Connecting with the Authentic Self
In his book, Balancing Heaven and Earth, Robert Johnson points out that the East and West are different in their psychological structure. Although as Westerners we may not completely understand the guru relationship that is practiced in the East, we can greatly benefit from learning about stillness and awareness while recognizing that we will implement these Eastern insights from a Western perspective.
From this vantage point, meditation is not a mysterious practice held in reserve only for those of an Eastern orientation. The articles in Empowered Life Solutions on anxiety, depression, and healthy living outline how our fear-based thoughts (mind chatter) separate us from well-being and inner peace.
Our deepest biological instincts tend to magnify our negative experiences and fears as a means of protection. This makes our development of faith, love, peace, and joy an uphill battle. Meditation is one of the tools that helps us bridge the gap between who we are and our true, authentic self within.
The breathing mediation offered on the Empowered Life Solutions homepage is a mindfulness meditation in which the goal is to create greater awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, and body sensations by observing them from a witness position without judgment. This state of mindfulness teaches the path to the present moment with acceptance.
For instance, on the way to work I was listening to the radio when I heard the announcer tell the caller that there was no way for her to actually quiet her racing thoughts. She explained how they just ‘ping’ off each other all day long. Even though I knew she could not hear me in my car, I replied aloud, “You need to learn about mantra meditation.”
Mantra-based meditations bring opportunity for greater depth of what. Meditation can be a tool for connecting with the authentic self–the divine within us often described as a full awakening into the spirit. Meditation is more than relaxation and stress reduction; it also has the power to heal and transform.
In the Empowered Life Solution’s article “Anxiety – Meditation” you will find my personal journey into meditation. I learned how to obtain a state of mindfulness sitting by the river near my home. I discovered a profound connection to the divine through obtaining a deep, inner stillness.
Some call this a connection to spirit or the deepest sense of inner peace. Others call it a connection to all that is eternal or the bridge between man and God. I had a client who called it her “slip into heaven.” No matter how you term it you can learn to identify more with your authentic self than with your body, thoughts, and emotions. As you learn to descend into silence, you connect to that which is deeper and more stable.
Mantra-based meditation can feel like a spiritual high; you seem to touch eternity and access a well of deep inner strength and wisdom (though not every meditation experience will result in a transformative experience). Through the aid of a mantra, you glide into a quiet state that is restorative in and of itself. If you feel an overall sense of peace during both the ups and downs of everyday living then you know your meditative experiences are being effective.
Webster dictionary defines mantra as a “sacred hymn chanted or intoned.” Simply put, a mantra is meaningful words or syllables repeated in a focused manner. The word mantra is derived from Sanskrit where ‘man’ refers to thinking, or the mind, and ‘tra’ means tool. A literal translation would be an instrument of thought. The mantra is meant to free you from thought–which includes socialized perceptions and conditioned responses.
The mantra is meant to be a spiritual conduit that uses words or vibrations which have a dual function. The first is to instill one-pointed concentration by interrupting the flow of the normal thinking process. In other words, it gives the mind something to do other than let the mind chatter prattle on and on.
The mantra allows your attention to slip into silence beyond body and mind introducing you to the present moment authentic spiritual self. The second function is to put you in harmony with the Divine or the qualities of the Divine within the universe. Mantras are used silently in meditation and vocally in chanting.
Duel Function of Mantra Meditation
Single point concentration interrupts the flow of the normal thinking process and gives the mind something to do other than let the mind chatter to clutter your being with its relentless stream of repetitive thought.
Mantra meditation allows you to put yourself in harmony with the Divine within the universe.
When I introduce mantra meditation to my clients I suggest they allow time for the mantra that is just right to manifest itself to them. Begin by thinking of possible one or two word mantras until one feels exactly right. I personally use two words, “Be still,” which stands for, “Be still and know that I am God.”
It allows me to focus on my desire to trust in God and ultimately in his love for me. However, it is necessary that the mantra feels right for you. Deepak Chopra, author of Training the Mind, Healing the Body, suggests swallowing it. If it tastes good, then it will work well for you. If it feels nauseating or gets stuck in the throat then keep searching until you discover the mantra that works for you.
It is ideal to love the meaning your mantra evokes for you. You should feel a sense of unity and harmony. You should love the sound and flow of the words or syllables. Your mantra could be simple words such as: gentle, slow, peace, or love. Be careful not to choose a mantra that has an underlying message that puts you down or expects more. One client chose the mantra “work harder,” which suggested he was not enough and did not invoke harmony or a connection to the authentic self. I proposed that he continue the process of allowing the mantra that he needed to present itself. Later that week he was watching television, and in an advertisement, he heard the statement “loving awareness.” He could not even remember what the ad was about, but he felt the congruence of the statement and adopted it as his mantra.
How To Begin
To begin a mantra meditation, choose a mantra. Sit comfortably with both feet on the floor and plan for uninterrupted time. Sit still for about twenty minutes and repeat the mantra in your mind with the rhythm of your breath. Be patient with yourself; it is a new skill that is unfamiliar to most in the Western culture. Seven complete instructive steps for mantra meditation are outlined in Empowered Life Solutions Premium Content.
Initially, your mind will wander once you give it permission to slow down. Your mind is much like a child when told to go to bed. Despite being tired, the child will do everything to stay awake–ask for a story or want a drink of water. When your mind moves to worry, depression, boredom, your to-do list, or anger, return your focus to the mantra.When learning this skill it can be easier at first to say the word(s) or syllables out loud, then whisper, and lastly repeat them in your mind. You have just participated in the beginnings of a mantra meditation.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, tells about complaining to a monk about getting her mind to hold still. The monk quoted from the Bhagavad Gita, the most sacred, ancient text of Yoga, “Oh, Krishna, the mind is restless, turbulent, strong and unyielding. I consider it as difficult to subdue as the wind.”
This reminds me of the craziness within my own mind that I experienced when I first attempted to allow my thoughts to rest and be quiet. However, with regular practice, I have learned to transfer to this quiet place inside. Regularly I feel an opening and softness of my heart while simultaneously feeling reverent and intensely alive (also known as awakening).
I have discovered a woman of strength. This inner peace has helped me to know that I can face what life presents to me. Therefore, I do not need to waste energy worrying. I trust the process of life and that the universe provides what is needful for me. I live life with meaning and purpose. I wish you well as you find your own journey towards inner strength and peace.
References and Related Reading
Chopra, D. (2000) Training the Mind, Healing the Body.
Dyer, W. (2012) The Shift. (Offered as either a book or DVD)
Gilbert, E. (2006). Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia.
Johnson, R. & Ruhl, J. (1998). Balancing Heaven and Earth: a Memoir of Vision, Dreams, and Reflections.