It is a greeting often used by yogis meaning the spirit within me honors the spirit within you. But it can and often does serve outside the yoga studio and ashram as a mantra for the rest of us.
And the right mantra has the power to set things right in your life.
According to Intuitive psychologist Dr. Carmen Harra words indeed have power. There is, for example, a world of difference, she says, between telling yourself “I’m weak” or telling yourself “I’m powerful.” It’s a difference that affects your mind, your body, and your spirit. What does your self-talk sound like these days? If it contains too much of the weak, and too little of the powerful, maybe you need a mantra.
Scholars consider the use of mantras to have begun before 1000 BC, the period that spawned the Vedas, liturgical texts that created modern-day Hinduism. Still with us today, a mantra can be a sacred syllable, a word, or a string of words that have spiritual potency (for you, that is). The word mantra (which translates as “mind” or “to think”) can be thought of as a form of mental activity that encourages liberation from whatever is holding you back in this moment, in this life. It’s speculated that over 70 million mantras have been created.
A mantra, in other words, is a spiritual tool to transport your busybody mind from a state of yackety-yak to one of one-pointed stillness. Once chosen, you may use it as a way of both stilling and focusing thought. In the words of American spiritual teacher the late Ram Dass, “If you imagine the mind as being like an ocean, with waves of thought surging along on it, waves going in all directions because of the crosscurrents of the tides and the winds – in that ocean, a mantra sets up a single wave pattern that gradually overrides all the other ones, until the mantra is the only thought-form left. Then there’s just one continuous wave going through your mind – going and going and going.”
And that oceanic activity is not all in your mind; it’s very much in your body.
According to the Yogapedia website, “ When chanting mantras aloud, the vibrations and movements of the tongue stimulate some of the key glands of the endocrine system, which is responsible for governing and regulating hormones in the body.” So mantras are medicine, delivering physiological as well as spiritual benefits. Chanting a mantra, for example, has also been shown to impact the parasympathetic nervous system, producing a slowing of the heart rate and triggering the body’s healing response.
Indeed, reciting (or singing) your chosen mantra with purpose and intention can bring you into a meditative state, shifting your perception to a state of positivity, instilling calmness in the mind. It helps in creating a shield of positive energies around a person through its vibrational sounds.
So where to start if you are a mantra newbie?
Five words ( known as The Five Mantras) that are often chosen, alone or in combinations are: Release/ Peace/Tranquility/ Love/ and Joy. Often they are repeated (spoken or chanted) for a set period of time until the mantra comes alive and begins to command your full attention. It is said that the vibration from the mantra brings you into a trance-like oneness with the universe.
Mantras can be words, sets of words, even sounds—that you sing, hum, chant, speak aloud or to yourself. They /it can be in plain old everyday English or exotic Sanskrit or another language in which you are comfortable.
And what do you have to choose from besides Namaste and the Five Mantras?
* I am love
*Perfect (everything is)
*(I am) Enough
*I am fearless
*(I Am) free to be
Or how about the Sanskrit Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo” (“I call upon the Divine Wisdom and bow to this Wisdom”). It is said to be a favorite of Oprah’s.
Always appropriate is OM. The eternal sound of OM is thought to be the sound that the universe makes, according to the Hindu American Foundation.
Or OM SHANTIH, meaning peace.
Or OM MANI PADME HUM. Ma is said to destroy jealousy and replace it with moral behavior. Ni helps cultivate patience and non-attachment. Pad helps destroy prejudice and Me is believed to help impede possessiveness. Finally, Hum is for wisdom.
Here are a few ways to use your own personal power word(s).
Where and When
- Before yoga practice when a mantra can set your “intention” for the practice or for the day ahead.
- Before your morning prayer, meditation, or gratitude practice
- Before going to work in your office –in or out of the home
- At the end of the day before lights out.
- Before a sports event, competition, or challenge of any kind. By reciting a mantra that is specific to how you’re feeling or to what your day holds in store, you are better fortified to face the day with more confidence and courage.
- As a part of your midday centering or manifesting practice
- Invoking a mantra can be helpful if you’re gearing up for a hectic day. Know you have 10 deadlines today? Try “I am confident in my abilities to complete the tasks at hand.” Feeling distracted? Try “I am present in the moment.” Feel an anxiety attack coming on? Use “Om shanti, peace peace peace.” Add-On: Try handheld beads. You don’t have to be religious to use prayer And they are a great way to stay present while reciting your mantra. Count each repetition pairing it with each bead. Known as mala in Sanskrit, these beads in various materials and configurations are used in religious and spiritual practices worldwide to help the user connect with the divine within and without.
And that divine is always there.
In the words of the Late Middle Ages mystic Julian of Norwich– all shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well”. It wouldn’t have been considered a mantra in the 15th century, but it can be ours in the 21st.