I’m mulling over this post from over at Gangleri’s Grove. I didn’t directly reblog the piece because this is only tangentially related, but it’s excellent food for thought and i do recommend you go read it.
When i was practicing something-like-Hinduism, a mantra was a major part of my practice. I used to mentally repeat my mantra when i woke up in the morning and went to bathe, during the beginning of meditation (sometimes throughout my entire meditation; it depended on what i was doing), while i cooked or cleaned or folded clothes or brushed my teeth or dried my hair, while i exercised, while i did archery… I also made an effort to mentally repeat my mantra as i went to sleep at night. In short, i structured my day around my mantra. Any moment i could, i brought my attention back to those words.
The only time i specifically didn’t use my mantra was when i was supposed to be giving something my full attention—in a conversation with another person, for example. Part of honouring the Divine is honouring the Divine in other living beings, so that seemed like an appropriate circumstance to set down the mantra.
After doing this for several years, that mantra—that short series of words—became deeply embedded in my brain. It became the background music of my mind, running in a constant loop. Every moment my mind-chatter went quiet, i heard that. It was my go-to internal monologue whenever i felt angry or sad or frightened (or peaceful or joyful, for that matter). I centred myself on those words.
But then i stopped being something-like-Hindu. I stopped devoting myself to one Power to the exclusion of all others. And more than that, i’d completely changed pantheons: A mantra dedicated to a Hindu deva no longer seemed to fit, now that i found myself predominantly devoted to Powers in the Norse pantheon. The mantra—my mantra—no longer fit my practice. After dithering for a while, i decided it was best that i set the mantra aside.
It’s left a hole in my practice, though. It hasn’t entirely gone away, for starters: In moments of intense emotion, my old mantra still sometimes drifts to the forefront of my mind, ill-fitting though it now is. And it’s become something like a drug that’s lost its potency, no longer offering the comfort and anchoring feeling it once did. It’s just…words, words connected to memories that, while the pain of them is softening, they feel ever more distant.
Some Pagans i know like to recite the various bynames of their Beloveds as a kind of mantra; there’s also the possibility of something like lectio divina, or Eknath Easwaran’s method of passage meditation. I do make a habit every day of reciting my own adaptation of Sigdrifa’s prayer, and i’ve dabbled a little bit in writing short prayers of my own that could be suited to mantra practice and/or repetitive prayer. But so far nothing has felt quite “right” in the same way.