Four Mantras for a Better Life

As a meditation-lover and wanna be mystic, I’m always looking for a good mantra to integrate into my life.  And since I like to solidify things down to the bare bones, I’ve found four words that can be used as mantras, reminders, and focusing meditations while in prayer and throughout the day.  They’ve become part of my life.  When triggering moments arise–anger, desire, stress, resentment, anxiety, mindlessness–I use these four simple mantras to refocus the moment on what really matters.

Mantra #1: Simple!  Life should not be convoluted and complex.  When I become overwhelmed or scattered or foggy, I breathe and repeat the word Simple, as a way to remind myself that life does not, should not, and is not so difficult (I know that’s horrible grammar, but I liked how it sounded).  I’m reading Kafka’s The Trial right now.  It’s the story of a man who is arrested and prosecuted by an unknown authority for an unknown crime. It’s an analogy of our modern madness, this complex world we have made chocked full of bureaucracies and systems and technologies and policies and rules and procedures.  Sure, some of this is necessary, but the core of our lives should be simple.  C.S. Lewis considered modern bureaucracy a version of hell.  With three kids, a full-time a job, a part-time writing career, and a band, life can get complex.  I know I’m not alone.  We all feel like we are racing around.  It doesn’t have to be like that.  You can stop, say no, turn off, give up, get rid of, and just sit.  There are many great ways to keep things simple.  Simplifying possessions (cutting back on clothes, shoes, trinkets) can help.  Simplifying routines, meals, habits, really helps.  Simplifying obligations, even emotions, all can help.  You can spend a lifetime reading, finding ways to blossom with simplicity.

Mantra #2: Compassion!  The more I try to discern who God is or what God is or if God is, I’ve come to understand Her as a kind of Web of Compassion that manifests Himself through us.  Yes, we are all little sparks of God when we center our lives around compassion and love instead of judgement and ambition and persecution and anger.  We bring God into the moment when we blunt our animal instincts and let compassion arise.  I teach kids in jail, some of whom have committed horrible crimes.  I feel my greatest calling in my job is to bring compassion into their world and into a system that is so focused on judgement and retribution.  It’s my little place.  Even more important than facts, my students, like all of us, need a daily dose of compassion.  We bring God into the world when we show compassion.  Compassion is my mantra when I feel anger, bitterness, or resentment start to rise.  When my anger rises at my own children, I repeat the mantra–Compassion–grounding myself down into what really matters.  Is being right so important?  No.  Compassion is.  Mixed into compassion is forgiveness, love, empathy, and respect.  You can practice compassion in small ways by being kind to the person who is rude to you, understanding that somewhere, deep down, they have a wound that needs healing.  I try to wish well those who cut me off in traffic.  I assume they are on their way to give birth.

Love:  My main mantra lately has been, “Love Everything.”  Of course, it is easy to love my beautiful daughter when she’s laughing and dancing around the living room.  But the night she was vomiting in our bed last week, I used this mantra to remind me to treasure even the hard times.  I try to love the rejections I get from publishing houses as good lessons in tenacity.  I love my students when they are angry at me, for they really know not what they do.  Plus, it’s good practice getting used to having people be angry at you and not reacting.  I love (try to, at least) the flat tire that reminds me of how helpful people are to others in need.  I love the flu I caught that reminds me that I must treasure my body.  I love the ice patch that knocks me down, because it reminds me we can always get up again.  When you love everything, even the worst moments for the rich lessons they bring you, you will be forever happy.  Loving everything also means being grateful all the time, which is a proven way to develop happiness.

Enjoy!  After much reflection, I added this word to my mantra list.  It seemed trite, at first, but it has really helped me.  The other three words can feel like trials at time, but they are all integrated in the final and most important need of life–to enjoy.  You simplify so you can enjoy what really matters.  You act in compassion toward others so you can enjoy a better, fuller world.  You love everything (even the flus and ice patches) to remind yourself that everything matters.  But through it all, you have to remind yourself to Enjoy!  I’ve been using this mantra a lot lately, especially in odd moments like lying in bed or waiting in my car or sitting on the floor with my kids playing some block-building game for the one millionth time.  It’s a reminder.  Enjoy this moment.  Enjoy this meal.  Enjoy this little space of time.  Enjoy it all.  I tend to be one of those persons who wants to get something done in order to get to the next thing.  Enjoy reminds me that it’s the journey, not the destination.

Simplicity. Compassion. Love. Enjoyment.

Take a few moments in the morning.  Sit somewhere quietly.  Pick one of these words to repeat as a mantra along with your breath.  Then carry it with you throughout the day.  It takes practice, but like all things that do, it pays off.  At the strangest, hardest, weirdest, most perfect moments, the mantra will return to you.  I was in a store, returning something (thank God), but then I got pulled down an aisle and I started to desire stuff.  Suddenly, Simple popped into my head and I realized there was absolutely nothing I needed.  I turned and walked out.  My son was throwing a tantrum.  I was ready to drop kick him through the wall (metaphorically, mostly), and suddenly, Compassion popped into my head.  I quietly (mostly) let him have his moment, and then everything was fine.  I was in class with my students, going through the motions, watching the clock for the final bell, and the word Enjoy came to me.  I stopped, sat, and enjoyed the moment.  Then, at the hardest and best moments, Love Everything comes into my head, and for a brief moment, I feel fully enlightened. Then I go say or do something stupid.  And I love that too.