How to meditate as if your to-do list doesn’t exist

Though I was a pretty quiet kid, my brain was always busy with things to do, things I should do and building lists of things I planned to do, and that hasn’t changed much since. This isn’t a bad thing unless you’re sitting in practice with the purpose of transcending the mind and attaining enlightenment and it suddenly occurs to you that you’ve forgotten to defrost the chicken for tonight’s dinner.

Many schools of meditation will teach you that wandering thoughts while meditating is fine. However, I feel our perception of that understanding is a bit too practical. Those wandering thoughts shouldn’t originate from your brain. They’re not supposed to be a list of things you need to do on this physical plain. If you’re transcending the mind, then you’re connecting to your higher-self and by doing so, your thoughts should be originating from her. I can tell you first hand that my higher-self laughs every time I start a new to-do list. 

If you find that your to-do list is interfering with your meditation practice, the simple chanting of the one-word mantra “OM” can help keep other thoughts at bay because you’ll be too focused on the physical sensations from the vibration of the OM sound to think of anything else.

And OM isn’t the only mantra available to you. Before I list a few more Sanskrit mantras, let’s look at what mantras are.

Mantra is a Sanskrit word derived from two roots: man (meaning “mind” or “to think”) and tra referring to “protect”, to “free from”, or “instrument/tool”. Therefore, mantras are tools of the mind or tools to free the mind.

Mantras originated thousands of years ago and are very powerful and divine tools that can connect our minds to the spiritual forces within us and above us. The more you practice and the more you believe, the stronger the connection gets. Eastern traditions teach us that mantra is a sound form of the Divine. It’s a sound form of the Great Consciousness. These sound forms are the subtlest in the world and also one of the most powerful ways to invoke the divine aspect of your own Self.

Some mantras have a literal meaning and can be translated, but most of them, according to tradition, derive their value mostly from their sound quality. Some are short, one-syllable mantras; others are long, composed of many words.

By focusing on a word or series of words to repeat in the form of a mantra, we are affirming it to ourselves and allowing its meaning to seep below the surface, into our subconscious. Here are a handful of mantras and their purposes.


The most well known and universal of mantras, OM is the sound of creation and causes energy to gather and flow upward and outward. OM is the mantra of acceptance and assent. It helps you to accept your higher self and allow energy to flow openly and freely through you. It also serves as a gathering mantra, gathering your inward energy and preparing your energy for movement.


Pronounced “kreem”, chanting this mantra stimulates your lower chakras to awaken and begin purifying your body.


Pronounced “shreem”, promotes bodily and spiritual health but can also be used to bring beauty and happiness to one’s senses.


Pronounced “hreem”, carries powers of healing and creativity.


Pronounced “hoom”, evokes the breakdown of negative feelings and spreads positivity and vitality through the body.

And what do you do if one of the above mantras doesn’t resonate with you?

Try a personal mantra or an affirmation! My wonderful sister, Vidya Sury, has an entertaining story about the use of her personal mantra here.

Mantras do not need to be in Sanskrit or be premade. Your mantra is based on personal experience and holds power as a unique expression of what you most desire. Whether it be aimed at manifesting security, deep connection, pervasive self-confidence, or release from suffering, the only requirement of mantra is that it is authentic. It’s your meditation practice and a mantra is a tool. Use the tool that suits you. That helps you focus. That makes you feel good.

How to use a Mantra to thought-block your to-do list

You can:

A) Follow your normal meditation routine and say your Mantra whenever your to-do list pops into your head or

B) Chant the mantra repeatedly, slowly, upon inhalation while sitting in a comfortable position.

B1) You can use chanting mala beads and repeat the mantra 108 times.

B2) You can set a timer for as long as you like and place your hands together in prayer or in your lap and repeat the mantra until the timer dings.

Don’t give yourself another thing to think about, just do. You’ll find your groove.

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