The word mantra comes from Sanskrit and means “tool/instrument of thought”. They are sounds, syllables, words or groups of words that are repeated with the goal of creating a positive transformation within the person.
At some point or another you will have probably seen a group of Hare Krishna’s chanting Hare Krishna together in a certain order and fashion – this is their mantra.
However mantras do not have to be chanted out loud, they can be voiced internally. They are used this way in Transcendental Meditation with each individual having their own individual mantra unlike the group mantra of the Hare Krishna’s.
If there is an area of your being you would like to develop further then a selecting a mantra relative to this goal can be extremely helpful. For example, if you are someone who often feels anxious then you could choose a mantra like “serenity encompasses me” or, more simply, “peace” to repeat to yourself.
Some find that repeating a mantra helps them slip into a meditative state more easily as it can be focused on more keenly than the act of breathing with contains several different processes.