Chanting for spiritual, mental, and physical health, well-being, and enlightenment has been practiced by many cultures from very ancient times. There are many styles, methods, and beliefs about how best to chant and how chanting actually effects positive changes.
Some cultures believe that certain sounds transcend the influences of the physical world. Some sounds are believed to have been primordial forces that created and guide all life – an example would be the classic OM sound. Such sounds are believed to have latent power to bridge this finite condition of ours to our infinite, eternal condition.
Sound is vibration. Vibrations can be raised or lowered. They can be ‘good vibrations’ or ‘bad vibes.’ The human voice is a vibration device. It can make sounds that lift and fill the heart and mind with hope, even ecstasy. The objective of a chanting session is to raise the vibrations of the body and to lift and carry the heart and mind to higher levels of consciousness.
In the Book of Genesis, breath is life. In chanting, moving the breath affects the life-force of the body. The life-force within us is sometimes called the élan vital or kundalini. When we use the breath to vibrate our vocal cords with specific sounds, we affect the life force of the body and the mind that inhabits the body.
As the molecules of water can be in three conditions, so can the body and mind. In this third dimension of life, the body-mind is solid, like water in the form of ice. When the body-mind is heated by chanting and raising energy, it becomes fluid, like water in liquid form. If we continue heating, our body-mind becomes vaporous, rising to a cloud-like expansiveness. Good chanting can raise the cool, solid vibes of our predominant physical condition to the warm, vaporous vibes of a cloud-like spirit.
The body is uniquely designed for both physical activity and metaphysical, having three primary sound chambers: 1. the abdominal cavity in the belly region, the cardiopulmonary cavity in the chest and throat, and the cranial cavity in the skull. Sound can be directed toward and through these chambers. With resonance, these sounds can change the vibrations the atoms of the body. These sounds also affect the mind-body connection.
From ancient times there have been teachings that the body also contains seven body-mind-soul connection points. These are the chakras, a Sanskrit word meaning ‘wheels’ – energy centers. These centers can be allowed to run very slowly and lifelessly or may be stimulated to run with higher energy and more of the life force flowing through them. When running more vibrantly, they create vitality. The more alive the body is, the more illuminated the mind is.
The chanting method that I’ll share is inner-sounding rather than outer-singing. Singing is vibrating the vocal cords and then projecting the sound out to eardrums. Inner sounding is vibrating the vocal cords and then directing the sound inward through each chamber and the seven centers.
There are many chants. The chant that I’ll share was given by Edgar Cayce during his oneness with the Universal Consciousness. Cayce was one of America’s great mystics and was often asked about chanting as a tool to health and enlightenment. He gave several chants and insights into how chanting was used in ancient temples – particularly in an ancient Egyptian temple known as the Temple Beautiful. He said to use an incantation or chant that "carries self deeper – deeper – to the seeing, feeling, experiencing of that image in the creative forces of love, enter[ing] into the Holy of Holies [within you]. As self feels or experiences the raising of this, see it disseminated through the inner eye to that which will bring the greater understanding in meeting every condition in the experience of the body. Then, listen to the music that is made as each center of your own body responds to that new creative force…." Cayce’s chanting is God-centered, meaning that it seeks to attune the chanter to the Divine Source of Life. He taught that such tuning naturally results in greater health, happiness, well-being, and enlightenment.
Chants in this manner begin with sounding in the lower portions of the body – the gonads, navel, and solar plexus chakras. Then, the sounding moves to higher portions of the body – the chest, throat, crown, and forehead chakras. But the chants are not just attempting to raise and transform bodily vibrations; each chant attempts to lift and carry the mind to higher, more harmonic levels. Eventually, chanting leads to the Divine Oneness, within which all life exists.
When chanting Cayce’s ar-ee-om chant, the ah-r sounds are directed into the abdominal chamber and the lower chakras – like this: ah-ah-rrrr. As the sound changes to the ee, one directs the vibrations of the voice to the upper portion of the abdominal chamber in the solar plexus area, and then into the chest, like this: eeee. Then, as we shift to the oo sounds we move our minds and vocal vibrations to the throat chakra where the voice box is, like this: ooooo. However, when sounding in the ancient method, the oo is sounded as ow-ooh. The ow-ooh then slides into mmmm, sounded inside the skull and brain. The whole chant would be: ah-rrr-eeee-ow-ooh-mmmm.
To sustain this chant one has to take a deep breath. The more one practices, the more one builds a stronger, longer breath. The master of the breath is the diaphragm – a dome-shaped muscular between the abdomen and the chest. It plays a major role in breathing, for as it contracts it inhales, thereby inflating the lungs. Then, when it relaxes, it exhales, pushing air out of the lungs and through the vocal cords. Learning to control your diaphragm is the secret to better chanting.
The next stage is a bit different from most classic yoga teachings, which would direct the sounds straight up to the crown of the head. Rather, Cayce instructed us to move the sounding to the base of the brain, then over to the center of the brain, and ultimately to the large frontal lobe of the human brain, just behind the forehead.
Physically, we want to direct the sound to the atoms in our cells, thereby stimulating them. Mentally, we want to visualize or imagine this happening. After we feel our vibes rising, we want to move beyond the body through dimensions of consciousness, ultimately into the Universal Consciousness and that infinite Oneness.
An often overlooked but a very important part of chanting is the silence that follows the sounding. Use this silence to feel, imagine, know that your body, mind, and soul are rising to higher levels of life. Ultimately, chanting leads to the deep silence of oneness with the central, indivisible Source of Life. There you abide silently as you are imbued with health, well-being, and enlightenment. Find a regular place and time to enjoy the benefits of chanting. It won’t require anything fancy or much time. All you need is your voice and good intentions.
(Edgar Cayce references: #281-28, 275-45,1158-10)