Mind Muscles & Mantras
I am calm.
I can let go.
I can recommit.
Be here now.
I am enough.
Good things are for me.
I am grateful.
Everything is working out.
Sa Ta Na Ma
Om mani padme hum
These are just some examples of mantras, the ultimate refocus tool.
Keep reading to learn how a mantra in meditation practice can help us refocus, strengthen the mind muscles, and wire in a more peaceful state of being.
Welcome to another installment of my blog series where I guide you through my unique meditation sequence that I feature in all of my classes — the 5 R’s to Rewire:
· Recognize – notice the imbalance, trigger, or busy thoughts.
· Reset – use the breath to change and balance your state.
· Refocus – redirect to a MANTRA or the breath to anchor your thoughts and train the mind muscles to focus.
· Restore – enjoy a meditative state for deep rest in the mind and body.
· Rewire – use positive visualization to elevate and envision feeling great!
Mantras are much like affirmations. But when used in a meditation practice, they are an anchor for your attention. You simply repeat it silently in the mind, over and over.
The mind will always wander in meditation — that is normal and will always occur. The brain was designed to think thoughts, so technically it’s just doing its job.
It’s when those thoughts (that lead to feelings or sensations) distract us and take us far away from our practice and the present moment — that we need a tool or vehicle to help bring us back.
There are a few tools to choose from (the breath, a sound, a point in the body) and I encourage my students to find what works. I find time and time again that meditating is a little easier and the focus muscles get strong with: a mantra.
The mantra is my favorite tool to teach. It gives the mind something to focus on. And essentially we rewire the mind to go where we tell it to, versus it dragging us along into old thoughts, worries, stress, fear, etc.
The goal is not to stop thinking or to create resistance — it’s to keep coming back to the mantra with kindness and essentially own our attention. You don’t need to engage with every emotion or passing thought. You just need to have something to hang on to that keeps you neutral, present, and focused.
This is also a great way to keep the brain out of old pathways & in the space that is more positive and present. It strengthens the redirection muscle because each time you come back to the mantra, you are owning the direction of your thoughts.
Mantra work is what makes my meditation teaching style unique to many other types and styles of classes. I believe that during meditation we have the perfect opportunity to work on and exercise the mind muscles used in times of focus. Each time we notice the mind is not on the mantra, we accept it and then take ownership of our awareness by returning to it. That is in a sense, a rep To strengthen that muscle. So then when we are off the cushion/chair/mat, we can also notice when we are not present in our daily lives Or when we get stuck in fear. Over time and with lots of practice, we can refocus easier as the focus muscle gets stronger.
It’s important to know that you don’t always have to use the same one, but you can when practicing alone. You also don’t have to believe the mantra or connect to it just yet. If you’re in a class and the mantra is: I am calm — You might not be feeling calm for some reason. And that’s okay. It’s just a point of attention. It’s holding you, keeping you in the practice no matter what comes up. You simply keep returning, owning your attention. If you drift away, it’s okay. Just keep coming back. Each time you do, you are strengthening your muscle to refocus.
There is a chance that the more it’s repeated, the more you will notice a connection with the mantra. That’s how the brain’s neural pathways work. (Woohoo!)
How do you do this? Let’s practice a little.
Close your eyes or soften your gaze.
Take a deep breath in and out.
Settle on a mantra. Let’s try: I AM CALM.
Repeat it in the mind.
Notice if and when the mind wanders.
And gently return to: I AM CALM.
Breathe in and repeat it in the mind.
Breathe out and repeat it in the mind.
Refocus back to the mantra as many times as needed. No judgement.
Do this for a few moments...
Relax your attention.
Return to the room and open your eyes.
This can be challenging at first. With practice it get easier and the muscles get stronger. Give yourself some grace a give it a go.
The good news is that all of my session