I mention mantras a lot in my blog, and have already addressed this subject somewhat in a more theoretical way. However, to me mantras are beyond theory - they are a daily part of my Yoga practice. Whenever I notice my mental state agitated, I have a mantra for that. Whenever I find myself judgemental - I have a mantra for that. I don't even have to be on my Yoga mat to pull a mantra out - they can be chanted mentally. They are more powerful that way anyway.

A well-chosen mantra can fill the mind with the kind of energy that can help us get out of the funk we are in and towards a greater balance - a happier, friendlier, more compassionate and less judgemental place. These are the four attitudes of a Yogin from the Yoga Sutras of Patangali, 1:33: "By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and discernment toward the ignoble, the mind retains its undisturbed calmness."

Maitri - friendliness, Karuna - compassion, Mudita - delight, Upeksha - discernment/non-judgement, or the way I like to think about - non-reactivity to stuff that triggers us. By practicing these four attitudes we can address the sources of mental agitation and suffering. Often we are very reactive as the mind runs in circles and is stuck in a narrative.

For example, when we keep on rehashing some perceived offense with "I can't believe I was treated this way!", Upeksha is a great mantra to chant, as it reminds us that other people's actions often have very little to do with us. Other people have their problems too, and when they are being rude, dismissive and selfish, it usually is a reflection of their own mental state. When someone cuts you off on the road - it is more about them than you.

Karuna is helpful when we find it difficult to empathize with others. Sometimes I feel irritated for whatever reason and find fault with everyone. Like today, for example, I was on edge in the grocery store, annoyed by all the screaming, out of control kids. Usually I hardly even notice other people's children, but today I seemed to be affected by their cranky, frenetic, childish energy. Maybe because I myself felt like having a tantrum? I caught myself having an unkind thought towards the frazzled mothers and felt ashamed of my own unkindness. I pulled out this mantra from the back of my mind, along with a memory of what it was like for me when my kids were little like that:

Sometimes we feel that other people get all the perks, all the blessings, all the luck, and a sense of gloomy jealousy clouds the mind. No matter how much we have and how blessed we are, there is always someone who seems to have it better. We often assume that these blessings were attained by some dishonest means, through trickery, by breaking rules and "stepping over dead bodies." It does not feel good to have thoughts like this! Moreover, we may even shun people who have what we don't. A friendly attitude towards everyone, however, is its own reward, and being friends with people of all walks of life can enrich ours. For summoning the friendly attitude, you can chant this:

And finally, Mudita - delight. Finding joy in getting together and socializing with the good people in our lives, it can be a source of so much happiness. Trapped in our own misery we sometimes find it hard to be happy for someone else. But that is key to finding our own peace - reaching out and connecting to those who have a good and generous heart. They can inspire us to be better.

I find that these four mantras can help us find the path to inner peace in pretty much any situation. They have been a great resource for me, and, coupled with self-awarenes, have steered me towards my happy place many a time. They are great as part of a Sun Salute when chanted on every exhalation, or by themselves in a seated posture, or as a background to pranayama - you can chant them mentally while inhaling and exhaling, to keep a measured pace.

Hope you find a use for them, too! Stay tuned next week for more favorite mantras.


Anna M.