On this blog I've done a lot of writing about mantras. I just used the Google search box in the right sidebar to locate posts dealing with "mantra." The results went on for 10 pages, all of most of the posts being written for Church of the Churchless rather than my other two blogs.
I assiduously repeated a mantra silently both in meditation and during some of the rest of my day for thirty-five years.
That was the meditation method I first was taught, though it had a component of open awareness to go along with the focused attention of repeating a mantra.
When I was really into repeating a mantra, I found that this created a distance between what I was doing physically and my awareness, because part of my mental energy was devoted to the mantra while, say, I was doing the dishes.
Now I prefer to be mindful of whatever I'm doing, no mantra required, which is why I've said that mindfulness has become my meditation.
But I still play around with repeating a mantra -- the operative word being "play." I no longe view a mantra as anything serious, a cosmic secret between me and the guru who gave me supposedly sacred words to repeat in my mind.
Nor do I consider that a mantra has any special powers, or is a means of achieving some sort of supernatural consciousness. Rather, I like to try out various mantras just to see how this feels to me, sort of like an actor playing various roles.
An actor tries to inhabit the role being taken on in order to make their acting appear genuine. But they never lose themselves in a role so deeply, they aren't conscious that what they're doing is just an act.
Being inclined toward Buddhism, though in no way am I a Buddhist, I've been trying on the Shin/Pure Land mantra of Namu Amida Butsu.
Basically those words mean "I take refuge in the Buddha." There's quite a bit of weirdness associated with the Shin branch of Buddhism, but I don't have to embrace all that when I'm repeating Namu Amida Butsu.
I like how those words sound, especially when repeated slowly, one word to each out breath.Namu ends in "ooh." Amida ends in "ah." Butsu ends in another "ooh." Nice soft vowels. They relax me.
Mostly I play at repeating the Nembutsu, as it is called, when I'm not doing anything else. Going to sleep, for example.
But there's other times when I enjoy repeating this mantra, or some other word(s), especially when my mind is overly active. Yes, in general I believe in not diffusing my attention with a mantra when I could be simply fixing lunch, taking out the trash, or whatever.
That assumes my mind is quiet enough to be mindful of what I'm doing physically, However, sometimes thoughts of something I've done, or something I need to do, keep intruding.
In that case, I figure that it makes sense to have a few simple words being repeated mentally than to have a whole bunch of complex thoughts rattling around in my head.
I'd rather be speaking to myself Namu Amida Butsu than, say, "Geez, I can't believe Governor Brown decided Oregon teachers should get a Covid vaccine before seniors. So wrong. Maybe I should write about this tonight. Or maybe not. Hard to decide. Politicians are doing so much that's stupid. Mostly Republicans, but Democrats also. So irritating..."
Most of our inner speech isn't productive. it's just how our mind likes to pass time, by talking to itself. So a mantra can be a useful means of quieting the mind, sort of like giving a baby a pacifier it can suck on rather than crying.