What is Mantra Meditation?
What is Mantra Meditation? Mantra is a Sanskrit term, with “man” meaning “mind” and “tra” meaning “release.” It is a word, sound, syllable, or phrase that is repeated over and over again during meditations and is said to have a powerful vibrational resonance. Mantras are used to focus the mind, a huge task as we have up to 80,000 thoughts a day! It’s not surprising mantras are a popular tool in meditation. When we have an object of focus, it becomes easier to steady the mind. A mantra is traditionally a sound, syllable or phrase that is repeated internally or chanted over and over again during meditations.
Mantras are often repeated 108 times because according to Ayurveda, we have 108 vital points of energy channels in our body, called Nadis where the prana flows and connects the chakras. 108 is considered sacred in Indian Cosmology defining it as the basis for all creation. Each chant represents a journey from our material self towards our highest spiritual self. Mala beads can help to keep track of how many repetitions have been made without distracting from losing count, working in a similar way to rosary beads in catholicism.
A study in 2017 by Simon et al. found that Mantra Meditation actively reduced activations in the Default Mode Network (DMN) in the brain which is a group of brain regions that seem to show lower levels of activity when we are engaged in a particular task like paying attention, but higher levels of activity when we are awake and not involved in any specific mental exercise.
Top 5 benefits of Mantras
- Mantras can boost awareness and improve concentration. Since it helps you stay focused, it can lead to improved results from meditation.
- Reduces stress.
- A greater sense of calm.
- Increased self-compassion.
- A more positive outlook on life
- Om – The king of mantras. The OM (pronounced Aum) is the sound of the universe, resonating at 432 Hz, this is the entire world in just one sound.
- Om Shanti Shanti Shanti – Shanti means peace, It is repeated 3 times as in Buddhism and Hinduism peace is threefold – peace in body, peace in speech, peace in mind.
- Sat Chit Ananda – A Hindu Mantra that translates as ‘Truth, Consciousness, Bliss,’ it is a description of the experience of Brahman (a transcendental power and an energy that exists beyond any deity) – pure consciousness, reality and blissfulness.
- So’hum/ so’ham – translates to ‘I Am That’ or ‘I Am All That Is’ – derived from the Sanskrit, sah, meaning “He,” and aham, meaning “I. It refers to being one with the universe. As a combination of Sah and Aham, So’ham also symbolizes the power of Shiva and Shakti, forming the male and female powers of the universe.
- Aham Prema – pronounced Ah-Hem-Pree-Ma translates as ‘I Am Divine Love ‘ affirming that the self is diving love and helps on the oath the unio with the highest self.
How to Practice Mantra Meditation
- Find a warm, comfortable position in a safe, quiet space that is free of distractions.
- Take a few breaths to ground and bring focus away from thoughts, to the present moment, Chest/belly breath may be useful here and any breath extending the exhale to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest & digest) eyes can be closed or open with a soft gaze.
- If repeating 108 times, Mala beads may be helpful, Hold the Mala beads in your right hand and use the middle finger and the thumb to lightly pull the bead towards you as you say each mantra. Start from one end of the guru bead – the largest bead signalling the start and end of the meditations and continue untill you reach it again.
- finish with deep breaths before tuning into your surroundings and external world.
Positive Affirmations can lend themselves to mantras but from what I understand, the key difference between these two powerful mind tools is that mantra is specifically used for focusing the mind during mediation, harnessing sounds and vibrations to ground and go deeper, whereas Positive Affirmations are positive statements that we create for ourselves, intended to embody and bring something in to our lives. By repeating them daily, it seeps into the subconscious mind that then creates our reality.
Creating a personal positive affirmation depends on your personal beliefs, interests and your goals. When you select a positive affirmation, you should find something that moves and motivates you. Something that will help you connect to what’s important in life. Something that will keep you calm and focused.
Make a personal Mantra by writing down what you desire most, in this moment. Turn it into a declarative statement:Use first-person, avoid negative words (not, never, etc.). …Write, cite & repeat. What would yours be in this moment?
If you are unsure of what you want in this moment, think about negative feelings or thoughts you have been having and turn them into a positive statement. For example, I have recently been experiencing anxiety, particularly in the mornings, instead of repeating i am not anxious, my affirmations have been: I am safe, I am in control of my own reality.
Simon, R., Pihlsgård, J., Berglind, U. et al. Mantra Meditation Suppression of Default Mode Beyond an Active Task: a Pilot Study. J Cogn Enhanc 1, 219–227 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41465-017-0028-1