Readers of our daily newsletters (it’s great! get it!) and this magical, soul-healing almond butter protein brownie recipe will have noticed that I’ve been treading on unsteady ground lately. Emotionally and spiritually I feel like I have sea legs. Maybe that doesn’t sound too bad, but I’m the kind of person who thrives on rooting down to the ground. Growing up, I moved around a lot–and while that made me resilient, it also imprinted me with a deep sense of fatigue toward uncertainty. Being a teenager and not knowing where you’re going to live next month or next week, whether your parents are going to stay together, or whether they can afford to send you to college–these things change you. I associate life’s grey areas not with adventure as some people do, but with a stunning loss of control–and that is very stressful for me, indeed.
Whenever I’ve felt the need to find my bearings again, I’ve always relied on my friends. But it’s not possible, or healthy, to be calling your friends at every stroke of anxiety and pain. It’s important to be able to self-heal, even if there are friends who are more than happy to lend a shoulder–especially since the answer probably lies within you, rather than anyone else. I realized that what I then do instinctively is to find a mantra that helps me relate to the situation at hand.
Mantra in the most orthodox sense is a “sacred utterance”–sounds, phenomes, or phrases that are believed to hold a spiritual or psychological power. The most well-known mantra of all is “Om,” which is said to be the first and original sound, and represents the ultimate reality. But mantras can be found outside of Hinduism and Buddhism, across almost all religions. And it doesn’t have to be syllabic or in a different language–it could simply be a phrase that speaks to you, not just intellectually, but spiritually. The key is for it to be simple and short enough for almost involuntary repetition. It also helps for it to be in 1st person or in the imperative. (One of my favorite quotes of all time by Dostoevsky–“Man is a mystery. It needs to be unravelled, and if you spend your whole life unravelling it, don’t say that you’ve wasted time. I am studying that mystery because I want to be a human being”–actually couldn’t work as a mantra. See?)
Here are some ways to craft your own mantra and some of my personal faves. 🙂
1. I am a ____.
I find it very natural to create this type of mantra since I already think in metaphors 90% of the time. Think about what you most closely represent in your true essence, and what you need to be at this time. For instance, when I’m frustrated I use “I am a warrior.” If I feel confused, it’s “I am a tree.” Lately, because I’m feeling both weaker and a bit pissed off, it’s “I am a tiger!!” (Yeah, you laugh, but…) Do you have a special affinity for anything–the ocean, birds, or the stars? I also love this one by Virginia Woolf, which isn’t exactly in the same format but in the same spirit: “I am rooted, but I flow.” So very fitting right now.
2. Be ____.
Simply telling yourself to be whatever it is you seek can be incredibly helpful. “Be radiant,” “be grateful,” “be sparkling,” “be adventurous,” “just be yourself.” You can get more creative with this one as well–“Always be blooming” is a favorite, as is “Be as you wish to seem (Socrates).”
3. Encouragement / cheerleading
Imagine your mantra as something you would say to your best friend when she’s going through a tough time. “Never give up,” “Don’t settle,” “You’ve got this,” “You deserve the best,” “Trust yourself,” etc.
When I’m feeling particularly distressed, the “mantra” I rely on is the Lord’s Prayer. Catholicism has been at least some part of my life, most of my life–and I get immense comfort from repeating this. Even if you don’t identify as religious, consider a form of supplication as your mantra and see how much peace you get from it. It is about accepting that some parts of life are outside of your control, but that you have faith that it will turn out okay at the end.
I hope you got some ideas for your own mantra and that it will be a source of inspiration and comfort to you.
Do you have a mantra? Please share!
Photo: Frida via Flickr / Peaceful Dumpling