For several months, I had a mantra. A long one, one that I made up that said everything I wanted to remember each day. Since I haven’t had a whole lot of luck with many other types of meditation (I’ve pretty much always used mantras as a focal point during sitting practice rather than focusing on the breath or just clearing my mind), I figured I might as well make it a good, complete one. Each stanza is, for me, a consolidation of a great spiritual principle that upon contemplation can allow us to feel the feeling of feeling good (my definition of the state of meditation).
Here is the mantra that I used:
Angels, guides, God and all there is,
Thank you. Thank you.
I love this mantra. I love mantras in general, actually. And yet, I don’t use this one anymore. In fact, for the past year or so, I’ve used mantras only sporadically. Why is this? The reason is simple: other spiritual practices took precedent.
I just don’t have time for them all.
Here, a self-interview about using this practice for depression.
So do you recommend mantra meditation for depression, or not?
Absolutely. I have a strong feeling that I will circle back to it–maybe even to using it daily–after my Byron Katie obsession is no longer in the critical learning period.
And mantras in general? Do they help, too? Or is it best to combine them with meditation?
Mantras are just mantras. Unless they’re used in a certain way, in a meditative frame of mind, they’re just not all that effective.
I remember a time several years back when I thought I wanted to buy a particular house. So one day I said this mantra over and over for, like, a solid hour while doing yoga: “This is my house.” And I didn’t feel at peace about it at all–and I did not end up buying that house (thank God).
So what was the difference?
First, the mantra should be something that feels deeply right to you. Something that really increases your peace. And second, the mantra should be something you use as a means to an end–achieving a state of meditation–not as an end in itself.
So does that mean you shouldn’t use mantras while doing the laundry or at work?
Not at all. Sit-down meditation is awesome, but you can meditate anytime. I call this “walking meditation.”
How effective is mantra meditation for depression, really?
The thing about being depressed is that it’s really, really hard to boost yourself up out of it using the usual methods. I can remember so many times that I tried to force myself out of a bad mood using some kind of sitting or walking meditation, usually with a mantra, and just ended up more pissed off and frustrated. Maybe I’m just really bad at it (actually, I’m pretty sure this is the case). But I have a feeling I’m not the only one with this problem.
Sometimes it works really well. Other times, it’s just not enough. Personally, I’ve found that meditation is best when I’m already feeling either emotionally neutral (it then kicks me into a bit of a high) or already positive (it then kicks me into an awesome high). When I’m actually depressed, I need something … stronger.