Our ability to produce so many thoughts is amazing...or frustrating...or exhausting, depending on the moment and the tone or pattern of those thoughts. Learning to moderate flow of thoughts is a common goal and concern for people with whom I work. To be able to shift our thoughts is incredibly powerful and not a quick or one-time accomplishment.
We can imagine the patterns of our thoughts to be like water, creating deeper and deeper grooves in the land until these grooves become rivers to which other branches of water flow. When water starts to pool, it naturally follows the well-worn path until it becomes difficult for water to be directed elsewhere. This is similar to our thoughts: our biology, temperament, and experiences lead to neural pathways being more established in certain patterns over time. There is the saying "the neurons that fire together, wire together" which helps to explain the challenge in simply switching the path in which thoughts naturally flow.
The good news is that we have neuroplasticity in our brains and tools to help us create change in our thought patterns over time. From yoga, we can tune in to mantra to interrupt and redirect our automatic mind chatter. It can feel very challenging to empty the mind because the thoughts keep flowing towards their natural grooves, which may sound like criticism and worry. With mantra, we repeat either a simple syllable or message, and this gives the mind a point on which to shift its attention. We may pair the mantra with breath or movement to increase the focus of the mind. With mantra, we are both pulling out of our automatic chatter and tuning in to a different message.
Here are some simple mantras to try out:
- Om This seed mantra is one syllable and is often said throughout a long exhale, vibrating the "O" and "mmmm" sounds.
- Sat Nam This simple mantra loosely translates to "Truth is my identity." You can inhale "Sat" and exhale "nam" during a breathing exercise and during movement.
- I am Like Sat Nam, you can inhale "I" and exhale "am".
- Ra Ma Da Sa Sa Say So Hung For this mantra, take an inhale before chanting and then inhale after vibrating the "ng" in "hung". This is a mantra for healing and compassion for our universe.
- Loving Kindness There are many variations of loving kindness meditations, but I have recently been using "May I be well, May I be happy, May I be free." You can say this mantra for yourself, and then you can think of others for whom you would like to wish loving kindness.
These mantras can be said out loud or you can repeat them to yourself.