Mantra Meditation

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What Is Mantra Meditation?

A mantra is a syllable, word, or phrase that is repeated during meditation. Mantras can be spoken, chanted, whispered, or repeated in the mind. Most mantra meditation techniques have two essential components: mindfulness meditation and mantra recitation or chanting. While this age-old practice is known to have Buddhist and Hindu roots, forms of “sacred word” recitation exist within a great variety of spiritual traditions, including Jude-Christian and Shamanic. Nowadays, mantra practice is also gaining popularity as part of non-secular mindfulness practice.

People do mantra meditation for different reasons. For some, it serves as a kind of mental protection against unwelcome distractions or emotions, as when battling sleeplessness or coping with fears associated with travel. For others, mantra meditation serves a deeper spiritual purpose. In certain Hindu and ancient Christian traditions, for example, mantra recitation is used to focus the mind-heart and connect with the divine, both within and without. In Buddhism, one of the benefits of mantra recitation is that it helps keep the mind focused and receptive to the blessings of the present moment. As Buddhism is a non-theistic tradition, mantra serves to evoke positive qualities and confidence rather than an external deity.

Mantra Meditation – The Benefits and the Methods

Mantras are one of the most common objects used for meditation—and one of the most powerful ones too. The practice of mantra meditation is found in many of the world’s wisdom traditions, and also in the practice of meditation in a secular context.

In this article, I’ll explore the different meditation techniques that employ mantra, how to choose a mantra, why mantras are powerful, and what are the different levels and subtleties of this practice. Personally, together with trataka, mantra meditation is my favorite practice, so I’m delighted to write about it.

The subject of mantra and related practices is a vast and complex study within Hinduism, Yoga, and Buddhism. Here I’ve strived to give you a very broad overview of mantra meditation, with the pragmatic and non-sectarian approach that is characteristic of this blog. Whether you are agnostic or spiritually minded, this article will give you important practical tips for your practice.

The Science Behind Finding Your Mantra and How to Practice It Daily

Ever wonder what you’re chanting during yoga class that always seems to instill a profound sense of calm? Take a look at the neuroscience behind how mantras make potent additions to your yogic practices, and find one that works best for you.

Looking for a spiritually satisfying life after college, musician Tina Malia moved to Fairfax, California, an artsy city north of San Francisco, and began attending sacred music concerts. Something in the ritual and the mantra chanting moved her to tears and kept her going back again and again. 

Eventually, she started experimenting with the music on her own. One day, friend and fellow musician Jai Uttal invited her to sing backup in his band, the Pagan Love Orchestra, which combined chanting mantra with rock, reggae, jazz, and African music. Malia jumped at the chance to play and sing these sacred sounds and words—believed by practitioners to change states of mind and elevate consciousness.

“I loved the syllables and the way they rolled in my mouth, but I didn’t yet know how much I would grow to need them,” says Malia. Even though she was gaining success as a musician and was surrounded by loving friends, Malia was silently sinking into depression—an ailment she had struggled with on and off since she was a teenager. 

As a twenty-something, feeling lost and lonely in the world again, she was ensnared by negative thoughts and even contemplated taking her own life. “It was like I was falling down this pit,” says Malia, now 40-years-old. Nothing she grasped for to ease her pain—food, sex, movies, alcohol, even spiritual books—gave her anything more than a quick and fleeting fix.

Uttal, witnessing her struggle, offered her a tool that he thought would help her deal with depression—a practice called japa, in which a mantra is repeated, silently or out loud, as the practitioner moves a string of beads (or mala) through their fingers. 

The mantra Uttal suggested was Ram, which can be interpreted as “the inner fire that burns away impurities and bad karma.” At the time, Malia says, she did not fully understand the meaning of the mantra. She just wanted relief from her despair, and she was willing to try anything.

How to do mantra meditation

Find the best mantras to suit your intention

Before you start, ask yourself why mantra meditation techniques appeal to you. Do you want to maintain or regain your health? Are you plagued by distractions? Are you looking to forge a deeper spiritual connection?

Some people find that using mantras during their meditation practice helps them relax in a positive, sustainable way. This sense of well-being can lead to lower blood pressure and reduce stress and anxiety. In this case, mantra meditation is a form of mindfulness practice where repetition of a word or phrase helps settle the mind.

Get comfortable and remember your intention

As with any other form of practice, you’ll enjoy mantra meditation more if you have a comfortable seat! Look for a quiet space and avoid bright light and sensory over stimulation so you can concentrate on your mantra meditation without too many disturbances.

Try to remember your intention as you defined it in the previous point. This could range from “May my practice help me overcome destructive personal habits,” to “May my practice help me be more patient,” “May my practice connect me with the divine,” “May my practice lead to spiritual awakening,” or any other goal you’ve identified for yourself.

Next, sit correctly and focus on your breathing

Sit in your usual position for mindfulness meditation (see Take Your Seat video on Mind works App for basic posture instructions). Spend some time checking in. Notice where tension or resistance may have crystallized in your body and gently let it go. Pay attention to the breath. This will help settle the mind before you start your mantra recitation or chanting practice.

Chant your mantra

Now that you’ve reiterated your intention and settled your mind through basic mindfulness of the breath, it’s time to recite or chant your mantra. Don’t look for a “transcendent experience” – just be yourself, relaxed and aware of the moment. Go with the flow.

You can continue for as long as you’d like. There’s no need to put pressure on your mind or body – relax into the joy of the practice! Mantras give your mind a buoyant anchor to hold onto when waves of thoughts or emotions threaten to wash your meditation away. People who regularly do this kind of practice say that mantra meditation becomes second nature and is something they look forward to at the beginning or end of their day.

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