I recently went for a meditation retreat, and rediscovered the effectiveness of mantras.
A mantra is basically a phrase or combination of sounds, which one repeats mentally. It’s very useful for walking or breath meditation, and is especially useful when one is mentally distracted, say, due to emotional turmoil or the usual daily frazzledness. I understand that Transcendental Meditation focuses on using the mantra “Om”, and some Tibetan traditions use “Om Mani Padme Hum”. But personally, I find that such mantras don’t really work for me, because I don’t really speak Sanskrit.
For me, what works are short phrases in English with a clear meaning which help still the mind. A few that seem to work for me are below:
- “Let. Go.”
- “Good. Enough.”
- “I will die. That’s for sure.” (This is taken from my teacher Ajahn Brahm)
You can try and experiment to find what works for you. Notice that each mantra has two halves: this is intentional, so that one can synchronize the first half of the mantra with the in-breath, and the second part with the out-breath. Or you could synchronize the first half with the left foot when walking, and the second half with the right foot.
One might feel a bit silly at the start, but as it progresses, it is interesting how the mantra actually serves as an instruction to the mind, and plants the seeds for eventual stillness. Possibly because it’s even true.
“I will die…. That’s for sure… I will die…. That’s for sure….”
When the mind gets to a level of stillness, feel free to let the mantra go and just focus on the meditation object. A good indicator is that you feel that there are too many things going on, and that you are getting distracted between the mantra and the meditation object: then gently just shift your attention to the meditation object.
“Good…..enough…… Good ….. Enough…..”
And no matter what you’re experiencing at that point in time, it’s good enough. Enjoy! 🙂