You know that oh-so-good feeling you get during concerts? Maybe a connectedness you feel singing or reciting prayer in unison with others? Chills or pride during your national anthem or pledge of allegiance? Or the relief experienced from episodes of sobbing or crying from a loss? Our innate physiology responds magnificently to repetitive, deep, familiar, droning sound. Traditions around the world have known this fact for centuries and developed mantra meditation to achieve greater levels of health, sleep, emotional states, or concentration.
Mantra meditation is the repeated use of a sound, word, or phrase to enhance concentration and produce a coherent resonating frequency in the body. Mantras can be sung, chanted, spoken, whispered, or said mentally and have their roots in all religious traditions.
There is a very unique intelligence in mantra meditations that benefits both beginner and advanced meditators in profound ways. For newcomers, it has the effect of filling in or smoothing over the rough edges to give you better, tangible outcomes without having to wait to gain some level of experience. That fact alone I think turns more people into lifelong meditators because they experience success from the get-go.
For people who have been meditating for a while, mantras plunge you deeper into the experience and can take what you are experiencing in your head or torso and radiate it out to include the entire body. I can also personally say that mantra meditation has saved me from boredom or a wandering mind and often gives me the sense of being thoroughly rested and reinvigorated.
Getting the most out of meditation requires understanding why it works so well, identifying what is most important to you (e.g., calmness, better mental outlook, healing…), choosing a practice that will get you there, and following a few simple steps. That’s what we are here to cover.
Understanding Mantra Meditation: The Fun Path to Serenity
Imagine yourself sitting in a tranquil setting, eyes closed, and a smile on your face as you repeat a specific sound or word that improves your session so that you experience real benefits. That’s mantra meditation in a nutshell. It is meditation with a twist. A fun twist that has been helping people find their Zen for centuries.
Mantra meditation is a unique form of meditation that involves the repetition of a specific word or phrase, known as a mantra. This mantra is chanted silently or audibly to calm the mind, enhance concentration, and connect with one’s inner self. The word “mantra” itself is derived from two Sanskrit words: “manas,” meaning mind, and “tra,” meaning instrument. In essence, a mantra is a tool for the mind.
How is Using a Mantra Different from Other Meditation?
While there are many different styles of meditation, not all use chanting, words, or tones to enhance the experience or increase focus. Regular meditation often focuses on observing the breath, bodily sensations, or simply being present in the moment without any specific external aids. Mantra meditation, on the other hand, involves the active repetition of a chosen word or phrase. This repetition serves as a mental anchor, diverting your mind from distracting thoughts and helping you dive deeper into your inner world. It’s like giving your brain a catchy tune to attach to while you explore the depths of your consciousness.
It gets a bit confusing because many of the primary styles of meditation can be mantra based. For example, there are sitting, laying, and walking meditations that use mantras and others that do not use mantras. It just depends on the focus. Then there are meditation styles like transcendental meditation or specific qigong meditation sets like the 6 Healing Tones that are 100% mantra based.
The Very Long History of Mantra Meditation
If you are new to mantra meditation, know that it is not a new concept. This practice has been around for centuries dating back to ancient civilizations. Its roots can be traced to various cultures, but it has played a particularly significant role in two major world religions: Hinduism and Buddhism.
Mantra meditation has deep ties to Hinduism, one of the world’s oldest religions. In Hinduism, mantras are considered sacred and powerful, with the ability to invoke specific deities or cosmic energies. One well-known example is the “Om” mantra, often referred to as the “sound of the universe.” Chanting “Om” is believed to connect the practitioner with the divine and promote spiritual growth.
Mantra meditation also plays a vital role in Buddhism, another ancient tradition. In Tibetan Buddhism, the repetition of mantras, known as “mantra recitation” or “japa,” is a common practice. The most famous mantra in Tibetan Buddhism is “Om Mani Padme Hum,” which is associated with the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteshvara. Buddhists believe that chanting this mantra not only purifies the mind but also brings compassion and blessings into one’s life.
