You’ve heard of mantras. In fact, I am willing to put money on it, that you’ve already practiced, like, thousands of them. Perhaps it went something like: “Must not eat so much sugar at this birthday party. “Will not yell at my 5-year old for redesigning the tapestry”, “stay calm, even if that guy cuts you off in traffic”. That’s right, telling yourself over and over, not to lose your sh*% is a mantra. See! You’ve done it already and you had no idea.
But maybe you’re still not much into mantras? You’ve tried a few Sanskrit lines that sounded foreign and not all that accessible. Or, perhaps, you grew up with a religious background and any kind of vision of rocking back and forth, reciting something from a holy script weirds you out? I hear you. But if I may:
When I first started very short, so-called Japa mantras, I just did so because my own yoga trainer suggested it. I didn’t really “get it” at first. But after just a few days, I would notice that while I recited the mantra, it was easier to get out of my head. If, for example, you find silent meditation really hard, mantras are a great way to come into a comfortable silence that often follows right after reciting them. It pulls your whole body into the task and there’s very little room for other thoughts or even doubts. Mantras draw us into a meditative state automatically and almost effortlessly.
Still not convinced? Well, here comes your easy step-by-step guide to finding the right mantra practice for you:
Keep it simple: your mantra doesn’t have to be a long, convoluted Sanskrit piece. Go for AUM or OM Shanti first, something familiar and not too “out there” in terms of pronunciation and complexity. I will nevertheless say that sometimes a foreign language can help because there are no preconceptions or negative associations attached to it.
Keep it real: if citing Sanskrit makes you feel silly or like, you crossed over to THAT land, where people drink nothing but green tea and only greet each other with “Namasté”, just switch to your own language: “I am whole” or “I am strong” or even simpler: “I am” are perfectly good mantras to follow.
Keep it focused: try to stick to one idea. I mean, saying to yourself: “I trust in the universe and may all sentient beings trust in the universe and may we all be happy and healthy”, are all wonderful thoughts. They’re also a bit of a tall order, when you want to stay on message and unambivalent in your goal. A simple “may all beings be happy” is really all you need on many occasions.
Keep it strong: state what you want, not what you don’t want. If you’d like to feel healthier, phrase it positively. So instead of saying: “I don’t want to be sick anymore”, rephrase it: I am healthy. Stating it this way, like it’s already happened, has the added benefit of making it real in that ego-driven mind of ours that thrives on the idea of “Oh, no, you’re not”.
Keep it fun: finally, find some nice tunes to go along with your mantra. There are so many different renditions of all the traditional mantras, it’s fun to practice with different melodies and see which ones stick. It also makes different regions in your brain work together. Who, knows, that might just be the trick you need to stay with it.
What are some of your favorite mantra practices? Let me know in the comment section below!