Aham, a simple two-syllable mantra pronounced like the word “aha” with an “m” sound at the end, is a powerful meditation tool that can help settle your mind and expand your awareness.
In tantric philosophy aham represents Shiva-Shakti. The sound “a” is pure Awareness, or Shiva. The sound “ha” is expressive energy, or Shakti. And the sound “m” is the bindu, the unity of Shiva and Shakti.
The vibration of those sounds have a soothing effect on the nervous system, helping to refine it and quiet the “static” within it.
The Sanskrit meaning of aham is “I” or “self”. It can refer to the individual self, or the Universal Self at the core of all existence. It’s this Higher Self that is contemplated when using aham as a mantra in meditation.
When repeating the aham mantra over and over, the meaning becomes “I-I” or “I am I”. And this brings your attention toward the heart of your existence, that I or Self that is behind all your thoughts and emotions.
The tantric yogis have described aham as the Supreme Heart – the pulsation of Creative Energy within the wide-open expanse of Awareness.
All manifestation (Shakti) vibrates within that vast expanse (Shiva).
Aham is also the pulse of the breath. When you breathe in the sound “a” is produced. When you breathe out you make the sound “ham”. With each breath you are declaring your existence or sense of aliveness, your innate feeling of “I am”.
It is no coincidence that the Sanskrit alphabet begins with the sound “a” and ends with the sound “ha”. In this way, it can be said that all sounds take place within the aham. And all speech arises out of aham.
Aham is the original thought. If you let go of everything else, all your ideas of “I am this” or “I am that”, you come to rest in the simple awareness of “I am”. When even the idea of “I am” dissolves, the unfiltered recognition of your true nature arises.
HOW TO USE THE AHAM MANTRA IN MEDITATION
- With your awareness in manipura chakra (just below the navel and slightly inward toward the spine), feel the rise and fall of the breath.
- On each inhalation, mentally repeat the sound “a”.
- With each exhalation, mentally repeat the sound “ham”.
- Notice the space before the breath arises and after it falls away.
- After a while, let go of the recitation of the syllables and simply listen to the natural aham sound of the breath.
- Become aware of the Awareness behind the pulse of the breath.
- Once the inward current is established, let go of the breath and relax fully into Awareness Itself.
There may be moments during your practice when the breath grows too subtle to notice, or even comes to a stop for a period of time. You don’t want to try to force this to happen, nor do you want to attempt to bring the breath back.
Let the breathless state emerge naturally. When it does, merge your full attention in Awareness.
Another way of using the aham mantra is to mentally listen to it without pairing it with the breath. As you listen, allow the sound to grow more and more subtle, feeling it bringing you closer to your sense of “I am”.
Or, begin with pairing it with the breath, and then after awhile let the breath go and continue to listen to the sound. Again, allow it to grow quieter and quieter, riding the vibration back to its Source, back to the “I am”, and then beyond.
As with all techniques, set it aside after it has served its purpose. Then, let your innate wisdom continue to guide you toward a deeper awareness of Awareness.