I recently scrolled past a quiz on a social-media site called “What Is Your Personal Mantra?” I paused for a moment to briefly reflect on how mainstream this ancient Sanskrit word has become—a “buzzword” really. For many in the West, the meaning of the word mantra has become synonymous with affirmation—a phrase that uplifts or inspires us to do or be our best.
There is no doubt that the power of positive thinking can have far-reaching effects on our state of mind, and I have found affirmations to be good reminders that I can handle anything life sends my way. However, I always follow up an affirmation by repeating my Sacred Mantra: My God and My All. Positive words might temporarily convince us that all is well, but there is a place inside each of us that does not require any reminding or convincing. This is our deep knowing within, our ever-present source of strength, confidence, love, compassion, and well-being. The mantra, in the ancient sense of the word, is the vehicle that connects us to this place of unwavering power. This is not another thought in the mind, but rather it is a sacred tool to connect our mind to our heart where we can fully experience this inner knowing that all is well. I call these words Sacred Mantra to differentiate between a general positive statement and a spiritual tool that leads us to this place of knowing. “Stop the flow of your words. Open the window of your heart . . . And let the spirit speak.” —Rumi A Sacred Mantra is a word, phrase, verse, or prayer with a long history of use that is hallowed or considered holy by the tradition or culture from which it originated. There are many Sanskrit mantras that have been in use for thousands of years—the sounds or vibrations of which are believed to have deeply spiritual qualities. As these sounds may feel unfamiliar or difficult for some of us to pronounce, turning to prayer words or sacred verses from whatever traditions we relate to can serve the same purpose.
Choosing a Sacred Mantra is an intimately personal experience, because the traditional concept is that you will use it to support you for the rest of your life. As convenient as it might be, you will not find your personal mantra by taking a quiz! You will, however, find one that has deep meaning by making a mindful choice among sacred words, verses, or prayers that resonate with you and make you feel connected within. Gandhi referred to his mantra, Rama, as his “Staff of Life.”
When we use our Sacred Mantra, we are calling upon the strength of all the great saints, masters, and traditions for support, spiritual well-being, and deep connection. It truly is a comforting staff that helps us traverse the rocky terrain of life. I often refer to my Sacred Mantra as my sacred friend—this is the kind of friend you can lean on for support when times are tough but also celebrate with when everything is running smoothly. While my meditation practice has greatly enhanced my life these past thirty years, the support my Sacred Mantra brings to me throughout my days is unparalleled. If I have a worrisome, fearful, or stressful thought running through my mind, I repeat my Sacred Mantra a few times to access the space between those thoughts and reconnect with my source, and I immediately feel more at ease.
The transformation is instantaneous.
My Sacred Mantra provides me with a feeling of renewed strength, and I am able to deal directly with whatever is causing my stress, practically and mindfully. I often say, “If worrying worked, let’s keep doing it!” We know worrying doesn’t make things better but actually worse. The Sacred Mantra provides clarity of thought, allowing room for the next right action. Sacred Mantra repetition does not replace meditation. Instead, it supports a consistent practice by allowing us to immediately access the sense of calm we tap into during our meditation practice. I find that, although more and more people are beginning a practice of meditation as a way to find calm and deal with the stress of the outside world, the Sacred Mantra is often overlooked as an adjunct to meditation.
The beauty of the Sacred Mantra is that, unlike our meditation cushion, we can take this tool with us wherever we go and use it with every circumstance and situation we encounter throughout the day—in business meetings, while shopping, when interacting with others, if we are sitting in traffic, and during our ordinary tasks. With the Sacred Mantra, we always have a way to return to the present moment to fully connect to what is going on right in front of us. This is truly being mindful, something we all strive to be today.
When we connect to our source within, this state of being—mindfulness—is a natural by product. Barb Schmidt is author of THE PRACTICE: Simple Tools for Managing Stress, Finding Inner Peace, and Uncovering Happiness, published by Souvenir Press, £10