Silence is Golden, but Mantras . . .

You can fill in the blank in the title.  I might say . . . “are miraculous.”


I can remember back in college, I had friends who used to wear their headphones constantly.  They told me they couldn’t study without listening to music.  And I always found that hard to believe because if I’m listening to music, the only other thing I can do at the same time is dance.  And I’m not so great at that either, although I have fun flailing about 🙂

I mean I can’t even go to sleep listening to music.  Music just seems to engage some part of my brain that carries me somewhere else completely.

And totally.

I’ve always been fascinated by how our brains work, and I just came across a study that concluded that people perform better on tests designed to measure their creativity while in silence than they do while listening to various types of background music. Background noise, like the activity going on in a library, had no effect on the subjects’ creative centers.  But music, apparently, whisked those participants away to another land where independent creative thought could not reside.

Now I’m not sure if creative activity in our brains is the same as student study activity, but this experiment seems to demonstrate the powerful way music can capture our attention.  The cognitive researchers theorized that the reason creativity is stifled when music is playing is that, “People may use their ‘inner voice’ to practice different word combinations in their head, and that voice gets drowned out when music is playing.”

And while the study didn’t go off in this direction, I think it also shows just how powerful our “inner voice” is.

Some call it “self-talk,” but I like the term “internal dialog.”

Not so ironically, the goal of meditation is to shut that non-stop, internal gab-machine off.  Our internal dialog may help us with being creative, but it also can mislead us as to what our senses are really registering, and it can drive us crazy with incessant over-analyzing.

So, what’s a good way to turn that internal dialog into something powerful and healing?  Drown out its never-ending wanderings with a consistent and harmonious tone.  Use a different type of music, perhaps.  With a different type of melody.

A Mantra.

Simply defined, a Mantra is a sound, a syllable, a word, or a group of words that can help induce an altered state of consciousness.  And that alteration can take on different forms ranging from calming the mind and body to making a blissful spiritual connection.

And you can do this by using either your inner voice or you can vocalize it out loud, but you must repeat it over and over until it takes over that jealous and controlling part of our brain that wishes to incessantly dictate the description of the world to us.

There are an infinite number of mantras and you can easily compose your own.  My blogging friend, Ilka, often posts mantras that are designed to replace any negative feelings or thoughts you may be having with positive vibrations.

Here’s an example from her blog, Thousand Miles:

I trust myself.
I do everything right.

I have taken mantras, or created them, and used them in what you might call a practical manner, as opposed to using them motionless, which is fine by itself.  I use them to call cadence when I’m hiking.

“Calling cadence” is using a modulation of your voice in a rhythmic fashion to coincide with each step you take.  The military regularly uses this method to march its soldiers beyond their normal physical limitations.

And the effect of calling cadence on the mind and body is really quite miraculous.

You can cover much longer distances and endure great physical hardship when separating your mind from body.  Your body can do more than you imagine if you eliminate the self-imposed mental limitations you place on it.  And calling cadence greatly enhances the natural moving meditation of walking or hiking and can take you to a completely different mental plateau.

My brother called cadence for he and I once when we were hiking out of the Grand Canyon.  Essentially mountain climbing in reverse, climbing back out of the canyon is extremely arduous, but with my brother calling cadence, we, with our 45-pound backpacks, flew by other people on the switchbacks carrying nothing more than a canteen.

Not long ago, a dear friend shared a mantra with me that you can apply to yourself or expand to include all of humanity – just choose the noun or pronoun you you wish to apply.  I shortened the phrases to fit with my steps while hiking and it works like this:

May I be safe and secure,

(Left,        right,       left)


May I be free from suffering,

(Left,        right,        left)


May I be truly at peace,

(Left,       right,     left)


May I live happily and harmoniously.

(Left,          right,            left)


I start this mantra whenever I find myself getting tired.  But like I say, you can use any combination of words or sounds to do this and you’ll be surprised how the miles fly by.  And by how calm your mind will become.

You can also choose words to promote better health, mental or physical, or both, just like Ilka’s words above.

See you on the trail, and I will leave you “in Metta.”


Metta is derived from the Pali language, and it represents the following attributes: loving-kindness, friendliness, goodwill, benevolence, fellowship, amity, concord, inoffensiveness and non-violence.

Photo: I took this shot while hiking in the Southwest about a year and a half ago.  I had paused my trek to enjoy the passage of a group of Whitetail Deer, and glanced down to see my shadow.  I liked viewing the image with my silenced mind, the product of my internal chanting while I had climbed some 1300 feet in elevation without my body really noticing.  The shadow sort of representing my disembodied mind and spirit 🙂

Reference: Background Music Stints Creativity: Evidence From Compound Remote Associate Tasks.

Side Note: Music fascinates me in ways similar to the way words fascinate me.   There are only so many musical notes, but there are an infinite number of ways to combine them into songs.

Correspondingly, there are only so many letters in the alphabet, but there are an infinite number of words and word-combinations to communicate stories 🙂

28 thoughts on “Silence is Golden, but Mantras . . .”

  1. I write to meditative music. I listen to music frequently during the day, rock n roll or jazz. This is a recent phenomena for me as I used to feel it necessary to listen to my surroundings, so I didn’t get mugged or hit by a truck. I also thought it was highly anti-social like when you walk into a coffee shop and everyone else has earphones plugged in and no one wants to chit chat anymore. Sigh. If I need to talk, I’ve discovered podcasts. Nice post. Finally, I listen to “the voice” to inspire my writing effort–because I’m watching people who really really want something and are singing their hearts out…some of which will ultimately be broken.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I listen to music quite a bit. I find that it quiets my mind and after I feel more creative. I also find that running is meditative for me, and puts my mind at ease. As I run I actually do repeat certain mantras. Wonderful post Harold. Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Dr. Perry ! It’s great that music can stimulate your creativity, and running is great all around – especially if your chanting mantras 🙂 I’m taking occasional days now for music where I just set aside a few hours and search out new artists – love it !

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t write with music in the background – i want to sing along, harmonise, dance… If I don’t like it, I want to turn it off. It certainly doesn’t help my concentration. I used to have a yoga music tape somewhere though – formless backround stuff. I wonder if that would work?
    I use breathing rhythms to keep me awake when I’m driving boring routes – counting along to in- and out- breaths.
    I haven’t tried mantras at all. Maybe I’ll look for one that suits me.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. No – I was thinking more of trying it when I’m awake in the night and things in my head stop me sleeping. The breathing exercises are more for keeping me awake without distracting me from the road. I have previous for falling asleep at the wheel 😦

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point NL. The type of music can sure make a difference. My Chinese Tai Chi Master will play some traditional Chinese music while we practice and that is not distracting at all. But if you put on something with a faster beat to it, you’ll want to shift into dancing mode and you can’t stay in the right rhythm 🙂


    1. I think you’ll be surprised. It can be as simple as saying right and left as you place your feet, or it can be anything you want. Even conforming a song to the pace you’re walking will become a mantra 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s a very good description. 🙂
    Using a mantra when hiking is a good exercise, I use them often while taking a walk. For me, the mantra is like setting a goal: In which energy I would like to arrive? How would I like to feel? Therefore I sometimes prefer one-word-mantras. That’s simple, and it works well. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was a person who always had music playing – until I started work in an emergency telecommunications environment. Now, I find that my house is largely silent because for 12 hours a day when I am on shift, there is *no* silence. I use mantras as well – and in terms of single word mantras, I often run through the names of Deities I have a relationship with.

    I really like the photo – I have to try some photos with shadows, thanks for inspiring me.

    Liked by 1 person

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