22 Beginnings | American Holistic Nurses Association
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INTENTIONALITY & PRESENCE
hen was the last time you really listened to someone
with undivided and full attention? Were you present
in that moment, without thoughts of what you
needed to do next? Could you listen without trying
to ﬁnish the other person’s sentences? If your answer is “no,”
then you may be a good candidate for mantram repetition.
“What is a mantram?” you ask. “Isn’t it called a mantra?” Before
answering these questions, I acknowledge that there are many
opinions and teachings about the best ways to calm the mind,
meditate, manage stress, stay mindful, and be present with others.
Each person must ﬁnd the method or practice that works best for
him/her. For those who have never tried any meditative practices,
however, mantram repetition may be a good place to start.
A mantram, or mantra, (either spelling has the same
meaning in Sanskrit) is a word or phrase deﬁned as a “short,
powerful spiritual formula . . . used to call up what is best and
deepest in ourselves” (Easwaran, 2008a, p.12). The phrase
mantram repetition was introduced to the West by Sri Eknath
Easwaran (see sidebar at right) as part of his Eight-Point
Program (Easwaran, 2008b).
There are many commonly recommend mantrams to
choose from, but it is important to select one for yourself to
match your personal philosophy and spiritual needs. Silently
repeating a mantram is a portable, contemplative practice that
can be exercised nearly any time or place, without needing a
quiet environment, speciﬁc time period or posture. It is used to
& Presence with
by JILL E. BORMANN PhD, RN, FAAN
APRIL 2014 23
American Holistic Nurses Association | Beginnings
teach your mind to focus, pause and be
present, even while on the go!
Beneﬁts of Practicing
Repeating a mantram requires intention
and focus. When practicing correctly, your
mind should have no room for thinking
of anything else (so, you know when
you are doing it and when you are not).
In addition, while practicing mantram
mentally, you simultaneously slow down
your thought process and develop the
skill of concentrating and focusing on just
one thing—your mantram.
Mantram repetition is done
internally, quietly inside the mind,
and requires both commitment and
intention. This may be difﬁcult at ﬁrst,
however over time with consistent, daily
practice, repeating a mantram builds
expertise to direct one’s attention at
will. It fosters slowing down and being
present in the moment. This internal skill
of concentration can later be transferred
externally to a variety of daily tasks. Thus,
the practice of repeating a mantram with
intention and focus becomes a means
to better concentration on other things
in your life, from the mundane (doing
dishes) to the sublime (being intimate
with a partner). Unlike a motto, pep-
talk, inspirational passage or personal
afﬁrmation, a mantram embodies a
sacred essence, Higher Power, or God’s
assistance. It is powerful.
Travis and Shear (2010) categorized
meditative practices into three types:
1) Object-focused such as attention on
breath, sound, picture, etc.
2) Open-monitoring where attention
moves toward whatever comes into
one’s awareness—thoughts, feelings,
3) Transcendent, where focus allows
one to move beyond thoughts,
as described in Transcendental
The practice of mantram repetition
involves these ﬁrst two. It is an object-
focused method, but the skills derived
from its practice further develop the
ability to capture moment-to-moment
awareness, with a bonus of choosing
what to stay focused upon. Mantram
repetition does not strive to “transcend”
consciousness, but instead, makes a
person more conscious.
So how can mantram repetition
improve intentionality and presence
with patients and co-workers? There are
three ways it helps:
1) Mantram is like a pause button for
2) Mantram brings us immediately
into the present moment.
3) Mantram strengthens our ability to
cultivate presence, active listening,
and doing one thing at a time.
Repeating a mantram is an instant
reminder to be here now. At work, repeat a
mantram just a few times before meeting
your next patient. Repeat a mantram to
refocus yourself before doing a procedure
or giving medications. When walking from
meeting to meeting, repeat a mantram to
give your mind a mini-break from the
day’s hassles. Repeat it when you notice
you are getting anxious or worried about
things that are completely out of your
control. Repeat it when ruminating on
something unnecessary or that you simply
cannot deal with right now. A mantram
can help block out events that happened
yesterday or those that might happen in
the future. Use mantram repetition to
calm yourself before presenting sad or
disturbing news to a patient or family.
Research on Mantram Repetition
Research evidence has shown that
mantram repetition is a valuable tool
in the workplace (Richards, Oman,
Hedberg, Thoresen & Bowden, 2006).
