What exactly is a mantra?
To be honest, it depends on who you ask.
In our current, westernised society, the word mantra has come to mean "intention" or "affirmation." You've probably heard the phrase "live, laugh, love" referred to as a mantra. They assist something active in life when employed in this way, and they have connotations attached with them.
This interpretation of the word is correct. "A phrase or slogan repeated frequently," according to the Oxford definition. As a result, it lends itself to a variety of interpretations.
However, words like live, laugh, and love—as well as successful, happy, and healthy—all have meaning. They define the characteristics of a desirable life. They elicit feelings and thoughts. Although focusing on these words or phrases can improve those aspects in our life, they lack the ability to access the silence that lies behind activity.
In Sanstrik, Manra means this
Tra: The root of the word instrument
So a Manra is something much more magical then just a word. It is an instrument of the min.
In Vedic traditions, mantras have specific sound vibrations associated with them and that determines their use. For example, mantras with 'sh' in them are supposed to be relaxing. Mantras are also employed in Vedic tradition to achieve a deeper condition of inner quiet during meditation. It's almost like a vehicle towards the journey inward. Just like a taxi takes us to the airport, a mantra takes us to silence or 'the gap'.
Getting to the silence.
The logic behind mantras is this; when you use a mantra in your meditation, it acts as a meaningless idea. When you don't have anything to keep your mind engaged, your awareness turns inward. You reach a moment where you transcend cognition and bump into the silent expanse of endless possibilities as your body settles and your mind follows.
There are millions of sounds and vibrations in the Sanskrit library of mantras, some of which are associated with specific traits but have no particular meaning. These sounds connect you to your most fundamental level of being by going beyond the level of thought.
So Hum: My first Mantra
So Hum is a great place to start: it's the global slogan for breath and generally has no meaning assocoated with it.
So, like every other mantra used during meditation, Hum has no specific meaning, but it is linked to the breath. So Hum's sound and vibration allow you to identify with who you truly are rather than assuming you are your mind or body's daily activity. The silence is where your inner nature resides.
So Hum is a mantra that relaxes the body and calms the mind when repeated silently and in unison with the breath. From activity to the inner realm of calm and unlimited possibilities, awareness shifts.
Here's how to do the So Hum mantra meditation:
Begin by focusing on the breath. Then gently...
So: as you breathe in
Hum: as you breathe out
You don't need to pronounce anything to much, the less you do the more you get out of this mantra. It doesn't matter how much you drift away, just focus on bringing your attention back. Continue to repeat the mantra silently for the duration of the meditation. The motto should be simple and easy to remember. It does not necessitate any straining or concentration.
You can do this for as long as you want. Once you're ready, open your eyes slowly. Return to activities gradually.
It is thought to best avoid using 'real' words during meditation practice as it encourages thought. The goal is to use words that allow us to hear the silence that lies beneath the noise
“Start with meditation, and things will go on growing in you—silence, serenity, blissfulness, sensitivity. And whatever comes out of meditation, try to bring it out in life. Share it, because everything shared grows fast.”—OSHO