My mantra practice has been vitalized in the following way from the teachings I received from Babaji over several years, and at the recent seminar. Now, before I start Japa on my Mala, I perform a few mantras on my hands as a way of purifying the hands that will be performing the Japa. I usually do one mantra for Holy Mother and one for Ramakrishna, given that their hand patterns are different. Then I start with the Guru bead. Since I learned the meaning/symbology, I now picture the Goddess Saraswati at the helm if you will of this first bead. She is leading and directing the spiritual knowledge that is about to be cultivated. Salutations to Her. The back of the bead is the Gayatri mantra. I recite this mantra in my mind, setting the stage for my practice. I then acknowledge the position to the left where Vishnu sits. I acknowledge Vishnu and ask Vishnu to "sustain the Dharma." I then mentally turn to the right side of the bead where Siva resides. I ask Lord Siva to destroy my ignorance. All of this is on the first bead!
Now I proceed to the second bead. With concentration in my heart, I inhale and mentally recite the Mantra to Ramakrishna with visualization that his breath overlies my own. I usually end up at visualizing at 6th or 7th chakra. Then with my exhale, I recite the mantra to Holy Mother with her breath overlying my own. I envision her mantra and dynamism manifesting/flowing via all the other lower chakras. The meaning of the individual bijas are contemplated as well. (eg. Om with it's transforming quality etc.). I then continue in this way with each bead until I reach the Guru bead again and repeat the above. I have to say, to complete one mala has increased in time considerably. That is an understatement. Usually, one round on the mala fulfills my practice for the morning. I'm continuing with it in this way for now because it feels richer and deeper, rather than doing more repetitions.
Om Peace Love,