Mantras, Words to Live By

Mantras are often referred to as the words by which we live. Here, I’ll discuss the significance of mantras and how it can help you, suggest useful mantras, and provide some guidance on creating your own mantra.

Like other mindfulness practices and philosophies, mantras have been adopted and adapted by “Western” culture from its ancient Asian origin. They are sounds, words or phrases that can have powerful effects on us. You could say a word in Sanskrit, (a no longer spoken language but you might recognize its use from your yoga class—namaste, savasana) and notice its particular sound has vibrational effects on the body. Have you ever felt some relief after swearing? It’s temporary because the meaning and intention behind it can affect your mind and emotions, but there is something about the sound that is satisfying. If you’ve ever tried to replace your swears with an almost-word, maybe you’ve found that “Fudge!” just doesn’t feel right. Sounds of words paired with the intention, and for some knowing its meaning helps guide intention, manifest in our bodies, can affect our moods and disposition, and can even guide us towards living the life we want. If you could replace a negative thought with your mantra, it could be a big step towards changing your perspective. When choosing a mantra, I highly suggest you break free from the over-used catchphrases such as “what goes around, comes around,” “it is what it is,” and “YOLO.” Sure, they serve a purpose, but you get to choose from all of the words from thousands of languages, so I promise you can do better. 

Om is a universal sound from Sanskrit. It is associated with oneness and considered the most original and simple mantra. A variation of Om is Om Shanti Shanti Shanti. I’ve heard and seen this intended as a blessing. It is peace in body, spoken, and in mind. You may think of mantras as a prayer or as a tool for meditation. Chanting them is a way to set your focus. A practice of Kundalini Yoga is sitting with your spine straight, and pulling your bellybutton in, kind of like a gasp, on “Sat” and relaxing on “Naam.” It’s a quick breath that is said to release the coiled snake of energy that is within you. Sat Naam is about truth; the essence of your being is true. You could also use the phrase “Let Go.”

A Resource: Deva Primal and Miten are musicians who use mantras they have learned from their teacher in an ashram in India. I highly suggest their work and music. They are very passionate, talented, and kind. I had the honor of seeing them perform in Peru and conversed with them for one of my former projects. They have a recorded 21 day video challenge (accessible and free) where each day for 15 minutes you can learn and try mantras. Otherwise, you can listen along to their music (they were recently Grammy-nominated).

Mantra Assembly and Use:

Choosing your mantra is about choosing a sound, word, or phrase that caters to what you need. For some people, its purpose builds self-esteem like “I am enough.” For others, it’s goal-setting and motivation. Have fun with it, and paste it around your living space. They can be reminders like “My words affect my wellbeing.” If you choose to make it something you see, it can be an image that means something to you with a word that brings that image to mind.

Mantras can be used as intentions to start and end your day like “Today I will shine my light,” “I give thanks,” or “I choose to see the beauty life has to offer.” When creating your mantra, utilize other languages. Look how well “Hakuna Matata” works! I’m learning Spanish, so I could use “Siento amor” for “I feel love.” Sometimes languages have words for things that others don’t or use completely different sounds.  

When creating your mantra, try to avoid negative meaning words even if you have a positive intention. I’ve learned the universe does not know “no,” so “I will not get the flu” directs emphasis on the flu. Instead choose, “I will be healthy and take care of myself” because the emphasis is on health and care. 

Mantras are meant to raise our frequency and help us feel better, but they are not to be confused with excuses or invalidating pain. If your mantra is “everything happens for a reason” (add that to my over-used list, you can do better), saying this to someone or to yourself when faced with some kind of tragedy can be belittling towards the pain, guilt-invoking, and ultimately unhelpful. While it’s helpful be positive and try to change your perspective, the magic of mantras comes from honoring growth. Sometimes mantras will get you through challenges, other times you’ll get mantras from having gone through challenges. They needn’t be imposed.

Remember repetition! The real transformations happen when mantras are repeated. They are also allowed to be private. Having a mantra is having something that is uniquely yours, and you may feel it’s highly personal. However, they can be shared, even if it feels like someone else has on your perfume scent, and I encourage you to do so! 

Feel free to share your mantras in the comments below, and to share this page!

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