Last week I had the privilege and honor to officiate the wedding of one of my Yoga students. When she asked me if I could officiate her wedding, I started to cry just from sheer emotion, but then reality sunk in and I spent a week starting than stopping, wringing my hands, and flipping ideas back and forth on how I was going to start and lead the ceremony, I mean this was a first for me…officiating weddings was never in any of my trainings. I had never in my life even contemplated acting as an officiate in anything, especially in a wedding.
Nonetheless, eventually, after lots of hand wringing about how to start this multi-cultural, bi-lingual, interfaith, no-faith wedding, Yoga gave me the answer. One morning, as I started my personal practice just a few weeks before the wedding, the most obvious answer came to mind- I needed to start the ceremony with that ancient and powerful chant, the Aum (OM).
In India it is customary to start all sorts of ceremonies with the repetition of the Aum (OM). I always start and end my classes in this way. There is an art to its repetition and there are countless theories and interpretations on what exactly the vibrating sound of Aum (when chanted sounds like OM) means and what its origins are. Below is a brief description of the most common:
There is agreement that it is an ancient sound that is said to represent the beginning/birth (A) the middle/life (U) and end/death (M) of creation as well as all the spoken sounds and aspects of language. Is it said to represent the very basis of the universe, and its continuous becoming. It is symbolic of the divine triad of Parvati, Lakshmi and Shakti as well as their masculine aspects of Bhrama, Vishnu and Siva.
The silence at the end of the Om is symbolic of Ishvara, a divine concept that exerts that pure divine existence resides in complete stillness and silence, beyond language and consciousness, over which masculine and feminine energies unite in equal parts to manifest as creation. For this reason it is connected with the vibration of the 7th chakra (wheel of energy) that exists above the head, more or less where the soft spot is on a baby´s skull, outside of the body, placed in-between the point of material and non-material existence.
Furthermore, at 432 HZ it is believed to be the base vibration of all material existence and supposedly if you listen to the recordings of NASA and their recordings of the earth, a low hum that sounds strikingly like Aum (OM) can be heard. You can listen to it here:
When one chants the OM one should try to not only hear and listen to the hum and vibration but also feel it throughout the skull, the brain, the chest and entire body.
Finally, according to the ancient Yogic texts of the Upanishad the Aum (Om) is the union of breath and sound and together they mate to produce song. With this clarified, it not only seemed ideal, but necessary to start the wedding with this chant. So as an invocation, I asked all those in attendance to participant in the honoring of the joining of these two humans by chanting the Aum (Om) 3x and to maintain a small still silence at the end.
I was a little uncertain about asking all of the wedding attendees to participate in this chant, but despite there being very few Yogi´s in the wedding with people from all over the world who came from different backgrounds, faiths, ages and beliefs everyone came together in one vibration.
In the silence afterwards, and between the stone walls that had witnessed over 400 years of history, I felt a deep sense of calm that confirmed and clarified the reason why so many of the ceremonies in India start and end with this ancient chant.
Science has shown that in the end we are all just vibration spinning at different speeds and I would argue that the practices of Yoga, be it Hatha Yoga asana practica, Kirtan mantra chanting, and/or Kundalini breathwork we have the power to influence and raise that vibration so that we can life more fully and with more joy in THIS, the present moment, within ourselves and with others, this wonderful experience called life.