By Tracy Peterson
Mantra is a Sanskrit word that most people have heard before, whether it’s a phrase to repeat out loud or it’s the sticky note posted on a mirror, maybe even a silent repetition of sounds a student hears when they breathe deeply in savasana. Whatever way mantra finds itself into people’s lives, it is adding our sound to the larger sound of life. Everyone, e v e r y o n e, has the universal ability of using mantras. It is one of the most accessible and inclusive practices throughout the world. Every day, in all languages, tones, pitches, and intentions, people repeat mantras such as the Gayatri, Mahamrityunjaya, and even simply the sound of Om. And why bring this ancient practice into your life today? Simply put, mantras are immensely powerful and effective. Just think about when you sing your favorite song or even a melody, the type of energy that starts to course through you has the power to change your whole day. Now imagine adding an intention to sing sacred sounds from the heart and you are on your way to transformational experiences.
Two Sanskrit words, manas and tra, (meaning mind and instrument, respectively) combine to make the word mantra. Literally, the word mantra means ‘mind tool’ or ‘mind liberator.’ I would go even further and say that a mantra gives people the tools to liberate their expectations, fears, and judgments of the mind, to make way for higher intentions for their soul’s path on this earth. It doesn’t matter if at the beginning of a person’s mantra practice they do not know the words they sing, or understand their deeper meaning, the only essential quality of an effective mantra practice is this: to add your unique voice with a heartfelt intention to connect to something beyond yourself. As the mantra practice grows, so will the desire of connecting to the history, understanding, and reasons behind each mantra.
The first place to begin a mantra practice is to draw in the fearlessness of being heard with your true voice and expression. That means we need to give ourselves boldly into the mantras without the inner critic (or as I call it, the itty-bitty-pity committee) trying to compare you to people on “The Voice”. When we take that flying leap away from judgement into singing simply for the joy of sound, the ability to celebrate our voices, and our perfectly imperfect selves, comes forth.
Girish, a kirtan singer, wrote beautifully in his book ‘Music and Mantras’:
“Mantra Chanting is…
A practice that allows anyone, including non-musicians, to experience the many life-enhancing benefits of singing.
A way for us to connect with community, to feel a part of a vital, larger whole.
A judgment-free space, where we can come home to ourselves.
A powerful tool for self-exploration, self-improvement, and conscious evolution.
An elevated space where we can activate powerful energetic archetypes that serves us in our lives.
A way for us to get out of our heads, to be liberated from the prison of thought.
An opportunity to connect with the power of a living tradition that stretched back for thousands of years.
A means to directly experience ourselves as vibrational energetic beings.”
Let us follow Girish’s advice and experience the powerful energy and supreme peace that mantras can bring into our lives. Join me every Second Friday of the month, starting April 12th, as we explore Mantra, Movement, and Meditationin a two hour extended hatha practice.
Find your mat, find your stillness, and, above all, find your voice!