Part of the practice of meditation is to free our minds of the constant struggle of repetitive thought patterns that plague us from morning until bedtime and sometimes in the middle of the night too! Our mind's job is to feed us thoughts, and if we don't exert any control over our mind, it will often feed us unending loops of negative ones. When we awaken to the fact that we don't have to be a victim of our mind's meanderings, the desire to get this under control begins. Using a mantra is a wonderful tool to train the mind to calm down and focus. It also aligns our body, energy and spirit to a higher vibration that can often heal us from both mental and physical problems. By replacing these negative thought patterns with a mantra, we can stop the negative flow and create a new rivulet of thinking that is both beneficial and positive.
In many types of psychological counseling, a patient is asked to investigate and examine negative thinking patterns and try to figure them out in order to heal them. This sometimes helps, but it also can keep someone stuck in their story, examining it from every angle and keeping it in their thoughts. The use of a mantra meditation to replace a negative or destructive thought pattern or loop is a simple and effective tool to create new synapses in the brain so that your mind begins to shift over to the positive thought of the mantra, rather than the negative thoughts you're replacing. In this way, it's not necessary to investigate the old thoughts anymore, but replace them with healthier ones. Remember- we can all step out of our old stories that are not serving us and choose to live healthier more positive lives at any given moment...
Recent scientific studies into the neuro-plasticity 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 also spiritually purifying. By using a mantra we can connect and vibrate with a higher level of consciousness.The connection with this higher vibrational frequency then helps to purify the body and mind giving us easier access to our true self or, what we call in Sanskrit, the Atman.
The universal mantra Om (pronounced Aum), defined by the 3 sounds Ah, Oh, and Ma (drop the a), are the only 3 sounds that we can make if we didn't have a tongue. It's only because of our tongue placed in different positions against the palate that we can make all of the other sounds. In different parts of the world, the sound Om has been changed with different language distortions in different cultures to: Amen, or Amin or Om pronounced Ohm. They all go back to the sound Aum which reverberates in all of our systems. When we find true peace and quiet within ourselves, we will become aware of the sound Aum within us. That is why this is considered the universal mantra and has innumerable benefits. The repetition of Aum helps countless psychological disturbances. It calms fear and anger, nightmares, obsessive thinking, depression and anxiety, attention deficit disorder, and lack of stability and strength in both the mind and body. The vibration of Aum connects you or plugs you directly into universal energy or divine energy. We can practice many other mantras or high vibrational sounds, but Aum is your 'go to' mantra!
Mantras are not affirmations or prayers. These 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. A prayer is when you ask for something. If you want to practice pure mantra meditation, you can say a prayer or an affirmation as an intention before the meditation and as you repeat a mantra, direct it with intention towards that prayer (or affirmation). This will give your prayer or affirmation more power.
When you sit to begin your mantra meditation, take some deep controlled conscious breaths (as I explain in my 5 week mantra meditation course). Clear your mind and center yourself. When you feel that your mind is calmer and you are not so distracted by busy thoughts, set your intention by thinking of your affirmation or prayer if you'd like, and begin to repeat your mantra with the in breath and the out breath. It is important to take these few moments initially to breathe, focus and clear the mind. Having a clear mind helps with concentration and awareness. You can speak 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. Saying it out loud will help you to feel the vibration of the mantra in your body and you can go silent when you're ready.
Whatever mantra you use, connect to its meaning. 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. 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.
Use your mantra in your daily life. While driving you can repeat your mantra, while walking throughout the grocery store or the mall, while exercising or washing the dishes. Make it a part of your daily life and notice how calm and focused your mind becomes. Notice the shift in your happiness and peace.