A Little Background
Om (or AUM) is an ancient and sacred Sanskrit sound of Hindu origin. The story goes that just prior to the beginning of all existence, Brahman (God) was one and decided to divide and multiply. This event caused a cosmic vibration. Expressed as sound, that vibration is Om. When we chant or feel or meditate upon this vibration, we are aligning ourselves with the instant of creation. It is no wonder that this syllable has the power to thrust one completely into the present moment.
Om is also referred to as ‘pranava,’ which in Sanskrit means “that which is sounded loudly” and refers to sustenance of life and breath. Seeing a connection here? Om is the vibration of life. There can be no life without breath. Attention to breath is key to realizing and embracing the eternal present. *Side note: Sure enough, in the Theravadan tradition, the Buddha told his followers that he achieved enlightenment through mindfulness of breathing meditation!
There are three sounds in Om: A, U, M. These sounds correspond with the three states of consciousness: ‘A’-waking, ‘U’- dreaming, ‘M’-deep sleep. There is also a fourth state, which is that of perfect bliss signified by the silence between two Oms. Again, Om is life, consciousness, presence, God, Tao, Buddha. It encompasses the complete spectrum of conscious life, of being-ness.
As such, it only stands to reason that this syllable when chanted, contemplated, and used as a focus of meditation can have an extremely calming and centering effect on the mind, body and spirit. I use it daily in my meditation and highly recommend it to any seeker at any level.
Bottom line: we like Om.
If you’re new to meditation, click here for detailed instructions on posture, hindrances, and general practice.
Find a quiet place to sit. Start your timer, close the eyes, find your breath and relax into your posture. When you are settled, breathe deep into your abdomen and let out a long ‘OM’ on whatever pitch is comfortable to you (preferably in a lower register because you’ll get more physical vibration this way). When the sound is concluded be very attentive to the silence that occurs in between each OM as you breathe. Repeat this process anywhere from 3 to 20 times or until you feel calm yet alert, and centered.
From here, you have two options. Begin your basic mindfulness practice by taking the attention to the breath OR focus your attention on your third eye, the point between your eyebrows and begin to mentally repeat OM with a feeling of infiniteness and eternity. Continue this until it melds into one log sustained mental Om and you become intensely present and still.
May you know the peace of Om.
By Terence Stone
Chief Editor and Founder of Urban Spiritual, I’m a classically trained singer and actor living in New York City, who has performed in the U.S. and Europe. I’m also a writer, traveller, meditator, arts-lover, and well-being enthusiast.