Benefits Of A Japa practice
You know the feeling when you wake up from a dream before it’s finished?
And even though it’s just a dream, you feel a strange urge to go back to sleep to see how it ends?
Or when somebody else is speaking, and you think of something you want to add to the conversation, so you hold onto your thought until they’re done speaking – even if at that point it’s no longer relevant?
Or when you’re daydreaming about a past experience — maybe it’s a conversation you had with somebody, or it’s a great experience you recently had, or it’s something that’s been upsetting you. And for some reason you want to keep thinking about it more, and more, and more, as though you’re addicted to this story. Even though it’s no longer relevant.
There’s a common denominator in all of the examples above – and it’s that 1. Our minds are addicted to thinking, and 2. Most of the time, its to thoughts or stories that are totally irrelevant.
The fact of the matter is this; most of the crap in our brain isn’t relevant.
We are either stuck reliving the past, or thinking about the future. Neither of those are beneficial, or relevant, to what is right in front of us; which is this moment.
When I first started practicing Japa is when I really became aware of this specific tendency of the mind. I had found a job teaching yoga in the south of Costa Rica, and one of my students asked me about the mala beads draped around my neck. I began to explain to her the significance of the beads; used traditionally to repeat a mantra 108 times, (which is the number of beads on the mala necklace) in order to calm the mind and practice presence.
I was working with a long, very complex mantra, passed on from the lineage of my teacher, Anand Mehrotra. This mantra was tediously long and difficult to remember, so I had to consciously focus all of my attention on the mantra in order to remember it. I noticed that my mind would drift, usually off into a story, and then at some point the trailing mantra would come back and poke me, as though I had forgotten about it. I would instantly come back to the mantra and would be forced to focus in order to remember where I was in the sequence.
It became a game of tug of war – between my mind and the mantra.
The game goes like this: the mind drifts deep into thought, goes down the rabbit hole for a while, and then the mantra would reappear in my consciousness and remind me of the japa practice.
This is a beautiful practice, because every time you come back to the mantra, you’re strengthening the muscle in your mind of staying present.
This is the power of Japa.
We begin to transcend and see beyond these addictive tendencies of the mind. We teach ourselves to return again, and again, and again, to the only thing that is relevant — which is this very moment.
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