Personal mantras explained: their use and benefits
What is a mantra?
A mantra is a word or phrase that is repeated to bring out its positive, transformative energy. Mantras can be as short as one syllable or as long as a paragraph. They can be repeated in one’s mother tongue or in their source language. They can be uplifting, encouraging or mystical.
The Cambridge online dictionary offers this definition:
mantra: (especially in Hinduism and Buddhism) a word or sound that is believed to have a special spiritual power:
A personal mantra is sometimes repeated as an aid to meditation or prayer.
a word or phrase that is often repeated and expresses a particular strong belief:
The British fans chanted that familiar soccer mantra: “Here we go, here we go, here we go…”
The word itself comes to us from ancient India, where mantras were incorporated into spiritual practices that were recited or chanted in Sanskrit. Each of the fifty letters of the Sanskrit alphabet is said to have a specific vibration that resonates with different qualities related to the human psyche. According to Thomas Ashley-Farrand, who wrote the enduringly popular book Healing Mantras, “Mantras are energy-based sounds that create thought energy waves.”
Seen from a more psychological perspective, we all know how much power certain repeated phrases can hold. They range from “I think I can, I think I can,” in the folktale The Little Engine that Could to subconscious beliefs about our abilities (“You’ve got this!”) and our shortcomings (“I’ll never get this right!”).
When asked in an interview how beginners should choose their mantras, Mr. Ashley-Farrand replied, “If you read books on mantra […] certain ones will just leap out at you. So, it’s really your own karmic intuitive nature beginning to self-select. And you can trust that.”
Our sister Mindworks article What Is Mantra Meditation? speaks to how different mantras serve different purposes. It gives some mantra examples and explains how to practice them. Below we’re going to present you with some more options. Read on and maybe your mantra will “just leap out at you.”
Classic Buddhist mantras
What is the purpose of the mantra during meditation? Buddhists recite mantras out loud or silently in order to develop qualities of insight and meditative stability. They help busy minds stay focused on the essential.
Buddhist mantras are generally recited in Sanskrit. Here are three of the most common ones:
1. Om gaté gaté paragaté para samgaté bodhi svaha is the mantra of the Heart Sutra. It is the expression of interdependence and emptiness.
2. Nam myoho rengé kyo For Buddhists adhering to the Lotus Sutra traditions, this mantra expresses the quintessence of spiritual practice.
3. Om mani padmé hum evokes lovingkindness and compassion towards all living beings.
Transcendental Meditation Mantras
TM is a meditation-based spiritual discipline with ancient Indian roots. In this tradition, instead of choosing from a Transcendental Meditation mantra list, students work with a TM teacher to find the mantra that’s the best fit for them. Repeated silently during meditation, the right mantra can lead students to experience deep meditative states.
Mantras to use in relationships
The great Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh proposed five mantras to use to enhance partner relationships:
1. Darling, I am here for you.
2. Darling, I know you are there and it makes me happy.
3. Darling, I know you suffer and I am here for you.
4. Darling, I am suffering and I need your help.
5. Darling, this is a happy moment.
He suggested that by systematically bringing these mantras into loving relationship, they open doors of understanding and bring people closer.
Nine empowering mantras
From the article Nine Empowering Mantras to Shift Your Mindset, author Lori Majewski presents a list of powerful mantras with explanations from the women who recommend them. Does one of these jump out at you?
1. Today you are perfect for building self-confidence.
2. Forward progress! Just keep moving! for strength and willpower.
3. You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather. (our personal favorite—by Pema Chödrön) for enduring tough times.
4. I am attracting all the love I dream of and deserve. for manifesting love.
5. What is my path to happiness? for seeking happiness.
6. I am strong. I am beautiful. I am enough. for neutralizing body-image issues.
7. I am grateful for all that is unfolding in my life and all that is yet to come. for radiating gratitude.
8. I am fulfilled. I am fearless. for starting the day.
9. Less is more. for ending the day.
Finally, an article on oprah.com gives instructions for creating your own personal mantra.
When integrated into a mindfulness practice, a simple mantra can be the best. Feel free to experiment until you’ve found the one the fits. For example, try the silent phrase Just let be—with just let on the inbreath and be on the outbreath—in the beginning of a session to help the mind unplug from its usual busy-ness.