We are all helplessly distracted by the innumerable things happening around us, and in today’s day and age there are more ways to be distracted than ever before.
Thus the need to regain our minds and free ourselves from the stress and anxiety caused by the innumerable distractions in and around us becomes a worth subject to explore. Whether it’s by some healthy habit, soothing hobby, relaxation technique or a method of meditation, we all need to center ourselves now and then.
One effective way to alleviate the oversaturated mind of modern man is to employ a concentration practice of some sort, and in this article we’ll do just that, namely how to use mantras to relax and calm the mind.
What are mantras?
Mantras are often regarded as a meditation technique, though this in some ways isn’t entirely accurate. Because the term meditation has come to encompass so many things, mantras are often included. If you look at the Sanskrit root of the word mantra, man-, which means “to think”, the first distinction between mantras and meditation becomes obvious. In its essence and its goal, meditation is about the cultivation of conscious awareness of existence as it is, one totality, while mantras on the other hand, as most people regard them today at least, are mental tools to help achieve certain desired outcomes, whether mental, emotional or physical.
Having said that, there is no universal definition of what a mantra is, mainly because they’ve been used in so many different religious traditions around the world for thousands of years. According to Frits Staal, a renowned Dutch scholar of Ancient Indian history, mantras may be older than language itself.
Mantras may be older than language itself.
In Hinduism and Buddhism, mantras are seen as a word or sound that is believed to have a certain spiritual power behind it. For example, Om, the source of all mantras according to Hindu tradition, is considered to signify the creation of the universe, the divine self Atman and ultimate godhead Brahman. It is mainly from this perspective that we’ll be using today to achieve relief from stress and anxiety. More specifically, “mantra japa” which refers to the practice of repetitively uttering one and the same mantra a certain amount of times to achieve a desired mental state.
How to practice mantras
Mantras, even after a single session, can help you alleviate stress and anxiety. Here’s how you do it.
- Find somewhere quiet and comfortable. A dark and cool room with a meditation cushion in your home would be ideal.
- Choose a mantra that suits your current needs and wants the most. The mantra can be anything really, the seven suggestions you’ll be exposed to in just a moment can hopefully help you decide which is for you.
- Close your eyes and repeat the mantra, either in your mind or audibly with sound. Depending on where you are, you might choose to silently recite the mantra in the privacy of your own mind or by producing the sounds with your mouth.
- Continue repeating until you reach a certain number of times or minutes. You can also use a spiritual tool like mala beads which are especially great for mantras.
- Practice once or twice a day. Don’t overdo it though. Its easy to get attached to a habit, substance or a specific practice. The cultivation of conscious awareness of yourself and existence, i.e. genuine meditaion, is far more valuable than making a routine of merely repeating words and sounds.
With no further a due, here are seven mantras effective for alleviating stress, anxiety or any other type psychological distress you might be experiencing.
- Powerful mantra which brings bodily, mental and most of all spiritual tranquility through auspicious and sacred vibrations.
The first and mother of all mantras, Om, sometimes recited as Aum, is perhaps the simplest and most effective mantra of bringing about deep serenity in the body and the mind. The Vedic poets and seers of ancient times experimented with many different sounds to find which were most effective in their reverberation and effect. Om came out on top. When you repeat Om, internally in your mind or even better audibly with sound, you make use of all the muscles in the throat, from way back to the edge of your lips.
I am at peace
- Calming mantra that brings about peace and harmony in the mind.
Being at peace with yourself and life in general is the antidote of all kinds of stress, anxiety and psychological suffering. It’s easier said than done however, so let’s for now take the easy way. Say “I am at peace” and believe each word that you’re uttering. The power of belief and attention combined can do wonders for your stress and anxiety levels. In a way practicing mantras is a way of reprogramming yourself, that is to undo those habits and things that has previously caused stress and anxiety in you so many times before.
All is well
- Healing mantra that promotes and inspires overall wellbeing.
When you’re stressed or anxious, the body is intuitively telling you that something is wrong and that you need to change it. Sometimes the body is right, something has to be changed, but for many of us, our bodies and minds are disconnected. The one does not follow the others lead. What the conditioned mind considers to be dangerous, though in reality isn’t, nevertheless sends signals to the body in which the body reacts accordingly. Saying “All is well” quietly in your mind is a way to counteract redundant and unnecessary attacks of stress and anxiety.
This too shall pass
- Liberating mantra that frees and detaches you from that which is not beneficial for you.
One of the main tenets of Buddhism, is that everything is a process or that everything is in a constant state of change. Understanding this essential aspect of reality and life as we know it is a powerful way of reprioritizing and of distinguishing what is important and what is not. More often than not, the things in our lives that cause us stress and anxiety are just negative habits we’ve adopted along the years. This mantra is especially effective if you’re looking for a release from those bad habits and ways of thinking.
- Harmonizing mantra that puts your mind and thoughts in the right place.
Gratitude is powerful and is a big part of most if not all religious traditions of the world. The benefits of gratitude are many, some of which are now also getting backed by science. Saying “Thank you” earnestly is enough to start feeling the benefits. The thank you doesn’t have to be directed to someone or something in particular, though it most often is. You can be thankful about anything really, the sun, the water you drink each day, the helpful act of a friend, family-member or a stranger, the fact that you’re breathing. The list is endless, because life is so rich.
Life is miraculous
- Empowering mantra that compels you to see the wonder and beauty of life, however mundane it may initially seem.
Truly, life is miraculous no matter how you look at it. Whether from a materialistic paradigm or from a spiritual perspective, both are equally miraculous. The fact that we’re conscious beings that are capable of experiencing such vast variety and complexity should sometimes be enough to shut your monkey mind up. To recognize this timeless quality of life and existence itself, is an excellent way of uplifting yourself from the dark depths of the capricious psychological mind.
Om Mani Padme Hum
- Spiritual mantra that purifies and elevates the practitioner to higher states of mind.
We began this list with the sacred Sanskrit syllable Om and we’re going to end it in the same note, though in an extended and Buddhist take. Om Mani Padme Hum is one of the most pervasive mantras in Buddhism, especially in the Tibetan tradition. Some view this mantra as containing the core of the Buddhist teachings. The six syllables that make up the mantra help those who use it to develop their capacity for generosity, morality, tolerance, patience, perseverance, concentration and wisdom – the six virtues that will lead to the purification, the end of karma and, when mastered perfectly, to spiritual enlightenment.
By reciting and repeating mantras, you’re allowing yourself to reach a desired state of mind and being. Whether you choose to employ mantras that are deeply meaningful like these mentioned above or mostly meaningless mantras that you make up yourself and that are vehicles of healing sound only, both can nevertheless be quite effective for achieving and attaining what you desire deeply in your life.
Daniel Seeker is a wandering dervish and lifelong student of the past, present and future. He realized deep relaxations of the psyche when meditating in his hermit cave on the island of Gotland. His writings are mostly a reflection of that realizaton. Daniel currently studies history and philosophy at Uppsala Universitet, as he is currently writing his B.A. thesis in history which explores how Buddhist, Yogic and Hindu texts were first properly translated and introduced to the western world in the late 18th and 19th century.