Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Looking for a Mantra

I've been reading various books--not the 19th-century British novel that I had planned--but Buddhist tomes and hospice essays and parenting inspiration, almost all of them touching on mindfulness.  

And, in them or because of them, I've been looking for a mantra.  You know, a phrase, a touchstone, that bucks me up, keeps me focused, inspires and enlightens me, gets me through the difficult bits.  I probably need more than one.  My mom often mentions, "This too shall pass," which is in its very essence Buddhist--everything passes, not just bad but also good.  But as it is frequently used, it's about the bad passing, which for me is too much of an attachment to pleasure and comfort and satisfaction, a rushing along of bad feelings and experiences.  I don't think life is like that; I learn my lessons more from those times.  And all of my work on chronic pain has taught me not to be too attached to getting rid of the pain.  

She also likes the Serenity prayer:  "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,  The courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference."  I like it, but it's long.  My old favorite was from George Eliot's Middlemarch, "What do we live for unless it is to make life less difficult for others?"  But it's not broad enough for this purpose, perhaps.

I've also considered these, taken from various authors, including Tara Brach, Glennon Melton, and Rachel Macy Stafford (obviously for different moments and, yes, some of them are there for the smile they invoke--"don't worry!"):

  • All people want to be happy/want love.
  • What do I need to be happy right now?
  • What really wants attention?
  • Forgiven, forgiven.  (Or, Not my fault.)
  • This, too.
  • I care about this suffering/feeling.
  • May this suffering serve to awaken compassion.
  • Look/listen for the love.
  • It's not personal.
  • Is it true?  Is it kind?  Is it necessary?
  • Carpe diem.
  • All actions and feelings are the result of needs being met or not.
  • Be the change you wish to see in the world.
  • Be kind for everyone is fighting a hard battle.
  • Just keep swimming.
  • Keep calm and carry on.
  • Don't worry; be happy.
  • Breathe in peace; breathe out love.
  • Breathe.
They each have value, but none of them has the depth of, say, the Eliot, or perhaps enough breadth; or maybe they're not poetic enough.  Though, taken together, they're good.  I guess I'm still searching.

What do you say to yourself?


  1. Whilst at University I had in large letters beside my desk this mantra....Don't wait for moods, your mind must know that it has to get down to work...

  2. Take a deep breath. Turn from fear. Choose love.

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  4. Life's a bitch, and then you die.

    Wayne and I both use that one -- it makes us laugh!