Manage Your Monkey Mind With Mantra
From the simplest one-word mantra, to more complex multi-line Sanskrit chants, mantras come in many forms and have been used for over 3,000 years as a tool to cultivate a steady, clear mind and higher consciousness. Some schools consider mantras deeply personal spiritual formulas that only work through initiation. But mantras are used in many different schools and spiritual traditions in both the east and the west.
The meaning of your mantra may or may not matter. There are even mantras that really have no particular meaning. They are used for the effect of the sound vibration and as something to focus on, the way we use breath as an anchor in meditation. I’ve used mantras I didn’t know the meaning of, and I’ve used mantras that gave me goosebumps because of what they meant to me. I’ve chanted longer verses in Sanskrit (including The Yoga Sutras) and shorter ones.
Your mantra will become more effective the more you use it with good intention. I think of mantra like a life raft. It can be especially helpful when your monkey mind is chattering away, loudly enough to drive you crazy. When you start to repeat your mantra, whether out loud or silently, it’s like you’re doing that thing kids do when they don’t want to hear what’s being said: They plug both ears and say “LA LA LA LA LA LA”, loud enough to drown out the things they don’t want to hear. Only with mantra, it’s more than just drowning out the chatter. You will be aware of the chatter but less able to “feed into it” or get lost in believing it because you are occupied with the mantra. It is also a compass pointing you in the direction you’ve chosen to grow; greater presence, awareness, aliveness. Greater sanity.
The most common of all mantras is probably the single syllable Sanskrit word OM. Roughly translated it refers to the essence of breath; the essence of life; the essence of everything that exists. But it means different things in different cultures, and you don’t really need to get caught up in it. If you get the “essence” of it, that’s enough. For a slightly longer mantra, Om Namah Shivaya is beautiful, and it is the start of several longer ones.
The most effective mantra is the one you resonate with; the one you’re drawn to, the one you tried a few times and had a desirable effect with. For a long time, I used a phrase (in English) to help snap me out of being so lost in thought I was missing out on life. Anytime I realized I was tangled in thoughts that were carrying me away, I would say to myself: Jenifer, are you getting all of this? Worked like a miracle for me so many times I can’t count them. Not sure that would technically be considered a mantra, but it worked for me. It’s all about waking up!
When I had my studio we often began classes with a chant that started “Om Namah Shivaya Gurave…” And chanting that together helped bring the group together in vibration, focus and intention. The Gayatri Mantra is beautiful, popular and effective chanted in Sanskrit. You will have no trouble finding audible examples of these and many other mantras to try when you do an online search.
Japa is a form of mantra practice that uses mala beads, which gives you something to physically to grab ahold of. That can be especially nice when you feel like you’re about to drown in emotions, fear, or whatever drama is unfolding before you. I’ve worn my mala beads like a necklace or bracelet as well, and found just having them near me at all times was a both a comfort and an invitation to return to the practice. Malas are usually made of a precise and auspicious number of beads (most commonly 108). You begin at the guru bead, (the main one or largest one) and work your way around, repeating your mantra for the full count. When you get back to the start, if you want to continue, you turn it around and go back the other way.
Don’t be afraid to explore different techniques for training the mind. If your mind has been running wild all your life, and you’ve been believing everything you think, it might take some trial and error to find a practice that can carry you through some of life’s most challenging times. What works for one person might not work as well for the next. The more you practice, the better it gets. If you want to give it a try, find a mantra to work with and stay with it for a week or two before judging.
Do you have a mantra you love? Anything to share? Thanks for reading. :)