Creating Realistic and Useful Mantras

As my experience of the Five-Minute Journal enters its third week, some of the gloss has worn off – though I think that’s more because I’ve become acclimatized to the improvements it made in my life. In other words it now feels normal to be thankful for three things as soon as I get up (and yes, often one of those things is coffee). I find that it’s sometimes hard to think of “Tardis Moments” – those times that I wish I could go back and change something from the day. Coming to the end of a day and not being able to think of anything you would have done differently? That’s a pretty nifty life, right there.

But one constant challenge over the past weeks has been trying to come up with the daily affirmation – which, when I read it, instantly gave me a bad taste in my mouth. I’ve written about my mistrust of affirmations before, backed up by scientific studies, and also on my work on creating mantras. For someone who writes as much as I do, you’d think I’d be better at finding the right words, but a recent comment by Traeonna actually blew my best mantra out of the water. “Dance, don’t scramble” is not bad, but her phrasing – “Flow, don’t flail” has the advantage of being alliterative! Not to mention that it includes one of my other favorite subjects – flow, which is one of the key tools for mastering your perception of time.

Traeonna is also my newest patron, which gets her an extra hurrah! She mentioned in the comment the benefit of this particular mantra:

…you know, when you learn to flow with chaos, it really does make things better in some ways. When I stopped flailing about, trying to fix, put out fires, whatever…and I just started to flow with the current, it didn’t make things easier, but it did make things just a bit less stressful as I spent my energy not fighting the current, but riding the waves and keeping myself from hitting large unmovable objects in my life.

It reminds me of many passages that spoke to me when I first read the Tao Te Ching, many years ago. It was hard at first to understand that what this idea of tao was; I kept trying to envision it as something like the Force from Star Wars. Eventually I learned that what I was doing was kind of like a fish swimming frantically through the ocean trying to find this thing called water.

And when I realized it, life became serene and effortless – for about two seconds. Which is pretty much how enlightenment works, I think.


Looking for Mantra Flow

I believe that the key to my difficulty with the daily mantras is in this idea of coming up with things that work with my nature, rather than fight against it. Looking at my list, there are all kinds of “I” statements:

  • I can focus on creating wealth in my life
  • I can build on my past to create the future I want
  • I can choose my reactions to things that happen

…none of which are bad, but they don’t really have the same kind of resonance as Flow, don’t flail. Or even just “Flow“. On the other hand, one that did resonate better than the others was less about me and more about my world:

“Enough” is beautiful, possible, and fun.

This was intended as a reminder of Brené Brown’s ideas in Daring Greatly:

The counterapproach to living in scarcity is not about abundance. In fact, I think abundance and scarcity are two sides of the same coin. The opposite of ‘never enough’ isn’t abundance or ‘more than you could ever imagine.’ The opposite of scarcity is enough…(emphasis added)

The editor/copywriter in me looks at it and thinks that even my six-word mantra was overly verbose. Shortening it to “Enough” serves both as a reminder, an instruction, and a statement.

So for the next couple of weeks – a busy time, full of trips to Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City – I’m going to limit myself to one-word mantras that are not centered around myself. Instead they will be reminders of the world around me, the way things already are, with the hope that it will help me get more into the flow of my time, my work, and my life.

One word. Pop quiz time: what’s the one word that comes to mind when you think of your mantra? Share it in the comments!


4 thoughts on “Creating Realistic and Useful Mantras”

  1. A few mantras come to mind, for me, all of which I found in works of fiction. The first two are from Dune. One, the Litany Against Fear, I have used to great and positive effect in my life. The second – “Hope Clouds Observation” – serves as a reminder to check the viewpoint from which I am observing a situation. Lastly, in the book Broken Angels, by Richard K Morgan, there’s a segment of a speech he posts as a chapter header which can basically be rendered down to “Face the Facts, then act on them.”

  2. I was looking up your post about mantras, the one I commented on, so I could share it to my Facebook page, only to find the newest post instead (as I did a search for “mantra”).

    Let me share with you the practice that brought me to my mantra.

    As much time as I can make in my schedule, I play with this plastic tube that has been made into a circle. I use it on my body and off my body. It has brought me great joy as much as great frustration, but it has taught me to flow. About 25% of what I do with this plastic tube is a skill that can be learned. The other 75% is learned by playing. And not just playing, but learning when to go with the current and when to break and redirect. This piece of plastic tube…it is called a hula hoop.

    It changed my life. Yeah, it sounds silly, but seriously, it changed me. I come from a dance background…ballet for 18 years, modern and ballroom for at least 6, a short stint in pole dance, and even threw in a bit of bellydance for a short time. So when I saw this person hula hooping AND dancing, I just HAD to learn. Sure, I had hula hooped as a child, but nothing like what I saw when I first saw a hoop dancer. She was doing things with a hoop I had never seen before. So I took a class and it was a whole lot of fun! I even lost quite a bit of weight/inches. However, it was just another dance, like all the others, skills that were learned and practiced and refined.

    Then I met Baxter of Hoop Path. I remember him saying at the beginning, “I don’t teach tricks” and something about teaching you concepts. I was worried at first, but then, after a few magical hours at Hoop Path, I finally understood this “flow” everyone spoke about. I stopped focusing on learning skills and tricks and just started to move with my hoop. Learned the currents to ride and when to redirect or how to go with the flow when something unexpected happened. Instead of getting frustrated with something not working, I focused on how to flow into something else. I began to practice going WITH the current and made the choice to go against it when I wanted to try something new. I started to find my flow.

    Eventually, I was tricked into becoming a hoop teacher. Tricked in a good way by my first teacher, but that’s another story. I had agonized over a name. Something small, but important. Days I moved words around on paper, looked up domain names, said them out loud. I was getting frustrated and angry that I couldn’t think of something so simple. Then I stopped, picked up my hoop, and went outside. I zoned out to the rhythm of my hoop and it came to me.

    Hoop Currents was born and my tagline became, “Find your flow, get fit, and have fun!” Because that’s everything I felt about hoop when I practiced. I wanted to help others find their flow, and yeah, a great side effect was getting fit, but it was fun too!

    I found myself saying to my students, when you start to lose your way with the hoop, don’t start flailing, flow with it. Say to yourself (and even others), “I totally MEANT to do that,” and keep on moving. See, the thing is, once you start to flail, your current becomes disrupted, and the hoop falls or flies. Perhaps the hardest thing to teach someone is how to just flow…it is something you must come to yourself. There’s a lot of self-acceptance in it. You have to be OK with what happened. And that’s really hard for a lot of people, who just want to get things “right.” But right for who? You have to find your OWN “right” way.

    My hoop practice has also changed as I found other ways to utilize this simple tool. It is now a part of my meditative practices. The impact of the hoop on my body, rhythmic, and the movement keeps my mind occupied with something other than random stuff (I’m ADD, so sitting meditation just does not work for me). You also become a lot more in touch with your body, how the hoop feels on it as well as how you move. Who knew something so simple could make such an impact on your life.

    So, I hoop. I am reminded of how things in life can sometimes not go the way you envisioned, but I’ve now learned a little better how to flow through it and even how to change the current subtly to make the current flow in a different direction, without all the flailing.

    1. What a fantastic story. I think to some extent I had that kind of experience with Contact Improv…something which I am sadly lacking in my life currently. And since one of my daughters is a hooper/fire-performer in Atlanta, this especially resonated with me.

      Consider yourself officially invited to be a guest on the Love Life Practice podcast – I’d love to hear more about the way the movement has changed your life for the better, and I think others would, as well.

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