By Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, and a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor’s in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.
You’ve probably heard “Om,” before, believed by some to be the first sound of the universe. What you may not know, however, is that Om is a mantra. Mantras are a powerful tool to use along one’s spiritual journey, and there are more than just “om.” Here’s what to know about mantras, plus 13 great ones to try yourself.
What are mantras?
Traditionally, a mantra is a word or sound repeated to help with concentration during meditation, originally seen in Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
As sound healer and meditation expert Susy Markoe Schieffelin tells mbg, “Mantra means ‘mind vehicle.’ Mantra is a vehicle in the form of a word or syllable that uses vibration and sound to help us move beyond the thinking mind.”
Different mantras have different meanings and effects, and Markoe Schieffelin explains that meditating on a mantra silently, or chanting it out loud, can help bring you into the more peaceful, subconscious mind. “Over time,” she adds, “working with mantra can help you to create positive shifts in your mindset and therefore create positive changes in your life.”
Mantras can be repeated any time, with mantra meditation being a popular practice for mantra enthusiasts. “I find that for people who believe that they ‘can’t meditate’ or have especially ‘busy’ minds, chanting a mantra out loud gives the mind something positive to focus on, which can then allow it slow it down and bring a sense of stillness in meditation,” Markoe Schieffelin adds.
How to start working with them:
If you’re curious to get started using different mantras, according to Markoe Schieffelin, the first thing you’ll want to do is choose one that resonates with you. “You could choose an English word such as ‘love’ or ‘peace’ and practice repeating it to yourself while sitting quietly in meditation,” she says, “Or you could choose a traditional ancient mantra, which can have a stronger vibration, since humans have been working with them consciously for thousands of years.”
And as meditation instructor Megan Monahan previously explained to mbg, mantra meditation isn’t meant to stop your thoughts, as some people mistakenly believe. Rather, she says, “the goal is to expand your awareness so you can get more comfortable observing your thoughts (and any other external stimuli) without getting immediately involved in them.”
Markoe Schieffelin adds that you can, of course, try mantra meditation, but you can also simply chant it out loud whenever you feel called to, or write it down somewhere you’ll see it regularly, as a reminder of your intention. You can even repeat your mantra while you’re washing your hands, or driving in the car.
Here’s our guide to mantra meditation for more information. Now, let’s get into some mantras.
13 mantras to try:
Set yourself up for success with a good night’s sleep.*
So Hum, or Soham, is a Sanskrit mantra meaning “I am that,” with “that” being the universe. According to Markoe Schieffelin, working with this mantra helps one to identify with the oneness of the universe.
Sa Ta Na Ma
Sa Ta Na Ma, another Sanskrit mantra, can be translated as “birth, life, death, rebirth.” Markoe Schieffelin explains it represents the cycles of life, and “chanting this mantra out loud is very balancing for the brain, and can help one to move through the changes, seasons, and cycles of life with grace and ease.”
Arguably the most popular mantra in world, Om is the sound of the universe and the sound of creation. It’s also related to the crown chakra, and higher consciousness. “Om is everything and nothing, and meditating on it can help you to tap into your power as a creator,” Markoe Schieffelin tells mbg.
I am love
Moving to a few English options, Markoe Schieffelin recommends a simple statement of “I am love,” for a mantra that helps you both tap into the love within yourself, and the universe at large. By repeating “I am love,” you acknowledge your own inner light and remember who you are.
I listen to my feelings
Spiritual author Shannon Kaiser recommends this mantra especially if you often neglect your own emotions and needs. “Your feelings are instincts, and they will always tell you the truth. It may be difficult to face the current reality, but know your feelings are trying to help you process and heal,” she previously told mbg. Repeat this mantra when you feel out of touch with yourself to help come back to your feelings.
I am enough
Another mantra suggested by Markoe Scheffielin is a simple “I am enough.” How often do we convince ourselves there’s something about us that needs to change or be improved before we’re whole? Repeat this mantra when you’re doubting your wholeness, and know that you are already enough just as you are.
Gratitude is the life force of everything
Finding gratitude during difficulty is a tremendous way to boost your overall sense of contentment. As Kaiser explains, “We can often look outside of ourselves and see someone else who looks happier, more satisfied, or more successful or healthy, and when we focus on them, we can forget to be thankful for what’s going well in our own life. Turning your attention to gratitude instead of jealousy or frustration can help you see all of the blessings in your life.”
Speaking of gratitude, let’s be honest, sometimes it can be difficult to find, and acceptance is a more realistic place to start. In that case, physician and mystic Lissa Rankin M.D. recommends a simple repetition of “I accept.” No matter what it is you have to accept, when you’re feeling resistance, this mantra can help. “‘I accept’ is a simple but powerful mantra that has been known to make the body ripe for miracles,” Rankin previously wrote for mbg.
Om Mani Padme Hum
Another traditional Sanskrit mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum translates roughly to, “Praise the jewel in the lotus,” feng shui expert Anjie Cho previously told mbg. This popular mantra, she says, means that “All the wisdom is within us, so the ‘jewel,’ the ‘treasure,’ is in us–and we are the lotus flower,” Cho explains.
Soften into the pain
Rankin explains that we tend to resist difficult emotions and pain, but when life hurts, we ought to soften into it, and repeating this mantra can help with facilitating that. “Grief or heartbreak lasts about 90 seconds, and then you get a reprieve before the next wave hits. You feel it all the way, and it heals and awakens you–you get broken open and your capacity to love expands,” she explains.
One day at a time
When we’re not living in the present, we can’t truly appreciate today for the gift it is, and this mantra reminds us to slow down. “It’s easy to get caught up in what we lost or what the state of the world will be in tomorrow, but less easy to keep ourselves in the here and now,” Kaiser tells mbg, adding, “The best thing we can do for our mental well being is let go of yesterday and do our best not to dwell on tomorrow. Each day you wake is a new opportunity to do so.”
For a mantra that simply allows you to release built up tension, enter the woooosaaaaahhhh, which spiritual author Emma Mildon says is the ultimate sound to unleash when you feel yourself losing patience. “This long-winded sigh is for those moments when you’re fed up beyond words. Take one of those ‘breathe it all in’ deep inhalations, and then woooosaaaaahhhh it all out,” she explains.
Aad Guray Nameh, Jugaad Guray Namay, Sat Guray Nameh, Siri Guru Davay Nameh
And last but certainly not least, Aad Guray Namay (or the Mangala Charan mantra) is my personal favorite mantra that I learned during my yoga teacher training in 2018. It’s a mantra for protection that translates to “I bow to the primal wisdom, I bow to the wisdom through the ages, I bow to the true wisdom, I bow to the great divine wisdom.” Repeat this mantra whenever you would like a little extra protection.
The most important part of a personal mantra meditation practice is figuring out a mantra that works for you. (And for what it’s worth, you can totally come up with your own.) Through the repetition of these powerful sounds and phrases, we’re able to tap into our subconscious, and create ripples in our lives.