IN HERBERT BENSON'S BOOK, Beyond the Relaxation Response, he suggests
using a mantra with some personal meaning something that
reflects your spiritual beliefs. Like shalom for Jews.
Or ahadum for Muslims. Or some quote or phrase from your
favorite holy book. He says research shows if you use a mantra
you believe in, the positive effects of meditation are even greater:
People find meditation more meaningful and they are more likely
to stay with it. Seems logical. The only problem is, I don't
have a holy book.
What word or phrase could I use? Well,
I asked myself, "What thought would I like to practice?"
Thinking is an action like anything else. When you practice a
thought, it comes to mind more easily and naturally. So in other
words, my question is: "What word or phrase would I like
to occasionally and spontaneously come to mind more often?"
Answers to that were easy to come up with. Here are a few of
ananda (it means bliss)
om shanti (means peace)
I could use one of my favorites on any
given day, or come up with a new one. Either way, I would be
using the "faith factor" that is, multiplying
the positive impact of mantra meditation by using a mantra that
means something to me.
Another good way to find a good mantra
is to go to The Foundation For A Better Life and see
their list of values. Choose the one you most believe in or the
one you would most like to strengthen in yourself. Make
that your mantra.
Another good source of values is the book
Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and
Classification by Seligman and Peterson. They have established
the study of morals on a strong scientific footing, and their
list of values is very good. Any one of those values would make
an excellent mantra.
Anything you believe in would make a good
mantra. Do you believe in friendship? Do you believe in honesty?
Freedom? Communication? Forgiveness? A value you believe in makes
an excellent mantra.
two more good tips from Herbert Benson
In Benson's instructions, he emphasizes
a "passive attitude." When you find your mind wandering,
he suggests you mentally shrug your shoulders, say to yourself,
"Oh well," and go back to your mantra. I find this
In other words, don't be in any hurry.
Don't try to do well. Don't be bothered when your mind wanders.
Keep a gentle intention to pay attention to your mantra but don't
be bothered when you find your mind has wandered.
I think his suggestion of saying the mantra
(to yourself) on your out-breath is good too. First of all it
feels more natural when people speak, they only speak
on the out-breath. But it also gives you a moment of silence
on the in-breath. A moment of peace.
So we have three good guidelines for meditating:
1. Use a mantra you believe in
2. Be accepting of your mind wandering
3. Think your mantra on your outgoing