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Unlocking the Power of Mantra: Deep Listening

By Dev Suroop Kaur

There are countless things we can say about the remarkable power of mantra. Chanting mantras can take us from low spirits to high, can be the tool that helps us clear out old, gnarly, seemingly-impossible-to-bust-loose patterns, or can simply be a way to experience joy and bliss by letting the voice flow freely. With a smorgasbord of healing opportunities available to us in the mantras of Kundalini Yoga, we can release fear, heal the wounds of love, and remember that we truly are timeless, deathless beings.

What is so truly amazing about sound, mantra, and chanting is that each one of us holds this power of transformation within us. We don't have to go to a place or to another person to access this power. Our very own body is the instrument of transformation.

So how do we activate the power of mantra? Some of the key methods are to chant the mantra in the proper rhythm, pronounce the mantra properly, project the voice, and vibrate and resonate deeply. Yet there is an even more fundamental means to enhance your personal experience of chanting, and that is to deeply listen. After many years of chanting, playing kirtan, teaching sound and mantra, and training Kundalini Yoga teachers, I have concluded that listening deeply to the sound of your own voice—and simply the practice of listening deeply, period—is the primary key to unlocking the power of mantra and chanting.

The benefits of this very fundamental action are profound. One beautiful result is that when you practice and train yourself to listen deeply, you suspend thought. You cannot listen and think at the same time. The world of limitation and maya is silenced for a bit and the higher consciousness has some room to breathe. Nice! Yogi Bhajan says it beautifully:

“It is most powerful when we chant and listen to our sound at the same time. If we chant only it has half the power. Chanting and listening to the chant at the same time engages the higher consciousness, the circulatory system and the nervous system. When you develop this listening power, you will be able to analyze what is good for you and what is not whenever another person talks. It is a very simple way to have knowledge”
-Yogi Bhajan, 2/13/01, Espanola, NM

To put this into action, I offer two very simple yet profound techniques. The first will get you warmed up, and the second will allow you to go deep into your chanting experience.

Listening Meditation

The first technique is a listening practice that Yogi Bhajan taught me in 1989 and remains a foundation of my personal daily sadhana to this day. This practice develops intuition, stills the monkey mind, and enhances the flow of communication. It is also a fabulous foundation for developing your capacity to chant more deeply. Here it is:

Posture: Sitting quietly, eyes closed and focused gently at the brow point.

Focus: Listen deeply. Isolate and identify each sound that you hear.

If, for example, a car passes outside, mentally identify the sound by stating “a car is passing outside”… “I can hear the hissing of water underneath the tires”. Then move on to the next sound…a fly buzzing, the sound of your breath through your nostrils as you inhale and exhale, the sound of someone clearing their throat. If you feel that you have identified every sound possible, continue isolating every sound that strikes your ears, even if you have already identified it once. Break it down into its subtle parts. Listen to the sounds within the sounds, the sounds within you, the sounds near to you, and the sounds very far away.

Allow every sound. Some sounds may seem unpleasant. Listen to them anyway. You may find that you tend to block certain sounds. Turn your awareness to those sounds, open up your listening ears and listen to them as well.

If you find that your mind starts to wander, simply return to deeply listening.

Time: Continue isolating and identifying every sound for 3 to 11 minutes.

Meditation to Conquer Fear

After you have deeply and thoroughly practiced listening, follow it up with this meditation for conquering fear. Yogi Bhajan taught this meditation to Sat Nirmal Kaur in Espanola in 2002. By closing your ears with your fingers while you chant, you will find that you truly get the experience of listening to the sound of your own voice. You can then more easily translate that experience into all of your chanting experiences.

Posture: Close your ears with fingers or you may use earplugs.

Mantra and Focus: Out loud, chant Wa - Hay - Guru. Wa is at the navel center (3rd Chakra), Hay is at the heart center (4th Chakra), Guru is at the throat (5th Chakra).

Yogi Bhajan's Comments: "Your inner ear is out of balance. If you do this kriya, you will never have phobia. It will conquer your fear. Teach this to everyone."

Practice deeply listening and listening deeply to the sound of your own voice as you chant. Find out for yourself the great benefits of this simple practice. I know it will take you to new and wonderful places.

Dev Suroop Kaur delights in sharing the pure practicality of nurturing a successful and deeply authentic life. An accomplished musician, recording artist, and Lead Trainer in the KRI Aquarian Trainer Academy, Dev Suroop Kaur strives to break it down, keep it real, and guide students to their own empowered authenticity.

Blessed to study directly with Yogi Bhajan for most of her adult life, she gratefully shares what she has learned—and continues to learn—about how to love, work, and live better in the world. She deeply enjoys training students and teachers of Kundalini Yoga in the science of Naad Yoga, women’s teachings, and how to access the beauty and power of their personal voice. She currently lives with her husband in Espanola, New Mexico and, in addition to her teaching and music activities, works to maintain a peaceful mind as a business executive.