When I meditate, I prefer to do mindfulness meditation. However, sometimes I like to use a mantra (but not in the “traditional sense” I suppose). I’ve come up with (or come across) two that have worked very well for me, and I share them with you here now.
I meditate every day…
…it’s just what I do, it’s part of who I am.
Yes, it’s a bit much to say 108 times (if you’re using a Mala to recite your mantras – see below for more info on that). But after a few sessions of meditating on this mantra, it’s really started to take hold for me.
You see, it’s easy to think of meditation as this sort of thing that we’re doing because we’re aiming for some particular end result. As if we’re constantly looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or something along those lines.
But meditation, much like life itself, is about the journey, and not so much the destination. But we’re so caught up in our rush-around lives that we often ignore, or tune out, the journey. How many long car trips have you slept through, anxiously counting down the hours until you arrive? Or when is the last time you stayed awake during a long flight?
Anyways, I’m getting off on a tangent here. The point is, we’re focused on the end result, not on how to get there.
If you meditate because you’re seeking enlightenment, or because you want to bring your emotional outbursts under control, or whatever the reason may be — you’re doing it wrong. And you will likely fail at some point. You’ll become discouraged because you’re not getting “results” or whatever.
The point of meditation is not to get some result. The point of meditation is just to be. That’s it! Just be. Just exist. Be present in this moment, because *poof* it’s gone, and a new moment is here. Did you enjoy that past moment? I hope you did, because you’ll never get it back. Life is a constant renewal of little moments. Matthew Broderick’s character Ferris Bueller said it best when he said “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
So anyways, the mantra is “I meditate every day; it’s just what I do, it’s part of who I am.” I came across it at this helpful site. When I find myself not wanting to meditate, I actually find it helps to meditate to this mantra.
The point of it is to make meditation just a normal part of being — like waking up in the morning, or breathing. As it says, it’s just what you do. It’s part of who you are. Give it a try.
Today it is Raining
Life isn’t fair man. Nothing ever goes your way. The traffic light changes suddenly in front of you. Someone cuts in front of you in the lunch line. Maybe the weather just is not cooperating (anyone ever had it rain on their wedding day?)
Whatever it may be, things clearly are not going your way, and it’s frustrating you. Maybe it’s even driving you to anger!
I find this quote from Shunryu Suzuki very enlightening:
We will think, “Now it is raining, but we don’t know what will happen in the next moment. By the time we go out it may be a beautiful day, or a stormy day. Since we don’t know, let’s appreciate the sound of the rain now.” – Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
But the real quote that stood out to me, and caused me to zero in on these four little words can also be found in the book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind:
Today it is raining. This is Buddha’s teaching. Teaching is in each moment, in every existence. That is the true teaching.
So this mantra does a couple of things for me. First, it forces me to be present in every moment by calling to mind the second quote. Teaching is in each moment! How wonderful!
And secondly, by calling to mind the first quote, I’m forced to come to the realization that things will not always go my way. Everything outside of me is outside of my control. I can’t control the traffic lights or other people, any more than I can control the rain coming down from the clouds. But the beautiful part about not having control, is I have no idea what the next moment will bring (or even if there will be a next moment!). So since I don’t have any control, and I don’t know what is in store for me just around the corner, I am now in a position where I can appreciate the moment I have now.
Rather than be angry because I was abruptly stopped at a red light, I can instead take a moment to explore the scene around me. I can drink in the sunlight, parting the clouds in the sky. I can appreciate the tree who has weathered many seasons, and still provides shelter for the birds. One often can’t help but break a smile during these small moments of satori.
Using a Mala
Malas are are a traditional tool used to count the number of times a mantra is recited whilst meditating. They are similar to other forms of prayer beads used in various world religions; thus some call this tool the Buddhist rosary.1
You can find them on eBay and Amazon fairly easily. Below I have included pictures of two of mine. On the left is a green sandalwood mala, each bead is approximately 8mm. On the right is a bodhi seed mala, each seed measures approximately 15mm (the entire mala is about 54″ in circumference!)
To use the mala, you typically hold it in your left hand, with the bead next to the meru (or guru) bead (the largest one, usually has some form of tassel hanging from it) between your thumb and index finger. You then recite your mantra, and advance to the next bead by pulling it across your index finger with your thumb. You repeat this until you reach the guru bead, and that is 108 recitations (this counts as 100 recitations, with 8 being “extra” to cover any mistakes made during recitation).2