutes later I was ready to write.

After my daily practice of chanting OMs for 5 to 10 minutes, I sit in “silence” for up to 20 more minutes. Even though I am quiet at this point I can still sense the pulsations and I feel like I am riding the waves of the cosmos. I feel plugged into something bigger than what I generally think of as myself and oriented in a way that leaves me feeling fresh and energized when I get up.

Here is what Swami Satchidananda says about OM in his commentary in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:

“When we vibrate in the same way as the cosmic vibration, we get in tune with the cosmos. That is why when we repeat OM, we feel a cosmic peace. That cosmic vibration vibrates in our own body. It brings a sort of realignment in the cells of the body, an adjustment or a new rhythm.  When the cells of the body run restlessly in all different ways, we feel sick. But, when we arrange that vibration to make it run smoothly, we feel happy, and we get healed. By constant repetition of OM, you will be able to heal many physical ailments and, ultimately, the mind also.  Then you will experience physical health, mental peace and pure happiness.”

There is also an astounding sutra about OM in the Vijnana Bhairava. The translation I love best is from the Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche.  Here are some lines from sutra #16:

“The roar of joy that set the worlds in motion
Is reverberating in your body
And the space between all bodies……
The ocean of sound is inviting you
Into its spacious embrace,
Calling you home.
Float with the sound,
Melt with it into divine silence.
The sacred power of space will carry you
Into the dancing radiant emptiness
That is the source of all.”

If you are inspired to try your own 21-Day immersion, or even one day, here are some tips to make it fun and personal.

1. Use the sound of a tamboura in the background. The tamboura is a fretless stringed Indian instrument used as a drone in the background for singing. Because of the overtones in this instrument, chanting OM with it can feel like chanting with a whole choir and gives you many choices of tones.  I’ve heard that you can get an app for this on many smart phones, or follow along with a YouTube video, or get a CD.

2. Speaking of tones, when chanting OM feel free to change your pitch. Each tone, higher or lower, creates a different sensation in your body. Find the ones that feel most delicious at the time you are chanting. I tend to hit a wide variety of pitches in my practice each time I chant. I love chanting with my husband whose low, sonorous, Zen-monk-like tones create a strong base for my higher pitch.

3. You can also experiment with different vowel sounds. All of the vowels are present in OM somewhere and each one affects different parts of you. I like sending the “e” sounds into bones all over my body and “ah” gives me a sense of vibrant spaciousness that seems to open up anything in me that feels compressed. Send the sounds into any injured or sick areas and see what happens.

4. Have an OM buddy. Sometimes you can chant together, other times you can encourage each other to do the practice on your own.

5. Experiment doing your OM practice after practicing asana. You may find that the openness and relaxation of your body changes the way you experience the tones.

It’s also fun to remember the OM practice even when you don’t want to take time for the full 5 minutes. Simply add an OM or three to anything you are doing for an instant cosmic tune-up.