Friday, June 25, 2010

T2C ~ Mantra Musings

Jen ~ Philadelphia

When I think of mantras, two types come to mind ~ words/phrases that are commonly repeated (usually in my head) – both positive and negative – and the sacred and mystical utterances that are capable of creating transformation. It seems that the latter would help with the former, at least as far as clearing the mind and creating a loving and non-judgmental space. After all, negative “mantras,” the repetitive and undesired self-talk, need to be put in their place…and not given so much weight.

In an earlier post I blogged about The Power of Now and an exercise I tried on watching the mind and monitoring one’s thoughts. Sometimes one negative thought can lead to another and soon enough there’s a chain of them and you can find yourself in a downward spiral, feeling not-so-great and wondering how the heck you got to that low place. “I’m not good enough”, “I could work harder on x, y, z…” etcetera, etc. But if you can observe and identify these thoughts early on, you’ll save yourself from a toxic nosedive. And adding some reaffirming mantras will do the trick too!

I remember vividly the time that this worked best. I started to seriously doubt a person I had deemed a “special someone” and believed, based on his actions, that it was only a matter of days before things were going to unravel. And there was nothing I could do about it. I found myself waking up in the middle of the night on the verge of a panic attack, consumed by fear and anxiety. When I couldn’t get back to sleep I sent out vibes, begging for everything to be ok and asking the Universe for “peace, serenity, and calm.” I repeated these words over and over and over again…until I drifted off to sleep. It was the only thing that worked.

Luckily, I haven’t seen another situation like this to warrant that kind of mantra. I now use them when running ~ “You will get there. You’ll make it to the finish line” (this mantra goes on for long time) ~ and when I’m at the office ~ “Make it Work!” Note: the Tim Gunn “Make it Work” bobblehead helps with this one.

What mantras work for you?

Olivia ~ Seoul

I used to feel ambivalent about mantras. On the one hand, they seem like New Age hocus pocus–even to my New Age loving self. On the other hand, mantras have helped me through difficult situations since I started using them in the past year, which makes me inclined to keep up with them in the future.

Om Mani Padma Hum

When I first began exploring this mantra thing, I turned to Google for some research. (Because nothing says “inner peace and contentment” quite like the world’s largest search engine, right?) I was curious about what mantras people have been using for centuries, and figured that if it was good enough to help thousands of others center themselves, it was good enough for me. I eventually settled on two classics: Ham-sa, which means “I am that,” and Om mani padma hum, a classic Tibetan Buddhist prayer. I love the former because of how perfectly it fits with free-flowing breaths; when I really need to focus, I think ham on the exhale and sa on the inhale. The little effort required to invert what might feel the “natural” coupling ham/inhale and sa/exhale helps me really bring attention to the moment. I have a little yellow post-it tacked up over my desk with this mantra on it, and it serves as a gentle reminder a few times a day that I am what I am, and I am what I do, which helps me refocus my attentions on what truly matters. Om mani padma hum is a mantra I use less often, but find springs into my mind from time to time when I’m feeling…off. I love the sound, even though I likely say it incorrectly, and find the script beautiful.

Lately I’ve been branching out into other mantras I can use in more targeted situations. In a recent email exchange, my friend Liz shared what gets her through difficult workouts, be it a long run or a challenging yoga class: “I choose to do this.” As soon as I read those words, I was struck by their power. I could write a page on that mantra alone, but what really strikes me is the truth that if you choose do something, you can choose not to do it, so if you choose to continue, you might as well accept the gifts the challenge is offering you. Angela, over at Oh She Glows, has shared her race mantra, which she pins to her shirt during events: “You are so much stronger than you think!” I have definitely appropriated this for some of my own runs when I felt like quitting. And you know what? It’s always true!

Lanterns with prayers for Buddha's birthday.
Mine would have said: "I am healthy. I am strong."

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to put a new mantra of my own making to the test: “I am healthy. I am strong.” Somehow, and we still can’t figure it out, gluten sneaked into my diet, the hows and whys of which I want to explore in a future post. On Saturday I was presented with the situation of needing to go to work (luckily, it was only a five-class day instead of eleven or twelve) while suffering from intense pain through most of my body, though, thankfully, my right leg was spared. I do have one narcotic pain pill that I carry just in case, but taking it would have made it impossible to teach (it puts me to sleep), so I was forced to rely on Motrin and my stubborn disposition. Lucky for me, I can be really stinking stubborn. But it still took most of my power to sit in class–standing and writing on the board were out of the question–and lead a coherent discussion; I couldn’t help but think of the pain pulsing through my muscles, joints, bones, and skin. Clearly, thinking “It hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts” wasn’t helping; in fact, it likely fed the pain, or at least my consciousness of it. So I chose to spend my energy on what it was I wanted to manifest. I am healthy. I am strong. I am healthy. I am strong. Only the good stuff was allowed to cycle through my thoughts. When I told Michael that I was trying to mantra my way through the pain, he immediately “got it,” and filled in for me when I seemed to be wavering. There’s something incredibly powerful about having someone you love adopt your mantra for you: You are healthy. You are strong.

Do you use mantras? Do you use time-tested phrases or your own creations or a mixture of both? How have they helped you? Have you ever invited anyone to join in you mantra with you? I would like to official offer myself as mantra-supporter. If you need a little extra nudge of support and faith from someone, drop a comment or email with your mantra of choice, and why you’d like me (and your fellow readers) to come along for the ride. Let’s support each other in every way we can.

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