Meditation is not a new thing for most of us. At a particular time in life, you must have come across meditation as a word, or you may have engaged in a meditation practice. People meditate for different reasons. Some people meditate to maintain calmness; others do it to cope with stress and pain, others meditate when they are going through a crisis, others meditate for spiritual reasons, and others meditate to discover and understand themselves. Whichever the reason is, meditation comes with a wide range of benefits and hence the reason most people are adopting the practice. There are different types of meditation, and mantra meditation is an example of the different types of meditation.
What is Mantra Meditation?
Mantra meditation is the process of quieting and focusing the mind using phrases, a single word, or sound that you choose to either recite quietly or loudly (7). In simple terms, one can say mantra meditation is a meditation that uses mantras. That brings a follow-up question on what mantras are. When it comes to meditation, mantras are the most used yet at the same time being among the most powerful aspects of meditation. A mantra is a syllable, word, or phrase that is usually repeated during meditation. One can choose to either speak, chant, or whisper a mantra.
The word mantra comes from two Sanskrit words; mana and tra. Manas means mind while tra means tool; hence manta means a tool of the mind (9). Mantras are sound vibrations through which we focus our thoughts, feelings, and attention (4). Mantras help focus the mind and are responsible for promoting inner-balance and well being. They are mostly used in yoga as well as other meditation variations. The process of repeating mantras over and over is known as Japa. The word Japa means muttering in Sanskrit (1). There are a good number of people who do not see how repeating phrases over and over again might lead to self-awareness, and this usually makes them not try mantras.
Although most people think mantra meditation came from Buddhism, this is not true. Mantra meditation goes back to the Vedic tradition, and that is why this meditation is sometimes referred to as Vedic meditation mantra or Vedic mantra meditation.
Benefits of Mantra Meditation
Most people usually want to know what something can do for them before they can try it. The good thing with this type of meditation is that it offers so many advantages. When you are looking at the advantages of mantra meditation, you are pretty much looking at why using mantras in meditation can be helpful. The benefits of mantra meditation are said to come from the aspect of repeating different mantras. Here are some of the benefits associated with mantra meditation:
It helps improve mood, reduces anxiety, and helps prevent memory loss
Are you anxious? Are you always in a bad mood? Why not try meditating. A study on the Effects of an 8-Week Meditation Program on Mood and Anxiety in Patients with Memory Loss was done (2), which took 8 weeks. The participants of the study were 15 people with a mean age of 62 years. It was required for all the participants to have a memory loss problem. Before they could start the process, the participants had to be tested for different things. First, they were given a neuropsychological test. Their mood, anxiety, and spirituality were also measured. That was not all. They also underwent a single-photon emission computed tomography scan before and after the study. The participants were to engage in a 12 minute a day meditation for 8 weeks.
After 8 weeks, it was noted that the participants had improvements in their mood, anxiety, tension, and fatigue levels (2). Thus a 12 minute a day meditation in patients with memory loss had positive effects on them. These people had better moods, less anxiety, and were less fatigued. This is one of the benefits of mantra meditation.
It helps increase one’s focus
Mantras are useful when it comes to helping one increase their focus. If you’ve tried meditating, then you know being focused and maintaining that focus is one of the hardest things. There are so many distractions that come up, and most of them are usually in our minds. It is so easy for the mind to wander off and start bringing other thoughts. Mantras help prevent this by keeping your mind engaged and focused on one thing (3). If you keep repeating a particular word or phrase, either loudly or just to yourself, the mantra will end up occupying your awareness, and this thus helps your mind from drifting off or wandering off to other things.
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It helps promote your meditation goals
Just the way people exercise or go on diets to be able to reach their weight goals, people also meditate for certain reasons or goals. Examples of some of the meditation goals include being self-aware, being at peace, and many others. It is believed that mantras help one to reach an even deeper meditative state, and this state can help you release anything that is disrupting your overall well being. In addition to that, repeating a word or a phrase helps you remember what you are meditating for and hence you don’t lose track of your goal (3).
When choosing a mantra, people choose them according to what they want to achieve. There are different mantras for different goals. If you want to achieve peace, you won’t use the same mantra as someone who wants to achieve self-awareness. Constantly repeating phrases about peace helps you concentrate on peace, and you end up achieving peace easily. The same can be said for self-awareness and all the other meditation goals. You just need to find a mantra that reinforces these goals.
It can be used to help cope with post-traumatic stress disorder
PTSD is usually very hard to treat and even control sometimes. Veterans, as well as other people, mainly experience PTSD. Mantra meditation, where you concentrate on a single mantra, repeatedly silently, was seen as a viable option in the treatment of PTSD. A study was done on this. A randomized controlled trial on non-trauma-focused meditation versus exposure therapy in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder was done to see if this is actually true (8).
The participants of the study were veterans who were currently battling PTSD. The veterans were randomly assigned to three different groups. The first group, which has 68 members, was the mantra meditation group. The second group, which also had 68 members, was the prolonged exposure therapy group, and the final group, which had 67 members, was the PTSD health education group that was used as a control group. The study took 12 weeks, and each treatment practice provided 12 sessions for those 12 weeks. The meditation group and the prolonged exposure therapy group had group sessions, while the PTSD health education group has individual sessions.
After three months (12 weeks), it was noted that 61% of the people in the meditation group had reduced PTSD symptoms. 42% of the people in the prolonged exposure group had reduced PTSD symptoms. From the PTSD health education group, it was 32% of the people (8). From the results, we can clearly see mantra meditation was the most effective when it comes to reducing PTSD symptoms (8). Thus, meditation can be used as an option for people with PTSD who don’t seem to respond to the traditional methods of treating PTSD.
