If we’re to be honest with ourselves, we don’t crave external happiness factors nearly as much as we desire emotional peace; most noticeably, through the quieting of that internal noise-maker known as our tenacious mind.
Practicing “Visceral Awareness” and “Present Living,” as I’ve written about previously in this ongoing series on “progressive mindfulness,’ sets the table for us to feast upon such prevailing peace. To actually dive into the meal and fully digest it for the greatest possible spiritual nourishment, however, there’s more practice that is necessary.
In my first entry of this series, I wrote about meditating upon one’s own breathing, or “mindful breathing,” as one foundational way to tune in to our bodies. There’s another practice of meditation that helps to keep us in our bodies, soothe our emotions, and provide strength and comfort, and that’s meditating upon “mantras.”
Emily Dickinson, a famous poet of the 19th Century, once wrote, “I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.”
A mantra is the repetition of a particular word, sound, or short phrase, again and again. This can be done out loud (chanting or whispering), in your mind, or in some combination of the two. Here are some classic examples of mantras used by mindfulness practitioners across the world:
* “OM.” This Sanskrit word means “it is” or “to become,” and represents the birth, death and re-birth process.
* “El Shaddai.” This is Hebrew for “God Almighty.”
* “May the Lord protect and bless us. May he nourish us, giving us strength to work together for the good of humanity. May our learning be brilliant and purposeful. May we never turn against one another.”
* “I change my thoughts, I change my world.” This was penned by the late motivational speaker and writer Norman Vincent Peale.
* “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This is a famous statement by Gandhi.
* “May I be filled with loving kindness.”
* “May I be safe from inner and outer dangers.”
* “May I be well in body and mind.”
* “May I be at ease and happy.”
These are just some popular examples. You can create any mantra you’d like.
By why should you bother? What’s the value of repeating something over and over? Don’t we already do that with our kids, employees, or significant others?
Let’s circle back to that “noise-maker” known as the human mind. Notice right at this moment how many random, even incessant, thoughts are flowing through your head. Chances are, this is happening to you most of the time. We live in an age of information overload, which amplifies the anxiety that is already a common ailment of the human condition. There is so much sound inside of our heads, that I wonder why we even bother with “white noise” machines or smart phone apps.
Focusing upon a particular mantra gives our minds something to do besides churn through one unhelpful thought after another. As we practice, we become more disciplined at focusing our minds on just the mantra itself, becoming fully present with it and truly absorbing each sound and syllable.
Go ahead, try it. I’ll wait.
Okay, you’re back. How was it?
Use one of the mantras listed above, or find or create one that makes sense for you. Repeat it diligently several times per day, even if at first you feel a going-through-the-motions kind of distraction, and take note of what this does for your emotional state.
You truly have nothing to lose by practicing a positive mantra, since the lack of practicing will leave you with the incessant thinking. And chances are, if you’re incessantly thinking, you’re only feeling “emotional peace” some of the time.
If you’re like me, you’d love to feel it all of the time. Let’s give it a shot.