Meditation V : Mala, Mantra and Japa
The first thing most students tell me when they begin to meditate is that they simply cannot concentrate because their mind is "chattering" continuously. As already mentioned, this is largely a matter of practise, but here is a summary of anti-chatter methods :
1. Please read Meditation III - Preparation
The preparations have physical and psycho-spiritual elements. They are the preliminaries in focussing the mind. If they are carried out with great care, by the time one is ready to sit and begin meditation, mental chatter has already subsided to some extent.
2. Decide Timing and Technique
Once you are seated, and if you have not already established a pattern for meditation, begin by deciding precisely how long the session will be, and what techniques you will use ( Mala, Mantra, Japa, Breath, Chakra Awareness ). For a longer meditation session it is reasonable to change the technique at the half-way point. Use the timer and know the exact timing and exact technique you will use. Don't decide during the session. Decide everything before you start.
3. Mala ( string of beads )
In the Hindu and Buddhist traditions Mala is used to keep count of repetitions of Mantra ( string of sacred syllables ). Repetition is called Japa. Choice and use of mala should not be casual, but should be researched and thought about. It is advisable to purchase your own mala and mala bag and to treat it as a sacred object which is kept out of sight and only handled by oneself after self-purification, or at least washing one's hands. Additionally a new mala should be ritually purified by oneself or given over to a temple or holy person for purification.
At YogaSan students may practise with Indian white sandalwood malas of 108 beads. Please ask when you come to your yoga or meditation class.
A nice general introduction to mala is on Wikipedia
4. Mantra ( Sacred Syllables )
A mantra is ideally given to the student by the guru, but in the absence of such, one is advised to research the subject and to choose one's own. Once a suitable mantra is found, it should not be changed. Only a very advanced spiritual person is capable or qualified to carry out mantra functions. YogaSan provides no such service.
Note that mantra is an integral part of Hindu practise, and it generally accompanies the authentic yoga practised by Masters in India. Swami Sivananda and his disciples have written at length on the subject of Japa Meditation, and without Mantra there can be no Japa.
Mala, Japa and Mantra together will quiesce almost all mind chatter.
Concentration on one's own in- and out-breath cycle is the simplest technique one can use to focus the mind. Use a natural and relaxed breath.
6. Chakra Awareness
Focussing the mind on the heart chakra or the chakra between the eye-brows is most helpful during meditation. A little sandalwood paste applied to the eye-brow centre helps one to localise a precise area and maintain concentration that much better. It is helpful to work on chakra awareness for the purpose of effective meditation and YogaSan teaches workshops on this subject. Please ask.