Mantra’s and Chanting in Meditation

Mantras are words or phrases that are chanted during meditation. When we look at the historical background behind chanting and mantras, it's believed that they pre-date the Buddhist faith, probably by a few hundred years, and were used to attempt to influence or even control the Gods. These days, mantras do not necessarily need to be aligned with a religion or God, but can be focused on objects, feelings, desires, people or power words. Words are powerful. It's thought that muttering or humming certain words can influence the internal and external world.

Chants of loving kindness, such as Sabbe Satta Sukhi Hontu, and chants that highlight protection and blessing are very common across the board. Every person has a unique reason for meditating, from wanting to cure illness to attaining enlightenment. So the first step to finding the right mantra or chant is to figure out why you are meditating in the first place and what you want to dedicate this meditation to. Setting an intention is the best place to start.

So how do mantras work? It is thought that the repetition of mantras can help the mind disconnect from any intrusive thoughts that can arise during meditation. One goal of chanting mantras is to experience their subtle vibrations. This sensation can bring about positive thoughts and a deeper meditation. Each mantra or chant has different vibration, so it's ideal to find one that works for you.

There are many different mantras to choose from, but the following four are examples of popular choices.

Om or aum
This is one of the most basic and powerful mantras. As it is universal, it will create powerful, positive vibrations within the lower abdomen. It can be combined with the mantra “Shanti,” which means ‘peace’. This chant can be repeated throughout the entire meditation. ‘Om’ is thought to be the first sound of the universe.

Maha
This mantra, which is also referred to as the Hare Krishna mantra, aims to achieve salvation and peace of mind. It’s words are,  “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu
This mantra of compassion translates as “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”. This mantra shouldn't be spoken more than six times

Om namah shivaya
This mantra is a cosmic reminder that every person owns their own divinity and confidence. It means “I bow to Shiva, the supreme deity of transformation who represents the truest, highest self.”

If you prefer, you can use a piece of text from any preferred religion to chant instead. Any verse from the holy texts like the Bible or Quran can be considered powerful enough to have profound effect on the subject. Alternatively, non-religious affirmations or combinations of inspiring words can be used by those who prefer to customize their own sound. If you want to improve your self esteem or confidence you could try repeating short simple sentences such as ‘I am important, my voice has value’.

Some people like to use ‘prayer hands’ where the fingertips touch lightly, where as others prefer a simple meditative pose or even a less formal, lying down position.

Make sure the place you practice your mantra meditation is undisturbed and allows for tranquil concentration and trust.

Allow your body and mind to flow with the words and sounds, focusing on the vibration and ‘feeling’ of the words. It may feel a bit embarrassing at first, which is why chanting in groups for beginners with a guider or instructor may be the best way to begin.

When you feel like finishing the chanting or mantra, move into a silent meditation and allow for the body to quieten and accept the peace that has been created. This can continue for several minutes before slowly pulling yourself out of the pose and opening your eyes.

There are many different health benefits to this sort of meditation. It can help lower blood pressure and heart rate, decrease depression and anxious thoughts, and enhance general wellbeing and happiness.

If you are a member of a meditation group or have a friend with similar interests, discuss using singing bowls or gongs to enhance this type of meditation. Sound vibrations and frequencies can have a strong influence over our bodies, and provide a vast tapestry of benefits.