A mantra (a word or a phrase which is repeated over and over, silently or aloud) is a useful device with which to tame our restless minds and bring us back to the centre. Traditionally, a disciple would be given a mantra by their spiritual teacher. As the practice of meditation has spread to the West, however, many are finding their own mantra, one that usually wells up from their inner depths and declares itself.
I have described how my own mantra appeared in Finding Silence, in the meditation entitled ‘A Perfected Life’. Standing one day outside the cottage of my friend Ann Powell, whom I had just been visiting, the words suddenly appeared: God is present. God is here. God is now.
Recently, I shared this with a friend from Paris. She wrote back to say she had finally found a way to translate this into French: Dieu est. Ici. Maintenant. Then she went on to say, ‘Like a rope dangling in front of my face I grasp it to keep me upright.’ At a time of much difficulty and ill health in her life, these words in her native language help her to persevere.
Whatever our mantra, it is there to be repeated throughout the day and especially whenever we cannot sleep. The words keep us connected to the innermost depths of our being. Just as Ariadne gave Theseus a thread with which to find his way out of the Minotaur’s labyrinth so, too, our mantra enables us to find a way through the complexities of life. A devout Muslim will repeat the hundred names of God over and over: it is the same process. While we go about our daily tasks and work, the gentle repetition of our mantra is like an underground river.