Mantra for life?



A “Mantra” is a sacred utterance , a numinous sound, a syllable, word or phonemes or group to words in Sanskrit believed by practitioners to have psychological and spiritual powers. A mantra may or may not have syntactic structure or literal meaning. WIKEPEDIA.

Hands up if you read this definition of mantra and understood it, straight away ? No need to read further! Go and put your feet up and relax with a cuppa……for this is my quest to find out exactly the meaning of ‘mantra’, what I think it is v what it actually is.

So here goes, I’ll share my version : ‘ Mantra – is a saying – an ethos/ a repetition of words that endorse an idea/ a belief/ feeling/ philosophy.’

Then I read the definition above which sent me thumbing through the dictionary.  First up, I do not know what ‘numinous’, ‘syntactic’, or ‘phoneme’ mean.
They are technical words and sound scientific. Even now after I have learned their meanings, I keep reading to grasp some understanding.

Numinous‘ means to have a strong spiritual or religious quality and suggest the presence of the divine.

Syntactic‘ relates to Syntax which is the arrangement of words and phrases to create well formed sentences. It also has a meaning relating to computers, which is where the scientific part appears.

Phoneme‘ is a sound which is distinctive when heard amongst other similar sounds, the example given was this: ‘pat, pad, bat, bad ‘ a bit like a tongue twister I think.

The Official Version :

Mantra’ originates from the late 18th century: Sanskrit, literally ‘a thought, thought behind speech or action’, from man- ‘think’, related to ‘mind’ and as a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation, originally in Hinduism and Buddhism.

“a mantra is given to a trainee meditator when his teacher initiates him”
* a Vedic hymn.
“her high, sweet voice began chanting the mantra of life”
* a statement or slogan repeated frequently.
“the environmental mantra that energy has for too long been too cheap”
English/Oxford Dictionary

I was right about the ‘repetition of words that endorse an idea’ which is described as a ‘slogan’ above and so off the mark with the rest. A mantra seems to be much more than endorsing a belief, this I think is an affirmation, it seems to be much more than endorsing a philosophy, if the first description above is to be believed, a mantra it seems, holds a powerful energy.

So I did some research.

Transcendental Meditation is the meditation practice that uses mantras. It is a technique for avoiding distracting thoughts and promoting a state of relaxed awareness. The late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi derived Transcendental Meditation from the ancient Vedic tradition of India. He brought the technique to the U.S. in the 1960s. Practitioners are given their own personal mantra to chant. The mantra has no specific meaning per se, it is a sound to focus on as it is repeated over and over. Film maker, David Lynch practices Transcendental Meditation and travels the world to promote it, he does Q&A’s for the curious and his talks are interesting.

So if a mantra is a repeated sound then what is cloth when it repeats itself? It is a pattern. in music it’s a riff, rhythm. A mantra has the edge,  as it has a numinous quality, but then so can stitching, so can writing, it all depends how deep you go into it, how focused and intent you become, whether you reach the flow state.

The emphasis is on repetition, and like anything you repeat, in action, like sewing, like learning to write, doing the same thing over and over, you get into a rhythm and improve as you go, You become familiar with the process and as you move more into it, you notice and learn, make observations, notice changes. Is this what it’s like to repeat your mantra?









Published by Maggie Winnall

Hello, I'm Maggie, I am an artist who writes in fabric and thread, stitching the 'text' into textiles and colour into quilts..... You can read more on my About page at

2 thoughts on “Mantra for life?

  1. I did the Transcendental Meditation training when I was in college and received my personal mantra at the end of the course. I’ve never told anyone my mantra and I meditated with that mantra for many years. When I think my mantra I immediately breathe more slowly and deeply and my mind quiets. The pattern and repetition are certainly key!

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