What is a Mantra?
We often hear the word mantra associated with a number of spiritual practices including yoga and meditation. The word mantra can be broken down into two parts: “man” which means mind, and “tra” which means transport or vehicle. As a more common definition – a mantra is something that can be used to assist your mind in entering a deep state of meditation.
In more traditional Vedic practices, a mantra is used to access a spiritual state of consciousness. When either chanted or spoken, mantras help direct the healing power of Prana (life force energy). Many people believes that in order for a mantra to be effective, it must be used on a regular basis for several months. At its most basic, a mantra is meant to calm the mind and bring you back to a mental state of happiness and simplicity.
Mantras originally in the Sanskrit language – so trying to pronounce some mantras may seem a little intimidating to most of us, however, simple one word mantras like “Om” can be extremely effective and powerful!
While mantras are strongly associated with yoga that is not the only place they can be used. In many spiritual paths, your mentor will assign a mantra to you and it will change and evolve as you follow your spiritual path. People can use mantras, to give themselves a quiet time to focus at any point during the day. They can be used to uplift, energize, and even sooth. (While this is not the more formal use of a mantra, this type of use has gained considerable appeal in our modern age.) To get the most from your mantra, choose a word or phrase, and chant (repeat) it in a way that works for you – be it out loud, quietly or just to yourself in your mind. Based on their historical use, I suggest that these types of shorter mantras should be chanted 108 times (mala beads can help with that – more about malas in my next article!) No matter what, the importance lies in being able to focus your attention to the sound!
As I am sure you know – the purpose of mantra is to give yourself something to focus on. To do this, you repeat a particular sound or short phrase over and over. It is important that your word or phrase resonates positively – but also important that it resonates with you personally. It’s important to note that not all mantras work for all people so unless you have been given direction from a spiritual mentor, feel free to choose another mantra to see if it is a better fit for you personally.
Having a daily meditation ritual allows you to create a more peaceful, less stressful life! Here are a few possible mantras to consider:
“Aum” or “Om” pronounced the same; this is a Sanskrit word meaning “it is” and can be found in many cultures. The next article will be an in-depth look at the meaning of this sound and its symbol!)
“Ham-Sah”, “So Ham” (pronounced “So Hum”): another Sanskrit word, meaning “I am that”. For this mantra, the idea is to say “So” on inhale, “Ham” on exhale.
“Om Mani Padme Hum” is a Buddhist mantra, often associated with Quan Yin, meaning “the jewel is in the heart of the Lotus”. (Next week I will be posting more information about this mantra.)
“Be the change you wish to see in the world” is one of my favourite quotes attributed to Gandhi.
“I change my thoughts, I change my world” and another lovely thought by Norman Vincent Peale.
So what can you do if you if none of these mantras resonate with you? Why not create your own? Here is a simple process to get you to that goal!
Start with an area of your life you would like to have a mantra for - it can be family related, personal, or even career related!
Begin by making a point form list of what you feel are your biggest achievements. (Remember this is for your eyes only so write anything that comes to mind!) Next, number these achievements from most to least important based on the amount of happiness each achievement brought you (1 has no pleasure associated with it and 10 has created the biggest smile on your face!) If you feel as though there are two or more achievements that make you really happy, think about what you had to do to obtain that goal – which one was the most pleasurable in the process of getting the achievement? Which objective made you the proudest?
Now comes the difficult part – take that achievement and summarize it into ONE or TWO simple words that will make you recall how GREAT you felt when you met this achievement! The word does not have to be selected from the words in your achievement- it can be a word that summarizes or makes you recall the pleasure this achievement brought.
One friend struggled very much with her fertility and finally when she did get pregnant, she would meditate with the words “baby girl”. To this day those words still make her smile! This reminds her how she hard she has worked to overcome some very personal struggles; and reminds her each day of the product of those struggles!
The idea is that your mantra is personal to you, and that it is a positive statement that resonates with you into the depth of your heart and soul. You are the only person who even needs to know what word(s) you have chosen. Just call in this phrase or word whenever you require an affirmation to help you move forward! Blessings to you!