Do you have a personal mantra? Do you have ANY mantra? What the hell is a mantra, anyway? The term is used fairly often in modern society. Not a month goes by where I don’t hear someone say, “Oh, yes! It’s my personal mantra…” For the most part, they’re referring to some clever quip or saying that they feel has significant impact on their daily lives and/or their existence. But what is an actual mantra, and what purpose does it serve?
Simply and traditionally speaking, a mantra is defined as “a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation.” Typically originating from the Hindu or Buddhist faiths, the using of a mantra focuses your active mind’s attention in such a way that it allows your thoughts and mind to float freely. It can help with relaxation and does, in fact, focus your meditation. It can be extremely handy if you’re a newcomer to the meditation scene and are having difficulty sitting still or concentrating.
That being said, I should reiterate a point I’ve often made in the past that there are various forms of meditation, from the traditional image most people have as illustrated above, to moving meditations such as Tai Chi or even Yoga. Not every method and/or form will require a mantra, and not every mantra is a simple “ohm.” It can be pretty much anything you choose, so long as it works to help you focus and concentrate.
Personally, I don’t use a mantra when I meditate. I prefer silence or some soft background music with forest or ocean sounds. By focusing on these sounds, I’m focusing my mind. I’ve usually referred to this as an “external mantra.” Silence can also be an effective mantra, since focusing solely on the silence and concentrating on it will have most of the same benefits as an active, repetitive mantra.
Depending on what school of thought you prescribe to, the use of the mantra “ohm” causes a reverberation throughout the body that religious monks believe has spiritual or religious effects on the body. I couldn’t find a stock photo to demonstrate it and I’m too cheap to buy one, but there is a Hindu symbol that represents “ohm,” (also spelled aum or om) and you can hit up Wikipedia under “mantra” if you want to see it. It’s been made popular in such a way that the symbol is represented on yoga gear, jewellery and clothing apparel.
On a last note, a personal mantra is something a bit different. This usually involves a saying or quote that resonates with a person and has a direct impact on how they live their life. Something along the lines of, “Forgiveness is divine, but never pay full price for late pizza…” Anyone who recognizes that quote will understand how badly I just aged myself, but it’s usually something a person repeats or states to themselves or others often but has nothing to do with an actual mantra or meditation.
Although you don’t NEED a mantra in order to meditate, it can be a handy and useful practice to help you focus and concentration when doing so. Sometimes life makes it a bit difficult to find a quiet moment to meditate and a mantra can also help block the outside world. In fact, there are some YouTube videos with hours of mantra chanting, for those who want to have a listen at what it should sound like. ☯