I guess I saved mantras for my last topic this month for a reason. They are definitely my weakest area when it comes to the aspects of meditation and mindfulness. While having a mantra isn’t a necessity, I’ve been encouraged numerous times to really give it a chance in my meditation practice as yet another step to focus and improve my experience.
Again, there are no rules for mantras. You can’t do it wrong!
Wait…maybe you can… Okay, so it probably wouldn’t be helpful if you focused your meditation on something really negative or anything that angers you.
Let’s just agree that there is no wrong mantra to use if it provides a positive feeling or has deep meaning for you personally.
But, what exactly is a mantra?
Glad you asked!
According to Merriam-Webster, the simple definition of mantra is
: a sound, word, or phrase that is repeated by someone who is praying or meditating
: a word or phrase that is repeated often or that expresses someone’s basic beliefs.
That’s pretty straightforward, and I really like straightforward.
Yet I continue to struggle!
Having a mantra has always seemed on another level to me…almost mystical. Having a mantra is a commitment to thought. You’re really attaching meaning to what it is you’re doing, and I guess that scares me a little. I talked about my struggles with meditation in my last post (read it here), and I’m beginning to recognize some patterns.
Mindfulness is easy because I’m focusing on an action in the present moment. I’m outside of my head. Cool.
Meditation is difficult because it’s just me and my crazy brain duking it out for some peace and quiet. That isn’t pretty or relaxing. But, I still try. Active meditation works so well for me because of that key word: active! Moving my body is so much less stressful to me than having to focus on what’s going on internally. And, yeah, I know that needs to be addressed.
Mantras are a whole new level of brain battle for me. There’s more thinking rather than doing, and there’s more commitment to that thought. Besides the fact that I don’t do well with audibly chanting (I totally lip sync in yoga classes!), I still haven’t unlocked the mystery of a mantra giving my brain something to do. My brain wants my body to be doing something to give it a break!
With all that being said, I did not come here to be negative about something just because it is one of my weaknesses! I just want you to know that this is all very real…and all very much a process.
Years ago, when I was learning to play golf, my cousin basically gave me a nonsense mantra to focus my swing. It was totally out there for me, but my brain said “melba toast” to clear out my insecurities. When I focused on “melba toast,” my swing was better. When I worried about how I looked or how poorly I was going to knock that little white ball across the grass, my swing suffered. Lesson 1 in mantras, and I didn’t even know it at the time.
I still can’t see or hear any reference to melba toast without thinking about learning to play golf and how I kinda thought my cousin was a little off his rocker…love you, Kev!
My honest attempts at using mantras in meditation have been nowhere near sacred or enlightening. I was very fortunate to be introduced to the concept of affirmations in therapy, and I can use those more effectively. Yes, they’re still mantras, but I can approach them differently. Just another way to trick my brain into doing something productive rather than destructive…
What mantras (affirmations) have I tried?
I tried OM. I’m not a fan. I don’t like the way it feels in my throat, and it kinda stresses me out.
I am and So hum (which I’m told is equivalent to I am) leave too much open for commentary from my brain. I get extremely distracted by both of those.
Lately, I’ve used the following:
I can calm down.
I am okay.
I am in control of my emotions. Emotions are not facts.
It is what it is.
I also have a ton of quotes saved in my phone and on my Pinterest boards that can motivate and calm me. Those tend to be my personal affirmations and are very logical and subject specific.
Your mantras can be affirmations or prayers or words of encouragement. Any word or phrase that can help you through a situation and bring your focus back to what’s going on inside can be a good thing.
I like mine to promote rational feelings and keep me grounded in reality. That is, when I remember to use them.
A mantra is really just a lifeline to keep you in touch with yourself.
Of course, saying it like that makes it seem much more doable. Hmmm.
Mantras can give you control in situations that may initially seem completely out of your control. Yet again, I’ve been there.
While I struggle with mantras in my daily practice, I’ve pretty much talked myself into their benefits as I’ve written this. Funny how getting the words out can make a struggle seem much lighter!
This week, amidst the craziness of the every day stuff, my intention is to find a mantra that works for me and to use it.
What is your intention for this week?
Leave me a comment telling me about your intention, and let’s be accountable to each other!
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