In last week’s blog post I wrote about a simple meditation technique that anyone can do. It is based on mantra meditation, or if you prefer, sacred word meditation. It’s a way of tricking the mind to quiet down by speaking your chosen sacred word out loud for a while, then saying it softer and softer until you are repeating it mentally. The hard part is actually getting yourself to sit!
In choosing your sacred word, I suggested using a mantra–an ancient phrase, usually quite short, that has a vibration that calms, focuses, and heals the mind. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Sanskrit mantras. I’d like to share some of my favorites. Usually they are preceeded with the Sanskrit word OM, which even my kindergardeners know is how you begin a meditation. If ever a conversation comes up about yoga, they immediately sit crosslegged, close their eyes, place their little hands on their knees and boldly chant OM! In the Yoga Sutras, an ancient guide to enlightenment written on palm leaves by the Sage Patanjali, it states that
OM is God’s name as well as form.
Next comes the “seed” word. For my beginning meditators, I always suggest shanti, which means peace and embodies peace as well. That’s the beauty of the Sanskrit mantras–they have the very quality that the word means.
Another of my favorite mantras is hari om. When chanted out loud, the ha comes from the belly, and ri moves the energy up toward the brain, then om sends the energy out through the top of the head. And the more you focus on what is happening with the energy, the effect is enhanced.
Another famous mantra that honors one of the great saints of the Hindu tradition, Lord Krishna, is
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama Rama Rama, Hare Hare
If Sanskrit isn’t your cup of chai, you can use any sacred word from your own tradition. Christians chant Alleluia, Buddhists repeat Om Mani Padme Hum, Jews have Shalom which I think sounds a lot like Shanti! In a lecture on meditation, Swami Satchidananda once said choose “Anything that delights the mind”. That leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
In my own meditations I might find myself repeating my mantra, but then my mind might wander over to meditating on lesson plans. Often, those lesson plans are brilliant! So don’t feel that the wandering of the mind is anything so terrible–it’s the nature of the mind to look for work to do. Every time we notice that we have fallen off the mantra, that should be seen as a victory!
Meditation is healing, in the most profound sense. These days of Covid, we all need to step up our game, for the benefit of all man/woman-kind. Start your practice today.