Paying $24.95 for a Learn to Meditate course based on a mantra, that is roughly akin to the Transcendental Meditation approach, had at least one immediate benefit for me.
It got me to pondering the pros and cons of using a mantra, versus pursuing mindfulness.
This is going to be a fairly short blog post, because after a couple of days where I experimented with repeating the one-word mantra that I chose for the course -- "peace" -- it dawned on me why I gave up on using a mantra and made mindfulness my meditation.
Yes, I still play around with repeating a mantra.
But almost always I've been doing this when going to sleep, when my eyes are closed and I'm not doing anything except falling asleep. As I said in the above-linked post:
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.
Not surprisingly, that same distancing popped up when I tried repeating my "peace" mantra during the day when I was doing things. It was fine when I spent ten minutes or so in closed-eyes meditation during my morning reading/meditating time.
Not so fine when I was trying to repeat the mantra while doing anything else. I didn't like the split between that word being repeated in my head and what I was doing with my body.
So I found that what I wrote about in 2015 still held true for me: Mantra meditation basically is useless. For me, at least. In that post I quoted from a 2012 post. Guess I needed a $24.95 reminder.
...For most of those forty years I used a mantra taught by a Sant Mat organization, Radha Soami Satsang Beas, that was known as the Five Holy Names. The mantra bore some resemblance to the ones used by the Transcendental Meditation folks.
...I've come to much the same concluson as Sudarsha has: following the breath mindfully is a better meditation approach than is repeating a mantra mindlessly.
...Why would you repeat a mantra in your mind when your goal is to be aware of what exists in what I like to call really real reality?
It'd be ridiculous to remain focused on mentally repeating sex, sex, sex, sex, sex when a beautiful willing partner is lying next to you on a bed, arms outstretched for your embrace.
Likewise, it'd be ridiculous to keep saying sunset, sunset, sunset, sunset, sunset as the REAL sun is dipping below the horizon, displaying gorgeous colors across the sky.
And even if your aim is religious, does it make any sense to utter God, God, God, God, God (or other supposed names of divinity) instead of being receptively open to whatever divine presence might be capable of being experienced at the moment?
Occasionally I still use a mantra, but more and more it seems pointless to speak repeated words inside my head. Life is going on all the time I'm awake and aware; experience is happening all the time I'm awake and aware.
A mantra now seems like an unnecessary distraction from life and experience. When I'm ballroom dancing, I don't think to myself dance, dance, dance, dance, dance. I just dance.