I know we’re not supposed to “judge” our time in meditation, but let’s be honest. If you meditate, you know the difference between a “good” meditation and a “bad” one. Believe me when I say I totally understand feeling like I wasted 20 minutes of my life after little more than what I would consider a thought-fest. It takes all I have in me not to scold myself for having thought after thought after thought during a meditation and sometimes feeling more exhausted or anxious afterwards. That was my experience until I started using a mantra-based meditation.
There are meditation coaches and experts that insist 21st century people need a mantra in meditation due to the fact that our brains are constantly overstimulated. A basic meditation just doesn’t cut it anymore.
What is a Mantra?
A mantra is a word or phrase repeated (either to yourself or chanted out loud) whenever the mind wanders in meditation. “It’s like giving an untrained puppy a bone to chew on”.
What is the difference between mindfulness meditation and mantra meditation?
Mindfulness meditation focuses on the breath. The breath acts as the anchor rather than a mantra. Both breath and mantras are effective when used as a point of focus.
When the mind wants to wander out of the meditative state, the mantra (or breath) helps bring it back. It should provide a sort of flow back and forth between mind and meditation.
Studies show there is not a difference between using your breath as an “anchor” or a mantra when it comes to significant changes in your brain. In this case I say studies schmudies! The question is ‘what works for you’!
If you have been focusing on your breath in meditation with little positive benefits then you would likely respond more favorably to a mantra. Some people experience anxiety focusing on their breath (yours truly) and others find that breathing is so innate that it’s difficult to focus on breath or separate breath from their thoughts. Aside from using breath in meditation, mantras also contain sacred physical vibrations and can be used as a supplemental spiritual practice.
There are two predominant types of mantra-based meditations:
People tend to think of mantras as affirmations (get my Ultimate List of Affirmations here) such as ‘I welcome love, success, and inner peace in my life’ or even just a simple one-word mantra like “joy”. These can be effective in goal-oriented meditation
Using affirmations as a mantra during meditation is great when you are setting an intention and a specific focus in your life. Uttering the word “love” for instance, sounds more harmonious on the tongue than “hate”. When choosing a word or phrase of intention as a mantra, it must be deeply meaningful to you.
A mantra is not just a word. A meaningful mantra can offer healing and wellbeing.
Doing “affirmation work” separate from meditation is a great choice too. Perhaps you have several positive phrases than resonate with you. Affirmation work entails repeating positive phrases on a daily basis and periodically meditating on what they mean to you. You may want to set an intention of being more kind or experiencing more love in your life. Repeating “kindness” or “love” as a mantra during meditation can boost your intention and results.
2. Sanskrit Mantra
A Sanskrit mantra is a sacred utterance, a sound (vibrational and “musical”), a syllable, a word, or phrase believed by practitioners to have psychological and/or spiritual powers.
A Sanskrit mantra contains an additional benefit. A non-familiar word. There is something very relaxing, non-stimulating, and even otherworldly that happens when you use a “foreign”/unfamiliar word with no prior meaning to you instead of familiar words that may provoke feelings or thoughts during a meditation.
The most effective mantra-based meditation is the traditional use of specific Sanskrit words. These date back thousands of years in Vedic/Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Om or Om Shanti, for instance, are simple Sanskrit mantras that most of us have heard before. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of Sanskrit mantras to choose from.
According to Sanskrit scholar, Thomas-Ahley Farrand, “Mantras are energy-based sounds that create thought energy waves.”
I learned about Mantra meditation when taking a Transcendental Meditation course (here’s my experience). During a mantra meditation it may go like this: thought, thought, mantra, thought, mantra, thought, thought, thought, mantra. Each time you realize your mind is wandering, repeat your mantra.
The benefit of noticing when you’re thinking and then reeling your mind back in with a mantra creates elasticity in the brain, increasing focus and psychological wellbeing, but also can be felt in a spiritual or supernatural way in that you are going beyond your thoughts even if only for a few seconds at a time.
A Sanskrit mantra makes all the difference if you have an active mind or want to feel like you are having a “good” meditation.
How to choose a Sanskrit Mantra:
|10-12||Em, In, or Eng|
|12-14||Enga, Inga, or Em|
|14-16||Ema, Ina, or Enga|
|16-18||Aing, Ina, Emga, or Enga|
|18-20||Aem, Aeng, or Aing|
|20-22||Aenga, Aem, or Aim|
|22-24||Aima, Aenga, or Ainga|
|24-30||Shiring or Aima|
|30-35||Shirin or Shirim|
|55-60||Syam, or Sham|
(another source for choosing and using Sanskrit mantras)
You can get help pronouncing the words correctly by typing your word into Google: How to pronounce “Shiring”.
The benefits of using a mantra meditation range from short-term (“better” meditations and calming the nervous system) to long-term (increasing focus and reducing negative emotions).
Peace and Be Well,