Meditation is the key practice that is recommended for a calm mind and as a way to manage your wayward thoughts. If you manage to meditate even for 10-15 minutes a day, you will see a reduction in anxiety, stress, tension, and cardiovascular diseases amongst other things.
In the various ways to perform meditation, chanting a mantra is the most common form, which is often called mantra meditation. Mantra chanting can help you retain your focus and reduce distraction from unwanted thoughts that arise during meditation.
In the coming sections of this article, we will look into the benefits of mantra meditation, how you can pick a mantra and a simple way to practice mantra meditation.
The Mantra and Meditation
Mantra chanting has been an integral part of many Eastern cultures and religions. Whether it is a ritual, celebration, birth of a baby, or an auspicious event, mantras are chanted to bestow the blessings and bring positivity.
When done with meditation, it acts as a complementary force to help you achieve your goal and also set you on the path to spirituality.
But first, you should understand the meaning of the word “mantra”.
What is a Mantra?
The word mantra is made up of two Sanskrit words where manas means mind and tra means instrument or tool. Thus mantra is a mystical sound vibration that can help you enter deep meditation and clear your thoughts of all other distractions.
A mantra might be a single syllable (Bija mantra), a group of words, a verse, or an affirmation. When recited or chanted with a pure mind and heart, each of these has a special significance and power.
Mantras can be chanted to invoke blessings of a deity, improve your self-confidence or self-esteem, help you focus, guide you towards your goal, or just as a means of attaining a calm mind. The type of mantra you choose depends a lot on your current mental status and the intention.
Significance of Mantra Meditation
Looking at the importance of a mantra, mantra meditation can become a powerful tool through which you can connect with your inner self and subsequently to the higher consciousness and the divine.
Mantra meditation’s aim is to connect with one’s unconscious mind and then with the greater cosmic energy through it. It is thought to be the best technique to connect with God or the greater divine energy in yoga.
In mantra meditation, energy of sound is used to attain harmonic union between the inner spirit and the higher cosmic spirit. It allows us to momentarily withdraw from the world around us and transcend above the minor issues that keep us back.
During meditation, you can listen to a mantra through audio. Another most common way to recite yourself, either loudly, in a soft whisper, or in the mind. Chakra mantra meditation is often practiced with a visualization technique where you imagine the different chakra spinning clockwise in its location.
You can take up any mantra meditation technique based on your intention however make sure that you give your full time and dedication to it.
Benefits of Mantra Meditation
Meditation is known to reduce stress by calming the mind. A calm mind also aids in enhancing awareness and promoting a positive outlook. Chanting a mantra during meditation will help in improving your focus and connect to your inner self more efficiently. Mantra meditation also promotes spiritual healing of the mind.
Here are 5 essential benefits that you can achieve through mantra meditation:
1. Mantra sounds can alter mind
A mantra is basically a sound that when chanted at a particular rhythm tends to change the way your mind works. The vibrations of the sound resonate with the cells and brain waves. These vibrations have the power to alter the brain waves by bringing the mind into a calm state.
It can bring some positive effects to your personality like reducing anxiety, uplifting mood, aid in controlling the mind which can ultimately lead you to a state of samadhi. Thus, mantra meditation will give you the benefits of meditation as well as the soothing frequencies of a mantra.
2. Helps in improving concentration
More often than not, when you are sitting in a quiet place with closed eyes, there will be all sorts of thoughts that will come up.
Some of us have the ability to easily do away with them while others unconsciously start mulling over it. For such people, mantra meditation can prove to be extremely beneficial. By chanting a mantra during meditation, they will have something to focus on. Mantra can act as a point of focus where you can bring back your concentration when you seem to start getting distraction.
3. Removes negative energy and emotions
Through mantra meditation, you can also train your mind to keep yourself away from negative thoughts. It will aid in channelling your negative energy and make you calmer. And not just your thoughts, it can also positively impact your aura and your personality.
Moreover, mantra meditation will make you less self-critical and judgemental when you are unable to follow a set meditative pattern.
4. Provides relxation by calming the nervous system
The Sympathetic Nervous System, which is responsible for the ‘Fight or Flight’ response, is one of the most important systems in the human body. There aren’t many situations in which we should be in the “fight or flight” mode on a daily basis, yet many of us do due to stress and unrestrained thinking.
The ‘Rest and Digest’ functions are controlled by the Parasympathetic Nervous System. We encourage our bodies to do precisely that when we practice mantra meditation.
5. Assists in achieving your goals
Several meditators feel that the vibrations and rhythm of chanting specific words may help them reach a deeper state of meditation. This deep meditation can assist you in releasing any blocked energy that is compromising your health. Using affirmations or positive statements can also help you become more conscious of your aims.
Repeating a mantra on a regular basis can help your goal become a reality.
How to choose mantra for meditation?
A mantra should be simple to memorize and recite. Take some time to consider your aims or the purpose you wish to attain before choosing your mantra. The mantra you choose is also influenced by your mood, thoughts, and emotions. It should help you to overcome any negative emotion or mood you’re experiencing.
As per the yogic texts, a practitioner should receive their mantra from a guru, which will be unique and provide a higher sense of spiritual experience. However, even if you are unable to get the initiation, choosing a mantra on your own is not frowned upon. Everything depends on your intention.
