Updated: Apr 3
If you’re like me, when you hear the word mantra, you probably think of a yogi sitting somewhere, high in the mountaintops, potentially floating just slightly above the ground, hovering in the air, chanting mantras we don’t understand but which undoubtedly unlock the Universal forces to bliss, peace, and happiness.
Or, perhaps we conjure up a Naad yoga class full of lotus-positioned students deep in their experience, their minds focused on their mantra, yet silent.
Living in New York, I wasn’t sure where I could go float on a mountaintop besides the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center or one of the big rocks in Central Park! ;-)
In truth, mantras are in fact, a powerful vehicle for our spiritual development and for our own personal transformation through their daily use. In this article, we will explore the use of mantras in two ways; the first in your spiritual, yoga, meditation, or religious practices, and the second in your daily life.
Before we dive in too deep, let’s start by defining exactly what a mantra is!
What’s a mantra?
If you google, what’s a mantra, two of the first sites that’ll come up in the search results are from Chopra.com and of course, Wikipedia.
Let’s see what Mr. Deepak Chopra has to say!
According to Chopra.com...
The word mantra can be broken down into two parts: ‘man,’ which means mind, and ‘tra,’ which means transport or vehicle. In other words, a mantra is an instrument of the mind—a powerful sound or vibration that you can use [as a vehicle] to enter a deep state of meditation.
According to Wikipedia...
A mantra is a sacred utterance, a numinous sound, a syllable, word or phonemes, or group of words in Sanskrit believed by practitioners to have religious, magical, or spiritual powers in Hinduism. Some mantras have a syntactic structure and literal meaning, while others do not.
Aha! This is where my challenge comes in...the Sanskrit.
If I have a hard time pronouncing something, I usually have a hard time remembering it. While some words or phrases used in mantras are easy enough to follow—and I benefit greatly from their use—sometimes the mantras are quite long and frankly, I get lost.
While I fully trust what I’m saying and the meaning I’m told it conveys, I sometimes need and want something I can connect with in the moment and conveys a meaning that I understand.
This is especially true during the day when I need or want something to affirm or remind me of my purpose, vision, goals, love, and worth in a more direct way!
Mantras in your spiritual or meditation practice
There are many spiritual and meditation practices that use mantras. While their use varies slightly by practice, mantras are typically employed to bring the practitioner’s attention back to the moment and raise our consciousness and vibration to elevate our experience, silence our mind, and enrich our spirit. They enhance our focus, stillness, and peace, and can facilitate a heightened awareness.
One of the most famous meditation practices to use mantras is Transcendental Meditation which is described as follows:
It’s a simple, natural, effortless technique practiced 20 minutes twice each day while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed.
The TM technique allows your active mind to easily settle inward, through quieter levels of thought, until you experience the most silent and peaceful level of your own awareness — pure consciousness.
In transcendental meditation, you silently chant a mantra that is specifically chosen for you and “suits” you so that you may experience the vibration, thoughts, and energy of that sound.
Mantras in a spiritual or meditation practice are about creating a mindset, staying focused, and enhancing presence and awareness.
There is tons of information on the internet regarding the many practices that use mantras, developing your own mantra, or distilling your mantra use to simpler phrases that resonate with you. A few of the simpler ones that I've used are Om, So Hum (I am that/all of creation), and Om Shanti Shanti Shanti (OM Peace Peace Peace)
Whichever meditation or spiritual practice you choose, the most important thing is that it elevates your spirit. Research the various options and try the ones that call your attention. Remember, they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Feel what resonates with you and raises your vibration, that’s when you’ll know you’re going in the right direction with your mantra.
Mantras in our daily lives
Mantras can also serve a purpose outside of the meditation room or your yoga practice. They can play a huge role in enriching your life, guiding your spirit, and living your best life.
That’s a big statement, but here’s how I know...
Mantras have saved me and brought me back from some of the roughest moments in my life when I’ve started to spiral down and even from some of the best moments in my life when an upward spiral began.
If you’re wondering about the upward spiral and why I would need a mantra at that point or even about the concept of spiraling up, you must read The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks.
In it, he talks about the concept of the Universal Success Mantra. I absolutely recommend reading this book and I include the link to it in the reading list at the bottom of this post.
In The Big Leap, Hendricks proposes the Universal Success Mantra, or USM...
“I expand in abundance, success, and love every day as I inspire those around me to do the same.”
He has also said, "I expand in abundance, creativity, and love every day as I inspire those around me to do the same."
This mantra is designed to break through the concept of an upper limit ceiling that the wonderful Mr. Hendricks talks about in his book. This upper limit barrier caps the potential of all humans—even the most successful—unless identified and specifically broken through.
