I had heard of the mantra. I grew up with catholics and had seen them chanting the rosary. Counting beads one decade at a time. I used to think it was kinda crazy. Then I found the Camino.
My friend Sara, my business partner's wife, gave me a rosary as a gift when Kim and I walked camino in 2013. It came with a little card telling how it should be practiced - a cheat sheet. I kept it in my safe pouch, around my neck.
One day wile trudging along the ancient paths of Spain, I was having a terrible time with pain in my feet. I needed to walk (wanted to walk), but the pain was pretty overbearing. I pulled out the rosary and started to softly say "Hail Mary full of grace the lord is with the ...."
I set a goal (what I later learned to identify as an intention) to keep saying the Hail Mary and counting the beads until I reached a patch of woods in the distance.
It was a long flat section of trail along the part of Spain known as the Meseta. The trees were much farther away than I thought. I kept on saying the prayer. I kept on chanting. I got louder. I got comfortable. The words rolled out with ease and speed. Bead by bead the neckless passed through my hands about a hundred times.
I didn't think about the pain in my feet. That disappeared. I didn't think about the distance. That was of no concern. I thought about the words. I thought about the chant. I was in a sort of trance.
That's a mantra. Simple as that.
I've since taken in a practice of a daily two mile walk. I always carry a mantra in my head. I count the rounds off on my fingers as I walk (Don't like to carry beads with me on my morning walk). I do this every day.
I've learned to use mantras from old. I've employed mantras that I made up. I've got one that I read - out loud - every time I walk into my meditation room. It settles the mind.
The really interesting thing for me is the power of a mantra. Not that there's any magical talismanic quality to the words, except that saying a phrase over and over for hours tends to focus the mind.
That to me is the trick to a mantra. It focuses the mind. It takes one out of the world and into the moment.
My daily walking mantra:
"I am more than I appear to be, all the worlds strength & power rests inside me."
- R. Sharma (The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari)