Mantra has two root words, ma and tra. Ma, meaning to measure, is also the word used for "mind”, manas. Tra means “protection”. Together they mean “protection from our own minds.”
Many of us feel like our minds are too busy to mediate, even that we’ll never be any good at it. The truth is that all our minds are all super busy, and like all of us, if they do not feel they are being paid attention to, they will simply talk louder. We promise that as you cultivate a more curious and affectionate relationship with the mechanism of your mind, this very useful part of you will take it’s proper place and settle down. But what to do in the meantime?
Mantra gives the mind something tangible to hook into and do. The busy act of audibly chanting a sound or phrase can effectively occupy the doer inside each of us. Committing to a certain number of chants, somewhere between 3 and 108, will often move you off the thought train that has you in its grip and into something more spacious and relaxing.
The usual suggestion is that we play with mantra in three stages. First we chant the mantra out loud, even loudly! If the mind is yelling, sometimes it can feel good to yell back! You will naturally be guided to move into the second stage, reducing your volume and bringing it all the way down into a gentle whisper, as if you were cooing to a newborn. In the third stage you will draw the mantra inward and simply chant it from within your mind. If you are lucky, your heart will pick up the tune and you will hear it from within. When we know these chants by heart, our heart will offer them as an alternative to the usual mental loops.
We are lucky enough to have a show called Mantra with the ever ebullient Anuradha Choudry. Her simple sounds are a great way to get started. If you really get into it, you might even make your way over to the Mother Tongue Show, and practice your sanskrit sounding, which is literally mind blowing.
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