A mantra is a syllable or group of syllables - sound vibrations - that clear the mind of debris; much as sound vibrations clean jewelry. When first practicing, the mantra can be spoken, and as we concentrate we can begin mental repetition.
As with all meditation practices the practice itself is not the goal; the goal is a calm mind and relaxed body, so that harmonious thoughts more easily come to mind followed by their product of kind and caring actions.
Mantra meditation is easily practiced anywhere, as when repeated mentally, no one can see what we are doing. It is one method for regaining and maintaining peace during stressful times. When we are feeling stress, a few moments of mantra meditation can clear away the dust obstructing the view of a good resolution. And, upon lying down for sleep, mantra repetition can calm the mind, letting the body relax.
When our mind is calm and clear we make the best decisions for all concerned. Peace and harmony in our own life influences others' feelings of peace and harmony. Our positive and kind words and actions bless ourselves, because we feel good in the process of positive thought and action, and the recipients of our goodness benefit by our actions and examples.
I recommend that a mantra be chosen in accordance with one's own tradition, so that a feeling of comfort is most easily experienced by the beginner. If there is no religious preference than the sound vibration 'OM' is a universally recognized mantra.
If using 'OM' draw the sound out like this - oooooommmmmmmmmmm - emphasis being on the last part. To use in conjunction with breathing take an in breath, and then on the out breath repeat 'OM' remembering to draw out the ending.
My own upbringing was in the Catholic religion, and as a young child, from about the age of 9, I said the rosary every night. The repetition of the 'Hail Mary' prayer was my mantra. As an adult I was inspired by the ecumenical teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, and in a dream he gave me the mantra 'Father Reveal'. Later, upon initiation with Sri Swami Satchidananda, I was given a Sanskrit mantra having the same syllables as the mantra in my dream with Sri Yogananda.
I share this to impress that your own intuition of the word or phrase to use in mantra meditation is that with which you feel close and comfortable.
Making harmony and peace
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Article by Susan Helene Kramer