The third arm of Bhakti Yoga is called Smarana. This means, remembering the Divine.
For me this means that when I am not using my mind for something else, I think about Durga. Or Ganesha. Or Shiva. I think about my Holy teachers, and the blessings that I have received, which is the Divine. I remember the qualities of endless boundless goodness and the love that is just a thought away.
Through mental contemplation, the Divine is close to us. If I think of something unpleasant like a scene from a movie where I didn’t close my eyes fast enough and something violent happened, and that plays again in my mind, I open my eyes and look at a statue of a god or a painting of a goddess. I can fix my attention on these visual representations of the Divine and it overwhelms and transforms the lower vibrational image that until then would not budge.
Any form of mantra can be classified as coming under the heading Smarana. It can be a simple mantra like Om Namah Shivaya, or a complex mantra like the Sri Suktam. The latter contains numerous references to the beauty and power of the Goddess, in graphic and pictorial ways. They are ancient verses that speak to another era where life was lived more directly in harmony with nature, and wealth was represented by how many cows you had, or how your crops grew. The feeling of learning and reciting the longer mantras is quite intoxicating (although they can be frustrating tongue twisters on the way to getting it. But when you do, they are a fast way into bliss).
There are three ways to practice mantra. Firstly, practice by repeating the mantra out loud. This is great for stilling the mind and expanding beyond the usual construct of the mind. The mind will end up relenting as the Divine energy builds in the mantra. The more you chant the mantra the stronger the effect will be.
The second way to chant mantra is to whisper it so that you are using your lips to form the words, but very little sound comes out. The third way is silent repetition of the mantra, with no visible external queue to suggest that you are even chanting at all. It is all in your mind and heart. Some say silent chanting is a higher form of practice. I say you do whatever works.
Eventually as we remember the Divine, the Divine remembers us in the sense of taking up space in our mind. We can wake in the middle of the night and the mind is doing the mantra. The image of the Divine is there without us having tried at all to visualise it. This is a good place to be, and your life will unfold with as much ease and grace as is karmically possible if you use this marvellous devotional tool on such a regular basis that it becomes part of your nature. It helps you remember you are part of a vast family of light. You are not alone. You love, and you are loved.
An interesting aside here is that when blessing people, it is sometimes evident which mantra they usually do. One can hear it in their aura. One can perceive the face of the Divine that they venerate. If we were all clairvoyant and clairaudient, EVERYONE would be chanting. It calls the Divine into our lives in a coalesced way that is different to the general invisible background presence that is denied by so many that have never felt it.
Particularly before bed, or in bed as you are falling asleep, you can practice a mantra. It will rock you to sleep, and help you through life’s battles. Like any devotional practice, it will strengthen your energy field and lift your vibration. Jai Ma!!