BEGINNING BREATHING AND CHANTING PRACTICE
The first two letters of the tetragrammaton are yod and hey. Together they can be sounded Yah, one of the names of God. In Exodus, it says “Yah is my strength and song,” (Ex. 15:2), and the name Yah is mentioned many times in Psalms, such as, “we will bless Yah from this time forth and for evermore.” (Ps 115:18) In English this is translated, “we will bless the Lord,” so, as described earlier, we lose in translation the nuance of this particular name.
Yah is the God-characteristic that is the breath of life. We can directly experience its subtlety in our exhalations and our sighs. Stop for a moment, do a full exhalation, and simultaneously listen to the sound as you experience the inner relaxation. Sigh, without making a sound in the vocal cords and imagine an all-compassionate presence of Yah. Yah holds and embraces us, Yah is our inner source of strength, and in each breath, we bless Yah for as long as we live, which is our “forever.”
The name Yah appears in one of the most popular blessings of praise. Feel in your heart the expression “halleluyah!” This Hebrew word breaks down into hallel and Yah, meaning: Praise Yah! Thus, when we sing out halleluyah, we are acknowledging the essence of our very breath that embraces us.
Yah: First Phase
Our first practice is quite simple. We find a quiet place to sit, making certain that we will not be disturbed for about a half-hour. We sit comfortably, gazing at an aleph, and we quietly whisper Yah in our minds each and every time we inhale. We notice if thoughts arise during this quiet inner chant. Each time we notice ourselves thinking, we direct more concentration to the next Yah in the next inhalation, repeating this time and time again until we are so fully immersed in the inner sound of Yah that our minds become quiet. In this state of quietude, we begin to experience the presence of Yah
Within a week of practicing this Yah-inhalation on a thirty-minute daily schedule, we should find that mind quiets significantly during the practice. The final ten minutes should be much calmer than the beginning ten minutes. At any point you may wish to stop gazing at the aleph. This can be done whenever you tire of it. Still it is useful to keep the eyes gently open, preferably resting on something that does not stimulate thinking—as opposed to closing the eyes, which may lead to a wandering mind.
Yah: Second Phase
Working with the practice described above, we take Yah with us into our daily life. This often begins by the end of the first week of practice. Every so often, no matter what we are doing, we try to remember to experience the inner sound of Yah on an inhalation as often as possible. This phase will arise spontaneously and we will discover that we can often hear the inner sound of Yah without being distracted from whatever we are engaged in at any particular moment. When in public, we still can continue to practice in silence. The inner sounds are actually as powerful in this practice as exaggerating them openly.
Before attempting the advanced practice, it is wise to do this inner work every day for at least a month to build confidence and strength of concentration.