Healthcare workers have reported
reduced levels of perceived stress,
anxiety, anger (Bormann, Becker et al.,
2006; Bormann, Oman et al., 2006),
and burnout (Leary, Bormann, Smith,
Georges, & Andrews, 2013; Yong, Kim,
Park, Seo & Swinton, 2011). They have
also reported improved spiritual well-
A Few Examples of
• Rama meaning “eternal joy
within” from Mahatma Gandhi
• Om Shanti meaning “eternal
peace” from Hinduism
• Jesus or Ave Maria from
• Ribono Shel Olam meaning
“Master of the Universe” from
• O Wankan Tanka meaning
“O Great Spirit”
• and many others…
Sri Eknath Easwaran (1910-1999)
was a spiritual teacher and author
from India, who introduced the
concept of mantram repetition to
Western culture. His method of
Passage Meditation and his Eight-
Point Program (Easwaran, 2008b)
has been taught to audiences around
the world. Easwaran founded
the Blue Mountain Center of
Meditation in Tomales, California,
which continues to preserve and
perpetuate his work. To learn more,
being and quality of life (Leary et al.,
2013; Yong et al., 2011). Presence has
been more difﬁcult to study, but recently
Dr. Carol Kostovich (2012) developed
a valid and reliable measure called the
Presence of Nursing Scale (PONS). More
research on mantram repetition is being
planned using the PONS.
In conclusion, let mantram
repetition become a habit in your life,
and it can serve as a steady friend. It
can improve your ability to be present
and intentional with others. Best of all,
a mantram can be repeated at any time,
continued on page 24
24 Beginnings | American Holistic Nurses Association
any place, and anywhere. It is particularly useful when waiting
in elevators, when walking or exercising, and especially before
falling asleep at night. Make sure you use it at times when
you need it, as well as those times when you do not. Then, it
will be there for you instantly. It is readily available, quickly
implemented, sustainable, and a very effective tool for living in
the “now.” Give it a try!
Bormann, J. E., Becker, S., Gershwin, M., Kelly, A., Pada, L., Smith,
T. L., & Gifford, A. L. (2006). Relationship of frequent mantram
repetition to emotional and spiritual well-being in healthcare
workers. Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 37(5), 218-224.
Bormann, J. E., Oman, D., Kemppainen, J. K., Becker, S., Gershwin,
M., & Kelly, A. (2006). Mantram repetition for stress management
in veterans and employees: A critical incident study. Journal of
Advanced Nursing, 53(5), 502-512.
Easwaran, E. (2008a). The mantram handbook: A practical guide to
choosing your mantram and calming your mind (5th ed.). Tomales,
CA: Nilgiri Press.
Easwaran, E. (2008b). Passage meditation: Bringing the deep wisdom of
the heart into daily life (3rd ed.). Tomales, CA: Nilgiri Press.
Kostovich, C.T. (2012). Development and psychometric assessment
of the Presence of Nursing Scale. Nursing Science Quarterly, 25(2),
Leary, S., Bormann, J.E., Smith, T. L., Georges, J., & Andrews, T. (2013).
Internet-delivered Mantram Repetition program for burnout in
healthcare workers. Podium presentation at the Western Institute
of Nursing 46th Annual Communicating Nursing Research Conference,
Anaheim, CA, April 10-13, 2013.
Richards T.A., Oman D., Hedberg, J., Thoresen C.E., & Bowden, J.
(2006). A qualitative examination of a spiritually-based intervention
and self-management in the workplace. Nursing Science Quarterly,
Travis, F., & Shear, J. (2010). Focused attention, open monitoring and
automatic self-transcending: Categories to organize meditations
from Vedic, Buddhist and Chinese traditions. Conscious Cognition,
Yong, J., Kim, J., Park, J., Seo, I., & Swinton, J. (2011). Effects of a
spirituality training program on the spiritual and psychosocial
well-being of hospital middle manager nurses in Korea. Journal of
Continuing Education in Nursing, 42(6), 280-288.
Jill E. Bormann PhD, RN, FAAN is a Clinical
Nurse Specialist in Adult Psychiatric-Mental
Health Nursing and the Associate Nurse
Executive for Research at the VA San Diego
Healthcare System. She holds adjunct faculty
positions within the Schools of Nursing at the
University of San Diego and San Diego State
University. After completing a VA post-doctoral fellowship in 2001,
she has been conducting research on the health outcomes of the
Mantram Repetition Program in a variety of groups. She has published
numerous studies on mantram repetition with diverse populations,
including adults with HIV/AIDS, Veterans with chronic illnesses,
family caregivers of Veterans with dementia, healthcare providers,
ﬁrst-time military mothers, and Veterans with posttraumatic stress
Practice Intentionality & Presence with Mantram Repetition continued from page 23
Vol. 31 No. 4 Fall 2011
A Publication of the American Holistic Nurses Association
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