Why Mantra Meditation? I frequently hear beginning meditators asking for tips and suggestions because their experience as they sit to meditate is full of a busy mind. One of the first things that happens when we sit to meditate is that we notice how active our minds are. This is a good thing. It means that we have brought awareness to the issue at hand.
It is the nature of the mind to reach out, to try to grasp everything within its reach.
An elephant trainer knows that the elephant’s trunk has the same tendency as the human mind. Therefore, if an elephant is going to walk through a marketplace, the trainer puts a short stick in the elephant’s trunk. The elephant naturally holds onto the stick and therefore it can walk past the bananas and the cardamom without trying to pick them up and put them in its mouth.
A mother is doing something similar when she gives her toddler a ring of keys to play with. The toddler has a very strong and natural ability to focus completely on the keys.
And your yoga instructor is doing the same thing when they tell everyone to focus their eyes on a spot on the wall before entering tree pose, which uses the physical focal point to assist in balance.
A mantra serves the same purpose as the stick for the elephant, the keys for the baby and the spot on the wall for the āsana yoga practitioner.
The mantra is a focal point, or dṛṣṭi, for the mind.
Of course, the mind will still attempt to step away from the mantra. So the practice of mantra meditation is largely one of repeatedly returning to the mantra. Om namah sivaya, om namah sivaya (what should I make for dinner) om namah sivaya. …
The great paradox of meditation is that we are using the mind in order to train the mind.
For me one of the most helpful tools, in addition to the mantra, is an image of the chosen deity. When I sit to meditate on a given mantra, I like to begin by looking at an image of the Deity to remind myself of the essential nature of that deity. Then as my meditation proceeds, if I find that my attention has wandered from the Deity, I can open my eyes and re-connect with the essence of the Deity inherent in the image.
So noticing how busy the mind is is good. It means that you are paying attention to your mind and therefor there is the possibility of training it.
If we can relax about the adventure that our mind presents along the way, all the better. And even though progress may be glacially slow, to paraphrase the The Bhagavad Gita, Eknath Easwaran “no effort is wasted.”
My next blog post with provide a few examples of simple mantra you could experiment with and some information about each of those mantras and Deities.
Enjoy your practice!