Saturday, July 14, 2012
Do you have days when the talking heads in your mind seem to overwhelm you? You know that little voice that says...oohh he's hot, or do these pants make me look fat, or any number of other wanted and unwanted thoughts that can tire you out and make you wish for a moments peace... from yourself? I know I have and mantra is one of the easiest ways to quiet the mind and it is flexible as well.
The simplest mantra of all is to count your breath. Just sit comfortably, or lie down, lightly touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth (this helps manage the amount of saliva you produce) and as you breath in and out count to 20 (or 10) on the out breath. Do this about 5 times and you will find about 10 minutes has passed...Congratulations you just meditated using a mantra!
Counting is easy because we already know how to do it. I often use this method when I can't quiet the talking heads enough to follow my breath. I am not trying to stop my thoughts, I am giving myself a stronger focal point to concentrate on, a concrete thought rather than something we normally pay little attention to. When I notice I am thinking, I just go back to number 1 and start again. I also have times when the counting slips away and there is silence or just my breath as well. This is the stillness that is the fruit of practicing meditation.
There are potentially as many mantras to choose from as there are words or even nonsense words and there are quite a few that are well established from various religions. Most established mantras are sacred words and some have specific actions such as to cultivate compassion or for healing. You have probably heard some of them: AUM or OM a very old Sanskrit mantra (popular with the hippies of the 60's), Om mani padme hum- a Tibetan mantra, or Om namah shivaya which was prominent in the book "Eat Pray Love".
I first learned to meditate by going to the Transcendental Meditation Center near my home. I was taken to a small booth with a chair and dim lights. The TM instructor told me a word, a mantra chosen for me based on my answers to a questionnaire completed earlier. I was told to close my eyes and repeat the word silently to myself and that I should do this for 20 minutes at which time they would let me know to stop and I should slowly open my eyes and allow myself to "awaken", although I had not been asleep. This is the general format most sitting meditation takes with only the specific method and time allotment as variables.
I later found out that the mantra they had given me was based on a Hindu Goddess. At the time I thought nothing of the religious implication of the mantra, but as time has passed I realized that I did not want to "pray" to a God or Goddess I really do not believe in. I was not interested in repeating long motto type mantras such as "be the change you want to see in the world" Gandhi, either... too complicated. So I experimented with positive words like peace, love abundance, bee, happy and others, but most had too many implications, giving the talking heads more fuel for the fire ( so not what I was after). Then I tried nonsense words... I strung a couple of sounds together...hmmm better. Eventually I just turned back to counting when I wanted to use mantra.
The beauty and flexibility of mantras is what makes them an ideal and easy way to quiet our minds, creating a mute button for the audio of our talking heads. Do what feels natural for you. There are many web sites where you can find , Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and various other spiritual beliefs mantras, or design your own using a word or saying that resonates with you.
sit quietly and repeat your mantra
Some people use prayer beads (more on those later) to keep track of how many repetitions they have done or you can time yourself, I have used both methods. Either way, a few moments spent meditating using a mantra can be like a vacation for your mind and that will have benefits for your health and well being as well.
Up next: more about mindfulness: lets drink tea or drive the car or...?
see you soon...
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