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What's a Mantra?

What's a Mantra? It's a word more common in the east, referring to any word word or phrase repeated as an incantation or prayer. Actually, it is made up of two words, "man" meaning "mind" and "tra" meaning "instrument." So a mantra is an "instrument of the mind."

It is unfortunate that many Christians mistakenly think a "mantra" refers to the meditative practices in the east but that Christians are supposed to pray instead. Such is a very limited understanding of prayer as any Christian familiar with the history of Christianity would know. Benedictine monks, for example, have been using mantras for centuries...scriptures, and words, and phrases, as well as chants and songs to quiet their minds and center their hearts.

My favorite phrase as a mantra in meditation and prayer is Psalm 46:10. "Be still and know that I am God." I learned something interesting today that is rich with meaning. The Hebrew verb translated "Be still" literally means, "to release," or "to let yourself become weak." The Hebrew verb "to know," like the verb "Be still," is in the imperative voice. And, in the Hebrew language, when two verbs in the imperative voice appear side by side, the emphasis is on the second verb. So, what's the significance? It's as if the psalmist is saying, "to know God," one must "become still," "release control," or "turn loose."

This is consistent with everything else we are learning about living a Divine life, isn't it? You must give up to go up, release to receive, give away in order to gain, even to die in order to live.  Which of course is just the opposite of what our culture teaches, coincidentally. It insists, if you want to get ahead, you must fight, clamor, struggle, step on and over, whatever is necessary--it's everybody for him-or herself, isn't it? You've got to step on to step up, walk over to walk beyond, to leave others behind so you can get ahead.

I thought about this today as I got swept up in the madness at one of the local shopping malls. So today, I will find time to be still...to know; better still, "to be still in ORDER that I might know."

"Know what?" you ask. That "I am." That you are. When I know who I AM, then I know who YOU ARE. We're really the same, you know. What I do to you, I do to me; what I do to me, I do to you.  Until I know who I am, you, and a host of others, are just in my way.