Few Americans yogis and spiritual seekers are lucky enough to enjoy the grace of a genuine guru. In some quarters of Western culture this Indian tradition is even viewed with suspicion because of the many reports of teachers who have abused their positions and misbehaved in various ways. Often in the West spirituality is viewed as a do-it-yourself path where teachers and gurus are peripheral at best.
As a zealous Christian evangelical in my teens and twenties, I also experienced the deep disappointment of seeing egotistical personality cults destroy fellowships and injure the souls of sincere believers.
So, as I discovered the path of yoga, (which is by no means in conflict with any spiritual tradition) I avidly read books for guidance, attended classes and took my teacher training with the desire to be connected to like-minded aspirants.
As it does with many yoga practitioners, asana practice led me to meditation. One method of meditation is to use a mantra to facilitate a calm, focused mind. A mantra is a syllable or set of syllables made up of “bija” or seed sounds of the Sanskrit tongue, the language of yoga. Each tradition has its own ways of using mantra.
As I attempted to associate myself with various traditions I was initiated into their mantras and practiced them faithfully. What I have found missing in these initiations and my mantra practice was the personal relationship with an attentive teacher or guru. Each tradition with whom I tried to build a relationship was managed by the descendants of a guru who had long since passed away. I also lived some distance from the respective spiritual centers of these groups, so gathering with them was difficult. Maybe I just didn’t try hard enough. The groups, their dead gurus and their mantras left me feeling as alone as I had been before. Maybe I just didn’t try hard enough.
So, in the wake of my confusion over competing mantras and traditions I have settled on a mantra that is common to us all: my own breath. Is there anything holier than the mysterious energy (prana) that pervades our beings and expresses itself as our breath? Is there any human function that connects us more intimately to the Divine? For me it is the simplest way to direct my whole being into fellowship with the Mystery of All That Is. Prana expressed as the breath is pure divine energy.
Though we take each breath for granted, our attention on the mysterious breath and its origins is an effective way to enter ever greater states of consciousness and a path to living more powerful, effective lives.
As a young believer I spent many years studying the Bible. For me The Sermon on the Mount contains the essential Christian message. Mathew 5:6 states “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” In this universal statement we see a simple way to approach the great Mystery and to serve humanity.
So it is as we approach our daily meditation, prayer or devotion. When we focus on the breath with a righteous intention to merge with the Divine, we turn the key in the lock that opens the door to eternity, to boundless love and to union with the creative powers of the universe.