It is a wideheld misconception that meditation is a solely Eastern practice. However here in the West the meditative tradition has been strong in both the Russian and Greek Orthodox churches. The meditation technique most widely employed is the repetition of the Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner). This repetition of sounds/words or phrases is known as a mantra meditation.
Meditation is not about emptying the mind – it is about stilling the mind. The mind, left to it’s own devices will hop from thought to thought, like a grasshopper flitting from one blade of grass to another. Meditation techniques give the mind a focus to prevent this grasshopper movement and encourage stillness. The “simplest” meditation in the Buddhist tradition encourages focussing on the breath as a means of giving the mind a focus. Mantra Meditation uses sound, expressed through speech, song, chants or in the mind itself without using the voice, to affect the same stillness.
Eastern traditions hold that all things are composed of vibrations akin to sounds and the universe itself is said to have been created from the primal sound OM. In western tradition we are told that in the beginning was the WORD. So sounds are very important and these vibrations are believed to be particularly strong in the sequences that form mantras.
There are two approaches; Sounds or Words/Phrases. That is a mantra may be a string of sounds with no meaning or words/phrases taken from sacred texts. When being instructed in chanting as part of yoga training students learn the soumds of the chant long before they are taught the meaning of the words they chant. You should choose something that you feel comfortable with; for example the Buddhist So-ha or the Hebrew Shalom. A friend of mine uses this phrase of her own construction, “Let me be free, Let me be happy. Let me find peace.”
Here are a couple that you may consider:
This chant is from the Buddhist tradition. The words mean:
Buddham Saranam Gacchami. I go for refuge in the Buddha.
Dhammam Saranam Gacchami. I go for refuge in the Dharma.
Sangham Saranam Gacchami. I go for refuge in the Sangha.
The words may or may not have resonance for you personally but the sounds themselves can provide a focus for a mantra meditation.
Again from the Buddhist tradition Om Mani Padme Hum means “Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus”. Once again the translation may or may not convey meaning but the repetition of the sounds provides focus for the meditation
Simplest of all, perhaps, is the simple sound Om, pronounced in three syllables a-u-m.
* Select a quiet moment in your day
* Sit comfortably and close your eyes
* Pronounce the first sound arr
* Pronounce the second sound ooo
* Pronounce the third sound mmm
* Allow each sound to vibrate through the body
* Repeat on each long out breath.
Mantras, in order to get the benefits of feeling the vibration of sounds through the body are best vocalised. As a means to providing a still moment during the day they can be repeated silently in the mind.
Next time you have a challenging situation rather than counting to 10, try silently repeating your chosen mantra!