21-Day Meditation Challenge – Day 17: Introduction to Mantra Repetition
One of my favorite tools for anchoring the mind is mantra. The word mantra comes from two sanskrit root words: man (mind) and tra (instrument). When used in meditation practice, a mantra is an instrument to focus and attune the mind. The sounds made through the repetition of a mantra are vibrations that many believe can have great power. By repeating the same phrase throughout a meditation practice, the sound of the words can create a pathway into deeper and deeper awareness. Sound repetition helps us to let go of individual thoughts and enter a realm of pure being and consciousness.
Most of us who practice yoga are already familiar with the vibration of OM. OM is said to be the sound that incorporates all sounds and all stages of life. The ‘ah’ sound at the beginning represents Brahma, the creator. The ‘oh’ sound in the middle represents Vishnu, the sustainer. And the ‘mmm’ sound at the end represents Shiva, the destroyer. We chant OM at the beginning and end of practice to connect to universal consciousness and to tap into the vibration of prana present in all beings.
In meditation practice, a mantra can be repeated silently, spoken aloud, or chanted, as a way to focus the movement and energy of the mind. Your mantra can be any short phrase that is easy to repeat. While there are many wonderful, and powerful sanskrit mantras, you may also use a phrase in English that has meaning to you. Here are some examples of simple mantras:
So Ham (pronounced “so hahm”)
Ham Sa (pronounces “hahm sa”)
To practice mantra meditation, begin in a comfortable seat as you would any other meditation. Draw your awareness inward and begin to listen to the rhythms and vibrations of your breath. Allow your breath to deepen into a slow and steady rhythm. When you are ready to begin, pick a mantra and repeat it to yourself. Allow the speed and rhythm to evolve organically with your breath. As you inhale, repeat the first word, letting the sound of the word connect to the vibration of your breath. As you exhale, repeat the second word, allowing the vibration to echo within. Repeat your mantra with every breath cycle, until your practice feels complete. As with any meditation practice, if you feel your mind begin to drift, recognize the thoughts that arise, and gently draw your focus back to your practice. Each time you redirect your focus back to your mantra, you will enhance your ability to concentrate.
When you are ready to close your practice, allow yourself to sit in silence for a few moments, absorbing the energy of your practice, and connecting to the vibrations within your body and surrounding you in nature.
It may be helpful as a beginner in mantra practice to use something to help you keep track of time. A timer or meditation app on your phone or computer can help you set a dedicated time for your practice. If you would like to keep track of the number of repetitions of your mantra, you can use a string of mala beads. Each strand has 108 beads, and traditionally, mantras are repeated in multiples of 108. To use mala beads simply hold the strand in your hand. Begin at the top and move your fingers to the next new bead each time you repeat your mantra.
If you would like to listen to a guided mantra meditation, here is a link from Yoga Journal that leads a Hamsa meditation:
In light and love,