Mantra is a word, phrase or poem that has charge, power and purpose. A working definition that I have heard many times is that Mantra means “Protector of the Mind.” I have heard it said that the best defense is a good offense. In that sense, Mantra, for me, is a proactive, protective aid that defends against the onslaught of negative thoughts (and random thoughts in general) as well as the chaotic nature of the wandering monkey-mind. It can create a fortress of Solitude and retreat that enhances Meditation and Mindfulness. Intrusive thoughts can’t enter when the mind is focused upon a Mantra. Likewise, the mind cannot aimlessly wander outward when it is reciting one.
For me, a Mantra does “triple duty.” It serves the fortress-like function of guarding the mind against intrusive thoughts and aimless wanderings. It is also a computer geek, reprogramming deeply ingrained, negative thought patterns through the power of affirmation. Mantras can also aid and abet Communion with the Divine. Your Mantra can take on a sacred quality that serves to bring you towards Communion, reminding you of the Divinity at your core.
For me, Mantra and Prayer are, for the most part, synonymous. The primary distinction I see is that Mantra is more along the lines of “speaking to oneself,” whereas Prayer is typically directed outward, transferring Energy from oneself into the Universe. They are synonymous with respect to what they achieve— Communion with the Divine and supreme Peace of mind and spirit.
Mantra is a tool. I regularly use Mantras to aid in Meditation and to bring on different states of mind depending on what is occurring with my mental state, mood and general way of being.
Meditation is difficult for many people. The mind tends to wander, and is invaded by intrusive thoughts. To some extent, Meditation is learning to let this activity be until it all settles down. Resistance and frustration will only serve to take us further from the Meditative state. Someone, somewhere along the way in ancient times discovered that Mantras served to assist in the achievement of a Meditative state.
Mantras can serve as affirmations. An affirmation is a statement, declaration of fact or a desired way of being. Affirmations are commonly utilized in the spirit of positive thinking and as a matter of changing one’s state of being. Not every affirmation is a Mantra, but they certainly can be. In general, affirmations perform in alignment with the mental reprogramming function of Mantra.
As humans, we are subject to acculturation and socialization that may instill self-limiting beliefs upon us that keep us from our Truth and Divinity. We can come to believe that we are “less than” in some fashion and that we are deficient in relation to established ideals. Society will tend to continually reinforce these inaccurate generalizations of our inadequacy until one day, hopefully, wholesale Change takes place within society for the better.
We are also each subject to the unique wounds and traumas of our individual upbringings. Depending upon factors such as the degree of trauma and levels of resiliency each person has, the wounds inflicted in the past may imprint upon our psyches as very profound, unconscious, self-limiting beliefs (such as, “I am not good enough”). Sadly, there is a compounding effect when society reinforces the beliefs created out of that original individual trauma.
Schemata is an old-school psychological term that interests me because it sounds like stigmata (profound, un-healing wounds and/or the revelation of a blessing). The revealing of a self-limiting belief often is like stigmata. The word origin of stigmata is a brand or tattoo and schemata are basically brands or “tattoos” upon our psyches.
Schemata, most of the time formed in childhood, take on curiously simple forms that antagonize our Divine nature. They are powerful in their simplicity and the sometimes-traumatic charge they have upon us.
These imprints may commonly take on forms such as:
“I don’t matter.”
“I am ugly/dumb/unlovable (etc.).”
“I am not worthy of _______.”
“I am not good enough— no matter how hard I try.”
“I am broken and deficient.”
“I am not safe.”
“It hurts to love and trust.”
“I deserve punishment/failure.”
“Everything I do turns to shit.”
“I need to constantly perform and prove my value.”
“I need to always control my environment.”
“It is safe neither to feel nor to show my emotions.”
“It is not safe to be visible/to be seen.”
When we have schemata such as these, we will more than likely be unaware of them. And when we are unaware of them, they will run our lives. They are like viruses on our hard drive. We will likely unconsciously take action to soothe the emotional pain of the schemata, try to temporarily prove they aren’t true, actualize them or perform some combination thereof.
A key task in life is to uncover the schemata in our psyches. As we do this, using Mantras can literally serve to reprogram our neuro-pathways with affirmations more in line with our Divine nature.
