Mantra-japa (meditation on a mantra) is fun, relaxing, and easy – particularly in bhakti-yoga, where the mantra describes the object of our love.
Don’t look at mantra chanting as a chore, or a task, or a challenge. Look at it as an opportunity to rest, relax, and enjoy the happiness, peace and bliss that comes naturally and automatically from the ultimate core of the self, param-ātmā – who, ultimately, is Krishna.
Chanting mantra right would feel as restful as sleeping without dreams, because you would be physically still, and your mind would stop imagining things that it worries about or wants. This is why people who practice mantra-japa effectively wind up feeling like they naturally need less sleep. All the time they put into mantra-japa rejuvenates their body and mind just like deep sleep.
Often we have a hard time falling asleep, or getting a really restful sleep. This is, in many ways, the same reason why we have a hard time doing deep, effective mantra-japa: we are unable to let go of our worries and wants. We need some motivation to set aside the things that constantly occupy our mind. This motivation can come from simple exhaustion and the need to relax, and it can come from seeking svānanda (the bliss inherent in simply being conscious, without needing to worry about what to do with it), and it can come from seeking bhaktyānanda (the bliss inherent in focusing consciousness upon an fearless, stable object of divine love – Krishna).
When chanting, don’t try to create the mantra. That is work. And it is hopeless. You cannot create this thing which is so categorically greater than and fundamental to your self. You can’t create the mantra with your voice or your mind or even your heart.
The mantra already exists, and it already exists in you. All you need to do is tune in to it, by tuning out from all the noise made by the wants and worries of the mind. Allow the mantra to be discovered within you, by your curious contemplation of its words.
Curiosity is an absolute necessity for successful mantra-japa. If we are not curious about something, we will not ever really pay attention to it! You must be curious, “What is this word, ‘Krishna’? What does it indicate? What does it sound like? What does it feel like?” Don’t answer, just incite your curiosity and let the name answer. “What are these words, ‘hare’ and ‘rāma’? Why do they come in this curious, rhythmic pattern?”
In time, successfully curious mantra-japa will begin revealing incredible detail contained within the words of the mantra. All of Rādhā-Krishna’s names, beauty, qualities, associates, and activities are enveloped within the Hare Krishna mahā-mantra. This things unfold to those who set aside their normal wants and worries for at least some time, and focus their consciousness on the mantra existing within their consciousness.
With curiosity as fuel, pay attention to the mantra manifest by its own self-sustained existence within your own eternal consciousness. Then mantra-japa will be stress-relieving, health-improving, restful, and most importantly of all, spiritually potent!