So'ham or So'Hum is a highly effective and powerful mantra for creating a positive vibration for the mind as well as a healthy relationship with it. It also helps you understand how and why your particular mind works the way it does – how it forms its thoughts and ideas and what kind of thought trains it typically runs on. The So'ham mantra is, in essence, a mantra meditation that cultivates the witnessing presence within – the one that gets you in touch with your higher Self.
Breath and Visualization with the So'ham Mantra
As we link So and ham to the breath, we cultivate the witnessing presence to first the breath as we inhale So and exhale ham. The mantra translates as “That/He I am” or “I am He/That.” It helps us tap into our eternal essence, our higher Self that is the Soul – the witnessing presence that never changes. As we practice the mantra, we can also add an element of light visualization for a sense of luminosity. You can visualize light coming in through the nostrils, up to the third eye, and back out again through the nostrils as you inhale and exhale.
The alchemical combination of listening to the mantra, witnessing your breath, and visualizing the light entering and exiting your mind’s eye helps to draw your senses in the direction of your inner self. It helps you rest with an inward focus while also supporting the present time awareness needed to do the meditation and cultivate the witness state of being. (Learn more in 6 Techniques to Staying Present.)
Witnessing Your Thoughts During the So'ham Mantra
So, just allow yourself to simply play witness to the thoughts that arise as you sit with the So'ham mantra. If your mind goes off on a train of thoughts, simply watch it do so, and then come back to the breath and the mantra. The more you do this, you’ll begin to notice your habitual thought patterns, including the ones that might be coming from your ego, rather than that witnessing soul presence within.
You’ll begin to see what thoughts might be rooted in your likes and dislikes – your attachments to certain people, places, situations and things, and your aversions to certain people, places, situations and things. This witnessing of your thoughts through the So'ham mantra meditation cultivates svadhyaya, or what yogis refer to as self-knowledge. Knowing yourself is one of the primary aims of yoga, and this mantra meditation helps you do just that. (Read more in Svadhyaya: A Lifetime of Self-Study.)
Take the So'ham Mantra Everywhere with You
One of the beauties of the So'hum mantra is that you don’t have to do the practice only on your cushion in the morning or evening. You can actually apply it to any and everything you do throughout your day. That’s one of the great boons of mantra meditation. Even if you’re interacting with someone you can still practice the mantra. Or if you’re standing in line at the bank or grocery store, you can silently repeat the mantra in your mind’s eye – no one will ever know. Practicing this mantra as you are out and about in the world allows you to be in the world, but also a little bit above it. It helps you calm your nervous system as well.
Taking the So'ham mantra into your outer life allows you to reside in that witness state and not get totally lost in the ego and “doing” state that we so often tend to find ourselves swirling around in – the state that ultimately causes us to lose our higher states of awareness.
How to Practice the So'ham Mantra
So, let’s take a moment now to practice the So'ham mantra. Find a comfy meditation seat and close your eyes. Bring your attention immediately to your breath, witnessing the smooth inhale and exhale. Now sense your inhale coming in through the nostrils and up to your third eye, and the exhale coming down and out through the nostrils. With the inhale, bring in the sound, “so,” and on the exhale, listen to the sound, “hum.” Tune into this mantra from the depths of your soul as you breathe in and out. Now add the visualization of light coming in through the nostrils and up to the third eye on your inhale ("so") and allowing it to flow out of you on the exhale ("hum").
Cultivate a relaxed yet focused attention as you practice this meditation. If thoughts arise, just witness them. If thought trains take you off on a journey somewhere, come back to the breath, the luminous light, and the mantra.
So'ham. I am That.