Sweat & Smiles: Mantra as a Powerful Therapy Tool

By Melissa Romano on September 12, 2020 from Sweat & Smiles via Connect-Bridgeport.com

You learn to meditate by meditating. You are not alone if you find it difficult or that your inner voice continues to chatter. I often think of how I got started. The thing is, I started before I knew what I was even doing.
I knew I wanted my life to change and I knew that the whole “on Monday morning I’m going to wake up and be completely different” had yet to work despite years of trying. So I started with post-it notes. What those original post-it notes said has since escaped my mind but the practice itself has remained. When I started studying yoga, like the yoga you live not just the yoga you do, I learned this practice was called a mantra.
A mantra is a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation and/or a statement or slogan repeated frequently. If you’re thinking it sound like The Secret, that best-seller from 2006 about the power of our thoughts and the law of attraction then you’re on the right track. If you’re rolling your eyes, that’s okay too. We all start there - with an eye roll and a nagging suspicion to actually try it.
The thing is neuroscientists, with all their fancy advanced brain-imaging tools, have confirmed the benefits of this ancient practice. Your brain, like mine, has a default mode network. This default mode network kicks in when you aren’t focused on a specific task. This is when you are daydreaming, recalling memories, envisioning the future, monitoring the environment, thinking about the intentions of others, the things you often do when you find yourself just “thinking”. From a mental health perspective, an overactive default mode is the opposite of calm.
Neuroscientists have found that a mantra practice effectively reduces the default mode network.
In a mantra meditation you silently repeat a word or a short phrase. Your mantra can be any word, sound, prayer or short phrase you like. For example your mantra could be any one word: inner peace, effortless, compassion, love, one, calm, or any short combination of words. Your mantra can also be from your religious tradition. For example if you are Roman Catholic your mantra could be “Hail Mary Full of Grace”, which in Spanish would be “Ave Maria”. If you are Protestant your mantra could be “The Lord is my Shepherd” or “Our Father Who art in Heaven”.  If you are Jewish your mantra could be “The Lord is my Shepherd” or “Shalom” and if you are Hindu your mantra could be “Om Sat Chit Ekam Brahma” or "So Hum". If you are of Tibetan Buddhist faith your mantra could be “Om Mani Padme Hum” and if you are of Islamic faith your mantra could be “Insha’Allah”.
According to research at Harvard Medical School the relaxation response does not require a religious attachment. Research found that regardless of what the practitioner repeats, the word or phrase leads you to relaxation and being more equipped to cope with life’s unexpected stressors. Western science is finally catching up to what yogis have tapped into for several thousand years: mantra is a powerful therapy tool. 
You can choose a short phrase that you would like to manifest like: Expect nothing and appreciate everything; I am free from anger; choose purpose over perfect; I am enough; everything I need is within me; etc These have been my favorite for post-it notes that I think strategically post in my bathroom, office, refrigerator, car, any space where I spend a lot of time. Currently a post-it that says “What am I being invited to pay attention to today?” sits on my laptop and another with the words: powerful, purposeful, free, content, and nourished sits to my right.
How I learned to meditate still remains as a practice. One that I’ve come to deeply love and enjoy. Today decide on a mantra, sit down, set a timer for two minutes, close your eyes, and silently repeat your mantra until the timer goes off. If you find it difficult or that your inner voice continues to chatter, you are not alone. You learn to meditate by meditating, you learn by cultivating the practice.
Love and mantras,
Editor's Note: Photo of Melissa Romano by Daisy Greene Photography

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