You’ve probably heard mantras, possibly in a yoga class or in devotional music. Maybe ones such as Om Mani Padme Hum or Om Namah Shivaya.
But, what is a mantra exactly? And how are they beneficial to our health?
Mantras are the repetition of sacred words or phrases that have a deeper meaning or significance. All of the wisdom traditions have some form of mantra.
Mantras can be a way of focusing a sound within ourselves. Sound is a form of vibration and everything within the universe vibrates. Many wisdom traditions and creation myths share how the universe began with a sound – through speaking or singing.
By continuously repeating a mantra, we can introduce the vibrational frequency of that mantra into ourselves and sustain it for a period of time. After a little while, you begin to resonate with the vibration of the mantra and also the words. Since mantras have sacred and deeper meanings, you resonate at the vibrational frequency with the Divine, with healing power, with your Higher Self.
As you come to resonate at the same frequency as the mantra, over time, the mantra gains its own strength and momentum. At this point, you shift from chanting the mantra to the mantra having an effect upon you. This is the space in which a mantra can be deeply transformative.
Some say that mantras connect us to a universal archetypal energy field far greater than ourselves that reflects the nature and meaning of that mantra. We then vibrate with a higher level of consciousness that purifies the body and mind. These fields have been strengthened over many, many years by those who have repeated the mantra in the past, and they have tremendous potential for our healing and development. So, it’s important in choosing a mantra that you do so consciously, whether it’s for spiritual practice or healing.
Several mantras are used specifically for their healing properties. By connecting with the energetic level of the mantra, the area of the body that is holding stress, disease, or illness can experience a release and be filled with positive, healing energies.
Some mantras are specific to chakras, the energy centers in the body. These help to balance the chakras so that your energies will flow more smoothly and allow you to be your best possible self in the world.
I’ll share some guidance on how to use a mantra.
Mantras can be used anytime and anywhere when said internally. When you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed with your emotions or your thoughts, using a mantra can calm and center you. Bringing you to a place of groundedness and peace.
Not sure what mantra to choose to get started? A good place to start is with OM. Read about this mantra in my post here. Then explore guided mantra chanting for the 7 chakras in my Free Healing Library.
Ready to dive in and bring this transformative practice into your spiritual practice? Check out my recently released program, How to Bring Life to Your Chakras: 7 Healing Mantras.
I’m sure you’ve heard people chanting the sound OM in a yoga class or in devotional music. Maybe you’ve explored my Free Healing Library and listened to the mantra chanting for the chakras, discovering each one has the sound OM in it. But, how many of us understand and experience how potent this sound truly is?
The sound OM is a Sanskrit letter first found in the Vedas, sung in praise of the Divine. It’s one of the primordial seed syllables, or bija, mantras. This mystic syllable that’s considered to represent the primal sound of the Universe is the most sacred mantra in Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism.
It appears at the beginning and often the end of many Sanskrit mantras. Such as these two common mantras you may be familiar with: Om Gam Ganeshaya Namaha and Om Mani Padme Hum. Through its vibrational form created in sounding, OM connects us to the Divine.
Further teachings on the sound of OM were shared in the Upanishads, a collection of ancient Hindu sacred texts. The Mandukya Upanishad says, “OM is the universe… the past, the present, and the future, all that was, all that is, all that will be is OM. Likewise, all else that may exist beyond the bounds of time, that too is OM.”
OM is the most elemental of vibrations. It’s the sound of the void, the sound of the universe. OM is also the prime mantra of the Higher Self or Atman. It attunes us to our true nature.
When we sound using the power of the breath, we engage our life force in action as the vibrations resound. This action can manifest as the creation of speech, but also as connection with the Divine to manifest our Higher Self.
Masaru Emoto, the Japanese scientist who explored the effects of sound on water, demonstrated the power of our intention and speech on matter around us. Sound healers also use toning and chanting to bring about transformation and healing to the body and mind. The sound we create is powerful.
So, what’s the best way to sound this sacred syllable of OM for the greatest benefit?
OM is sometimes written as AUM to facilitate the sounding of it. It contains three sounds, A (“aaah”), U (“oooh”) and M (“mmm”). Give them a try now.
