18 Ways to do Japa Meditation

I used to be very hard on myself with meditation. I put myself through a 10 day silent vipassana retreat, would set my timer for 2 hours a day and suppress my imagination entirely to just sit there hyper-focused on the breath and bodily sensations. I considered meditations that included visuals & sounds to be inferior.

Then one day I was meditating with a Buddhist monk at a Dharma Center in Louisville and I asked him what to do when boredom comes up while you’re sitting. I thought he’d reveal some deep philosophical answer, but to my surprise he simply told me to imagine a gold light radiating from my heart. I said, “so it’s ok to use your imagination in meditation?” And he said indeed it was, and that monks often do it.

One of the recent ways I’ve started bringing my imagination into meditation is through japa practice (repeating a mantra). The artist in me loves variety…here’s a list of 18 ways you can explore and hopefully never get bored with japa meditation 😊

  1. Repeat your mantra out loud
  2. Repeat your mantra as a whisper
  3. Repeat your mantra quietly
  4. Repeat the mantra fast
  5. Chant AUM not in a hum/ singing voice but in a talking voice
  6. Sing your mantra (can be raised a half or whole step after each 108 reps)
  7. Try chanting a seed syllable such as RAM or GAM
  8. Chant along with an audio track- there is so much meditation & kirtan music on Spotify & Youtube!
  9. Try chanting a long mantra such as gayatri mantra
  10. Only chant (or repeat the sound in your mind) on the exhale breath
  11. Try it only on the inhale breath and in between spaces (the pause that happens when you hold the breath out or in before next breath)
  12. Chant with a background sound- I love the apps ‘shrutibox’ and ‘relax melodies’
  13. Do japa while gazing at a murti or picture/ visual of a deity
  14. Do japa while focusing your attention on a specific chakra in your body
  15. Use essential oils on your beads or on your wrists and include aroma therapy with your japa/ deep breaths
  16. Try holding the 4 parts of AUM out for equal amounts of time (aah, ooh, mmm, silence). Try 2 seconds each, then 4.
  17. Use the grooves in your fingers to count repetitions of your mantra
  18. Try counting your mantra in 9s.

A Chanting Exercise

Here’s a video you can practice along with to get into a a fluid motion of chanting bij mantras (Sanskrit seed syllables) with mudras (hand gestures). It’s peaceful, invigorating & fun to do out in nature! The hand gestures aren’t required…I am just attempting to recreate what I saw a guy do in on a youtube video. At any rate it feels good to feel all that prana flow!

Starting at root:

LAM

VAM

RAM

YAM

HAM

OM

I am chanting each of these seed syllables (bij mantra) with its corresponding chakra (energy centers) in the body. For the last 2 chakras (third eye & crown) you can chant OM.

Try it & feel how your voice, the sound vibrations, the energy & your body interact!

Benefits:

  • access more vitality in the body
  • relieve stress
  • get a sense of peace
  • relief from monkey mind/ obsession/ ruminating
  • strengthens the voice
  • puts you in touch with your unique self-expression
  • liberating
  • can serve as a daily meditation practice

Questions to ask yourself after:

  1. What emotions came up after this practice?
  2. Which sound was I most drawn to?
  3. Where in my body did I feel the sound resonate the most?
  4. How is my speaking voice sounding/ feeling?
  5. What happens if I do this practice right before work? Before I go to bed? In the morning?