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Help reduce stress
There are so many things that can cause stress. School, work, relationships, finances, and illnesses are all examples of things that can cause stress. One way of dealing with handling stress is through mantra meditation (5).
Mantra meditation also helps people become calmer, have an increased level of self-compassion, and have a positive outlook on life (5).
Those are some of the many benefits associated with mantra meditation.
How to Do Mantra Meditation?
As we have seen, this particular type of meditation comes with numerous benefits. For you to enjoy all these benefits, you need to know the best way of doing it. Here is how to do mantra meditation (10):
Find the best mantra that suits your goals
The best way to do this is first to know what you want to achieve from the meditation practice. Once you know that, finding the mantra that best suits your goals is not so hard. Is your goal to find peace? Is it to find yourself? Or to cope with stress? Is it to be more aware of your surroundings? Whatever your goal is, finding a mantra that speaks about that goal makes it easy for you to achieve your goal.
Sit comfortably and remember your goals
Getting a good place to practice your meditation is an essential step of the whole process. You’ll enjoy the practice better if you are in a good environment. When looking for a place, the first thing you need to do is to make sure the place you choose has no distractions. Distractions can be in the form of noise either from people, vehicles, birds, and so on. The place should also be away from people since they can also easily distract you. Look for a quiet place and avoid places that are too bright so that you can concentrate on your mantra without any disturbances. Sit upright and keep your back straight to prevent back pains in the future.
Have something to tell you when to stop your meditation practice
Most people use a timer for this. Even though this meditation offers many benefits, it doesn’t mean you need to do it for hours. Find out how long you need to practice this meditation and set an alarm for that. It can be anywhere between 10 minutes to an hour. When setting your alarm, make sure the alert notification is something that will not disrupt your peace. Go for a somber alert like the sound of rain, the sound of waves, and so on. Sit correctly and focus on your breathing.
Once you’ve set your alarm, you remember your mantra and know your goals. Sit down in an upright position. You can sit on a chair or the floor. Most people prefer to sit on the floor. While sitting on the floor, you can choose to cross-cross your legs or not, it all depends on which position you are most comfortable with. Once comfortable, focus on your breathing. This will help you settle your mind before you start your mantra meditation practice.
Recite your mantra
Now, it is time to chant the mantra that you picked on the first step. Do not expect a spiritual experience. Most people go into meditation, looking for a feeling that will instantly transform them. When they don’t experience that feeling, they feel like they are doing the whole practice in the wrong way, or people really lied about what meditation does to a person.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and just be present as you recite your mantra. It would be best if you close your eyes when doing this so that you keep distractions to the minimum. Just go with the flow and know the more you practice the mantra meditation, the better you become at it. You should let your breath guide you while doing all this. Following your breathing helps make the experience feel a bit natural.
Redirect wandering thoughts
To say you won’t experience wandering thoughts would be lying to you. Even people who have been meditating for years find themselves drifting off once in a while. When you drift off, do not be hard on yourself, and this does not mean you have failed in your meditation practice (4). When you notice you are drifting away, just acknowledge the thoughts that are in your mind and gently let them go. Pick up your mantra again and continue with your meditation practice.
Close the meditation
When the alarm goes off, it is time to close the meditation practice. Do not be in a rush, sit for a few minutes, and see how you feel. Are you more relaxed and feeling more optimistic? Are you excited for your next meditation session? The closing stage of this practice acts as a way of tracking your progress, and hence it is as important as any other step.
Those are the easy ways of how mantra meditation can be done.
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Levels of Mantra Meditation
This is usually used as a way to measure progress. Here are four different levels (6):
Verbal recitation (6)
This includes normally audible sound. Here you chant your mantra out loud. It engages more of your senses, making it easier to stay focused.
The next level is a little bit more subtle and deeper. It is pretty much whispering. You move your lips and mouth but barely make an audible sound.
Mental recitation (6)
This involves different sounds but in your head. It is the visualization of sounds such as silently listening to your thoughts or the silent repetition of your mantra in your head.
Spontaneous listening (6)
At this point, you are no longer repeating the mantra, but the mantra is going on by itself in your mind. Those are the different levels of mantra meditation.
The Bottom Line
Mantra meditation comes with many benefits, as you have learned from the above-mentioned. These different benefits can only be enjoyed if you do your meditation the right way. Choose the best mantra for yourself, get a comfortable place, focus on your breathing, chant your mantra, and be in the moment.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Advanced Stages of Mantra Meditation (n.d., yogainternational.com)
- Effects of an 8-Week Meditation Program on Mood and Anxiety in Patients with Memory Loss (2012, liebertpub.com)
- Have Trouble Meditating? Try Mantra Meditation (2020, healthline.com)
- How To Start (And Stick With) An Empowering Mantra Meditation Practice (n.d., mindbodygreen.com)
- Mantra Meditation (n.d., yogapedia.com)
- Mantra Meditation – The Benefits and the Methods (n.d., liveanddare.com)
- Mantras Meditation: The Most Comprehensive Guide List Of Mantras For Meditation (2019, blog.mindvalley.com)
- Non-trauma-focused meditation versus exposure therapy in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder: a randomised controlled trial (2018, thelancet.com)
- The Science Behind Finding Your Mantra and How to Practice It Daily (2018, yogajournal.com)
- What Is Mantra Meditation? (n.d., mindworks.org)