What is a mantra meditation?
The word ‘mantra’ comes from the ancient Sanskrit language and it means “tool of the mind.” Or, put another way, “instrument of thought.”
You might be familiar with the sound “om” (more accurately spelled, “aum”). Aum is considered to be the original mantra. Mantras can also be short phrases, rather than a single word. A mantra meditation is when someone repeats a mantra over and over again – either out loud or silently, during meditation.
Some mantras are connected with particular deities or figures in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Others refer to specific qualities someone might want to develop – like acceptance or inner balance. Still other mantras could be just a word or sound without a particular meaning.
Why use mantra meditation?
Mantra meditation is an ancient practice. Now, we know that just because it’s old, doesn’t make it right, but in the case of the mantra, it’s lasted this long for one simple reason: it works. Here are five of the benefits you can expect by incorporating mantra meditation into your daily routine.
1. Give the Monkey a Banana
Yeah, you know what we’re talking about – the monkey mind. That incessant chatter-box running off at the mouth (or mind) about nothing, obsess about things long after they matter any more, and generally making so much darn noise in your head that you can’t even notice where you are in the NOW moment. The monkey mind is the culprit that stops peace of mind, and certainly won’t allow anything like ‘clearing the mind’ for successful meditation. A mantra meditation gives that monkey something to do, and lets your right brain have a little rest.
2. Look at that Noise
Mantras are sometimes called ‘sound symbols’ and can be used in meditation in order to bring about the quality of the word or phrase being chanted. So if you chant the name of a divinity of compassion over and over again, your mantra meditation is said to bring forth not just the energy of compassion, but in some way, the divinity itself.
3. Peace by Association
If you feel a natural draw to a certain spiritual figure or religious deity, you can use a mantra as a way to remind yourself and also associate the qualities of this deity with your mantra meditation experiences. You can actually learn more about the energies of the figure simply by chanting his or her name during repeated meditation sittings.
4. I Need Space
When you repeat a mantra – either silently or out loud – you actually take up space in your brain that could otherwise be used by our friend, the monkey (see #1 above). Since there’s actually a limit to the amount of space for thinking, if you use a bunch of it with a mantra, you actually have less room for thought.
5. Plain ‘ole Happier
Because so much of our thinking tends to be about stuff that bothers us, things we’re worried about, crave or frustrate us, when the mind switches on to these thoughts during silent meditation, we can tend to end up feeling bothered, worried and frustrated more than anything else. Chanting a mantra gives the mind a very specific focus to keep returning to. It also makes it easier to catch ourselves quickly every time the mind drifts into negative thoughts.
Have you ever tried mantra meditation? If you have – or if you’re an experienced “aum-er”, leave a comment and let us know how this practice has benefited you.