Mantras are a girl’s best friend.Michelle Balaun
Mantras are a funny thing.
Mantras are a word or string of words stated repetitively to get you centered and grounded. To be more precise, to get you out of that frazzled out of control state to one nearing calm and focus. Many of us can recognize the “Ohm” recited in yoga classes or during some meditations a specific word is chosen to facilitate the flow of the practice.
The first time I used a mantra successfully (that I can remember) was when my daughter was approximately 2 ½ years old and my son was just a few months old. I would be alone with them on the weekends while their father was at work. I tried to squeeze in as much as I could in between feedings, diaper changes, and naptimes. Walking over to the neighborhood park might as well had been the same as walking cross country to California. It was a feat to get out of the house with the diaper bag packed up and my potty-training toddler in tow. Inevitably, when it was finally time to go, someone would poop or want to eat. Or it would be too hot. Or it was too close to naptime. Or just something. I couldn’t plan it perfectly. I would get so angry! Cue in the victim mentality- “All I want to do is take my kids out for a stroll! Why is this so hard- for me?” I would get frustrated for being late. I would yell, feel the guilt, suck it up, and try to make the best of it. Until one day I started to repeat to myself “ We will leave when we leave.” So redundantly asinine. I know. But, it calmed me. I realized that we weren’t going to be late for the movies or miss a flight. It was a stroll to the park. That’s it. So, every time I started to get anxious about being late (punctuality is a sore subject for me in general), I would repeat those words to myself and carry the anxieties along so instead of yelling, I was more patient and I could enjoy the time with my kids.
Repeat After Me…
I was going through other tough times, some mornings were quite difficult. I was waking up to the same list of anxieties – so many unknowns, so many things to get done. I would repeat a mantra- a morning prayer until I felt calm and ready to start with the day. Though sometimes it felt like an eternity, it was usually just an extra five minutes before getting out of bed. But allotting this time and repeating the same words brought calm. It connected me to the present moment. Everything stayed the same, but my mind was quieter, yeah, mantras.
When clients ask me how they can calm their mind before bed or step out of the whirlwind of anxious thoughts, we talk about many techniques, and sometimes, when I ask them to come up with a mantra, many just look at me dumbfoundedly- like “She’s got to be kidding me. She’s one of those woo-woo therapists now.” Actually, research studies have found that reciting mantras as a way to stay grounded helps as part of a well-rounded practice towards overall mental health. It sounds silly to practice grounding techniques because it seems like you’re not really doing anything. But, you’re doing everything that you need to do to come back to the here and now. The only way you can deal with the future is if you are presently attending to what’s happening in the now. Because in the now, you can put into practice what will eventually turn into the future. Now is the only moment in your hands. The past already happened and the future is a fantasy.
Try it. Don’t judge yourself for the quirky, cheesy, silly mantras. Maybe they aren’t even in English. Keep it to yourself if you want. We all need anchors to keep us on solid ground when life gets a bit discombobulated and if you can connect with a string of words to soothe you, what’s wrong with that?