Mantra meditation has continued to evolve over the centuries, spreading to different cultures and belief systems. Today, it’s not just limited to Hinduism and Buddhism but has found its way into the hearts and minds of people from all walks of life seeking inner peace and spiritual growth. And there’s a good reason for that. The ease at which it is learned and the speed at which it can deliver benefits has led to a increase in use and acceptance by an ever broadening group of people.
The 5 Top Options for Mantra Meditations and How to Make the Right Choice
Trying to choose a mantra meditation can seem complex but it’s really quite simple and depends on your goals. There are three sounds that have been used for centuries and plenty of great resources and mantras on YouTube to be able to find something that matches the time you have to meditate and your personality. You can also create or find a phrase that has meaning for you. This phase can change over time as you change. And lastly, the Transcendental Meditation following has developed how they meditate with mantras to be successful and accessible to westerners. That is definitely something to know about or look into.
1. Om Mantra Meditation
Top on everyone’s list and a must-try if you are new to meditation is the sound “Om.” I got very little benefit from it when I first began this meditation until I received some guidance. Now, I find it the easiest way to quickly calm the body.
It is a very slow, long, loud mantra (see video). You can say it in your head or in a whisper eventually but start out vocalizing it. Work your way through these sounds: AH-OH-UU-MM.
- AH-feel the chest vibrate
- OH-feel closer to the stomach vibrate
- UU-moves your lips forward and you will feel it in your mouth
- MM-closes the lips and you feel it in your head
The way that I am describing it here draws it out a little too slowly but get the full range of vibration and then keep the pace of the video.
Make sure you’re alone if you embarrass easily. The Om should be pretty loud when you first begin so that you feel your whole torso vibrating. Here is a great example of an Om meditation for you to meditate along with.
2. I am Mantra Meditation – So Hum
From the Indian tradition, So Hum professes your presence and participation with everything that is going on around you. It is a very gentle mantra that can be done for extended periods of time and really helps you concentrate on who you are, despite everything that goes on in your life and throughout the day.
This example is long and rather nice.
3. Peace Mantra Meditation – Om Shanti Om
“Shanti” means peace in Sanskrit and is a single word that can have a variety of implications ranging from wishes for your life, your community, the world or the planet.
This video example is Tibetan and provides a great meditative experience with singing bowls.
4. Come Up with A Meditation Mantra on Your Own
While a repetitive sound can give you all the tranquility that you could ask for, mantras can also be employed to address a specific desire or problem. This is where mantras veer out the closest towards prayer. You can identify a state of mind that you want to work towards or a vision or believe that you want to be true in your life. The most important thing is that the phrase resonates with you. (See what I did there!). Joking aside, it does have to be meaningful. Come up with something on your own or use as of these phrases to get started:
28 Inspirational Mantra Meditation Phrases
- Peace and tranquility
- Love and light
- I am calm and centered
- Harmony in all things
- Healing energy flows through me
- I am grateful for this moment
- I am at peace with myself
- Serenity surrounds me
- I am one with the universe
- I am here, now
- Trust the journey
- Every breath is a gift
- I release what no longer serves me
- I am in the flow of life
- I am enough
- Abundance flows to me effortlessly
- I am a beacon of positivity
- I am open to new possibilities
- I am worthy of love and happiness
- I radiate love and compassion
- I am connected to all living beings
- I am the master of my thoughts
- I am strong and resilient
- I am balanced and grounded
- I trust my inner wisdom
- I am a source of light and love
- I am in perfect harmony with myself
- I am at peace with the present moment
5. Transcendental Meditation Mantra (TM)
I saved probably the most complex for last. So complex that we dedicated an entire essay to Transcendental Meditation. True TM requires you find a teacher and receive a personalized transcendental meditation mantra from someone trained in identifying which sound or phase will benefit you the most. TM also requires that you do a morning and afternoon session daily for about 20 minutes to get the most out of it.
What Is the Purpose of Using Mantra During Meditation?
