All the Basics:
Mantra meditation consists on focusing on a mantra or a syllable or word, usually without any particular meaning, for the purpose of focusing your mind. It is not an affirmation intended to convince yourself of something (Live and Dare).
Some teachers say that the correct pronunciation of the word is key, due to its "vibration," while other say that the mantra is only intended to focus the mind.
Mantras are commonly used in Hindu traditions, Buddhist traditions, as well as Jainism, Sikhism and Daoism (Taoism).
A devotion-oriented practice of mantras is called "japa," which consists of repeating sacred sounds (name of God) with love.
Common Hindu Mantras:
These may be repeated for a certain period of time, or for a set number of “repetitions” – traditionally 108 or 1008. In the latter case, mala beads are typically used for keeping count.
How to Perform the Meditation:
Begin by taking a comfortable seat with a long spine. Begin to repeat the mantra over and over again. Lose yourself in the mantra.
Option to coordinate breathe to the meditation or to whisper the mantra out loud.
"As you repeat the mantra, it creates a mental vibration that allows the mind to experience deeper levels of awareness. As you meditate, the mantra becomes increasingly abstract and indistinct, until you’re finally led into the field of pure consciousness from which the vibration arose.
Repetition of the mantra helps you disconnect from the thoughts filling your mind so that perhaps you may slip into the gap between thoughts. The mantra is a tool to support your meditation practice. Mantras can be viewed as ancient power words with subtle intentions that help us connect to spirit, the source of everything in the universe." -Deepak Chopra
Origin + History:
During the early vedic period, Vedic poets became fascinated by the inspirational power of poems, metered verses and music. They referred to them with the root dhi-, which evolved into dhyana (meditation) of Hinduism, and this evolved into a mantra.
By the middle vedic period (1000 BC to 500 BC), mantras were derived from all vedic compositions, which included ṛc (verses from Rigveda for example), sāman (musical chants from the Sāmaveda for example), yajus (a muttered formula from the yajurveda for example), and nigada (a loudly spoken yajus).
During the Hindu Epics period and after, mantra use spread. Their use is popular in Tantra.
Photo Cred: Jess Hamilton