A tool for the mind

The word “mantra” comes from the Sanskrit words “manas” (mind) and “tra” (tool or instrument), meaning “a tool for the mind.” Mantras have been used for thousands of years in various religious and spiritual traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. A mantra is a word, phrase, or sound that is repeated during meditation or spiritual practice to aid concentration and promote a deeper state of awareness.


The primary technique involves repeating the mantra either silently or aloud. This repetition helps to focus the mind and reduce the influence of distracting thoughts.

Meaning and Intention

While some mantras have specific meanings, others are chosen for their vibrational qualities. The intention behind the mantra can also be significant, influencing the meditative experience.

Sound and Vibration

The sound and vibration of the mantra are believed to have specific spiritual and psychological effects. In some traditions, the sound itself is considered sacred and imbued with spiritual power.

Diverse Array of Options

Mantras can vary widely. They can be single syllables, such as “Om,” or phrases like “Om Mani Padme Hum.” They can also be in different languages, like “Let Go.”

  • Let Go: Inhale “let”, exhale “go”. This mantra reminds us to let go of thoughts, sensations, sounds, and emotions.
  • OM: A sacred sound is said to be what the sound the earth makes when in harmony; “Om” represents the universal vibration and the essence of the universe.
  • Om Mani Padme Hum: A Buddhist mantra translated as “The jewel is in the lotus.” It embodies compassion and the path to enlightenment.
  • SO HUM: A Sanskrit mantra meaning “I am that,” used to connect with one’s true self. So hum sounds like the vibrations of the breath: inhale “so”, exhale “hum.” So: I am, Hum: That, Universe, Awareness.
  • Affirmation: Use a personal affirmation, repeated with the breath, such as inhaling “I am peace” and exhaling “I am calm.”

The Practice

Find your seat: Preferable to sit upright and as comfortable yet alert as possible.

Choose a mantra: Let’s choose the mantra So Hum for this practice.

Close your eyes: May help to minimize distractions and allow you to focus inward.

Set your intention and a timer: A full round of mala beads may take 30 minutes.

Begin the mantra: Repeat your mantra silently or aloud. If the mind chit-chatter is too loud, it can be helpful to say the mantra aloud at first and then repeat it silently. Focus on the sound and rhythm of the mantra.

Match the mantra to the breath: Inhale So, Exhale Hum

Come back to the mantra: If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to the repetition of the mantra. It’s natural for thoughts to arise; keep returning to the mantra over and over again.

Duration: Practice for a set amount of time, such as 5, 10, or 20 minutes. Gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable with the practice.

Ending the session: Gently ease out of the repetition and sit quietly for a few moments before opening your eyes. Seal your practice with gratitude.

Mala Beads

Mala beads have their roots in ancient India and have been used for centuries in spiritual practices like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The word “mala” means “garland” in Sanskrit, and traditionally, a mala consists of 108 beads, which are often made from materials like rudraksha seeds, sandalwood, or gemstones. The number 108 is considered sacred in many Eastern traditions, symbolizing the universe, the journey from our material self to our highest spiritual self, the 108 Upanishads (the ancient Hindu scriptures), the 108 earthly desires a person must overcome to achieve enlightenment (Buddhism), and the 108 energy lines that converge to form the heart chakra.

Mala beads are used as a tool for focusing the mind during meditation. Each bead is counted as a mantra is recited, helping to maintain your focus and keep track of the repetitions. This practice is known as “japa,” which means “muttering” in Sanskrit. By engaging in this repetitive action, you can keep your mind occupied, preventing it from wandering and allowing a deeper state of meditation. Moving the beads between the thumb and middle finger also gives the body a job, easing restlessness.

The Practice

Starting Point: Begin with the first bead after the guru bead (the larger bead) or the tassel, which is not counted in the 108 beads.

Each Bead: Hold the first bead between your thumb and middle finger. Recite your mantra once for each bead – inhale “So,” exhale “Hum.”

Repeat: Move to the next bead by gently pulling the following bead with your thumb towards you, repeating the mantra. Continue this practice, moving through each bead until you reach the last bead before the guru bead—this may take about 30 minutes.

Another Round: If you would like to go around again, turn the mala around so as not to cross over the guru bead.

Mantra Meditation