There is a great connection between stillness and listening. “Don’t move” we say when we hear some noise around the house in the middle of the night. In yoga we hold the body still in order to hear the breath. We will hold the shoulders of our child while we tell her something important.
In the tradition of mantra meditation, the repetition of a sacred sound, how we listen, how we hear the mantra is the difference between a successful practice or not. Although in the Krishna Bhakti practice there are no hard and fast rules for chanting, and we are encouraged to chant in whatever way works best for us, being still while we do our daily japa meditation is very helpful for the practitioner wishing to advance.
When I sit down to do my mantra meditation I make a commitment not to move for 15 mins (that’s about 2 rounds on the japa beads). It’s important to make sure we are comfortable and the lower back is supported. Then I begin the meditation. Holding the body still immediately helps my mind to settle down. I move quickly to a clear sense of separation from the outer world to the inner world. I have arrived at an important place and time and the holding still invites me to be present.
Besides the small movements of the beads through my fingers, and the audible chanting, all else is quiet and my focus is on hearing the mantra and hearing it again and again. With a still body, my mind is easier to control, easier to bring back to the mantra with better focus and feelings. After 2 rounds I adjust my sitting position and set it again for another 15 minutes.
Be warned! When we hold the body still, it talks to us. We are more conscious of it than usual and it will twitch and itch and pain. But it’s a powerful experience to ignore all that and lean into the sound of the mantra.
At the end of the day it’s important to be careful about our practice so that it does the work it’s meant to do – remind us of who we are beyond our body and awaken pure love. Deep listening to the maha-mantra has a lot to tell us. Stillness can help us hear the message better.