Monkey mind: use a mantra instead
What message is your chattering monkey mind giving you?

Do you have a little voice in your head giving you a running commentary on everything you do, say, think or feel? A negative mantra that you keep repeating?

I reckon that the answer is “yes”.

Because we all do.

We all have a voice in our head running a commentary on ourselves, our lives and other people.

An inner critic judging what we do or say, replaying situations over and over again looking at what we “should” have said or done, analysing every waking moment and action we take or fretting over what we think we should do or ruminating over what might happen.

But instead of being at the mercy of your noisy mind, wouldn’t it be great if you could consciously change the words your mind’s inner voice uses?

Rewire your brain

You’re not alone in this.

Researchers have calculated that the average person thinks between 50 & 70,000 thoughts a day – that’s between 35 and 48 thoughts per minute per person.

And that about 80% of these thoughts are negative.

They’ve also calculated that 98% of these are the same as the thoughts we had yesterday.

So, we can see a lot of these thoughts are down to habit: habitual thinking.

For whatever reason, at some point in our life we began to tell ourselves negative stories about ourselves and they’ve stuck.

But they’re just neural pathways in the brain which have become well-worn.

We humans are creatures of habit and the brain will follow the path it’s most familiar with.

So the more times we let our buttons get pressed the deeper the neural pathways within your brain which elicit your response become.

There’s a phrase in neuroscience “what fires together, wire together”.

What began as a reaction to someone or something attacking you in subtle ways such as questioning your ability or knowledge or judgement, can become an ingrained negative habit of self-talk.

Getting into the groove

Record grooves: mantra helps us change the record

I’ll share with you an example from my life.

When I was at primary school we were all made to try out for the school choir. I didn’t want to but had no choice. We had to sing “Morning Has Broken” en masse with teachers coming around and standing at our shoulder and listening into us. If you weren’t up to scratch they tapped you on your shoulder and you weren’t in the choir and had to sit down.

I didn’t have a great amount of confidence in my ability to sing as it was, and as the teacher got nearer, my throat began to tighten and as she approached me just as the tune went really high, I can still remember the horribly strangulated sound that squeaked out of me …just before I received the tap of shame on my shoulder.

That led to a LONG time of me telling myself I couldn’t sing – it became an ingrained “fact” in my brain. If I had to try and sing when I could be clearly heard by others, my throat tightened and an interesting noise would come out.

On my own though? A different matter. I LOVE singing! In front of an audience? No way.

{Until I joined a workplace choir last year and opted to sing soprano – there’s no shying away from those top notes so I had to go for it and let myself be heard. SO liberating!}

We’ve all got these examples hidden in our past.

Experiences which led us to question our ability and so we shut ourselves down and kept telling ourselves we can’t or we shouldn’t or we won’t. It all adds to the negative self-talk.

In Yoga these grooves or habit patterns are called Samskaras – imprints left on the mind by experience.

Get out of the groove with a mantra

But you can change these habits.

The concept of neuroplasticity is a beautiful fact. Our brain adapts. When we do new things, or think new thoughts, new neural pathways are created.

Each time we repeat an action or thought these neural pathways get stronger and more clearly defined.

Change your actions and your thoughts; change your brain. And change your life.

OM Mantra - the sacred sound of the universe in yoga

It’s as simple and as challenging as noticing your self-talk – becoming aware of the mood music within your mind.

Taking back some control and giving your mind a job to do, rather than letting it wander off on its usual record of worrying, fretting, ruminating, and judging.

A great way to take back this control is through the use of Mantras.

Using mantras gives your mind a job to do.

A mantra is a chosen thought which you repeat and repeat and repeat – that’s all it really is.

Yes, there’s a lot more to it than that if you choose to delve deeper, but at its simplest a mantra offers us a tool to focus the mind.

A mantra can be plain and simple in English such as “peace” or “calm” or “it is as it is” or “today I choose to relax” …or “I express myself freely and joyfully and yes, I can sing” 😉

Or it might be a traditional yoga mantra in Sanskrit with sacred intention and vibration – such as Om Namah Shivaya or the Buddhist mantra Om Mani Padme Hum.

Repeating mantras – whether silently or out loud – helps us to calm the mind and balance our emotions; it evens the breath and quietens the thoughts.

It is soothing and soulful, calming and connecting.

Chanting them together in a group can be a beautifully sacred experience.

It shows us that we don’t have to be at the mercy of our monkey mind – we can train it to focus through the regular practise of mantras.

You can sit and repeat your mantra in meditation; or you can let it run through your mind as you go about your daily life.

Take back control of your mind and choose where you place your focus.

So, what will your mantra be today?


Let me help you to help yourself

Weekly yoga classes:  press pause in your busy week with tension-relieving, anxiety-easing mindful movement, breathing and relaxation with weekly Dru Yoga classes in Southampton, and Bishopstoke (near Eastleigh).

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Monthly Meditation Class: Moving into Stillness in Eastleigh. Mindful movement, relaxation and meditation – quieten the mind to feel more peaceful, present and positive.

Workshops & events: Reconnect body, mind and soul with inspiring, calming and empowering yoga workshops & events. Expect to move, breathe, relax, open and look within. Create space, allow new perspectives.

Read my book – Peace Lies Within: 108 ways to tame your mind and connect to inner peace.

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{ Photo credits:  Monkey: Foter.com Record: Foter.com
OM symbol: mailumes via Foter.com / CC BY}

Retrain your brain with a mantra
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