Sunday Meditation: Mantra
Mantra meditation can be as simple or as in depth as you would like it to be. The word mantra means to "set free from the mind." A mantra is a tool that can be used to create mental patterns or focus the mind. You can practice mantras anytime anywhere.
My own yoga practice and daily life are steeped in mantra. I practice mantra while driving my car, doing housework, walking, practicing yoga, or almost any other time of day. I recite Sanskrit mantras and simple phrases in English. You could use any phrase that is meaningful to you or that evokes positive energy or change in your life. Some days I practice this meditation for long periods and others for just three to five minutes. There is no minimum time requirement.
To begin find a mantra or phrase that resonates with you. For instance, in yoga classes we use the simple chant of "om" to open and close the session. You could begin practicing mantra with a short sentence such as "I am enough" and as you get more comfortable with the practice work up to something longer.
Next, find a comfortable space where you can sit and not be interrupted. Turn off the television, cell phone, or any other potentially distracting devices. Sit on a pillow or blanket with legs crossed in front of you. The pillow will lift your hips off the floor and make your stay in meditation more pleasant physically. Sit with your back straight but not arched, shoulders back, and chin gently tucked toward the chest. Eyes can be open or closed. The breath should be gentle and even. Rest your hands on your knees in a comfortable position.
Once you are seated and in a posture you can maintain, begin by chanting or stating your mantra either silently or aloud. I prefer to chant aloud, but if there are others in the house or you do not feel confident chanting out loud, silently stating your mantra is fine. Repeat this mantra over and over again, breathing evening and calmly. When your mind wanders, bring it back to the words you are saying and the meaning they hold for you. Do not judge or criticize yourself for a wandering mind. You are human and that's what our brains do.
You can chant your mantra for a set period of time or for a set number of repetitions. A mala is a string of beads, typically 108 beads and a "guru" or bigger bead, that can be used to count mantra. Each time you state your mantra move your fingers one bead on the string. Begin with the first small bead next to the big bead; when you get back to the guru bead you have completed 108 repetitions. A timer is another helpful tool if you chose to meditate for an allotted time period. Choose an alarm that is soft and soothing, rather than jarring and harsh.
Simple Sanskrit mantras to help you get started include "om shanti shanti shanti" (which means "om peace peace peace"), "om shanti om," or "lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu" (which means "may all beings be happy and free"). Some of my favorite mantras are those I learned from my mantra teacher Bill Barry. I will write a special blog post to go into more detail on those Sanskrit mantras.
Mantra meditation can be done anywhere and can be done with a simple phrase that has personal meaning to you. If you are interested in practicing a powerful form of mantra meditation, Sanskrit mantras can be recited. You can start with just a few minutes each day and as you grow in confidence and comfort with meditation, can increase the time.