I saw this yesterday in one of Ramaswami's status updates
"On the full moon day (today) during this Shravana month(aug15/Sep15) many in India who have bee initiated into vedic studies do a ceremony restarting the vedic studiess. The following day one sits down and does 1008 japa of the famous Gayatri mantra, after doing 10 times of mantra pranayama."
I've been practicing mantra meditation since the course last month, usually fifteen minutes to half an hour but had been considering a longer sit. I worked it out, 108 gayatrii's would take around fifteen minutes, that means what, well over two hours, strewth.
Then again, on the course Ramaswami chanted the Sury Namaskara mantra from Yajur Veda, it took 2hrs and we would do a Sun salute after each of the 32 sections. I thought that if the course had been this month then Ramaswami would perhaps have invited us to practice the gayatri japam in the mantra and meditation class to give us a little taste of the experience of a longer mantra meditation session.
So this morning I got up at 5am, did half an hour of asana, 10 rounds of Nadi Shodana with the full pranayama mantra followed by the 1008 gayatri's. Actually it went quite quickly, I had to stand up and walk around for five minutes in the middle and needed to change posture a couple of times but otherwise it was quite pleasant.
The hardest thing for me was the mantra. I'm used to saying the pranayama mantra forty odd times a day which contains the gayatrii mantra in the middle although in a slightly different form. I kept mixing up the beginning (where it differs slightly) or I would forget to stop and keep on going half way through the full pranayama mantra before I realized. Helped keep me focused though.
I want to write more about mantra meditation but need to get off to work and am too mellowed out to write much anyway.
But if your tempted, and your taking today as you day off practice for moon day then here's the gayatrii mantra
Aum Bhur Bhuvah Swah, Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi, Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat
or you might prefer this transliteration
Om bhur bhuvah svah
bhargo devasya dhimahi
dhiyo yo nah pracodayat
and another site that seems to detail the full gayatrii japam ritual, here.
A quick note on counting. I used my 108 bead mala, going round nine times then an the extra 36 on my 36 bead wrist mala. I used japanese Go stones to mark each time around the mala, Curious to know how it's normally counted.
Let me know if you give it a go and how it went.
I've been reflecting on this a little since yesterday. Two hours, two hours! Actually it was more like two and a quarter, that's a long sit. In the past I've sat mainly for forty minutes, very occasionally fifty at a time. Some day's I sat for forty, did a kind of walking meditation for ten minutes and then sat again for another forty. Many years ago I sat in the Zen'ish tradition but for the last few years I've practiced Vipassana. The Zen was too long ago for me to comment on now except to say forty minutes can seem a long time attempting to keep the mind empty whether holding thoughts at bay or letting them float on through.
Vipassana though, funny, but for all my blogging about asana I've never really wanted to write about my meditation. In the last year or so I've been questioning my Vipassana practice, perhaps in a similar way to how I've been questioning ashtanga. Coming from an analytical, philosophical background (Psych's seem to be drawn to it too as well as those in search of free therapy ) Vipassana seems ideal, don't fight the thoughts, push them away or ignore them as they float by, mentally note them instead, make them the objects of your meditation, the aches that come up, the emotions, the dominant thoughts,note em all, more grist to the mill (over simplification, i know but roll with me here).
Of course this is bad practice, your not supposed to get sucked into them but keep an objectivity, just be present. Hard though , so easy to get suckered into analyzing everything, there's that potentiality in the practice that can lead to a tendency, just as in Ashtanga there is the potentiality to end up getting wrapped up in the next pose, next sequence, to focus too much on the asana. Again bad practice perhaps but not surprising so many of us end up in that tendency. What draws us to the practice, whether Vipassana or Ashtanga can be the very same thing which leads us astray.
Vinyasa Krama seemed a calmer practice, seemed somehow more what I needed than perhaps what I wanted at the time. I recognized it but still thought I needed an ashtanga practice. Somebody compared it to an addiction recently, yep, I can see that. I don't think I would ever have got into Yoga if I had started with Vinyasa Krama, not with my character and yet now it's the only way I want to practice.
And Mantra meditation, not convinced at all when Ramaswami introduced it into the course. Basically, the idea is that you recite a mantra in your head, don't worry about the meaning but just focus on the sound and keep bringing the mind back to that. I've worked on breath meditation, bringing the mind back to the breath, it's kind of a warm up in Vipassana and Jana, it's similar. And that's it. That's it? No noting, is there no more, nope, just keep bringing the mind gently back to the sound of the mantra, perhaps focus on the third eye, but that's pretty much the practice as I understand it.
I've been doing that for fifteen minutes, in the morning, half hour in the evening but had felt a little unsatisfied, still kind of felt like a warm up. It took a month. Last week It finally started to sink in, quite a profound peace, a stillness. And yesterday two hours bringing the mind back to a mantra, focus, concentration, one pointedness you can see where it's going. A mantra, so much easier than the breath or was it that I'd preceded it with the pranayama and some asana. Is there something to Mr Patanjali after all, asana, pranayama, meditation, prepare the mind for meditation, then go ahead and meditate.
I'm not dissing Vipassana, not in the slightest but perhaps it's not best suited to me, and perhaps for the very reasons I'm drawn to it.