As an Integrative doctor who considers the mind-body connection, this sets me apart from most conventional doctors. Science tells us that your thoughts send neurotransmitters, or signals to hormonal pathways in your body which respond to the signaling thoughts.
Mantra is a Sanskrit word derived from two root words: man (meaning “mind” or “to think”) and trai meaning to “protect”, to “free from”, or “instrument/tool”. This means that mantras are tools of your mind, or tools to free your mind.
Some mantras have a literal meaning and can be translated, like "Aham Prema" (ah-hee-pree-mah), means “I am Divine Love", but many, according to ancient tradition, derive their value mostly from their sound quality. Some offer short, one-syllable mantras, such as 'Om', others are long, composed of many words.
An instrument for mantra meditation may be the incorporation of holding a string of mala or japa beads. Mala beads are a great mantra meditation tool to help with focus towards your practice. This creates a calm and more precise practice, especially if you follow the standard repetition for mantras, which is 108 times. Mala beads come in a string of 108 and with each bead a mantra or prayer is repeated to meet a total of 108. Why?
In Ayurvedic culture, mathematicians saw the number 108 as the wholeness of all existence. A scientific example is that the Sun is about 108 times the diameter of the Earth, and the distance from Earth to the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Sun.
By repeating a mantra 108 times, we can feel ourselves finding alignment with the will of the Universe and its energy. But if that's not your thing, no worries. Setting aside a little time, especially in the morning upon waking, or before bed, or even on your lunch break, can help improve your mindset and your physical health.
Research has shown that meditation has the potential to impact you mentally and physically by helping you control your attention, increase self-awareness & mindfulness. It also can lower your anxiety levels, encourage the growth of new neurons and new connections of neurons in your brain- thus boosting your memory and resilience in stressful situations.
Your mind-body-spirit congruence is enhanced through mind-body practices and strategies that attend to spirituality. Take a few minutes today to consciously connect with yourself. Choose a mantra such as, "This thought is a choice."
When it feels like you can’t get the weight of negativity off your back, this mantra serves as a loving reminder that you do not have to let it dictate how you choose to experience your mood, your day and your experience of life. Sometimes thoughts catch us before we realize how much they are affecting everything we do and feel...it’s okay. Without judgement, accept that you are going to to feel good and bad feelings throughout life-it’s normal! But when you realize you are in a rut that you no longer want to be in, lift yourself up and calmly repeat this mantra to yourself throughout the day.
Here's a simple guide for starting your own Mantra Meditation practice:
1. Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor, finding a relaxed position that aligns with the natural curves of your spine. Repeat your choice of mantra slowly and calmly, focusing on its sound. Repeat it with the natural rhythm of your breath by repeating half the mantra when you inhale and the other half when you exhale, or repeat it on both the inhalation and the exhalation.
2. Recite this mantra several times out loud quietly, only moving your lips as to keep still, and then several times say this mantra internally, gently bring your attention back again and again as thoughts arise.
3. Come out of this mantra meditation with some slow deep breaths. Perhaps you feel totally calmed or maybe old swirling thoughts have flooded back. Whatever you are currently feeling, know that this PRACTICE over time brings great benefits such as: calming your parasympathetic nervous system, allows you to be more present, and enables you to make more conscious decision versus falling to old habitual patterns.
To Your Health,
Kiran Grewal MD