How to Self-Soothe With Mantra Meditation

A mantra can help you stay grounded in the present

<p>Verywell Mind / Stocksy</p>

Verywell Mind / Stocksy

Reviewed by Alicia Bigelow, ND

Most of us like the idea of meditating, but the concept of actually taking some moments to pause and sit with our thoughts often seems impossible. We get it!

Part of the reason that meditating can feel undoable is that it’s so easy to start thinking about other things while you meditate—your daily to-do list, your worries and fears, or other thoughts you might ruminate on. If this is you, you might find that it can be helpful to use a mantra while you meditate.

A mantra can help quiet your mind and ground you in the present moment. Not sure what a mantra is and how to use one? We’ve got you covered. Here, we’ll go over everything you need to know about mantra meditation, its benefits, and what to do if you run into challenges.

Related: The Benefits of Meditation for Stress Management

What Exactly Is a Mantra?

Many people think of a mantra of something strange and otherworldly—something only super spiritual people understand or use. But a mantra is actually a fairly simple and straightforward concept, says Gayle Weill, LCSW, clinical social worker with expertise in Mindfulness-Based Therapy.

“There is so much mystery surrounding the word ‘mantra,’ but it just refers to any word or syllable that you repeat during a meditation session,” Weill says. “Some mantras come from specific spiritual traditions (for example, ‘om; is a common mantra that's considered a sacred syllable in Hinduism), while others are simply words that are meaningful to you as an individual.”

When you use a mantra while meditating, it can help focus your mind and lead you into a deeper meditative state, Weill describes.

There are many different types of meditation, including mindfulness meditation, meditation connected with yoga, tai chi, and qi gong, and more spiritual types of meditation. Mantra-based meditation is when you use a mantra while meditating.



Takeaway

Sometimes your mantra is said out loud and sometimes you say it silently to yourself. Whatever the case, the purpose of the mantra is to quiet the never-ending chatter that may be taking place in your mind, and keep you focused.



There are several different meditation types that use a mantra. Some of the meditation types that may employ mantra include:

Keep in mind, too, that you don’t have to be doing one of these formal types of meditation to use a mantra. Anyone can use a mantra while meditating.

How Is Mantra Meditation Practiced?

Besides being uncertain about what a mantra is exactly, many people feel unsure how you would go about practicing mantra meditation. Again, it’s pretty simple to practice mantra meditation—that’s the beauty of it.

Choosing Your Mantra

First, you need to come up with your mantra. Ashley Lorenzo, a yoga teacher based in Georgia, says that many people come up with a mantra by looking in ancient yogic texts like Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Yoga Sutras.

“Some of the most commonly used mantras, such as the Gayatri Mantra, are from the Rig Veda, the So Hum Mantra (I am That) is from the Upanishads, and Om Namah Shivaya is from the Yajur Veda,” says Lorenzo.

There are other ancient Sanskrit texts where you may be able to find a mantra that speaks to you. If you are working with a meditation teacher, they may be able to give you guidance. Sometimes, they will assign a mantra to you that feels fitting based on personality or spiritual path. But you can also come up with a mantra yourself, and it can be really anything you want it to be.

Sometimes mantras can double as self-affirmations, she says. “For example, you might use a mantra like, ‘I am calm,’ or ‘I am in the here and now,’” Weill describes. “Choosing a mantra that actually means something to you can make it easier to incorporate it into your meditation routine.”

Meditating With Your Mantra

Once you’ve chosen your mantra, it’s time to get started incorporating it into your mediation. Here’s a simple mantra meditation technique Weill recommends:

  • Find a comfy seated position

  • Inhale steadily through your nose and out your mouth

  • Bring your mantra to mind

  • Either chant out the mantra or repeat it on your mind

  • The idea is to stay focused on it throughout

  • With every exhale, repeat your mantra

And if your mind starts to dart off in a million different directions? “If you find yourself getting lost in your thoughts, that's okay,” Weill assures. “Just return to your mantra and your breath. Practice returning.”

