Mantra meditation occupies your mind, stopping your normal train of thought and clearing your mind. For the purposes of this article, I reviewed the history of mantra meditation and also tried it myself using a free app, so I could compare it against my experience with other forms of meditation.
Mantra meditation is a form of meditation in which the person meditating repeats a mantra, and uses it as the object of their attention.
A mantra in the case of mantra meditation is simply a couple of syllables that you repeat silently in your mind while you meditate.
While mantra meditation is sometimes seen as a more spiritual-leaning form of meditation, it doesn’t have to be. The practical function of a mantra is to give your mind something to concentrate on.
By anchoring your mind in a mantra, you may find that your mind has something more concrete to come back to as it inevitably wanders in the course of meditation.
What is mantra meditation?
Historically, mantras were phrases from sacred texts and contain specific sounds intended to induce different states of consciousness when repeated aloud.
As described by Psychology Today:
“Mantra is essentially the rhythmic repetition of words, phrases, or syllables. Because it occupies your mind to chant or sing the sounds, it stops your normal train of thought and clears your mind.”
A popular form of mantra meditation is Transcendental Meditation, well-known in the west and practiced by celebrities like Jerry Seinfeld, Clint Eastwood and Oprah Winfrey.
While mantra meditation practices like Transcendental Meditation require you to go through a certified trainer in order to learn the technique and receive a mantra for your practice, there are other forms of mantra meditation that assign no meaning to the mantra and simply use it as a tool for the mind practice staying in the present.
Mantra meditation benefits
Meditation has been extensively studied and shown to provide a wide range of benefits, and mantra meditation is no different.
Transcendental Meditation, in particular, has seen a number of studies show benefits, including:
- Less anxiety
- Less depression
- Less stress
- Better sleep
- Reduction in trauma symptoms
The benefits of mantra meditation are similar to the extensive benefits shown by other forms of meditation.
How to do mantra meditation
A free app that uses a form of mantra meditation is 1 Giant Mind. I’ll share more on my experience with their method in the next section.
Here’s a quick summary of how you can do mantra meditation:
- Choose a mantra – In the meditation training put together by 1 Giant Mind, the mantra used is “ah-hum.” This mantra isn’t intended to have a secret meaning. Instead, it’s a way to focus the mind.
- Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes – It’s best to sit with your spine straight, but you can also sit in a cross-legged position or on a cushion if that’s more comfortable for you.
- Gently focus on the mantra – Bring the mantra to mind and let it repeat itself in your mind, easily, without forcing it. This will help to quiet the mind and create a sense of focus. (Note that you’re repeating the mantra in your mind, not out loud.)
- Don’t resist thoughts – Let thoughts arise without resisting.
- As you get distracted, effortlessly come back to the mantra – As thoughts arise, effortlessly come back to the mantra.
My experience with the free app 1 Giant Mind
Not long ago, I hit a bit of a rut in my mindfulness meditation practice.
Despite years of on-again-off-again practice, was feeling a bit like a total beginner: my mind was racing everywhere. I’d often get to the end of a 15-minute or 30-minute meditation session and feel as though I’d been lost in thought most of the time.
So, I wanted to mix it up by trying another meditation style. I’d heard of mantra meditation, but it sounded a little too formal and pseudo-religious, like the parts of my 10-day Vipassana retreat that made me most uncomfortable.
However, I read that the mantra is simply a tool to focus the attention and doesn’t need to have meaning. So I downloaded the free app 1 Giant Mind for the purpose of exploring mantra meditation. (You can see their “12 Step Learn to Meditate” course here.)
My thought process was something like this: “If my mind is crowded with thoughts anyway, why not see if I can take back that space with a mantra?”
And you know what? It worked.
With the mantra, I found that my attention had something concrete to hang onto. I finished the 15-minute session feeling like I had been better able to make use of it to train my mind, rather than being lost in thought the whole time.
Part of this may simply be the novelty of trying a new meditation technique. It’s harder for your mind to go on autopilot and carry you away when you’re forced to focus something’s new to you.
But either way, I’m curious to experiment more with mantra meditation.
Mantra meditation, like other forms of meditation, has been extensively studied and shown great health and wellness benefits.
While some forms of mantra meditation feel formal and religious, others are merely secular meditation techniques like mindfulness meditation.
If you already have a meditation practice, consider adding mantra meditation into the mix. At the very least, you’ll shake up your routine.
And at best, you may even find that this is the form of meditation that “clicks” best with your mind and personal preferences.
Frequently asked questions
How does mantra meditation work?
Mantra meditation helps to focus the mind by providing a simple task to concentrate on. This can be done by repeating a mantra in your head.
The mantra doesn’t need to have any significance. It’s simply a way to focus and calm the mind. As with all meditation techniques, thoughts will still arise during mantra meditation, but instead of resisting these thoughts, simply let them come and go without judgment.
What is a good meditation mantra?
The specific mantra that you use for mantra meditation doesn’t matter. There are no magic words.
However, if you’re curious how to get started, the mantra “ah-hum” is recommended by the free mantra meditation app 1 Giant Mind.
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Hi there—my name is Ryan. My mindfulness practice kicked off in 2016 after I joined a ten-day silent retreat. I started Mindfulness Box because thinking about what makes humans happy, calm, and peaceful is endlessly fascinating to me.