Do you have a favorite day of the week, Dumplings? Mine is Thursday (I’m still trying doggedly to make #ThursdayBestDay a thing); for some reason, my stress levels, outfit confidence, and general outlook always strike a pleasing balance as I approach the end of the work week. While it’s wonderful have that little burst of relief on a regular, reliable schedule, I also long to be in such a state every day. This year, too, I’ve taken on a new load of extra-curricular activities and commitments that make it difficult sometimes to stay grounded and in-tune with myself as I jet around to different classes as a student and teacher and to all corners of Manhattan. These added stressors make me realize even more so that it’s impossible to change the circumstances of our crazy world (delayed trains, unexpected rain, street protests), or get the people we interact with daily to get their acts together. The only way I can reasonably hope to approach this mythical balance and bliss is by creating it myself.
Regularly using mantras, such as the ones below (that may also be tailored to the energy of a given day) helps to remind me of my capacity for compassion and adaptation, the ignoring of which is what so often throws me into a mental tizzy and sends me reaching for my stress-relieving headache balm. Let these mantras guide you on any day of the week as needed and interchangeably. They may even be a jump-start for a meditation practice, accessible at any time of the day, and the start of your journey toward a mind that’s physically shifted away from stress. Channeling the ability to change your own brain is an incredibly powerful move, one whose ripple effect might even reach out to those prickly folks around you.
“If your mind is empty, it is ready for anything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.” –Buddha
On most Mondays, I walk to work with a brain buzzing with things I need to get done over the course of the next week, things I did over the weekend (and didn’t), and a general state of what’s going to be in my inbox when I open my computer. The intention of this mindset is one of preparedness and anticipation, but in reality, it counteracts any expectation of productivity because of fear. Instead, approach the week with the mind of a beginner–a empty bowl ready to receive and be filled. Coming to a new week with no (or minimal, if we’re being realistic here) expectations will alleviate suffering caused by worrying about things that haven’t even happened yet. And with a clean mental slate with which to tackle those challenges, you’ll be able to solve them with more energy and creativity.
I have this little Sanskrit saying–a lovely palindrome if you look closely–taped to my computer at my office. It means “I am greatness,” the words for “I am” and “greatness” being perfect reflections of one another. On a day when energy is high, and you still have the long-view of the week in front of you, remind yourself of your inner power and greatness to achieve all that you thing you can and more.
“If you don’t look after your body, you’ll have nowhere to live.” –Jason Vale
Fitting in exercise or any kind of physical activity can be hard when we’re expected to be “on” 24/7. But treating your body like your home–keeping it neat and clean and stocked with the things you need to live in it, including a flow of energy–is important to keeping everything else running smoothly. With my new schedule this fall, Wednesday mornings have become tagged with a weekly yoga class; the hour-long session is a bit shorter than my normal practice, but starting the day with that powerful, positive energy flow keeps me going at this point when a mid-week slump is likely. Find your best way to get out and move, or treat your body to some deserved TLC.
“Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.” –James Thurber
As mentioned, I somehow find Thursday to be the day I feel best in myself–in my body and in my mind. There’s an impulse to want to proclaim that good feeling loud and proud, or even ask for recognition from others for all that I’ve already accomplished in the week. And yet, I try to keep some of that beautiful feeling inside me rather than relying on external validation of my feelings. In a way, too, remembering this every day removes the expectation that we should act to receive a reward; rather, it speaks to the yogic practice of non-attachment, or vairagya, which ultimately leads to a clearer view of the self.
“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.” –Audre Lorde
Yay, you reached the end of the week? Time to kick up your heels and play as hard as you worked this week, right? Maybe not. The impulse to reward effort and stress with socializing and playtime is real and sometimes a good one, but when one is overworked it’s also important to step back and take stock of what you really need. It might be a night out with friends, or it might be a night in with yourself–time dedicated to much-needed self-care. For me, I know that going to my yoga teacher’s Friday night “urban retreat” (a one-hour vinyasa class + one-hour restorative class) is just what I need when I’ve been going like an Energizer bunny for days. It helps me to release the tension I’ve built up and prepare for the weekend ahead, no matter what it entails.
“yes is a world / & in this world of / yes live / (skillfully curled) / all worlds” –E. E. Cummings
I like to reverse the typical weekend routine of Saturday-fun, Sunday-chores and front-end my weekend plans for Saturdays. This can mean my hours fill quickly with laundry, cooking, writing, and editing, leaving little time for exploration and adventure. Keeping in mind that simply saying “yes” to things, in deference to saying “no” to some others that might seem “crucial,” Saturdays can be as enjoyable and nourishing as they are productive; as my favorite poet says, all things curled up into one little word.
“It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.” –Thich Nhat Hanh
So often we come to Sunday with the attitude of depression at the end of a weekend and prospect at going back to routine. Rather than suffering from the idea that the aura of Sunday’s relaxation will end, accept the idea that this is one day of the week that has a lifespan of 24 hours–but one that will come back in a different form in just 7 days time! Wasting energy longing for more Sunday-time drains us of being positive about what’s ahead, and if you’re practicing these reassuring mantras every day you’ll never have the feeling of losing out.
How will you make every day feel like your best day?
Also by Jennifer: Vegan Choco-Granola Karma Bars
Related: 5 Powerful Hindu Mantras to Practice
Inspired Living: My Year of Becoming More Optimistic
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