When people hear the word “mantra,” unless already familiar with its true meaning may equate it as being the same as an affirmation. There is a difference.. So what is a mantra precisely?
Discovering Mantras: What Is a Mantra?
In the simplest terms, it’s based on two root Sanskrit words: manas (mind) and tra (tool). So the word “mantra” literally means “mind tool” or “a tool for the mind.” You can use mantras – either spoken aloud, internally, or chanted repetitiously – to help focus your mind. This will enhance a deeper state of awareness, most traditionally during meditation and spiritual practices.
The reason “mantra” and “affirmation” tend to get confused is because you can use an affirmation AS your mantra during meditation. Or, you can simply use a single word or sound.
Using mantras as a daily meditation practice, over time, can help your mind access deeper areas of your subconscious. When seeking to make changes in our lives, we most often experience blocks due to our subconscious thoughts and beliefs.
Thomas Ashley-Farrand, author of Mantra Meditation, writes, “Mantra meditation is not only something one practices, but a radical re-envisioning of ourselves, our lives and our ability to create the future we desire.”
Essentially, you can use mantras to start appreciating the joy of simplicity and experiencing more overall happiness.
How to Use a Mantra
Using mantras can assist in entering a deep state of meditation or to energize an intention. Repetition is key. When you find your mind wandering, bring it back to your chosen word or phrase and appreciate the simplicity of repetition.
There are various schools of thought about how many times you need to repeat your mantra before you notice changes in your life. Most traditionally, you would repeat your mantra 108 times daily for it to be most effective. This is because, “in Vedic culture, the Mathematicians saw the number 108 as the wholeness of existence.” In doing so, you are aligning yourself with the will of the universe and its creative life force.
Others believe that reciting multiple times for 40 days in a row invokes change. This idea is based around examples of Buddha and Jesus Christ. Based on this belief, it took 40 days of daily meditation for life changes to occur. (In using this 40-day meditation ritual, if a day is missed, you must begin again at day 1. Otherwise, it would not be as effective, according to those who practice it.)
But reciting your mantra can really be used at any time throughout your day to reap benefits. The more you repeat it, the better aligned with it you will become. In this way, you can always use this as a tool for stilling your mind.
Mantras for Meditation
During meditation, you would repeat your mantra silently or out loud for the time you are meditating. Meditating daily in this way is most helpful. The goal of this practice is to rise above the everyday activity of your mind.
The type of mantra that works best in this capacity is one where you are not focused on any specific idea or outcome. So affirmation mantras, while helpful in other ways, wouldn’t tend to work as well in this setting as a tool for focusing the mind during meditation.
Because this type of mantra has no meaning to your conscious mind, you are able to simply focus on the word or phrase. The thought or sound vibrations assist you in accessing a heightened state of awareness.
Mantras to Energize an Intention
Alternatively, you could choose an affirmation as a mantra to repeat (silently or out loud) for specific periods of time throughout your day. Using a mantra in this way will help to energize your intention with heightened awareness.
During the course of the day, when you feel stressed or out of balance, you would repeat your chosen word or phrase to calm your mind and bring you back into focus.
How to Choose a Mantra
Choosing a mantra will depend on how you intend to use it – whether for meditation or to energize an intention. There is no single way to choose one. But you DO want to choose one that has positive connotations rather than one that you associate with any negativity.
For meditation purposes, to assist in attaining a deeper meditative state, choose a single word or phrase. Traditionally, Sanskrit words are used for this purpose. For example, using the word “Om” is said to be the sound of the universe or the primordial sacred sound. Another example is “Om Mani Padme Hum,” which is said to “unlock the loving and unconditional qualities of compassion.”
To use a mantra for energizing an intention, focus on what you want to achieve. Then choose a word or phrase that aligns with your intention. Keep in mind that it should always represent your greatest good without attachment to a specific outcome. Some examples of affirmation mantras are: “Love surrounds me;” “I attract abundance in my life;” or “I am at peace with myself and the universe.”
However you choose to harness the benefits, there is no down side. Try various words of phrases (and methods) until you feel energized by it. When you feel attuned to using a particular mantra, you will begin to enjoy the benefits of this empowering daily practice.