The word "mantra," is Sanskrit and built from the roots "manas" (the linear thinking mind) and "tra" (to cross over). Mantras can also be defined as mind wave, sacred sound, or words repeated in order to aid in achieving a meditative state.
A mantra isn't a long sentence of affirmation. They are short, elevated, powerful words or sounds that help us cross over from the state of swirling thoughts to a place of focus, deep connection, and awareness. "Bij" means seed, and a "Bij Mantra" is powerful, small, and plants deeply into our brain so that it can grow, break free from underground, flourish above ground, and develop into it's fullest expression. Think about a tiny maple seed. It's small but it has all the information/coding in it, to tell the cellulose how to become a gigantic tree. When we chant mantra, we are planting a seed that will help us grow into our fullest expression.
Some common mantras I teach in class:
Sat Nam (truest, highest self)
Wahe Guru (bliss now as we move from darkness to light, ignorance to wisdom)
Here Now Peace Now Highest Self
Mantras work to rewire your brain when they are short and repeated A LOT. Mantra is really just giving our brain clear instructions. Our brain does whatever we tell it. If we've been telling it "I'm Fat," "I'm Dumb," "I'm poor," "I'm ugly," "Fuck You," or "Life sucks," for decades, we have to give it new instructions. Those instructions need to be crystal clear, and repeated regularly.
This is why those long quotes that you may see framed on a wall don't work. We rarely memorize a long statement about how we need to elevate, love ourselves, find our light, etc., etc. Keep it simple so we stay focused and our brain will understand. Think of your brain as a well trained, loyal dog. It's happy to do what you say and it will do whatever you say, but you have to give it clear commands.
A mantra can be repeated silently, or out loud. It is more powerful when chanted out loud, repeatedly for 7-11 minutes, but will still do good work if repeated silently. Sound and mantra go together, even if you are thinking the mantra, not saying it audibly. Every thought has neurons firing and is an electrical current that can emit sound.
In yoga there is "Shabd Guru", meaning the wisdom/teacher is in the sound current.
ACTION STEP #1: Start noticing what thoughts repeat in our heads the most. Jot them down as you notice them. This first step is just becoming aware of what mantra is currently on repeat.
This has been falsely attributed to Lao Tzu, but it's still a good quote and very true:
“Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
It's a slippery slope.
Thich Nhat Hahn says, "A mantra is a kind of magic formula that, once uttered, can entirely change a situation. It can change us, and it can change others. But this magic formula must be spoken in concentration, with body and mind focused as one. What you say in this state of being becomes a mantra."
ACTION STEP #2: Pick a mantra from the list above. Don't overthink it. Just pick whatever stands out to you the most. We'll keep it easy here. You don't even have to sit down and close your eyes. Just add that mantra to your foot steps as you walk around today. For example: As your left foot falls, think "On" and as your right foot falls, think "track".
Think about how you flipping the script of your inner dialogue can be your Rebel Human act. Part of being a Rebel Human is pushing back against the norms that harming yourself and others. If your inner dialogue is harming you, alight in the feeling of power as you choose your positive mantras to repeat instead.
Every time to you switch to your mantra, you are strengthening your inner Rebel Human.