As I mentioned, I've used mantras in meditation but I’ve found them to be the most powerful in daily practice.
In my daily mantra practice, the phrases I use are in English, not Sanskrit, so I can immediately connect to them. They remind me what I am all about and my intention, to find my center, and connect to the energy of the mantra. They are also my daily living grounding mechanism.
Here’s how I go about my daily practice.
Either the day before or the morning of--when I first wake up--I write down the mantra phrase for the day in my agenda. I repeat it all day, throughout the day, out loud (when I’m alone!) and silently to myself when I’m not.
For example, one of the mantras I use often is, I choose happiness. In my ongoing commitment to expansion, I’ve also added the USM I mentioned above, I expand in abundance, success, and love every day as I inspire others to do the same. Or, I choose peace.
I cannot tell you how amazing this practice has been for me. It is one of three that has changed me from the inside out—the second one being meditation, and the third being growing/learning.
I invite you to give it a try!
Whip out a notebook or a piece of paper, or your phone to take notes, or you can do what I do and make notes in the GoodNotes app on my iPad!
You can start by writing down three to five mantras you can repeat during the next week. Having this list freed me from having to think of a new mantra every day which can lead to drawing a blank and then not doing my daily practice!
I keep it simple and choose one a day from the list or if a new phrase comes into my mind, I add it to the list or use it that day. Occasionally, I’ll sneak a secondary one in there, but one is my norm. Here are some examples to jump-start your creative mantra brainstorming session!
I choose happiness
I choose peace
I choose love
I choose peace and happiness
I am happy and healthy
I choose abundance
I create abundance for myself and others
My mind, body, and soul are happy and healthy
My body is strong
I am focused
I am loved
I deeply love and accept myself (part of EFT practice, see the resource in the reading list at the end of this article]
I expand in abundance, success, and love as I inspire those around me to do the same. (USM by Gay Hendricks, The Big Leap)
I am expressing my true creativity (Gay Hendricks, multiple sources. See the reading list at end of this article)
I am beautiful
I am...make up your own wonderful mantra!
Then, once you have chosen the one you want for the day...repeat, repeat, and repeat your mantra all day long. Let it be your companion for the day.
Stay aware. As soon as you find yourself going down a tunnel, or notice your brow furrowing or you feel yourself getting anxious, chant your mantra again.
With continued practice, you'll find that your mantras will start popping into your mind exactly when you need them. For example, if someone or something triggers a reactive response, I have many times found my mantra, “I choose happiness,” or “I choose peace,” pop into my mind to remind me that I indeed do choose happiness! At that moment, I can let go of whatever else was there. And when I start going down the tunnel again...I choose happiness. :-)
Another way that you’ll find your daily mantra practice having a huge impact is with negative thoughts.
So often, as normal human beings, we are besieged by negative thoughts or our “monkey mind” starts acting up or is triggered. Monkey mind’s main goal is to derail our happiness and positive feelings with negative thoughts and actions.
Here’s what Psychology Today has to say about the “monkey mind”:
According to Buddhist principles, the “monkey mind” is a term that refers to being unsettled, restless, or confused. Writer and Buddhist Natalie Goldberg, who teaches many writing workshops, suggests that the monkey mind is the inner critic. It’s the part of your brain most connected to the ego, which contends that you can’t do anything right. It’s also the part of you that stifles creativity and prevents you from moving forward with your passions. The monkey mind insists on being heard, and sometimes it takes a lot of self-control to shut it down. It is also the part of your brain that becomes easily distracted, so if you want to get anything done in life, your challenge will be to shut down the monkey mind.
Mantras, meditation, and acceptance are the key to letting go of the monkey mind.
I hesitate to echo the concept of “shutting down” the monkey mind. I believe that it will always be there, but instead of it feeling like your drowning in it, it will start to become—for the most part—a flutter that passes through.
With practice, I’ve gotten better at identifying it as the monkey mind, accepting that it's my ego acting up, and releasing it to go on its merry way.
In my mind, monkey mind hasn’t yet become a flutter, but I’m getting much better at noticing
it, telling it, “I see you,” and “No, thank you!” Or, “Thank you for sharing!” Or, “I see what you're doing!” And even sometimes, "What the f!@#%!? LOL!" And then quietly and deliberately--and typically with a smile on my face, I choose and repeat my mantra over the negative thoughts.
I find that on some days it is really helpful to take a deep breath before repeating my mantra or smiling. On other occasions, I find that I spontaneously smile or take a deep breath after repeating my mantra. Notice what your experience is.
Along with the practice of Smiling Meditation, a meditation technique that I developed, my daily mantra practice has changed me, how I react, and how I live my life.
So tell your monkey mind and negative thoughts...Move over monkey mind, it’s time for HappyMnd!
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