“The mantra, taking us into the present moment and beyond the ego, slips through the narrow gate into the city of God.” – John Main, Benedictine Monk. Mantras are the repetition of words and phrases of special significance, and can be said either out loud or internally. All of the spiritual paths have some version of mantra. To name just a few well known examples, Hinduism has the Gayatri mantra, Buddhism Om Mani Padme Hum, Christianity the Jesus Prayer, and Islam the Sufi dhikr.
How do mantras work?
Sound & Vibrations.
Many of the spiritual traditions say that the universe began with a word, or sound from God. Mantras are a way of introducing and focusing this vibration, or sound, in ourselves. Sound is a form of vibration. In fact everything in the universe vibrates at a certain frequency. Thus, by repeating a mantra we introduce the vibrational frequency of that mantra into ourselves, so that we too begin to resonate with the words and vibration of the mantra. By saying a mantra you are literally tuning yourself to resonate at the same vibrational frequency as God, or the specific deity associated with that mantra, or the healing power or intention of that mantra.
Eventually, as you come to resonate at the same frequency as the mantra, the mantra gains its own momentum. At that point, as they say in Sufism, “you stop doing the mantra, and the mantra starts doing you”. There are numerous tales of mantra practitioners who were so at one with their mantra that if they cut themselves their spilled blood would spell the words of their mantra. Whether or not this is true the message is clear, mantras become a part of us and have the potential to effect us on a very deep and transformational level.
Energy fields & Archetypes
One theory is that mantras allow us to connect to archetypal energies which have been strengthened over thousands of years by the continual repetitions of practitioners. By saying a mantra you are connecting to the energy field of all those that have also used that mantra before you. Accordingly, different energy fields will have varying characteristics that reflect the nature of that mantra, so it can be important to align yourself with a mantra that is suitable to your needs, whether for spiritual or healing purposes
Benefits of Mantra
Many mantras are said to have healing properties. By connecting to the mantra on an energetic level it may be possible to reprogram the affected or diseased area and allow healing to occur. Similarly, the influence of mantra on the mind-body connection can also influence healing by creating a biofeedback loop that replaces unpleasant sensation with love and positivity. The subsequent reduction in stress and anxiety can have innumerable physical benefits. Mantras may also tap into universal energetic healing archetypes. When saying a healing mantra you are accessing energy fields far greater than yourself, with huge potential for healing.
Thoughts & Emotions
Most of us have experienced being caught up in a repetitive pattern of thoughts. When these thoughts are negative or angry this can be particularly unpleasant and often damaging. By replacing these type of thoughts with a mantra we not only break the habitual negative flow, we also create and reinforce a new flow that is both beneficial and positive. It’s not necessary to investigate the old thoughts, simply replace them with a mantra.
Recent scientific studies into the neuroplasticity of the brain support this. These studies show that neural pathways are either strengthened by repetition, or weakened by lack of use. By replacing negative thoughts with a mantra you are literally rewiring your brain whilst simultaneously weakening habitual thinking. Similarly, when stuck in a downward emotional spiral a mantra can not only break the habitual emotional pattern, but also replace it with the positive emotion that you normally associate with the mantra.
Mantras are purifying. By using a mantra we can connect and vibrate with a more pure or higher level of consciousness, which is usually a chosen deity or God. The connection with this higher vibrational frequency then helps to purify the body and mind. In Hinduism they have the concept of Sanskaras, which are impressions derived from past experiences, which form desires that influence our responses and behavior. Or in other words, our deep seated conditioned responses and tendencies. These can be altered and erased by the continual contact with the mantras energy. Chakras are energetic centers in the body. Some mantras are specific for chakras, and aim to cleanse, open and purify these chakras so our spiritual energies will flow more smoothly and without obstruction.
What mantras are not
Mantras are not affirmations. Affirmations work on the psychological and emotional level. Although affirmations can be very useful they should not be confused with mantras, which work at a deeper vibrational and spiritual level, and as such are fundamentally different to affirmations. Mantras are not prayers, in the sense of using your own words to ask for something specific. For example, with a healing mantra you establish in yourself the specific intention to be healed, and then connect with the power of the mantra with that intention, and say only the mantra, and do not use your own words as you would in individualized prayer.
How to use a mantra
Clear your mind. Centre yourself. Take a few deep breaths. It is easy to be distracted and be thinking of something else, even while you are saying your mantra. Having a clear mind helps with concentration and awareness. Set your intention. Remind yourself why you are using your mantra. Be clear to yourself. Start saying your mantra, either out loud or internally. Many people find it useful to coordinate the mantra with the breath. Experiment with this to see what works for you. Connect to the meaning of your mantra. This is a very personal thing, and over time you may find that how you experience your mantra changes, as it becomes part of you, and you become part of it.
Depending on the type of mantra, you may wish to place your focus on your heart or between your eyebrows as you use the mantra. Or if the mantra is specific for something such as healing, or for a specific chakra, then place your awareness on that part of your body. If your mantra is associated with a deity then you may wish to visualize the deity as you say your mantra, or if it is chakra mantra meditation then you can visualize the color associated with that chakra.
Tips to remember
Mantras are the ultimate mobile device, you can use them anytime and anywhere. Whether in the car, at work, with friends or on your own, if you say your mantra internally it can always be with you. Using a mantra is like any other form of meditation. When you realize that your thoughts have wandered just simply refocus, and return to your mantra. Experiment with your mantra in different situations. If you are angry, you can try saying your mantra louder and at a faster pace, to drown out your angry thoughts. Or if you are in a quiet place and are feeling calm, try whispering the mantra and using it to lead you into silence.
Used in Hinduism, Buddhism and other religions, Om is the primordial sound, the sound of God. As you say the sound, feel it vibrate through every cell in your body.