OM and my childhood My father always chanted OM in the sauna. When I was little, he would tell me to chant with him. It felt funny and weird at the same time. It was a surreal scene where my father was sitting in sukasana with gyan mudra, sweating from his head and chanting OM continuously. I sometimes chanted with him. But most times, I was just listening because I didn’t understand what it meant or why we were chanting in the first place. He never explained the meaning of this chant. All he said was, “Just try it, it’s good for you.” Or something along those lines.
After many years, I started practicing yoga. In class, we would chant OM, and it came so naturally to me while others in class felt reluctant to chant. The whole sound and vibration actually felt good. It made me calm and refreshed. Then, it reminded me of my father in the sauna and I finally understood what he meant by “Just try it.” OM is the entire alphabet Om is broken down into three sounds. “A”, “U”, and “M”. The A-U makes the O sound. Thus, shortened to OM. A (Ahhh) is the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet; the waking state. U (Ohhh) is the middle letter of the Sanskirt alphabet; the dreaming state. M (Mmm) is the last letter of the Sanskirt alphabet; the dreamless state. Silence is the last part of the AUM chant. It is the vibration which is beyond verbal pronunciation. It is said to be the pure consciousness of the self. “A” is an open sound with open lips resonating at the front of the mouth, “U” moving midway, and “M” ending at the back of the throat with the vibration traveling throughout the head. Lead by silence, contemplating on the vibration. By chanting OM or AUM, we vocalize all the sounds the voice can produce (meaning everything in the Sanskrit alphabet), representing the universal consciousness. What does OM mean? OM has a lot of meanings. It is usually defined to replicate the sound of the universe. It is said that even on NASA’s website, earth itself sounds like OM. As mentioned above, the three sounds “A”, “U”, “M” in itself have meanings. It is the waking state, dreaming state and the dreamless state. It can also mean the past, present and the future. It can also represent the Hindu gods Brahma (creator god), Vishnu (sustainer god), and Shiva (destroyer god). From the Mandukya Upanishad, “OM is the imperishable word. OM is the universe, and this is the exposition of OM. The past, the present, and the future, all that was, all that is, all that will be is OM. Likewise, all else that may exist beyond the bounds of time, that too is OM.” So, basically, it’s deep, and it’s everything. Now What? Reading this blog is not going to do much. You now have to experience OM yourself. Chant “AhhhOhhhMmmm” followed by silence to notice the vibration, and repeat it 3 times. You will notice calmness, stillness and quietness within. I understand now that my father was experiencing this in his safe space, the sauna. His saying, “Just try it” really makes sense now. I believe the true benefit of OM comes from personal experience, just like practicing yoga. And recently, I starting making it a night time routine for my kids to practice 5 yoga asanas and to chant OM before and after these poses. Today, one of my daughters had a breakdown during the day so I told her, “Breath in. Breath out. Wanna do OM?” and without any hesitation, she said, “Yes.” I was happy that my kids are experiencing this benefit at an early age.