Meditation Challenge Week 1: Mantra Meditation

First of all, thanks so much to everyone who has decided to participate in this meditation challenge with me! Not only does your participation really help me fulfill my own meditation goals, it also really means a lot to me from a personal standpoint. It’s so refreshing to know that there are so many people who’ve decided to come along on this journey with me.

Second of all, let me just say that I hope I can do this topic justice. Since I’m fairly new to regular meditation myself, I’ll be learning about this right alongside you. If you come across some tips and tricks that I don’t mention in my blog, please share them with other readers by posting in the comments. We’re all in this together, and it’d be awesome if we could get ideas and inspiration from each other!

If you missed Monday’s post, read up on the challenge and what’s involved here.

Now, without further ado, I’ll share my research on Week 1’s challenge: mantra meditation.

What is a Mantra?

Not to be confused with an intention, a mantra is a very short and simple word, sound or phrase that you repeat over and over as you move into meditation. The point of a mantra is to help your mind relax, so you don’t want to pick anything super meaningful that you’ll have to concentrate on.

For example, while phrases like “I am strong” or “I am perfect as I am” might be good intentions, they don’t really embody what you’re looking for in a mantra.

In Transcendental Meditation (a form of meditation that became popular in the 1960s, championed by none other than The Beatles themselves), you literally pay a fee in order to receive a personal mantra. You are then instructed by a teacher on how to repeat this mantra over and over again in conjunction with your breath. I don’t personally believe in paying to meditate, though, and I think picking a simple, short sound that feels right to you is probably just fine.

How to Pick Your Mantra

So, how do you pick a good mantra for you? The thing is, since the purpose of the mantra is really just to relax the mind, you really can’t go wrong. In fact, you can pick a sound that’s completely meaningless. The idea is that as you repeat the mantra over and over again in your head, your consciousness will transcend distractions and move into a relaxed, meditative state.

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If you want something that’s at least mildly meaningful, I’d pick a sound that you find beautiful and peaceful. Here are some ideas, taken from a wide variety of spiritual backgrounds:

  • Om: A yogic term that has a complex meaning and is often described as “the sound of the whole universe.”
  • I am that I am: Taken from the Torah, this was God’s response to Moses when asked for His name.
  • Shanti: Sanskrit for “peace.”
  • Kyrie Eleison: A Greek translation for “Lord have Mercy,” an important component in the Christian, Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.
  • So hum: A common yogic mantra, “so hum” reflects the sound of the breath and also means “I am that.”
  • Love: Pretty self-explanatory, no? You could also pick a different virtue word, such as faith, hope, trust, peace, gratitude, etc.
  • Elohim: According to Programming Life, this is a Hebrew term meaning “to whom one has recourse in distress or when one is in need of guidance.”
  • Hare Krishna: A mantra derived from one of the Upanishads (spiritual texts) of Hinduism, this mantra gained popularity back in the 60s with the rise of transcendental meditation. You can read more about its meaning here.
  • Amen: Meaning “I believe,” or “so it is,” this is obviously a sacred term in the Christian tradition.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Really, any sound that you find appealing will do fine. Maybe it’s the imitation of a baby’s coo or the call of a bird. Pick something that inspires you, relaxes you, is easy on the ears, and has a very easy, digestible meaning (if any at all).

How to Meditate With A Mantra

I’m going to be starting the challenge on Sunday (July 24) and I invite you guys to join me! As I already mentioned, we’ll be meditating for 15 minutes each day. If you miss a day, please don’t feel discouraged – just hop right back on the train! I personally prefer to meditate in the morning, right after waking up. However, pick the time of day that works best for you.

Find a comfortable position, whether that’s sitting upright with your legs crossed, lying down in savasana, sitting in a chair or kneeling as if to pray. Just make sure that a) you’re comfortable, and b) your back is straight. Ideally, your palms will be facing upward.

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Begin by inhaling and exhaling deeply. Try to keep your inhales and exhales equal in length, but don’t obsess over this – no counting, for example.

After a few deep breaths, begin repeating your mantra with each exhale. You can do this aloud or in your head – it doesn’t matter. The point is that with each exhale, you repeat the mantra, focusing on the sound.

And … that’s it. That’s the entirety of mantra meditation. If your mantra eventually slips away and you stop repeating it, that’s totally OK. You may’ve reached a place of deep meditation in which your mantra is no longer necessary. If, however, you stopped repeating the mantra because your mind wandered, then just gently call your attention back and begin repeating your mantra again.

Personally, with all that’s been going on in the world lately, I feel drawn to the term shanti, which means “peace.” So that’s what I plan to use for my own mantra. I can’t wait to get started! If you’d like, let me know what your mantra is in the comments, and feel free to invite your friends to join us!

 

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