For the “aaah” sound, open the mouth and relax the jaw as you create the sound rising up from your belly. In “oooh,” the lips come a little closer together to create a circular form in the mouth, as the sound moves more to the heart/lung area. For “mmm,” the lips come together, as the tongue floats within the mouth, creating a vibrating or buzzing sound in the head. Finally, there is silence. This is often considered the 4th syllable of AUM, as the sound ripples out fades into the universe.
Each of the three sounds corresponds to a different aspect of the Divine – as creator, sustainer, and destroyer -- without which nothing exists, everything is sustained, and all things dissolve back into the void. In Hinduism, these are the gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
According to Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi: “OM or AUM of the Vedas became the sacred word Hum of the Tibetans, Amin of the Moslems, and Amen of the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Jews, and Christians.” The creative potency and transformative power of the sound seem to be shared across many different cultures and religious traditions.
Interested in exploring the sound of OM further?
Find mantras for cleansing the chakras in my Free Healing Library.
How to Bring Life to Your Chakras: 7 Healing Mantras (my guidebook with accompanying audio recordings) is also available! Click here to purchase your copy of this life-changing program.
At the Art as Meditation class of Chanting Wisdom at the Fox Institute For Creation Spirituality in July, David and I will be sharing the native instrument, didgeridoo, in honor of the Indigenous Wisdom Tradition. Have you ever had the pleasure of hearing one? What a beautiful and soothing sound!
Let me share a little with you about the instrument.
The didgeridoo is possibly the world's oldest musical instrument. It originated within the indigenous peoples of Australia, whose culture is believed to be at least 40,000 years old.
The didgeridoo is an instrument that is said to have been first used by the Northern Australian Aboriginals. Its much like a natural trumpet but it’s straight and without a mouthpiece. There are more than 40 different aboriginal names used for this instrument throughout Australia.
It originally was made from a eucalyptus branch that was hollowed out by termites and stripped bare of bark. Nowadays, this method, as well as others, is used to make didgeridoos.
Modern didgeridoos are typically made from eucalyptus, bamboo, or agave. The length of wood, thickness, and shape will determine the key of the instrument. Shorter lengths create higher pitches while longer lengths create lower ones.
After the termites are removed, as needed, and the bark stripped, a rim of beeswax can be applied to the opening for the mouth to reduce the size of the opening to one that can be easily played. The wax creates an airtight seal for the mouth, making it more comfortable to play. Finally, the instrument can be decorated.
The didgeridoo player works skillfully with the breath along with the mouth and tongue position to create a wide expression of sounds from melancholy to joyful. The didgeridoo is both a pitched instrument and a percussion instrument and is traditionally played with the accompaniment of clap sticks for ceremonial dances.
An Australian Aboriginal legend speaks to the origin of the instrument through story,
"At the beginning of time, all was cold and dark. Bur Buk Boon was gathering wood to create a fire in order to bring warmth and light to his family. He placed a log into the fire when he noticed one was hollow and filled with termites eating away the soft center of the log. As he didn’t want to injure the termites, Bur Buk Boon brought the empty log to his mouth and started to blow. The termites were blown up into the night sky and formed the stars and the Milky Way. And for the first time, the sound of the didgeridoo resounded through the land and blessed Mother Earth, protecting her and all Dreamtime spirits, with its vibrant sound for eternity ..."
In indigenous Australian culture, the didgeridoo is used in both sacred open ceremonies attended by anyone and in secret ceremonies restricted to specific members of the community. It’s also played recreationally as musical accompaniment to songs and for sound effects for storytelling.
Curious about the didgeridoo? Join my class on Chanting Wisdom at the FICS in July to learn more. Register here.
At the Art as Meditation class of Chanting Wisdom at the Fox Institute for Creation Spirituality in July, David and I will be sharing the powerful zikr, La Ilaha Illa Allah within the Islam wisdom tradition. In the class, students will learn the pronunciation of the words and join in chanting the mantra. Let me give you just a little taste of this mantra here, and I hope you are able to join us in the upcoming class!
