Mantra medititation is the practice of repeating a sacred phrase over and over to help draw us into a place of quiet meditation. The constant repetition of the sacred phrase engages the mind, rather than working against it and gives it something to do until it is ready to be quiet.
In the Catholic Christian tradition the most familiar mantra meditation is the Rosary. Through repetition and reflection, the mind is engaged and moves to a place of calm. In the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, there are many familiar mantras: Om Mani Padme Om, Om Shanti, Ganapati Namo Namaste, just to name a few. You could also create your own mantra using the name of your favorite Saint or incorporating your favorite intentional phrase: “Let there be peace” “All you need is love.” What is important when choosing your mantra is the meaning it holds for you personally.
Mantra meditation is a way to work with the restless energy of the mind rather than resisting its movement. I compare it to working with an energetic child. We can work against the natural energy of the child and try to get them to be quiet through reprimand and recrimination, or we can take the child outside and let them play. Mantra meditation allows the active mind to play until the restless energy has been expended, then it will rest in silence.
Movement meditation works in the same way. Through active movement of the body, we give the restless energy of the mind something to do. Through focused attention to the body and to the required movements, the mind is forced to let go of the (often fearful) restlessness to focus instead on the present moment. Yoga, Tai Chi and Chi Qong are three common examples of meditative movement disciplines that encourage this type of focused attention through movement of the body. The good news is that any way we choose to move the body can be used as a form of meditative movement. With intention and awareness, running, basketball, dance, rowing, biking, etc. can become a form of meditative movement for us.
So next time you find yourself frustrated with the restless monkey mind, instead of fighting it, engage it! Move your body and move your thoughts to allow the mind to expend its energy and return to its natural state of peaceful repose.