As Lorenzo points out, meditation with a mantra can take many forms. It doesn’t just involve sitting quietly with your eyes closed. Mantra meditation “can be practiced lying down or while walking,” Lorenzo says. “Whatever form it takes, meditation with mantra is a focused and introspective practice, accompanied by calm, slow, steady, and intentional breathing.”

Related: 10 Mental Health Strategies That Have Asian Origins

Benefits of Mantra Meditation

One of the main benefits of using a mantra while meditating is that it can ground you and bring you back to the present moment.

Weill has seen this benefit up close among the clients she works with. “I use mindfulness-based interventions in my practice, and so many of my clients struggle with staying with the present moment—especially when the present moment is painful,” she says.

But it turns out that there are some other benefits of mantra-based meditation—many backed to actual research:

  • A 2022 study found strong evidence that mantra meditation can help reduce high blood pressure. There is also some convincing evidence that mantra meditation can help with reducing anxiety and boost your immune system, though more research is needed to be sure, the study researchers concluded.

  • A 2022 systematic review and meta-analysis similarly found that mantra meditation is strongly correlated in reducing high blood pressure, with reductions in both systolic (the top number on your blood pressure readings) and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number). They also conclude that there’s evidence mantra meditation can help with anxiety and can generally improve mental health and well being.

  • Finally, a small study from 2022 found that mantra-based AMI Meditation may help improve caregiver stress. In the study, a group of about 50 healthcare workers participated in mantra-based AMI meditation for between three and six months. The researchers found that this practice “significantly improved” stress associated with being a caregiver, including burnout and secondary traumatic stress. It also increased feelings of compassion.

Related: 5 Meditation Techniques to Get You Started

Challenges and Insights

Here’s the thing: if you’re experiencing challenges while embarking on a mantra meditation journey, you are far from alone. Meditation is hard for lots of us, and it’s totally normal to feel that way.

“Some challenges of using a mantra for meditation include difficulty focusing, selecting the appropriate mantra, and maintaining the rhythm of recitation,” Lorenzo says. “This is particularly common for beginners, as their minds tend to wander, and they might feel unsure or self-conscious about choosing or pronouncing a mantra, especially if it's in a language they're not familiar with.”

Her advice is to focus on the rhythm of your mantra, and try to synchronize the mantra with your best. But also? Just be easy on yourself. “It's crucial to acknowledge that these difficulties are common and part of the learning journey in mantra meditation,” Lorenzo describes.

Weill says that many people have difficulty with mantra meditations because of feeling like they don’t really relate to meditation or understand it. People often even find the whole thing a bit scary. “People become frightened that by using a mantra, they're going to go into a trance and lose themselves,” Weill says. Others worry that mantra meditation is a form of worship, and might conflict with their religion.

“But mantra can be used by anyone, and it won't make you lose your grip on reality—if anything, it'll make you feel more grounded,” Weill assures.

Related: 8 Types of Meditation to Find Your Calm

How to Begin Mantra Meditation

Okay, are you ready to get started? Lorenzo share her top tips for establishing a mantra meditation practice that will work for you:

  • Pick a mantra that resonates with you, whether that be a word, a phrase, an affirmation, or a traditional mantra from Sanskrit texts.

  • It’s totally normal for your mind to wander when you first start out; when it does, gently bring your focus back to your mantra.

  • It will be easier to concentrate in time, as you practice more.

  • Synchronize your mantra with your breath; for example, you could say the first half of your mantra while inhaling and the second half while exhaling.

  • In terms of duration, start small; even five minutes of mantra meditation is helpful.

  • It’s okay to change your mantra at any time; what matter most if that you feel comfortable.

  • Still, it’s powerful to work consistently with one particular mantra.

The Bottom Line

Whether you're just getting started with meditation or have been practicing it for quite some time, embracing the concept of a mantra can be helpful. The key is not to overthink it all (we know—easier said than done). Pick a mantra that speaks to you, and then incorporate it into your meditation routine in a way that works for you. You can do this!

Read Next: Focused Meditation: How to Start a Practice

Read the original article on Verywell Mind.