On our path of spiritual growth, we may take up the practice of using Mantra/Affirmation and, in the process, the use of these tools can help us uncover schemata. We may state something very positive to ourselves in this context and it may resonate as not true or otherwise feel uncomfortable. We might feel the dissonance of a “positive” Mantra or affirmation bumping up against profound negative schemata.
While we might be tempted to simply boost and increase the Mantra that we are reciting in order to override the dissonance, the dissonance is actually a cue for us to do deeper Healing work. This work might focus on powerful events in one’s life that have imprinted a dissonance with a particular positive Mantra. In doing this work, we can unravel the origin and nature of the schemata so that it might be “de-powered” or eliminated. Afterwards, a Mantra would then serve well in our reprogramming and affirmative maintenance efforts.
Mood Regulation, The Charge and Trigger
On a smaller or more temporal scale, a Mantra can help us to regulate our moods in the moment. As an emotion such as anger takes control of us in a given circumstance, a Mantra can help to soothe it without denying the emotion. In this way, the Mantra can reprogram the emotion and reprogram our perspective of that moment.
Mantras such as “I Am Feeling Anger at This Moment” or “Now I feel my anger subsiding,” that simply acknowledge an emotion, can work wonders.
As we employ Mantras, we can set intentions upon how they might be utilized for Prayer and Communion, to aid in Meditation, to reprogram our psyches or for any combination of the above. The most important aspect of Mantra for me is the charge or Energy I give it.
For me, different Mantras have different purposes and will also have different charges or Energies. To me, Mantras can become living things with their own power. Some seem to put me into a deep Meditative state. On the other hand, it could also be that my Body has come to associate that particular Mantra with a Meditative state so that it automatically triggers it, similar to the conditioned reactions of Pavlov’s dogs.
Whatever the cause, this kind of natural reaction is a boon to a Meditative practice since you can get to Meditative places in short order through them. Mantras also seem to help me reach a state of Communion as well; Mantra can be a Divine trigger.
For people who employ ancient, sacred Mantras, the thought might be that they contain the “charge and trigger power” of many moons and many sacred souls.
I use Mantras all of the time to enhance Meditation and Mindfulness, to regulate mood in the moment, to reprogram old programs in my psyche, to Pray to and Commune with the Divine and if I simply find my mind wandering a little too much during the day. Mantra is a cornerstone of my spiritual life and my general approach to Mindfulness. I realize my definition and uses of Mantra may vary from others out there. That is the great thing about Mantras─ their uses can be as unique as you are!
Another way to discover how one might use Mantra is to investigate how specific religious or spiritual groups define it and use it. My definition of Mantra is broad and liberal but some people view it with a greater sense of mystery. Many think that Mantras are secret sayings and are bestowed upon a person only by a spiritual teacher. Indeed, this can be the case at times. And the mystery of it may be the thing that will give a particular one its power and charge.
You can use various sacred standard Mantras that have been around for centuries. These are often chanted in or reflected to one’s self in the language of origin. Sanskrit is a good example. The most famous Sanskrit Mantra is OM or Aum, as chanted in many yoga classes. If you have tried it, you may have experienced its power.
A Quiver of Mantras
I am of a school of thought that you can create your own Mantras, that you can have many of them for different purposes and that you should have a “quiver of Mantras” to pull from as you see fit. I actually Meditate and ask for Mantras that might best serve me in the moment or within the challenges and opportunities taking place in my life at the time. This process has served me well. My advice: Trust your gut to give you the Mantras you need when you need them.
You can start to devise a quiver of Mantras of your own. Make up your own and mix in ancient or more established Mantras as desired. See which ones resonate with you and have the charge/Energy which best serves you. Keep them secret or share them if you like.
“My Mantra is: Let There Be Happiness in my Soul, and Let me Share it with the World.”
Mantra as a Healing Force
My go-to Mantra is:
“I am Pure Energy; Peace at this Moment; Courageous and Willfully Present.”
For some, this Mantra may be a mouthful; some might not consider it a Mantra at all actually, per their definition. In truth, this Mantra is a stanza of a poem I wrote which was derived from a dream I had, so it has a personal connection and a “charge” for me as well. For me, it is an affirmation, for sure. It makes me feel good when I repeat it in my mind. It makes me feel present, conscious and confident.