But before choosing a mantra first understand the various types of mantras
Types of Mantras
There are essentially 3 types of mantras:
Bija (seed) Mantra – They are one-syllable mantras like OM. You can combine them with the other mantras to create to enhance the power of mantras.
Sagun (with form/qualities) Mantra – They are mantras that are used to call upon a deity such as Om Ram, Om Namah Shivay, Om Ganeshaye Namah, etc.
Nirguna (without form/qualities) Mantra– These are mantras that are directly taken from the Vedic texts and are considered to be the oldest type of mantras. They do not invoke any deity and the words are open for interpretation as per your need. For example So Hum, Aham Prem, etc.
Choose a bija or nirguna mantra if you solely wish to recite a mantra for its spiritual advantages. You can, however, repeat a sagun mantra to pray to a specific god. Choose a nirguna mantra if you just want to focus on mental wellbeing, relaxation, and personal growth.
Another classification of mantras can be based on chakras. The mantras for chakra fall into the bija mantra segment. They consist of a sound with resonates and vibrates in the same frequency as the chakra. So if your intention is to clear a blockage, activate or stimulate a chakra, you can pick a chakra specific mantra to recite during meditation.
If you are not able to decide on a Sanskrit word, phrase, or verse for your mantra, you can also go for a simple affirmation. The positive affirmation statements will also help you build your personality and achieve personal growth.
The statements can represent the things you really want to overcome such as your judgemental attitude towards self, eating habits, weight gain, self-image, acceptance, etc.
Tips to remember
The thing you need to remember when choosing a mantra for meditation is that the mantra should be easy to recite and remember. You should understand the meaning of each word you are reciting and recite at a steady pace.
When you have successfully selected a mantra, chant it for a few days to see if it is working. If you feel positive changes in your thoughts and personality, continue with the same mantra till you have achieved your goal.
The way you chant also plays a significant role in its effectiveness. It is said that mental chanting is the most effective and powerful method. However, if you think that you are not yet ready to chant it mentally then you can slightly whisper, where there is hardly any sound while chanting bit your lips move as you pronounce the words.
The last resort is to chant it loudly so that a third person is also able to hear you. This is done only when you are extremely distracted. Once you feel you have achieved some sense of control over your mind, you can gradually come to mental chanting.
How to start mantra meditation
Now it’s time to practice mantra meditation. It’s a pretty simple procedure where you need to find a quiet place where you are sure you will not be distracted by the external environment. If you are sitting on the floor, make sure you are using a mat or a blanket to avoid loss of energy.
You should practice mantra meditation daily for 5 to 20 minutes, or even longer if you need, to achieve the best results.
Below are some steps to practice mantra meditation effectively.
1. Pick a comfortable posture
Since you will be sitting for as long as 20 minutes, it is essential to find a comfortable seated position. If not seated, you can sit on a chair, on your bed, or even lie down. The idea is to be relaxed, keep still with your body aligned.
2. Focus on your breath
In meditation, you do not force your breathing to change drastically or practice specific breathing techniques. Fight the urge to control your breath by focusing on your breath and the sensations of each inhale and exhale. This will help you concentrate on your meditation practice and relax more.
3. Start chanting the chosen mantra
Slowly and steadily repeat your mantra, focusing on the sound as much as possible. Repeat it in sync with your breath’s natural rhythm. You have the option of splitting the mantra in half with reciting half on inhalation and half on exhalation. Or else recite the entire mantra in one entire breath. There are no set rules for chanting your mantra; just go with your gut instincts.
However, make sure of the pronunciation. Since repeating Sanskrit words is not an easy task, be as close to the pronunciation as possible.
4. If thoughts arise, let them pass-through
Return to the mantra as thoughts come, understanding that this is a normal part of the process. Simply acknowledge them, let them go, and continue your chant. Bring your attention back to the mantra on a regular basis, soaking up its powers as much as you can.
5. Observe whether you want to chant loudly or silently
As you begin to chant your mantra, keep a stable and even breathing through your nostrils. You can either chant the mantra out loud or silently. Or you can apply this technique- After 10 recitations, repeat the mantra in a whisper (with only your lips moving) to assist you to maintain a consistent tempo. Then, after another ten repetitions, recite it inside your head.
End the meditation
Don’t get up soon away when you’ve finished your meditation. Take a few deep breaths when you exit the meditation and then sit quietly to evaluate how you feel. Spend as much time as you like in silent meditation. This will help you focus on your objective while also allowing you to relax more.
Tips to practice mantra meditation
Below are some tips you can follow to make your mantra meditation successful:
Always set your intention before starting the mantra meditation. It will help you to imagine and manifest your achievements.
Meditating at the same time and place every day might also help you establish a routine.
If you feel comfortable, you can even use a Japa mala while practicing mantra meditation. Each bead in the mala should be counted for completing the chant of a mantra. It will also help you maintain your breathing pattern and focus.
You can change your mantra if you feel that the mantra you chose initially is not helping.
You also don’t have to meditate with the same mantra every time. You can use a mantra dedicated to giving to courage, strength, and compassion in the morning. In the evening you can use a mantra that will give you a sense of calm and inward serenity.
It’s not uncommon for people to find meditation difficult or boring at first. It can take a long time to see substantial effects, but most people who persist with it find it well worth the effort. Selecting a mantra that matches your objectives will assist you in focusing on what you want to achieve via meditation.