In Buddhism, we often hear the mind referred to as the “monkey mind”. This means that it’s playing tricks, moving from thought to thought, the way a monkey would from branch to branch. I find it challenging to quiet the chatter of the monkeys, especially when external life circumstances lead me to many introspective or reactive thoughts. There are many tools within yoga to assist with quieting the mind and achieving meditation. One of my favorites is using mantras.
Mantras are a tool that can ground your body, mind, and soul. “Mantra” actually translates from Sanskrit into free from (man-) the mind (-tra). They can allow us to step outside of the chattering noise of the monkeys and into a free-flowing state of consciousness or meditation. The interesting thing about mantras spoken in Sanskrit is that their meaning is actually less important or impactful than their sound. The vibration that the sound of the mantra produces is said to be extremely powerful and can reach the inner places of our subconscious, releasing thought patterns and traumas stored within that no longer serve us.
When we concentrate on chanting a mantra over and again for a long duration of time, we can reach a point of steady concentration which is Dharana in Sanskrit. The mind becomes quiet and fixed on one single point of focus. This can be incredibly relieving. I have experienced that many thought patterns that are often associated with anxiety and depression can be relieved through mantra meditation.
Using mantras can be performed for the purpose of spiritual growth or simply relaxation. It deepens and strengthens our inner awareness. By silencing external chatter, we learn more about our thought patterns and how we already have the tools – like intentional concentration – to change our patterns of thinking. Repeated practice will begin to change the space that our automatic thoughts manifest and often will bring more silence and stillness into the monkey mind. The subsequent positive effects of using mantra meditation include a lower level of perceived stress, more mental space, and awareness for the compassion of others and ourselves, and increased attunement with our intuition.
My favorite mantras are ones that I can remember easily and roll off my tongue with joy and ease. It is said that when choosing a mantra, it is often more important how it feels to say or hear this mantra instead of focusing on finding a mantra of which its meaning is in total alignment with your intention. Although a mantra with intention can be helpful. Lately, I have been chanting a mantra that is chanted to Ganesh. The mantra is “Om Gum Ganapatayei Namah”. I feel still and peaceful after chanting this mantra. I use counting on my fingers or beads on a mala necklace to keep track of the number of repetitions. I select a number beforehand and commit to completing that number of repetitions. This allows me to really sink into the meditation. While I did not initially choose it based on its meaning, I found that its meaning aligns with my desires.
So, choose a mantra that sounds pleasant to your ears! You may find that its intended purpose and meaning aligns with your intentions, and if it doesn’t, you may need to trust that for some reason that may not yet be clear, its sacred vibration will provide strength, healing, and encouragement on your path.