Those of you who've come to my classes know that I LOVE chanting. I LOVE chanting loudly, and I don't care if I'm off key. I LOVE how I feel when I chant -- transported out of my everyday mind and lifted out of the fog. I LOVE offering the technique of singing sacred sounds to my students because I see on your faces how it moves you into a different state of mind and being.
Well lately, I've been learning about something that is said to be even more powerful than the mantras we chant in class. Within the Kundalini Yoga tradition and given to us by Yogi Bhajan, there are longer mantras called Shabds. When these Shabds, or sacred prayers, are recited, the sound itself becomes the teacher, the Guru, that which brings us from darkness to light. This is why when these longer mantras are discussed, they're often referred to as Shabd Guru.
I've been reading up on the benefits of Shabd Guru, and what I've discovered is VERY COMPELLING. Everything I've found suggests that these prayers have profound healing benefits. This reminds me of what one of my teachers always says about food to help her students remember to only take in what is nourishing: "Drink your medicine. Eat your medicine." In the case of the Shabd Guru, we sing our medicine.
Here's a taste of what I've learned about Shabd Guru so far:
From the article What is Shabd Guru?
"Affirmations and positive statements are helpful and good to use. Mantras are effective and gradually create changes. But the Shabad Guru is unique. The patterns are a perfect weave of rhythm, sound, tone, focus, and meaning. There is nothing as effective and universal as those patterns to program the consciousness to be in alignment with the soul."
From the article Benefits of Shabd Guru
"When we sing, chant or recite the Shabad Guru in a relaxed and mindful manner, we become aware of our full range of feelings, our inner stories, our concepts and the voice of our higher self our intuition... the Shabad reorganizes all of that mental and emotional energy into an Infinite pattern. We start to see ourselves and our lives in the context of a timeless, Divine play."
From the article Shabd Guru
"The Shabad Guru is a special kind of technology. In the body it produces vitality; in the complex of the mind it awakens intelligence and develops wisdom and intuition; in the heart it establishes compassion; in each person’s consciousness it builds the clarity to act with fearless integrity."
There's also an article called A Quantam Technology of Sound that I found impossible to excerpt, but is definitely worth a read. Beautiful description of how sound affects the different systems of the body.
Two examples of Shabds... The only one I've experienced to date is So Purkh, which is a Shabd that women chant for the men in their lives. I had kind of a knee jerk reaction to that the first time I heard about it. Why are we chanting for men? Why aren't we chanting for ourselves? It felt unfeminist somehow. But then, I realized that whenever we chant we elevate ourselves, of course. And I heard stories of true shifts that emerged during 40 day dedications to So Purkh. You can read about So Purkh more here.
This Sunday, in a workshop we're hosting, I'll learn the Shabd Bhand Jammee-ai, which is chanted to uplift women and is said to free us of insecurities. Yogi Bhajan taught that every woman should know Bhand Jammee-ai. If it resonates with me, I may embark on a 40 day practice of chanting Bhand Jammee-ai. This is a sample of one beautiful musical version of the prayer by Gurunam. Sound as guru entices me.
I LOVE that chanting and healing from chanting is easy. We don't have to hold our arms up for an hour or work our navel centers to exhaustion to experience change. That work is important too, but with chanting we learn some new words and sing. What a joy to heal so easily!
The hard part is the 40 day commitment, because our minds want to derail steadiness. That's where the challenge lies.
The vastness of the teachings of Kundalini Yoga and the healing they provide never cease to amaze me. I continue to be grateful that I happened upon a Kundalini Yoga class almost 20 years ago and fell in love.
Blog by Cate Baily
Cate discovered Kundalini Yoga by accident over 20 years ago and was surprised and thrilled by how engaged, energized, and inspired it made her feel. She's been practicing ever since. Click here for more complete bio.