A most treasured practice of the Sufi path is the zikr, a state of remembrance of the divine source of all of creation, Allah. To be in remembrance is to be in unity with Allah, and to be in unity is to be in the state of surrender to Allah. This is the true zikr, that which is the impulse of the Sufi path. As a way to achieve this state, a practice was given as a gift to students of Sufism by Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam. This practice of devotion includes the rhythmical, repetition of the name of the Divine.
One of the beloved zikrs is La Ilaha Illa Allah. Translated it means, “There is no reality, but the One” or “If there is no God, we do not exist…. and if God exists, then this is our creator and we appear.”
Here is a tale that helps us to better understand this zikr more deeply.
Once a Sheikh (Sufi master) came to Istanbul and went to the governing authority to ask permission to open a tekke or sufi lodge. The Sheikh was asked how many dervish members he has and the reply was only one dervish, and the master himself.
….An old rundown building was available and given to them. The Sheikh with one dervish accepted it with an open heart.
Very soon, radiant light was shining from within the building as the sound of zikr could be heard every night and as many came to join together in practice.
The governing authorities wanted to know what this man was doing to draw so many people to him and what was this light that was coming from the old building.
So the Sheikh was summoned. The officials said, "We are the educated ones and we want to question you to make sure you are doing things correctly."
"All right,” was the humble answer.
"What is the meaning of la ilaha illa Allah?" they asked.
"Do you want the meaning as you understand it, or do you want the meaning as I understand it?"
"We know how we understand it. Tell us how you understand it."
"For this I need my one dervish, the one I brought with me the first time I came to this building."
They agreed and say down as he and his dervish begin to practice the zikr. When he said, "La ilaha," his dervish disappeared. When he said, "ill Allah," he appeared. When he said, "la ilaha" again, they both disappeared. With "ill Allah" they reappeared.
The last time he said, "la ilaha, "the entire room disappeared. And when he said, "illa Allah," everyone appeared.
He turned to face the officials and said, "This is how I understand the zikr."
- adapted from the book, When You Hear Hoofbeats Think of a Zebra by shams Friedlander.
"There is no reality, but the One."
Interested in deepening your work with mantras? Join my class on Chanting Wisdom at the FICS from July 23rd through July 27th. Find out more here
David and I are looking forward to be teaching a Chanting Wisdom course at the FICS in a few weeks. We’ll be sharing chants from 6 wisdom traditions. The 4th one that we’ll share is from the Christian tradition entitled This is the Day the Lord Has Made. If you missed the posts on the first 3, you can still find them by scrolling down below this post.
This is the Day the Lord Has Made is a celebration of this day, this one day, that we have been given as a precious gift from God. It holds great possibilities and opportunities. It reminds us that we only have this one day and not to dwell on the past days or become anxious about the future days. But be completely present with this day.
Let us celebrate this one and glorious day that the Lord has given us. Let us look at it with fresh eyes and hopeful anticipation of what good could arise, no matter what has come in our days of the past.
Here are some of the lyrics in the song that we will chant in class by Fred Hammond.
Just clap your hands like this
Just clap your hands like this….
You know that He's good and His mercy endureth forever
And the people of God said, they said what
And the people of God said, yeah
And the people of God said, yeah…
Now we serve notice to depression, confusion
All manner of evil and every sickness
You came in to bind but you cannot stay
'cause the people of God we ain't havin' it
It's a good day, even though I cried last Tuesday
And I was out of cash by Friday
No matter what comes next, I'm gonna stand up
And give him the praise 'cause this is the day
This is the day, this is the day
That the Lord has made, that the Lord has made
I will rejoice, I will rejoice
And be glad in it, glad in it
This is the day that the Lord has made
I will rejoice and be glad in it
This is the day, this is the day
That the Lord has made
This is the day, this is the day
That the Lord has made, that the Lord has made
I will rejoice, I will rejoice
And be glad in it, glad in it….
Come join us and rise in celebration for this one wonderful day that we are given to live!
Interested in Chanting the Wisdom Traditions? Join my class starting soon at the FICS. More details here.