I wanted to end this essay by giving you the buy-in needed to try mantra meditation because the benefits are vast. Basically, wherever you are in your meditation journey, mantras have the ability to move you further along or make your experience more profound.
Major world religions have always known about how well the body and mind responds to positive resonance. Science has continually studied their own culture’s religion and come to the same conclusion. Now, recent health events have given research on meditation a boost.
One benefit of the 2020 Pandemic is that medical professionals began searching for alternatives to treating all-encompassing disorders with solutions that could be undertaken at home and alone. This research study on Pandemic-Related Psychological Distress describes it best. They identify over 30 negative effects from isolation, uncertainty and fear with a medical community that could not respond to or reach its citizens. The result? People need a way to profoundly calm themselves and improve their lives, on their own.
16 Research-Based Benefits from Mantra Meditation
These research-backed benefits highlight the diverse positive effects of mantra meditation on physical, mental, and emotional well-being, making it a valuable practice for individuals seeking a holistic approach to health and self-improvement.
- Stress Reduction: Research has shown that mantra meditation can significantly reduce stress levels by calming the mind and promoting relaxation, leading to improved overall well-being.
- Improved Focus and Concentration: Mantra meditation helps enhance concentration and cognitive function by training the mind to stay focused on the repetitive mantra, which can carry over to daily tasks.
- Enhanced Emotional Well-being: Regular practice of mantra meditation has been linked to reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, as it encourages a more positive outlook on life.
- Lower Blood Pressure: Studies indicate that mantra meditation can lead to a decrease in blood pressure, reducing the risk of cardiovascular issues and promoting heart health.
- Better Sleep: Mantra meditation can improve sleep quality by calming the mind and reducing insomnia symptoms, leading to more restful nights.
- Increased Self-Awareness: Through mantra repetition, individuals can gain deeper insights into their thoughts and emotions, fostering self-awareness and personal growth.
- Pain Management: Some research suggests that mantra meditation may help alleviate chronic pain conditions by redirecting focus away from pain sensations and promoting relaxation.
- Enhanced Immune Function: Regular meditation, including mantra meditation, has been associated with a stronger immune system, which can help the body defend against illness.
- Reduction in Symptoms of PTSD: Mantra meditation has shown promise in reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), offering relief to those who have experienced trauma.
- Improved Quality of Life in Chronic Diseases: Studies suggest that mantra meditation can enhance the quality of life for individuals with chronic illnesses, reducing symptoms and improving overall well-being.
- Enhanced Creativity: Some research indicates that mantra meditation can stimulate creativity by promoting a relaxed state of mind conducive to innovative thinking.
- Better Emotional Regulation: Practicing mantra meditation can help individuals better regulate their emotions, leading to more stable and balanced moods.
- Increased Mindfulness: Mantra meditation is an effective way to cultivate mindfulness, which involves being fully present in the moment and can lead to greater life satisfaction.
- Reduced Symptoms of Burnout: Mantra meditation may help reduce symptoms of burnout in individuals experiencing high levels of stress and work-related exhaustion.
- Positive Brain Changes: Brain imaging studies have shown that mantra meditation can lead to structural and functional changes in the brain associated with improved mental health and cognitive functioning.
Selected Citations for Further Reading
- Analysis and Benefits of Chant-less Sohum/Humsa Mantra Meditation: Research Gate 2018
- Effectiveness of Mantra-Based Meditation on Mental Health: NIH 2022
- Impact of mantra meditation on health and wellbeing: A systematic review protocol: ScienceDirect 2018
- Mantra meditation for mental health in the general population: A systematic review: ScienceDirect 2018
- Mantra meditation programme for emergency department staff: a qualitative study: BMJ Journals 2017
- Scientific Analysis of Mantra-Based Meditation and its Beneficial Effects: An Overview: ResearchGate 2017
- Scientific Evidence of Health Benefits by Practicing Mantra Meditation: Narrative Review: NIH 2022
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