After a busy year, I want to enter 2014 with a quiet mind.
But I’m a recovering snowball thinker whose never-ending thoughts once picked up steam and spun out of control. Then there are the in-house noisemakers who bunk in my room and down the hall. And what about the foggy baby brain I suffer from? Achieving this state of mental clarity might be a bit of a challenge. So, I’ve decided to use mantras to positively transform my thinking and manage stress this year.
You may associate mantras with your yoga practice (Om is one in its simplest form) or Eastern philosophies and religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. But these melodic sounds and verses come in many forms and serve different purposes, including those that are secular and personal. Dim lights, crossed legs, and chanting are not required. You only need a minute or more, and maybe a few deep cleansing breaths to feel the benefits.
I was first introduced to the impact of mantras in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love. And, as I later learned from the always helpful Wikipedia, the word’s root “man” means “to think” in Sanskrit. It’s an "instrument of thought" that you can recite out loud as part of a larger group ritual or privately meditate on when seeking inspiration or centering yourself — a tool you can use anytime, anywhere, to overcome any fear.
Because a mantra’s transformative power is in the language you use, it’s important to be mindful of the words you choose to say, think, and repeat. Pick ones that turn your negative thoughts on their heads. To get started, follow this guided mantra meditation from Yoga Journal or try this tip from SunshineHope:
“Find a quiet space where you can freely think. Write down the positive thoughts your core being tells you. Summarize your words into a short powerful statement. Tell yourself daily these positive words and feed your spirit as needed.”
To make it easy, I create simple mantras. Then I can repeat them without the fear of bungling my intention for the day. I also find that they are more powerful for me than a long verse because my mind is less likely to wander, improving my focus and energy. Based on the teachings of my friend and yogi Jessica James of Sol Power Yoga, here is how I do it:
First, I take my worry and cast it in positive terms. Because I have a newborn and I’m short on sleep, I’m working hard to be extra patient with my four year old. Some days are easier than others. Usually, I tell myself to “stop being impatient” when I feel mommy guilt for not keeping my cool after I’ve asked ten times for yelling to cease or toys to be picked up. To improve my ability to remain calm in 2014, I will instead say “I am calm, I am peaceful, I am love.”
Second, I focus on the present. I will create mantras to address things I currently face and feel this year, as well as use language that reflects the present. For example, “I am/I do/I have” NOT “I will be/I can/I want.” Although it's my nature to plan for the future and think ahead, I'm confident this will also help me with my goal of being more present in my daily interactions with the family. Translation: I'll stop feeling the constant pull of checking my email and staying connected with technology.
Third, I practice. I know finding the mental clarity I currently want won’t happen overnight. It will take some time to hone the mantras that personally resonate with and influence my way of thinking this year. So, I promise to give myself the time and space to build them. (I know I won't break this resolution because I can do this without a class or dedicated block of time — a must as I try to balance life with two kids.) And, if all else fails, I commit to meditating on my breathing until I can find the words that I need.
Do you have a life mantra?
Wishing you love and light in the New Year,
The Other Sarah