Is there a yogic practice more transformative than mantra? Mantra is an energetic device that works in the most subtle places inside your being. It is the power of the Shakti, the creative energy of the Universe, its vibration, creating sonic forms inside of you, dissolving limitations, birthing new structures, transmuting the core of your being at all levels, from the physical to the most ethereal.
In India, Mahashivaratri is a time of fasting, a time of meditation, a time of chanting. it is a time fully dedicated to Consciousness in its formless form as Shiva, the Ultimate Reality. It is a night of mantra. It is said that, the effects of repetition of the mantra Om Namah Shivaya, of dissolving obstacles, of cleansing karmic patterns, of manifesting your innermost heart desires, of expanding consciousness, of remembrance of our essential nature of awareness and bliss, are multiplied by thousand. It is believed that, in this particular moment of the year, there is a especial energy that favours spiritual connection and growth. And to synch into that current of energy one must be awake, with the spine erect. Getting close to one of most magical and powerful nights of the year I would like to invite you, even if you do not stay awake all night, to take a time for yourself, to go inside and to repeat the Maha mantra.
It is interesting that the probably most important spiritual holiday in India, is a celebration of darkness, just the night before the Moon will disappear completely from the sky. Not really strange though if we think that Shiva, in the myths, always embraces the dark, the marginal, the rejected, teaching us that everything that Jung would call "the shadow" are places in our being where we find our true power. If we are able to make the transformation, of course. In the beautiful mythological story in which the Devas (the lights) together with the Asuras (the demons) have to churn the Ocean of Milk, a metaphor of the practice of yoga, and after the Ocean has gifted them with multiples presents as brilliant precious stones and several other treasures, there is a moment when, from the bottom of the Ocean, the most venomous and toxic poison emerges.
After a few moments of panic, and realising that all life forms could disappear from the Universe with the poison, all agree in calling out to Shiva. He comes, poised as usual. He takes the poison, he swallows it and hold it in his throat. He is neither intimidated nor allows the poison´s toxicity to enter deep inside his body. He holds it in his throat that turns into a blue color. And he becomes Neelakantha "the one of the blue throat", the same color of the Visudhi chakra. The chakra of speech, of language, of communication. The bridge between the mind and the heart. The place of vibration, of sound. The place of mantra.
There is a great Tantric teaching in this story. Shiva neither rejects the poison nor hides it in a remote place.He transform it in the sonic power of mantra, in vibration, in pulsation. He extracts from the poison its essence, that is not other that his own essence and transmute it into energy.
Any poison that is in your life at the moment (and I am sure that there is more than one and some of them can be really toxic), take it, accept it, embrace it and during this magical night just repeat the mantra.
You can recite the mantra in loud voice. You can repeat it internally feeling the silenced sound vibrating inside yourself. You can sing it. In solitude or in company. In any way allow the mantra and your heart to melt into each other. Feel its healing power multiplied by thousand during Maha Shivaratri. And, as my teacher Sally Kempton instructs, repeat it with the conviction that "the mantra is not other than the Supreme Consciousness that permeates the Universe and it is not other than yourself". Like the poison. Poison that with the churning (the repetition of the mantra) of the Ocean of Milk (your heart) will be slowly transmuting into nectar.