On the American Veda article, someone mentioned the Kriya Yoga Conference next March where the author Philip Goldberg will be speaking. I noticed both CSA sites linked from the conference page have basic effortless meditation instructions on their site.
On Rev. O’Brian’s site, she suggests using the mantra Om. As the primordial sound (pranava), it is a well known mantra. However, it is a mantra only suited for renunciates. If you use such a mantra, you’ll notice your possessions and relationships tend to fall away. I would not recommend this for most people. Shankaracharya Swami Brahmanand Saraswati (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s guru) went so far as to call it poison to happiness, more so for women.
On the R.E. Davis site, they suggest choosing a pleasant English word. Again, I would use caution here. The mantra takes you very deep within and becomes quite powerful. A random word may have unpredictable effects. (more to understand Mantras)
One traditional Indian way of choosing is to use the name of your favoured form of God.* This is sometimes a family tradition but can also be seen in a jyotish astrology chart. In her Answers Part 1, Mother Meera suggests “Whichever mantra [Divine name] comes to you easily and spontaneously is the one you should do. It should give a strong feeling and be like music flowing from the heart.” If you’re not comfortable with the God thing, simply use a bija (seed) mantra of known suitable good effects.
Ideally, one learns meditation from a teacher. They know how to choose mantras and can guide you into the effortless experience. Often, it is the habit to try. When subtle effort creeps into the practice, it stops bringing benefits and we tend to then drop it. It’s good to have a clear experience of effortlessness periodically early in the practice.
Deepak Chopra’s meditation apparently chooses mantras based on your moon’s position at birth. He also taught a technique to the entire audience at a presentation I was at. Transcendental Meditation teachers are similarly trained to give suitable bija mantras. I’ve been happily using TM for decades and it’s certainly the most thoroughly researched. Because meditation is so fundamental to our well-being, the range of benefits is huge.
It’s worth noting that in past controversies, it has been suggested that TM mantras were names of God so the practice (and any other eastern based meditation) was secretly religious praying to Hindu deities. However, most everything of import in Hindu culture is associated with one form of God or another. It’s a way of expressing gratitude, of making one’s entire life an act of devotion. But unless you formally use a name of God or have the intention to use it in this way, it’s not a form of prayer. In practices like TM, you avoid associating the mantra with any meaning as that can hold it in the surface levels of mind. Thus, associations with gods are irrelevant to the practice. It’s only if you choose an approach like Mother Meera’s, where you combine prayer and meditation, that such associations arise.
Rev. O’Brian suggests having the attention in the third eye area. Others may suggest the attention on the heart, especially if using a Divine name. Both the CSA sites suggest saying the mantra with the breath. If it’s more comfortable, you can drop all these details and simply allow the mantra to come and go as it will. Just favour it when you notice you’ve drifted off into thoughts. This will take you deeper within. And the attention will move naturally to where things are unfolding or purifying. Keep it simple if you want to go to simplest states of awareness.
In any case, choose a meditation that is effortless. Avoid the poor understanding of the Yoga Sutras that suggests meditation requires concentration and pushing out thoughts. Even science has demonstrated that has totally different effects. Concentration may increase focus skills but does that bring you home? Meditation should prepare you for the effortless allowing that unfolds enlightenment, not the effort that affirms the control of the ego.
Above all, enjoy!
*India is largely monotheistic (one God) but sees God as showing up in many forms. In the personal or heart-based approach, all is seen as being done.