David and I are excited to be teaching a Chanting Wisdom course at the FICS in July. We’ll be sharing chants from 6 wisdom traditions. The third one that we’ll share is from the Jewish tradition entitled Modeh Ani. Let me introduce you to this chant if you’re not already familiar with it.
The Modeh Ani prayer is generally said by Jews when one first awakes, while still in bed. It refers to God as the eternal and living king. It offers thanks to God for returning the soul to the body after sleep, so that one can live another day. This awakening is a smaller daily experience of a death and resurrection. Out of the depths of sleep (a kind of death), we’re able to rise again (resurrection) for a new day.
Here is the translation, Hebrew, and transliteration.
“I am thankful before You, living and enduring King, for you have mercifully restored my soul within me. Great is Your faithfulness.”
The Modeh Ani is one of the first blessings that a Jewish child is taught. This shows the significance of learning to express gratitude to God for the gift of a new day of life.
We know that if we cultivate an attitude of gratitude, we can lead more enriching lives. It can help us to shift our mood and open our mind, body, and spirit to the flow of abundance all around.
Gratitude can be practiced no matter what is happening in your life right now. There is always something to be grateful for.
Awakening to a new day
The sun rising
Mother Earth who feeds and sustains us
What can you add to the list?
Gratitude opens the door to abundance consciousness because it gets you to the source, which is the source of all things, says Deepak Chopra, world-renowned mind-body healing pioneer. In fact, scientific studies have shown that people who have a grateful outlook on life get sick less often, exercise more, sleep better and have more energy.
Interested in learning to chant Modeh Ani along with chants from other wisdom traditions? Join my class in July at the FICS. More details here.
At the Art as Meditation class of Chanting Wisdom in July, my husband David and I will be sharing the powerful mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum from the Buddhist tradition. If you join us, you’ll learn the meaning and pronunciation of the words and participate in chanting the mantra in class. I’ll give you a little glimpse of the work we will do in class here.
The Om Mani Padme Hum mantra (sometimes called the Mani mantra) is at the heart of many Buddhist traditions. It’s believed that every one of the Buddha’s teachings resides within this potent mantra. That it contains the truth of the nature of suffering and how to remove its root cause.
According to the Dalai Lama, Om Mani Padme Hum has the power to “transform your impure body, speech, and mind to the pure body, speech, and mind of a Buddha.”
In the Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche says, “The Mantra Om Mani Päme Hum is easy to say yet quite powerful, because it contains the essence of the entire teaching. When you say the first syllable Om it is blessed to help you achieve perfection in the practice of generosity, Ma helps perfect the practice of pure ethics, and Ni helps achieve perfection in the practice of tolerance and patience. Pä, the fourth syllable, helps to achieve perfection of perseverance, Me helps achieve perfection in the practice of concentration, and the final sixth syllable Hum helps achieve perfection in the practice of wisdom. So in this way recitation of the mantra helps achieve perfection in the six practices from generosity to wisdom… What could then be more meaningful than to say the mantra and accomplish the six perfections?”
Within the Buddhist tradition, sacred words, such as the ones in this mantra, are often repeated over and over until they acquire a certain emptiness. This doesn’t mean emptiness as nothing, but emptiness as inner awareness, free of attachment of the ego.
By repeating this mantra to reach this level of enlightened awareness it’s believed that you can be freed from suffering and invoke your loving and compassionate nature.
While it’s a good idea to recite this mantra over and over again, according to the Dalai Lama, one must also meditate upon the meaning of each syllable. So, right intention and understanding of the mantra are needed as a foundation in chanting this mantra effectively.
This powerful mantra is often summed up as, “The jewel is in the lotus,” or “Praise to the jewel in the lotus.”
As the radiant lotus flower pushes through the muck and mire of the waters reaching toward the light, it opens its blossom of beauty, untouched and unsoiled. Connected, yet hovering just above the mud below.
In using this mantra regularly in a spiritual practice, with right intention, it helps to dissolve the mud and muck in your life and uncover the jewel of your compassionate and wise self.
Interested in deepening your work with Om Mani Padme Hum? Join my class on Chanting Wisdom at the FICS in July. Find out more here.