This Mantra is like an old friend. I get a sense of relaxation right away when I use it and this allows for Meditation. I can stay in a basic Meditative state with it or slip into something more Blissful and Communion-like.
If I am standing in line at the grocery store and my mind wanders off, this Mantra can ground me and bring me back to the present moment. If I want to Pray, this Mantra grounds me for that purpose or sets the stage for other Mantras which might be more Prayer-like.
Any way I look at it, I see my special Mantra as a Healing force. The affirmation contrasts with any residual self-limiting beliefs that may still echo within me (despite all the work I have done on myself, they still exist). It also reminds me of the Divinity that resides at my core, in contrast to any feeling of being ‘less-than” in any way. Moving past less-than feelings is a necessary step for many as they slip into Meditation and/or Communion. We don’t need to equate ourselves with God but we do need to remove any obstacles that may get in the way of connecting with our Higher Power, which self-limiting beliefs often do.
By being the opposite of self-limiting beliefs, abetting Mindfulness, contributing to Meditation, and facilitating Prayer or Communion, Mantra serves as a multi-purpose Healing force.
Wisdom, Intuition and Creativity may lead you to developing your own Mantras or find one that resonates with you. Self-Awareness and Healing work may reveal helpful Mantras (conversely, a Mantra which makes you feel uncomfortable may indicate areas for Healing).
The most important factor for Mantra is the Energy that charges it. Freewill plays a role in charging or setting the intention for this Energy.
Once in practice, Breath coordinated with a Mantra gives it further power and helps one to focus upon the Mantra.
Surrender to the Mantra and to the moment (Now) in which the Mantra resides further catalyzes it. Solitude and Stillness facilitate it.
While no doubt Mantra aids in Mindfulness, reciprocity also exists whereby being Mindful in general will help catch the moments that a Mantra is needed most, thereby empowering it. Being Mindful as to which Mantras will resonate with you at any given moment is important as well.
Simplicity will generally lend itself well to a Mantra.
- Mantra should be integrated into daily Meditation practices and can be utilized in a general way for Mindful living. Look for any moments during Meditation or during other daily activities when the mind is wandering and get into a practice of implementing a Mantra in that moment.
- Develop your “quiver of Mantras.” Try many. Research sacred Mantras on the Internet, digital media or religious or philosophical texts. Dream Mantras. Keep those that resonate with you.
- Attend a Kirtan event (music mixed with chanting/Mantras). Note any chants/Mantras that resonate with you.
- Read poetry. Borrow lines for Mantras from poems.
- Attend a yoga class that utilizes mantra.
- Practice Mantra while waiting in line, in traffic, etc.
- Practice integrating Breath with Mantra.
Hum Om Mani Padme (Praise to the Jewel in the Lotus)
Om (Aum) (The Divine Infinitude; The Universal Sound of Creation)
Sooo Hummm ( Soham or Universal Mantra)
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu (May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.)
Ma-Ra-Na-Tha (Come Lord)
Oh God, Come to My Assistance; Oh Lord Make Haste to Help Me
Allah Allah Allah Hu
I Am Pure Energy, Peace at this Moment, Courageous and Willfully Present
I Am Light; Let Me Be Like a Feather
Let Me Hear My Truth
My Ability to Love Abounds; My Ability to be Loved Abounds
I Am Perfectly Me
I am Ready to Be Seen and Heard; I am Ready to Be Visible
Thank You for the Love You Give; Thank You for the Life We Live
I am Held in the Heart of the Divine; I Am Home
My Life Unfolds in Divine Order; Let Thy Will Be Done
I Accept What the Universe Has Planned for Me
I Got My Mind on My Mantra and My Mantra on My Mind (just for fun!)
Lastly, I often will say the prayer below and whichever individual line calls out to me, I use as a Mantra:
Brief Comprehensive Prayer-
I Know Who I Am; I Know My True Essence (Divine)
I Know Who I Am; I Am Humble and Grateful Before the Universe
I Know Who I Am; I Wish Happiness for All Others
I Know Who I Am; I Am Open to the Guidance and Healing Power of the Universe
I Know Who I Am; I Am Bliss