How to Use Mantras to Help Focus Your Mind
There are times in all of our lives we could use some extra tools to help our minds focus, be still, or just be a little quieter. Mantras can be a powerful tool for this, either on their own or coupled with meditation.
A mantra is a sacred word, phrase, or sound that brings you a sense of peace, presence, or power. People have used traditional mantras chanted in Sanskrit, the ancient language of yoga, for over 3,000 years!
The simplest mantra out there is ॐ (Om). This is known as a "seed" mantra and doesn't have a direct meaning. Rather, it's a vibrational tone that is said to resemble the tone that began the whole universe. Om is considered such a powerful mantra that Patanjali (author of the Yoga Sutra) suggested that chanting Om is all one has to do to achieve a goal.
In Western yoga, the definition of mantra has become more wide-reaching. In many yoga classes, your instructor might invite you to adopt a mantra or intention for class. This is really any word or phrase you feel that you need at that moment. For example, repeating to yourself "I am enough." is an incredibly potent way to prepare for a job interview or to get through a troubling time in your life.
How Mantras Help Us Focus
One of the 8 limbs of yoga is Dharana, or concentration. While there are many, many ways we can teach our minds to concentrate on a singular focal point, mantras are extremely effective.
To your brain, a mantra is like bumpers for a wild bowling ball. Whatever word, phrase, or sound you choose to put your focus on creates a clear path for your mind to follow. Keep your mind focused on repeating the same mantra several times (bonus points if you repeat your mantra with breathwork!) and you will notice a sense of calm wash over your mind and body.
The super cool thing about mantras is that they could be used for anything you've got going on in your life. Asking for a promotion? Try "I am worthy." Can't fall asleep? Try "I am ready for rest." Feeling anxious? Try "My mind and body are at peace." Say you're having trouble meditating. Try "I am focused." Get creative with your mantras... they can really be anything you need!
5 Mantras to Try
Try the mantras in this list when you need a little concentration boost. Because mantras originated in Sanskrit, the following list is a mix of English and Sanskrit with pronunciation.
Of course, we must start with arguably the most common of all mantras. Chant "Om" to yourself either out loud or in your head to help you focus and bring a sense of direction to your mind.
It is said that Om can help you find your true self or answers you've been seeking. This mantra can also help you find an appreciation for all beings and a sense of compassion towards them. In a way, Om is a catch-all. When you aren't sure how you're feeling or what you need, try chanting "Om" and see what you can unlock.
2. I am good and kind.
This is a great mantra to use when you wake up on the "wrong" side of the bed. Repeating this mantra to yourself is a powerful way to bring your mind into a more generous mind-state and prepare you for whatever your day may bring.
Another powerful way to use this mantra is as a mental spacer during a disagreement with a loved one. Take a step back from the heat of the argument and take a few moments to repeat this mantra to yourself as you take a few deep breaths. You'll likely find that you can return to the discussion more level-headed and ready to find a solution.
3. What I seek is seeking me.
Use this mantra whenever you need a reminder to remain calm and let the universe take over for a little bit. This mantra offers a great reminder that the energy you put out into the world comes back to you and that focusing on what you desire is a great way to make your goals happen.
We don't need to go 110% all the time. It's important to let our minds and bodies rest and recover. Focusing your mind on a few rounds of this mantra is a good way to help your mind rest and sit back for a moment.
4. I create my reality.
If you feel like you're caught in a whirlwind of activity or that you're out of control of your own life, turn to this mantra. We can sometimes forget that we hold all the power to create or change our world around us and that we have the right to do so.
When you need a little pick-me-up or a reminder of just who exactly you are, try this mantra.
5. Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
Low-kah Sah-moss-tah Soo-key-no Buh-vahn-too
I saved this mantra for last because it is my absolute favorite. It translates to "May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all." Talk about a powerful mantra!
I love this mantra for what it means, but also because it easily lends itself to a beautiful, sing-song chant. It's so easy to get stuck in your head! This is a great mantra to practice every day to encourage more compassion and empathy in your life. It's a wonderful reminder that, at our cores, all beings crave safety, happiness, and freedom from suffering. It also reminds us that we must take responsibility for our actions and how our actions impact the planet, people, and animals around us.
Mantras and Malas
One last note about using mantras as a tool in your meditation practice. Mantras are especially effective for meditation and focus when you choose to use a mala. A mala is, traditionally, a string of 108 beads and 1 "guru bead." Similar to a Catholic rosary, you hold the mala in one hand and slide each bead over your thumb as you repeat your mantra.
The physicality of the mala combined with the focus of the mantra helps to create exceptional focus and a powerful meditation experience.
Do you have a favorite mantra? We would love to know what it is!