In our upcoming class at the Fox Institute, my husband David Sharp and I are looking forward to teaching the Art as Meditation class: Chanting Wisdom. One of the mantras we will be teaching, the Gayatri Mantra, from the Hindu tradition is a beautiful and powerful one that you may consider chanting regularly as part of your spiritual practice. I’ll share a little here about it with you.
The Gayatri Mantra is a sacred Hindu prayer with soothing rhythms that flows from the heart of the chanter and spirals out into the world. It’s chanted around the world with reverence and love, invoking divine wisdom and peace for all.
The two words “Gayatri Mantra” could be translated as “a prayer of praise that awakens the vital energies and gives liberation from ignorance.”
Here are the words of the common, shorter form of the Gayatri Mantra are:
OM BUHR, BHUVA, SWAHA
OM TAT SAVITUR VARENYAM
BHARGO DEVASYA DHEEMAHI
DHIYO YONAHA PRACHODAYAT
Translated in a basic way, it means “May the divine light of the Supreme Being illuminate our mind, to lead us on a path in the right direction.”
“O Divine Creator, we contemplate thy divine light. May it stimulate our mind and promote illumination within us.”
A slightly longer translation may be:
“Om, the Universal Divine Energy, vital spiritual energy, the essence of our life existence, positivity, destroyer of sufferings, the happiness that is bright and luminous like the Sun, the best destroyer of evil thoughts, the Divinity who grants happiness, may you shine Divinity and Brilliance into us so that it will purify us and guide us with wisdom on the right path.”
This mantra comes from the Rig Veda and has been chanted for thousands of years. The ancient scriptures describe how a sage was given the mantra from the Supreme Being as a gift for his many years of devotion so that it could be shared with humanity. Its significance for Hindus might be comparable to the Lord’s Prayer in the Christian tradition.
For many Hindus, the Gayatri Mantra is seen as a divine awakening of the individual mind and soul, called Atman, and a path of unity to Brahman, the collective consciousness.
As a heartfelt prayer, it can be chanted by those who approach it with pure intentions and an openness to its power, even outside of the Hindu wisdom tradition. It can open the heart to experience a deep sense of gratitude and a devotion to the seeking of wisdom and illumination.
You can listened to it here.
The beautiful ancient sounds and rhythmic flow with a powerful intent make the mantra a wonderful part of one’s regular spiritual practice.
Interested in learning several chants from many wisdom traditions, join me in my class at the FICS in July.
I recently was working with St. Hildegard’s music for the sacred text of Kyrie, envisioning how to put this music to movement to create a body prayer. The words and the music are quite powerful in themselves, but I wanted to be able to deepen this work through bringing related movements to people in a group setting. Here are the words:
Kyrie Eleison (Creator of Life, Awaken Love Within Us)
Christe Eleison (Creator of Love, Awaken Love Within Us)
Kyrie Eleison (Creator of Life, Awaken Love Within Us)
Kyrie Eleison (Creator of Life, Awaken Love Within Us)
(translation by Norma Gentile)
Once I created the movements, I brought this dance to my recent class on St. Hildegard at the Fox Institute. The movements helped us feel into themes from the four paths of Creation Spirituality: love, interdependence, letting pain be pain and creativity.
(Jeannine with the model of Rupertsberg and stained glass pieces used during her class on St. Hildegard at the Fox Institute)
Maybe you have heard the words ‘body prayer’ but are wondering what this is exactly?
Body prayer is a wonderful way to intentionally connect with the Divine through movement. Picture spiritual practice in motion.
It can be as simple as taking a walk with presence and an intention to connect to the Divine. Or it can be more complex such as yoga which has become very popular as a spiritual practice in recent years.
If you are someone who enjoys movement or find that you best connect with the Divine Source while moving, you might want to bring body prayer into your spiritual practice on a regular basis, if you haven’t yet.
Here are a two easy ways to get started:
Take a walk in nature - Begin your walk with a sense of gratitude for Mother Earth, the trees, the plants, the air you breathe, and this day that you have.
