This symbol represents Om as written in Sanskrit. Though commonly spelled Om in many other languages, the symbol actually consists of three letters, a, u, and m, and includes the after-sound of silence as follows:
The a (pronounced "ah," the upper curve) represents our waking state.
The u (pronounced "ooh," the long, lower curve) is the dreaming state.
The m (the curve issuing from the center) is the dreamless state of deep sleep.
When we are able to let go of these mind states, we pass through the veil of illusion (the crescent shape) and reach the after-sound, symbolic of the transcendent state of consciousness (the dot), that is, a state of mind beyond normal awareness or a sense of connection with a higher reality.
MantrasMantras, sacred chants (or prayers), come in all shapes and sizes. They can be composed of sentences, single words, or even single syllables. They can be any word that has meaning for us. Single-syllable mantras, known as seed mantras, are the easiest to remember and recite. Om is one of the oldest and most widely known of these seed mantras.
The power of sacred words is widely recognized in the East. Apart from their literal meaning, mantras are believed to contain a vibrational power that can lift us to higher spiritual states. However, spiritual uplift is not the only outcome. Scientists recently discovered that recitations have possible physiological benefits for the heart. Reciting regulated the breath and synchronized the heart rhythms of 23 participants in a study conducted by Italian researchers. The research team speculated this happened because recitation slowed the breath rate to an optimal six breaths per minute. In contrast, the average person's breath rate is 16 to 20 breaths per minute. Silently repeating a mantra did not produce the same effects as reciting them out loud. Vocal recitations engage the breath rhythms that, in turn, influence the heart rhythms via the central nervous system. Smoothing and lengthening breathing regulates heart rhythms, oxygenates the blood, and induces a feeling of calmness and well-being.