If you find your mind wanders a lot when you meditate and you have a difficult time staying focused, you may find that mantra meditation is the key to unlocking your practice. It offers a more dynamic approach to meditation.
Mantra comes from two Sanskrit words: manas, or “mind,” and trayate, or “to free.” Mantra meditation helps you develop mental discipline. This frees up your attention so that you can focus on whatever you want. In addition, by chanting a mantra you can free your mind from worldly thoughts and experience transcendental consciousness.
Types of Mantras
Mantras come in all shapes and sizes, so you’ll definitely be able to find one that works for you. You can have a meditative practice grounded in a branch of spirituality, or you can take a more secular approach. Either way, you’ll notice significant benefits if you maintain a regular practice.
Mantras that come through spiritual lineages — whether you have a Buddhist, Hindu, Sufi, or other religious practice — are typically passed down from teacher to student. If you already have a spiritual teacher, you can look to them for guidance as to what mantra will be best for you. If you don’t have a teacher, try getting involved in some of your local spiritual communities. You can meet like-minded people, deepen your practice, and get guidance from experienced meditators. There are meditation centers, yoga studies, and other spiritual communities all around the world. With a little exploration, you’ll be sure to find a good fit! Once you’ve settled on a mantra that works for you (it’s okay for your mantra to change over time as your practice grows) learn how to say it correctly. Spiritual mantras are often in the languages native to the religion: Sanskrit, Tibetan, Arabic, etc. There is a special potency in the original language, even if you’re not familiar with it.
If you aren’t interested in spirituality and would prefer to take a secular approach, you can still benefit from practicing mantra meditation! In fact, there are plenty of resources with suggestions for secular mantras. You can also come up with your own phrase or affirmation that reflects something you want to make manifest in your life.
Benefits of Mantra Meditation
Improve Your Mood
A meta-study, or study which looks at other studies instead of conducting unique research, found that mantra meditation can help improve mental health and diminish negative behaviors and thoughts. Since mantra meditation involves focusing on positive epithets, it makes sense that it can help shift your thoughts away from negative patterns and towards healthier, more positive thought processes. Mantra meditation has also been found to help you handle your emotions better. It decreases emotional exhaustion in people who have demanding jobs, especially those working in the healthcare industry who are at higher risk of emotional burnout.
The part of your brain known as the default mode network (DMN) is always active, even when you’re relaxed. This is associated with creative problem solving, and it can also indicate a deficit of attention if it’s too active. Mantra meditation has been shown to decrease the activity in the DMN, effectively letting you attain a deeper state of relaxation
Boost Your Brain
Meditation has been shown to have a variety of positive effects on your brain. It’s one of the best ways to improve your brain function and can be done totally independently, without a doctor, without medication or supplements, and without taking a huge amount of time out of your day. Incorporating a meditative practice into your schedule can improve both your attention span and your memory!
Stay Stress Free
Mantra meditation has been found to help lower stress in regular practitioners, especially those using spiritual mantras. That’s in addition to the wealth of scientific literature suggesting that meditation in all of its forms is an excellent stress-relief tool. In fact, studies show that a growing number of people in the United States are using meditation as a tool for self-care and for managing increased stress levels.
How to Practice Mantra Meditation
Here are five simple steps to get started with mantra meditation:
- Decide how long you want to meditate. It’s helpful to set a length for your meditation in advance. This might be a fixed period of time, or a number of mantra repetitions. Experiment with using a timer or a pair of meditation beads to count your mantras. Once you’re more experienced, you can also try meditating for an indefinite period of time.
- Start by settling into a comfortable position. This can be seated or lying down.
- Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Breathe in and out, paying attention to the rise and fall of your chest.
- Begin to recite the mantra aloud. Listen to the sound of your voice and the sound of the syllables. Feel them resonate within you. Say your mantra aloud at least ten times. Hear it. Feel it. Keep chanting it longer if it feels right. Rejoice in the sound. Feel the way your mouth moves to create the words. Once you’re comfortable with your mantra, you can also try silent mantra meditation.
- When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to the mantra. Thoughts will naturally arise as you do your practice. That’s okay. Just let them float away as they came. Try to let the mantra be the only thing in your mind.
At the end of your meditation, come back to your breath. Take a moment to reflect and take stock of how you feel in your post-meditative state.