If you want to improve your meditation, it may be time to meditate with a mantra.
Meditation comes with a host of stereotypes and cliches, one of which you have undoubtedly heard of is the mantra. In most pop culture representations of mediation it is a monk sitting cross-legged, repeating “om,” “peace of mind,” or “I am that I am.”
While it is easy to box mantras in as a mindless saying for meditation, they actually have extreme power. Once you’ve got the hand of meditation basics, such as focusing on breathing and your physical sensation and letting thoughts flow in and out, you may be ready to adopt a mantra and test out its effectiveness.
One of the best ways to meditate is to meditate with your intentions in mind. This will help you become a better observer of your own thoughts and reactions to the intention. The intentions of most beginning meditations are to calm your mind and become more in control.
More advanced meditations revolve around centering the self, recognizing non-duality and aligning chakras. Whichever path you are on, a mantra might help. Om meditation isn’t widely used because it is cool. It is used because it works.
Mantras aren’t just some meaningless phrase done as an empty gesture of antique forms of meditation. They are tools that can be used to improve your experience.
Meditation with a Mantra
Mantras benefit your meditation for two reasons. The first benefit, and the one most likely to help beginners, is a mantra that gives something for your mind to focus on as you try to let go. Most meditation practices use the breath or physical sensations as an object of focus. But mantras can serve the exact same purpose.
As you repeat a word or phrase over and over again, you can focus on this repetition and let your mind start to fall away from the normal buzz that goes on in there. Normally, there is a constant stream of consciousness running through your head. Meditation aims to stop this stream for a time being. Focusing on a mantra will keep your mind off of the thousands of thoughts it would normally revert back to.
The other benefit of using a mantra with your meditation is the transformative power of words and vibrations. Speaking or listening to a mantra invokes both the power of words and of positive vibrations, two key elements to a powerful meditative state.
Mantra Meditation Technique
To start off, you need to figure out what mantra you want to use. There are two options. You can come up with a personal mantra—my preferred technique—or you can use a classic mantra used in common meditation chants. Whichever path you choose, make sure you aren’t just picking a mantra without considering its use. You want something that strikes a chord with you emotionally, spiritually, and vocally.
The best way to meditate is to make sure you are completely in control. That should be true of the mantra you pick. You should know exactly why you chose it.
If you choose your own mantra, pick a word or phrase that means something to you and aligns with your values. It should also be something whose actual physical vibrations (the way it sounds) work with you. Something that sounds good.
Personally, I find poems as a good source of mantra inspiration. Rumi is a great author to look at for personal mantras. So are many of the poets from the transcendentalist movement in America, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and David Thoreau.
Some mantras I like to use are:
- So it goes
- Love is a bridge
- Just keep moving
Obviously om meditation is the most famous out there. Om was supposedly the sound the universe made when it came into existence. It plays a large role in Hinduism and Buddhism alike. The word itself means many different things, but is considered an incredibly powerful incantation.
Other popular mantras include:
- I am that I am
- Hare Krishna
- Om Namah Shivaya
All of these have their meanings and if you plan on using a classic mantra for meditation, I suggest researching its meaning and practicing with it to see if it lines up with your meditation intentions.
Now it is time to meditate and chant your mantra. I suggest starting your meditation in the exact same way you usually do. Sit up straight, hands on your knees, and start focusing on your breaths. Keep them even and spaced out. Once you’ve started to relax and let go of the iron grip you normally have on your mind, it is time to start your mantra meditation.
Focus on the words. How they feel. How they make you feel. Then, let them pass in and out of your mind just like any thought you would have during a regular meditation session. With each repetition of the mantra, find a freshness to the words, like it is the first time you’ve recited them.
Now, depending on your meditation intention, you can continue like this or you can move on to asking yourself questions or burrowing into your own consciousness. Both of these techniques are easier once you have spent time doing basic meditation practices.
There is no “perfect” way to meditate. It is often said that everyone who meditates is a beginner and there aren’t any masters. Anybody who says otherwise has stalled their own progress. We all have something to learn.
For you, meditating with a mantra might be the best way to learn and progress. There shouldn’t be an end goal for your meditation, but rather each meditation session should help you gain a greater grasp of mindfulness. Hopefully these steps lead you to a better, more successful meditation practice in your search for enlightenment and a more peaceful mind.