Mantra Meditation: What Is It? And How Can It Help?
There are many forms of meditation. The meditation I have been trained in and practice twice a day is a silent, mantra-based sitting meditation.
Sitting meditation gives us an opportunity to settle into the stillness and return to our ground state of being, that state of stillness and emptiness. It’s an opportunity for us to take time away from the busyness of our daily life and its distractions and give full attention to and care for ourselves.
Some of us feel uncomfortable in the stillness and quiet because we’ve been so accustomed to being busy all day long, putting out the fires of our home or work lives and basically taking care of everyone else around us. But even in the midst of our noisy lives, we too can radiate peace and stability. Meditation is a wonderful foundation for your daily life to return to a state of wholeness and then bring that space you’ve created out into the busy world we live in.
If you’ve never meditated before, here is what I suggest:
Find a quiet place somewhere in your home where you can be distraction-free for fifteen minutes or so. I have a nice chair in my bedroom that I sit in each morning and every evening.
Choose a time of day when you can have a few moments to yourself. I find that one of the best times for me to meditate is first thing in the morning before the dogs and kids need to be fed, before the coffee is even brewed and in the stillness of the morning. One of the things I love so much about the pre-dawn hours is that while I’m in my sitting meditation, I hear the birds slowly awaken and begin to sing their pretty songs. It’s a beautiful way for me to be present to nature in its morning awakening.
Sit upright in your meditation and allow yourself to settle into your body’s own natural rhythm of breathing. Laying down in meditation can sometimes give our physiologies permission to drift off to sleep and that would sort of defeat the purpose!
Allow yourself to bring your full attention to what is within and around you. Just let your mind become spacious and your heart soft and kind.
Sitting meditation is very healing and provides a state of restful awareness that we don’t often allow ourselves to experience at any other time during the day. Some say that they “can’t meditate” because they “can’t quiet their thoughts,” but remember, meditation is not designed to have you stop all of your thoughts but rather to have you notice that your mind drifts off into thought. Once you notice that your mind has drifted off to thoughts that come into your head or noises in the environment, that’s when you gently remind yourself to either return to your breathing to resettle your mind or return yourself to a mantra you may be using.
Using a mantra is just one form of meditation available for you to try. I have used mantra-based meditation for the past fifteen years and find it to be very helpful in giving me a place to focus when my mind wants to wander off to the day’s priorities, worries, and responsibilities. A mantra is literally a vehicle for your mind, helping you return from thought to stillness. It is a repetitive sound used that penetrates the depths of the unconscious mind and adjusts the vibration of all aspects of your being. Mantras are vibrated through chanting aloud, the silent mental practice I’m describing here, or by listening to them.
Meditation is almost like a wave. When we allow ourselves to settle into the stillness, we may begin to notice that our thoughts naturally slow down; maybe not stop, just slow down. Once the mind begins to distract us again with thought and we notice it, that’s when we can gently guide ourselves back to repeating the mantra. You’ll find that it’s like an ebb and flow of a wave between noise and thought back to stillness, remembering the mantra and settling back into a space where there might not be any thoughts.
The key to a successful meditation practice is the personal discipline of making meditation a daily habit.
You’ll notice that each and every meditation is different simply because each and every moment is different and you are different in each and every moment. Some days you’ll find that no matter what you do, your mind wants to hijack you back to thought and distraction, other days, you’ll sit to meditate and easily sink right in. Remember, that is the practice and is all the more reason to make meditation a daily habit.
The more often we settle our physiology, the more accustomed our physiology and mind will be able to settle as well. There is a symbiotic relationship between body, mind and spirit. When we make meditation a habit, we will begin to notice that we are calmer, more peaceful, less reactive. We realize we can just be with whatever is within us–our pain, anger, and irritation, or our joy, love, and peace. We are with whatever is there without being carried away by it.
Let it come, let it stay, then let it go.
No need to push, oppress, or to pretend our thoughts are not there. Observe the thoughts and images of our mind without judgment. We are free to be still and calm despite the storms that might arise in us.
Contrary to some of our preconceived notions about meditation, there’s no need to remain perfectly still in meditation nor do you need to sit in the stereotypical lotus position. Your meditation practice is just that, yours. From a practical standpoint, if your legs or feet fall asleep or begin to hurt during sitting, we are free to adjust our position quietly. We can maintain our concentration by following our breathing, then slowly and attentively change our posture. The one thing to keep in mind during your meditation is that your comfort is the most important aspect. If you are not comfortable during your meditation, it’s unlikely that you will want to return to do it again.
After practicing sitting meditation, it is best to sit quietly with your eyes closed and simply allow the experience to integrate into your body, mind and spirit. You never want to race into meditation and you never want to race out of meditation. You want the peace, stillness and restfulness you’ve created in your meditation to follow you out of your chair or cushion and out into the world.
Join us at Satsang House, San Diego’s premier meditation center for an Introduction to Meditation or any of our other online or in-person meditation courses led by Chopra Center Certified Meditation Instructor Maggie Kelly.