How to Build a Mantra

Ok, so yesterday’s post wasn’t the traditional “How to…” sort of piece, even if the title might have said something about how to have a prayer answered.  Through writing that entry I realized how it’s ridiculous it is to obsess about how to formulate the perfect request for God.  We are so much more likely to connect with our dreams when we actively work to convince the Universe to conspire on our behalf.

But, if it is impossible to develop a plan to get the Powers-That-Be to give you exactly what you want, it may at least be possible to devise a mantra that will help to shift your consciousness and get you out of your own way.

Forgive me if I use “mantra” too loosely.  I suppose I am really talking about affirmations, but even if Stuart Smalley has moved on to the Senate floor, I cannot use that word without thinking “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”  Whatever you call  it, I have learned that there is better way to construct that little phrase that you invite to rattle about in your brain dozens of times per day.

In my training as an energy healer, we talk a lot about stresses on the system. Body, mind, and spirit are constantly assaulted by our environment, our diet, our social interactions, and even the words that we use.

The affirmations that people choose are often spiked with stress.  “I am thin” is a pretty painful sentiment when you feel anything but.

So, the key is to try to include the word “becoming.”

To say “I am healthy” when you are struggling with a diagnosis that you know is as dire as it is correct is a stressor – lies always are.  Do not pretend that you have already arrived in your ideal state.  Instead, allow yourself to be in the midst of an evolutionary process, moving incrementally toward your goal.  “Becoming” is a delicious, dynamic state.  And it should be forgiving word since you are the only one who has to measure your progress.

My newest mantra? Offered to me by my teacher at class last weekend: Every day, in every way I am becoming patient and in control.

In the middle of the night when I am beside myself because I cannot figure out why Moira is crying or convince her to stop, I can’t be fooled into thinking I’ve got it all together.  I am willing to believe that I am on a journey, however.  A journey furthered by each deep, peaceful breath.  A journey toward being a patient mother who may not be able to control the world but who can at least be in control of her reactions to all of the challenges that an infant can conjure at 1:30 a.m.

It’s getting time for resolutions and all of those words of the year.  If brevity is not on your side and you feel you need a whole sentence maybe there is some bliss to be found in becoming?

Graffiti Philosophy: Everything Will Be Alright

Everything will be alright”

This phrase is written in tiny letters on the bathroom wall at work. Assuming that the staff has not taken to expressing themselves through gentle vandalism, I can only guess that a student plagued by looming deadlines or a broken heart that might never mend took it upon herself to share her affirmation with the rest of the world.

I cannot help that smile that I am lucky enough to work at a liberal arts college library where the graffiti is dedicated to such sweet, pure wisdom. It is one more thing that helps put into perspective the world of work in times like these.

Heart in the drive

For all that I loved the scholarly life when I was in school, all the emotional turmoil that sprang from too many hormones and too much beer and too little sleep and too few quiet moments are still vivid. I would never discount whatever drove that student to express herself in that hastily scribbled line, but I cannot help but think of those of us who already have our diplomas and who live in the “real world.” What do we think when we read “everything will be alright” each day?

This phrase hold special significance to me because it makes me hear Stephen Cope‘s voice every time. This aptly named author a few great books on yoga employs this phrase often (though to be exact, I think he says “everything will be OK”). He uses it to bring the scattered “puppy mind” back to stillness, to stop that constant monologue spurred by fear and regret that plays constantly in our heads. It isn’t Sanskrit, it isn’t much of a mantra, but what else do you really need when you are looking to create a moment of peace for yourself in the midst of chaos?

“Everything will be alright” is such a simple phrase, almost trite and probably over used, but why complicate things? Julian of Norwich gave us “all will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.” Her line is little more like fine wine when it rolls off the tongue, but it is the same idea. We can wrap it around ourselves even when things seem to be at their darkest.

If the bedrock of capitalism starts to shift and a sanctuary like an elite college begins to feel the tremors when the greedy beast of our economy stumbles under the weight of its own foolish gluttony, is “everything will be alright” going to be enough?

If jobs are endangered and mortgage payments start to loom too large are those four little words going to protect us?

I think my answer to that is: they will have to.

We have always lived in an uncertain world, for all that it was not so obvious until this latest rash of bad news. It seems likely that all of our spiritual practices and all of our work to be centered and whole will be tested in new and powerful ways. I know I worry that my lovely little coping mechanisms might fail in those moments when “real life” in all of its insistent ugliness comes to call.

Again, I think there’s a simple answer: make sure those coping mechanisms are more than idle strategies you play with when life is smooth. Find a way to love yourself enough that you can gather your power and hone your strength and begin to truly believe, come what may, every little thing is gonna be alright.