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The Work of Chanting, Vocalization, and Listening

February 18, 2011
Free Your Breath, Free your Life

Free Your Breath, Free your Life

In all the major spiritual traditions of the world one finds some sort of chanting—the vocalization or intonation of special sounds, words, mantras, or prayers—to uplift, to heal, and to transform. The prayers and mantras are often intoned on a single breath, which, among many other benefits, has the effect over time of lengthening our exhalation, increasing the strength and movement of our diaphragm, and expanding our breathing capacity.

Though it is seldom approached in this way, the Lord’s Prayer is a good example of a prayer that can be chanted during a single breath. It is said to have very different physiological and spiritual effects on us when it is chanted during a single breath than when it is interrupted by the need to take another breath. The sacred sound om is a good example of a mantra that is chanted during a single breath. The ancient scriptures of both Tantric Buddhism and the Upanishads speak of the power of the chanted om to enlighten us and free us from our karma. These traditions tell us that by chanting om and attuning ourselves to the vibrations of pure being that it awakens, we can experience ourselves as part of the cosmic symphony.

The work with sounds, sacred or otherwise, is intimately related to meditative work, especially to the effort of listening to the vibrations and harmonics of the sounds as they resonate both inside and outside of ourselves. Such work quiets and harmonizes the breath and has a calming influence on the brain and nervous system. Such work also brings us new, more global perceptions and experiences of who we are at all the various levels of ourselves. It can even bring boundless, transformative feelings of joy and happiness.

Copyright 2004-11 by Dennis Lewis. This passage is from my book Free Your Breath, Free Your Life

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