By Gurudevi Nirmalananda
What you say to others affects them, as you already know. But your words affect you as well. When you are harsh to someone, you have the experience of being harsh or mean. It does not contribute to your happiness. Worse, you end up treating yourself the same way you treated them. What is the tone of voice you use on yourself inside your head?
It also works the other way around. What you say to yourself affects you, no surprise. But it affects others as well. Even if you never tell anyone what you’re saying to yourself, it affects your facial expression, your breathing, your skin tone and your response to them. It shows. Worse, your brain chemicals are affected, along with your digestion and immune system.
Words matter. The sutras tell us that words underlie the structure of the universe. In other words, the universe is made out of God’s thoughts. God thought you into being, along with everyone and everything else. That Divine impulse underlying everything that exists is described in this sutra:
J~naanaa-dhishthaana.m maat.rkaa. – Shiva Sutras 1.4
The experience of limited individuality comes from the cosmic vibrations that produce sounds and the words they become.
The cosmic vibration is OM, aka the primordial sound. This is the vibration of the One Divine Reality, vibrating within himself. In yoga, we call the One by the name Shiva, meaning Beingness. When Shiva is vibrating, we call the vibration by the name Shakti, meaning Divine Energy.
So we have Divine Beingness vibrating within his own Beingness. You can perceive this vibration as a subtle sound which pervades all that exists, for everything that exists comes from it. This vibration is the Divine Energy that condenses down into matter.
We approximate this sound when we chant OM. We come close, however we have to stop and breathe periodically. OM continues without interruption. Shiva delights in being the vibration that is being the OM. And Shiva decides to play some variations on the theme, much like a jazz musician does.
Thus the one sound becomes multiple sounds, each one with a different vibratory energy. These different sounds are called “bij mantras,” the root sounds that are the syllables which combine to become words. Then you use the words to tie yourself up into knots.
The words you use on yourself matter. They matter the most, for you wouldn’t use words on other people unless you first ran them through your mind. Ah, your mind! It needs some help. Fortunately, all of yoga’s practices are for your mind.
Here are two practices to help with your words. They are a great beginning point for working with your mind:
1. Speak only truth. This is satya, the second of yoga’s lifestyle practices (yamas). In this practice, all your words must be truthful, while they are also non-harming (ahimsa, the first yama).
I’ll rephrase it. Maybe your mother told you this, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Even if your negative reaction is true, don’t say it if it is hurtful. Or find a way to say it that can be helpful, even contributing to an improvement in the situation or the relationship.
Yes, this is a big deal. It means you’re thinking before you speak, and you’re assessing the value of the words you’re about to use. You’re starting to live more consciously. It’s a process and you’ve decided to work on it.
Not only will it improve your life and relationships, it will improve your internal environment. That’s the most important result.
2. A more powerful option is to pour your mental energy into mantra. First you have to get a mantra from an authorized teacher. Getting a mantra from a book or website is like eating a picture of lasagna. You won’t get filled up that way.
But when you get an enlivened mantra, something happens on a whole different level. I know because it happened to me and because I see it happening for people every time I teach. The enlivened mantra dials up your level of Consciousness inside.
It’s like you’ve got your hand on a rheostat, a light switch that lets you dim and brighten the lights. Except it is happening inside.
When you repeat your mantra, the light of your own Beingness gets brighter inside. Now your mind functions in a whole new way. Compassion and generosity arise from within, as well as the desire to help others. You’re on your way to living an illuminated life.