The words that fill our minds...
We all have words that we cycle on repeat in our minds—from worries about being late to songs we sing or words we repeat. Don't be late, don't be late, don't be late, we repeat to ourselves as we rush from subway to office to meeting to appointment. Gotta finish, gotta finish, gotta finish—it builds across our mind like a chant, a pull to keep us focused long enough to finish the day or the project.
What is a mantra?
A mantra is a basic sound used in meditation and chanting, and more simply, in our daily lives. At its root, a mantra means "mind tool." The root man- means mind; tra- means protection or instrument. Anodea Judith, in The Wheels of Life, describes a mantra as "a tool for protecting our minds from the traps of nonproductive cycles of thought and action." She writes:
Have you ever heard a young kid gleefully say the same thing over and over again? "This is so COOL!" They exclaim, only to repeat the same thing again a few minutes later, and again a few minutes later. Our minds hold words and ideas captive, guiding our thoughts with simple patterns that we often repeat on cycle. Sometimes it's negative:
Dumb, dumb, dumb. That was dumb. Why did you do that?
And sometimes it's positive:
Awesome, awesome, awesome. Nailed that! Whooo! Yes. Awesome. Awesome, awesome.
And sometimes we get a peaceful song noted in our minds—a song that sticks, webbed words woven into our invisible frameworks.
Oh what a beautiful morning... Oh what a beautiful day...
Try it yourself:
A beautiful way to start your day is with a small mantra. Try a notecard taped to the side of your bed, a post-it on the inside of your wallet, or a scribbling on your daily diary. One of the reasons I write so many notes and doodle all over instagram is to remind myself and repeat words as I imprint them into my being.
What phrases would you love to embed in your mind? What new mind patterns and habits would be soothing or helpful? Perhaps during times of stress, "This too shall pass;" or "This is just but a moment." These short phrases are powerful tools to build into your inner mind strength. Sometimes I like to hum to myself, "zoom in, zoom out,"—the vibration of the z buzzing against my lips, the mmmm a buzz deeper in my ribs and belly. (Try it: humming is delightful).
The vibrations of actual sound — joyful noises, as I like to call them — do more than just warm up our vocal chords. They are a means of expression, and they help to settle our mid-bodies.
How do you use language to protect your mind? Do you chant, sing, or hum each day? Do you have a phrase you love to hold on to?