Choose a Mantra I Day Five
Nourish Your Mind
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
In the spirit of repetition, let's recap what we know so far.
The more times we "fire" a certain thought, the more deeply "wired" it becomes in our brain. Things that are deeply wired become unconscious habits and patterns, whether good or bad.
Our brainwaves affect how we feel and function in our day-to-day lives. The brainwaves of stress turn on fight or flight modes that eventually cause disease and imbalance. The brainwaves of meditation turn on peace-inducing modes that cause healing and growth.
Quantum physics shows us that where we place our attention matters. When we place our attention on limitation and stress, we get more limitation and stress. When we place our attention on the field of all potential, we open up possibility for something new to happen in our lives.
How we feel matters. The heart has its own brain that not only sends information to the brain in our heads about what to tell our cells, but it also emits a magnetic field measurable from several feet away from the body and has the power to effect the energy of any living organism in its energetic reach.
Today we're going to build on your ever-growing understanding of your magical brain, body and heart and talk more about the power of repetition.
We've already seen that repetition is integral in the efficient functioning of the brain. Every time we think the same thought or perform the same action, the brain strengthens the synaptic connection making it easier to think that thought or perform that action next time. But repetition can also work as a powerful pruning agent to rewire pathways for greater calm and more peace.
A study published in Brain and Behavior journal in 2015 found that repetitive speech (aka mantra) caused a widespread reduction in "chatter" in the brain. The researchers called their finding the "mantra effect" and said that there was indeed a "psychological calming effect associated with commonly practiced mantra-related meditative practices." By focusing on a single word or phrase, the default-mode network (which is the part of our brain associated with self-talk) quieted dramatically allowing the brain a much-needed reprieve.
The word mantra itself means "sound tool" or "tool of thought" in Sanskrit. In ancient Vedic tradition, mantras were specific magical phrases that were believed to invoke heightened spiritual states and bring about desired outcomes. There are chants for fertility, mantras for abundance and phrases for peace, just to name a few. It is the vibration of the words that is said to alter consciousness, whether spoken aloud or repeated in the mind.
For our purposes, we will experiment with both silent and spoken mantra as well as Sanskrit and English phrases. The power to calm and quiet the mind is an invaluable tool, and mantra is an effective, scientifically-proven way to do just that.
BUILD YOUR PRACTICE
"Om" is a sacred Sanskrit word that is actually pronounced "A-U-M" with each of the three sounds signifying a unique aspect of the lifecycle: existence, consciousness and bliss (sat, chit, ananda). It is often described as the universal sound or the seed sound, and indeed when you chant it, you feel the resonance of all that is vibrating within you.
Chanting can be done at anytime, not just when you're meditating. Chant when you drive. Chant when you cook dinner. Chant while you hike in nature. The vibration of sound is an incredibly powerful energy that permeates our being on many levels and has the amazing ability to heal and transform.
In this meditation, we are going to experiment with mantra and chanting as a tool of focus for meditation. We will begin with several audible "oms" to center ourselves. Use your voice loudly and proudly and to the fullest extent of your breath. We will then spend an extended period of silence in which you will experiment with repeating your own mantra in your head. This could be a mantra you devise in one of the two exercises below.
If you need a little guidance, choose a powerful "I am" statement that embodies some characteristic you'd like to invite into your life. For example, "I am peace." Or "I am love." Or if you'd like to stick with the magical serum that Sanskrit offers, consider the mantra "I am sat, chit, ananda."
We will finish the meditation with our voices once more, audibly saying the word "Ahhhhh" while feeling the joy you would feel if you had, were, and/or experienced everything you desire. It's so important to get into a feeling place on this one. Can you triumphantly "Ahhhh" yourself into a place of pure joy to be alive?
Any one of these pieces of this meditation can be used on your own at any point in your day. Chanting "om" or "ah" with eyes and heart open is an incredibly powerful practice, as is the repetition of purposeful, loving "I am" statements. Enjoy using that strong, beautiful voice of yours today!
BONUS MEDITATION PRACTICE
WORK YOUR MALA
Today you can take your meditation one step further by working a mala as you chant. If you don't have a mala, don't stress. You can easily source one online and fold it into your mantra practice whenever it arrives. We love to collect malas from our travels as touchstones of particular spiritual experiences and retreats.
A mala is a string of 108 beads used as an aid in prayer and/or meditation. The user holds the mala in her hand and places one bead between the finger and thumb. With each repetition of the chant or mantra, she moves to the next bead until making it all the way around the strand to the guru bead. You can make as many revolutions around the mala as you like, and in fact, at SHIFT retreat, we always have participants work their malas with the chant "I am Sat, Chit, Ananda" traveling around the entirety of the strand 7 times - one for each chakra.
Malas are wonderful spiritual tools that can be charged with certain energies. For instance, if you have a particular goal around health or wellness, you could chant "I am perfect health" on each bead of your mala and then wear that mala or hold it in meditation especially when focused on health goals. We have many malas all charged with different energies and intentions.
Focus Your Attention
A beginner’s mind
Our intention with this class is to help you build a lasting meditation practice that you'll actually return to each day. And an important component of this lifelong relationship you are building to the safe space of stillness within yourself is cultivating a beginner's mind.
The concept of the beginner's mind means approaching the world with an attitude of openness and curiosity without leaning on preconceived notions or previous experience. Imagine allowing everyone you know to show up anew every day with no thought to the ideas you had about them yesterday. Or even better, imagine if you allowed yourself this amazing gift.
The same goes for your meditation practice. Can you make a commitment to come to your meditation space each day with a beginner's mind? Can you allow the process to surprise you? And can you leave behind any thought or impressions of how it went in the past?
Many of these practices may seem uncomfortable for foreign at first. Maybe you've never chanted in the way we're asking you to do today. Maybe it seems absurd to belt our foreign words at the top of your lungs. Can you open your heart and cultivate a sense of curiosity and eagerness to learn more about yourself through this new practice?
When we are open, the universe responds with more space. When we are closed, the universe responds in contraction. As you let go of preconceptions you allow novelty and the unknown. And the unknown is where the magic happens.
Expand Your Awareness
THE SOUNDTRACK OF YOUR MIND
Repetition is a powerful tool the brain uses for both efficiency and reinforcement. And as we've seen throughout this class, what we think and feel matters.
If we could put a little microphone inside your brain and record your thoughts, what refrains would we hear repeating over and over again? What are the beliefs blasting on repeat and the self-limiting views you just love to obsess over? Your thoughts are the soundtrack to your life. Are they playing a tune that reflects the life you want to live?
Today in your journal, take a deeper look at the drums you're beating in your life. Are your thoughts constantly beating the drum of lack and scarcity? What would you like to believe when it comes to money and success in your life? What about in the areas of health, romance, spirituality, creativity, career, friendships and fun? What other repeated beliefs do you see plainly in your life that you'd like to change?
We have to first be clear on what it is we want to believe and what experiences we wish to have in our lives so that we can align our thoughts with those things. If you haven't taken our Belief Class, consider checking it out after this class is complete. But for now, spend time free-writing in your journal to help you clarify who you want to be and what you wish to experience in this magical life. And then see if you can create some mantras and affirmations that support those goals.