Attitude is everything
Let’s face it, most of our thoughts about ourselves and our self-talk are negative and downright mean. We focus on what we don’t have instead of what we already have inside.
Personally, I can be really hard on myself. I have super high expectations and when I fall short, I’m my own worst enemy. Some things I say in my head about myself, I could never say to someone else! However, if I have the capacity to think it about myself, doesn't that also mean that energy may unintentionally be spilling out elsewhere too?
How we live in our minds has no choice but to affect life outside our mind, because our thoughts absolutely influence our actions whether we are conscious to it or not. This is one reason why Mantras can be very useful tools not only for meditation, but for life off of the meditation cushion as well.
Mantras Flip Our Script
Mantras are not focused on “fixing” something that is wrong with you. Rather they are a form of unlearning. Negative thoughts breed negative energy. If you expect a positive outcome, then you must fuel yourself with positive thought patterns. But why does it seem so much easier to think of what could go wrong?
Our brain is hardwired to doubt, worry; even self-sabotage. This negativity bias is a scientific fact of biology and it has served our species for hundreds of thousands of years to remain safe from life-threatening situations. But it has a dark side too, especially in a modern life, because we tend to inflate and overdramatize what constitutes as life-threatening and remain on high alert - making no time to be awake to beauty and possibility.
Mantras are repeated words, sounds or phrases intended to keep our mind's attention during meditation. Since our mind is wired to focus on safety, if we are feeling particularly stressed, it can be hard to keep our mind focused on the present moment without something grounded in the present moment. Speaking a Mantra aloud or repeating it in the head gives your mind a job to do, making it an easier process to simply stay present during meditation.
Working with mantras can also create new neural pathways that override our old negative thought patterns. Mantra can help us pull at our default 'auto-pilot' thoughts and actions, and step into more present, mindful thoughts and actions. Our repeated thoughts can then, in turn, influence better choices once we get off the meditation cushion.
Picking a Mantra
Some mantras are affirmations. Some mantras are simple sounds that keep the minds attention on the vibration and essence of the sound. Some mantras are the names of God or the Divine as we understand it.
Choosing a Mantra that is simple and resonates with us personally is helpful to begin. Remember that the purpose of a Mantra is for it to be helpful and easily repeated. As your Mantra practice becomes more familiar you may like to try more classical Mantras found in Yoga or other traditions, or longer mantras or prayers to recite. But don't feel pressured to get overly complicated. The simplest Mantras can be the most powerful.
Mantras can be practiced anywhere and anytime
First thing in the morning
While getting ready for the day
Post your Mantras for all to see!
Stuck in traffic
Waiting in line
Walking around town
Doing your chores
Transitioning from school to home
Using mantras and practicing positive self-talk allows us to flip our old negative narrative we tell ourselves and begin to recalibrate and work from a positive place.
How you can incorporate mantras in your meditation practice
Get comfy and ground yourself
Maximize your surroundings
Practice breath awareness
Create an even paced inhalation and exhalation with pauses at the beginning and the end of each breath
When your thoughts drift away from the present moment, focus back on each breath
Repeat your Mantra
Sing or chant your mantra - sound vibration naturally focuses thoughts and feelings
The repetition and sound allows you to be more alert and in tune with your environment
Great practice for those who don’t like silence and enjoy repetition
Improves listening skills
Practice consistently to cultivate peace and presence of mind
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adrienne Smith is a Personal Trainer, Yoga Teacher and member of Practice Everywhere's Teacher Training faculty. In addition to earning her ERYT500 and YACEP distinctions from Yoga Alliance, Adrienne is also a certified Kids Yoga instructor and the Founder of Family Flow Yoga - a methodology and training style that supports bringing yoga to kids and families through after school programs and family-oriented class. When Adrienne isn't teaching classes or training clients, she is taking part in her most favorite roles, mom to her two teenage daughters, and wife to her loving husband. Adrienne resides with her family in San Antonio, TX.