A friend and I were talking about yoga and meditation, and he asked me, “What is mantra?” I realized I didn’t have a good answer for him. I knew that mantra is a Sanskrit phrase chanted over and over again, but also that it’s much more complex than that. I did some internet research and reached out to a few Yoga Tree teachers to help me get a better grasp on what mantra is exactly, and how to use it.
The word mantra means “a tool of thought” in Sanskrit. Yoga has several of these tools: Mantra (sounds that you use in meditation); yantra (visual or imagery tools), pranayama (breath) and mudra (hand gestures and movements).
Mantra is most commonly used to still the chatter of the mind during meditation. A friend of mine who is in Kundalini teacher says that for her mantra helps as a tool for calming the mind. For some it can be more effective to bring the mind into a state of stillness than solely focusing attention on the breath: “when you’re chanting something it’s a deeper way of bringing you back.”
Lorin Roche, Ph.D. says, “Mantras, as in the sounds we listen to in meditation, vibrate our subtle structures. As we fall in love with the sounds of the mantras something in us vibrates in resonance. Mantras are usually some variation on a hum. Think of the sounds you make when you are in pleasure or delight: ohhhh, or mmmmmm, or Ahhhh. These are the sounds we make spontaneously when we are in pleasure or awe. Something in us vibrates in resonance with that delight. Ahhhhmen. Amen.”
However, there is a deeper layer of mantra, which I find really interesting. Because it is a sound, mantra is a vibration. So when you chant it, you are vibrating with the frequency of that mantra. Each mantra has a unique quality to it, and when you work with it over time, it begins to change you.
“Every element of the universe is in a constant state of vibration manifested to us as light, sound, and energy… A person can tune his or her own consciousness into the awareness of that totality with the use of a mantra. By vibrating in rhythm with the breath to a particular sound that is proportional to the creative sound, or sound current, one can expand one’s sensitivity to the entire spectrum of vibration. It is similar to striking a note on a stringed instrument.” – Yogi Bhajan
“As you vibrate, the universe vibrates with you.” – Yogi Bhajan
Therefore, the ultimate goal of chanting mantra is to achieve a higher state of being. When you chant a mantra, you are consciously choosing to change your vibration – to invoke the power contained in those sounds and set. Ultimately you can stop using the tool of mantra – chanting audibly – and reach a state in which you vibrate the mantra without conscious effort; you are themantra.
Katie Silcox, who teaches workshops at Yoga Tree, and recently wrote Healthy Happy Sexy: Ayurveda Wisdom for Modern Women, says, “Mantras are vibrational medicines that subtly rewire the brain. Their resonances begin to take root deep with the subconscious. Then a mantra can ‘live’ in us and evoke the promised qualities of the deity.”
Stay tuned as I’ll be writing more on the topic of mantras soon.
Martine Holston believes the world needs visionaries – they propel our evolution. As a Vision Cartographer (and consultant to visionaries), she’s been featured on The Daily Love, Tiny Buddha, Mind Body Green, Live in the Grey, and Brazen Careerist.
When she’s not creating strategy maps for visionaries, Martine is zipping up and down the California coast running through vineyards, hiking through forests, and doing yoga on the beach.
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