Mantra-more than self help gibberish

I feel like I heard the word mantra used a thousand different times, in a thousand different contexts before coming to yoga.  Although I heard the word often  it had no real meaning to me.  Who did mantra practice besides Rafiki from the Loin King or self-help enthusiasts looking in the mirror saying “I am beautiful, I am lovely.”  No, it didn’t seem like a practical or helpful method of any kind to me.
I’ve recently taken up a mantra practice and have found that it is an amazing instrument to move towards meditation.  It doesn’t have to be positive affirmations or gibberish, it can be a very meaningful and impact practice.  I picked up a book called “Mantras, Words of Power” by Swami Sivananda Radha and have gotten the chance to understand this practice deeper and find a love for it, here’s what I’ve learned…
Each mantra has some sort of essence or power, pick a mantra that contains some aspect that you look up to or something you wish to grow towards.  By repeating this mantra you first come to find a deep understanding of it’s core meaning. Then you will eventually become consumed with this essence, it will become a part of your everyday actions and thoughts.
How do you do this?  It’s critical to have a dedicated practice, both morning and night sit down for a set amount of time with mala beads and repeat your practice either out loud or in your head.  Throughout your day when you find that you are losing sight of it, put it back in your mind and incorporate it into every day actions (including your asana practice.)  You’ll find that this action will keep you focused throughout the day, and it has also helped me keep a solid breath pattern.
Traditionally you should receive your mantra from your guru through an initiation; since that’s not realistic for most of us, do your research: read books, go online, ask your yoga teachers/knowledgeable friends for suggestions and find something that you can dedicate months of  repetition to.   This is a practice perfect for the scatter-brained, it allows us to more easily maintain a meditative state because we have a focus that’s simple to find and come back to.    If you haven’t given it a shot, at least dip your toes in the idea and try it out.  I was also once a skeptic, but know I see just how effective and useful it can be.

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