Set an intention to be open to any communication that may come to you to support you on your path of spiritual growth. Walk in silence, yet with presence to the moment. Not thinking of the past nor the future. But present to all that is in the moment while walking, listening to what may arise. End the walk with a moment of gratitude.
Walk a labyrinth - If you have one available to you, walking a labyrinth is another way of walking as body prayer. A labyrinth is a pathway created on the ground that symbolizes life’s journey.
Stand at the entrance and set an intention to open yourself to the Divine. While walking toward the center, consider what you can let go of that is weighing you down in your life.
When you reach the center, pause and be fully present to the moment and any message that may arise. As you turn to walk the path out of the labyrinth, consider how to integrate any wisdom you received. Pause again at the end, which is where you began, to express your gratitude.
To deepen your experience with body prayer, you can bring together the singing of sacred text with movement, as I did with St. Hildegard’s Kyrie. From the beginning of time, people have engaged in similar sacred movement and song as a way to connect with Spirit and come together in ceremony or celebration.
Today, we can sing, engaging our breath and vocalizing the sacred words while enhancing the experience through moving the body intentionally with the music. It connects us with the depth and truth of the meaning of the sacred text, experienced within our whole being. This is a potent and powerful spiritual practice where you can experience a sense of unity with Source and with the universe through deep peace.
The Dances of Universal Peace are one wonderful way we can experience this in community. These group dances are simple and yet profound. They are set to sacred texts and mantras from the world’s spiritual traditions and taught to the group by a Dance Leader often with live music accompaniment. The movements are inspired from the sacred texts and embody the essence of the spiritual message and our relationship to Life. Through repetition of the sacred phrase and flowing movement, there is a meditative deepening that arises.
Interested in exploring more ways to engage in body prayer? Check out the offerings at the FICS in Boulder.
Life’s journey can sometimes bring us surprises. Sometimes joyous ones. But, sometimes challenging ones where we have to search to find the treasure that may be hidden inside.
Somehow, in those moments, we’re called to find our strength, find our power from within, to navigate our way forward. One step at a time.
In a quiet moment, you may contemplate, where does that strength come from? How do I find it? How does it arise?
I’m often inspired by the image of St. Hildegard holding her abbess staff. Her strength and power from within radiates out to the world as she speaks, “God created me… God is also my strength… Through God, I have living spirit. Through God I have life and movement. Through God I learn, I find my path…”
We see how she finds her strength through connecting with the Divine.
To find our own power, we can come to our center, that space that’s still and quiet within the whirlwind of turmoil. There we can connect with the Source. We then find strength and power to carry us forward on our life’s journey. Bringing us hope and encouragement.
I’ll share some ways to support you in finding that center where you can tap into your own strength and power that already exists.
1. Cultivate a quiet time and space regularly. When you enter into this, you can access a greater wisdom within yourself and in the universe. In being silent, you open to listening to communication that can come from the Divine within you.
2. Trust there is a greater power within the universe. A divine wisdom and higher consciousness that is at the foundation of all of life. Connecting to this, gives you strength, power, and courage.
3. Identify where you lose your power. Claim it back. When you lose strength, you feel powerless. If you just “go along” with others or “give in” to others when you really have a different idea, you lose your power. If you believe others matter more than you do, you lose your power. Standing up for your thoughts and yourself maintains your power within. Not powering over another, but power that radiates from within you. Your voice, your path, your journey. You matter.
4. Be willing to forgive. Holding on to hurt and pain from the past can drain your energy and strength. Create the space within to forgive yourself and others. This can soften your feelings and radiate love to others, giving you strength.
5. Foster resilience. Strive to bounce back from challenging times instead of feeling defeated or a victim. Return to a place of balance and strength. This can be cultivated through practicing the first 4 regularly.
Interested in joining a community of support on your life’s journey? Check out the offerings at the Fox Institute of Creation Spirituality in Boulder.
I was born in London, England, educated in Switzerland, and am fluent in English, German, Spanish, and French. I hold a Doctorate in Ministry Degree and Masters Degrees in Counseling Psychology and Education. Also, I am an accomplished artist and educator. I use all of this and much more when helping others heal their souls.