Choosing a mantra for my 40-day discipline

mantras meaningPart of the course work for my yoga teacher training program is to pick a mantra and chant it 108 times a day for 40 days. True to my over-analytical brain I spent 5+ hours this week rereading sections of Thomas Ashley-Farrand’s Healing Mantras, researching and picking a mantra.  I was looking for a mantra related to a specific struggle I’m dealing with now. However, I also wanted one that aligned with my spiritual/Baha’i beliefs and spoke to my heart. I believe that certain sounds/words/names have power when said with intention – I’ve felt that power while praying or singing Baha’i/Gospel songs.

Mantra (Sanskrit मन्त्र) loosely translates to ‘mind protector’,  ‘to set free from the mind’ or ‘thought instrument’. A mantra can be a sound, word or phrase that one repeats with intention. Sufi master Vilayat Inyayat Khan states “The practice of mantra actually kneads the flesh of the body with sound. The delicate cells of the elaborate bundles of nerves are subjected to a constant hammering, a seizure of the flesh by vibrations of divine sound.”

After my 5+ hour search, I chose this healing mantra:

Om Shri Dhanvantre Namaha

Salutations to the being and power of the Celestial Physician: this mantra works to promote healing on all levels – physical, mental and emotional.

I highly recommend Thomas Ashley-Farrand’s Healing Mantras and give it ***** (5 out of 5 stars). Healing Mantras is a great how-to guide on understanding and using mantras. The books includes ~50+ mantras and translations/explanations. I also enjoyed the scientific and religious examples on the power of sound. For those interested in how various chakras and planetary aspects come into play there are interesting chapters on those as well.

How to use your mantra for a 40-day discipline (adapted from Thomas Ashley-Farrand’s Healing Mantras)

  1. Write your intention or worldly problem on a paper and place somewhere in your home (hidden or displayed)
  2. Set a place to say mantra, 1-2x a day
  3. Set a time (traditionally performed at “sandhya” period of 2 hours before dawn until dawn or two hours before sunset until sunset)
  4. Complete one round of 108 without interruptions
  5. Use prayer beads like mala beads if helpful. If using mala beads, do not count using your point finger as that finger symbolizes the ego. Also don’t crossover the meru (mountain) bead – continue by pulling the beads and going backwards until you again end at the meru and continue until you have done 108 repetitions, or multiples of 108.
  6. If you miss a day restart your count

Kirtan with Nina Rao and Ambika Cooper

Kirtan 2 - Ambika Cooper & Nina Rao

Last Friday, my husband and I attended a Kirtan with Ambika Cooper and Nina Rao hosted by Laughing Lotus Yoga Center. This was my second Kirtan (read about my first experience and Kirtan 101 here) and my husband’s first.

This time I was more relaxed and knew what to expect. As a visual learner, I also appreciated that they handled out lyrics to all of the mantras/chants beforehand. Ambika and Nina are beautiful singers while the drumming spoke to my soul (I’m partial to drums). The crowd was more lively this time – one woman was dancing in the corner, most swayed to the melodies.

My favorite mantra continues to be the Maha Mantra (Hare Krishna). It starts slow, building the energy. Then speeds up as if the song and singers are overflowing with prana (life force).

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

“Hare” is an address to God’s energy, known as Radha, and “Krishna” is name of God meaning “He who is attractive to everyone.” “Rama” means “one who gives pleasure and enjoys life.” When chanted the maha-mantra is a petition to God: “O Krishna, O energy of Krishna, please engage me in Your service.” ~Bhaktivedanta Book Trust

Kirtan - Ambika Cooper & Nina Rao