There are as many mantras as there are stars in the sky. Even if you may not know it, you are affected by the power of words each day in both positive and negative ways.
Each of us has a running dialogue within- “I am this. I am that. I can. I can’t.”
What if we could harness the power of words to access greater depths of ourselves and ultimately the world around us?
What if we consciously used these utterances to bring our awareness within and offered these repetitions to ourselves as a spiritual practice, or simply loving self-care?
Or what if they just made us a little more loving, a little more tolerant, a little more peaceful?
This is where mantras come in. Words are powerful, beautiful, transforming…
But what are true mantras? Where did they originate? And how do we create our own personal meditation practice using them?
The ancient origins of mantras:
The word “mantra” is a Sanskrit word. “Man” translates as “mind” or “thoughts” and “tra” can be translated as “tools” or “instruments”. So mantras can be understood as “tools of the mind”.
Mantras are said to have originated from illuminated souls before us, those who were divinely connected to the Earth, the Wind, the Sky. They listened deeply to the vibrations of the Universe, and from them, mantras were revealed and passed down through generations.
They are accessible to all of us at any point in our lives, and need not be connected to a particular faith or belief. The words we choose are powerful, and words that are spoken with deep intention consistently can be the most potent of all.
Creating a simple mantra practice is easy to do and can benefit anyone who is looking to access a deeper connection to the Self, nurture one’s own intuition and inner wisdom.
In most traditions mantras are given by a guru or spiritual teacher, however, this is not necessary. You can certainly choose a mantra for yourself. Some of the most popular mantras are listed below. If you are just starting a mantra practice, simply choose a mantra that resonates with you. Your intuition is always the best place to start!
Three popular mantras to try:
Om (or Ohm, Aum) is one of the most popular and ancient mantras derived from the primordial sound. It is considered the very vibration of the Universe.
This mantra is wonderful as it can directly correlate with the breath. Translated as “I am That. “That” can mean the Divine, She, He, Eternal, the Universe. So is the sound of the inhalation and Ham is the sound of the exhalation. It reminds us that we are all One.
Om (the sound of the Universe) is paired with Shanti meaning “peace”. You can chant this mantra for inner peace and with the intention of peace for all living beings.
These are only a few of the mantras available, so if none of these feel quite right a quick search online will take you to hundreds of mantras from varying traditions. You will know when you find one that resonates!
Starting a practice:
For those who want to start a formal mantra practice, begin by creating a sacred space. Find a place that is quiet where you will be undisturbed when you sit for meditation. You can have a decorated altar or simply arrange a space that is comfortable and that brings you joy when you are in it.
Sit in a comfortable seated position and take notice of the breath. Let your thoughts play without judgement. Soon they will slow and your breath will deepen.
When you feel ready, begin to chant your chosen mantra out loud. This can be on any pitch that feels comfortable for you and at any pace. It may take some time to get used to chanting out loud if you have not done so before, but roll with it and keep going! You will eventually get into a natural rhythm that feels good for you.
After you feel you have reached that natural rhythm, begin to lower the volume of your chanting for a minute, then again to a whisper. Ultimately, we want to bring the chant within and hear the mantra silently. This brings the awareness deeper and is considered the most powerful of all practices.
Set a timer if you like or chant as long as you feel you would like to. If you find concentration is hard, just start small. Your meditation practice need not be an hour a day! Just waking up in the morning and chanting a mantra is a beautiful beginning. The next day chant it twice and so on.
Your mantra will become like an old friend with you always. You can chant your mantra silently while you walk the dog, feed your kids, wash your dishes, brush your teeth, just before sleep, you get the idea!
Mantras aren’t just intended for formal practice. Bring the wisdom you have acquired off the cushion and into the world! Enjoy the benefits of creating a new positive groove in your consciousness and watch your life begin to shift with the magic of mantras.