I’ve been writing about psychology and inspiration here since December of 2006 and in the process I’ve done a lot of homework I love to share. Mark Twain once said: “When I turned 20, I was amazed at all my father had learned in ten years.” Our perception of the world is filtered through our point of view. If we have an open mind as we travel through life, we transcend much of the trouble around us. When we get older, we can’t just buy memory to become smarter or faster. We can however, adopt certain practices that make our memory more keen. One invaluable tool in keeping an open mind is to have a mantra. This can help toward a simple understanding of an often complex set of circumstances.
Remember when you were younger, about junior high age? You could run around all day: boys at the football field, girls at the mall or maybe the softball field. (Of course I don’t mean to sound like all women wanted to be at the mall but many I knew did). At any rate, physical activity back then had very few consequences. I would run 5-10 miles on the x-country team and have no soreness whatsoever the next day. Well, now fast forward to today. I can barely run a mile without needing to stop and gather myself. Part of that is my fault for not exercising enough. Another part of it is just plain aging. Even as a youngster; however, practice had its place. Running those hill workouts paid off when I won the races. Our minds need practice too. A mantra can be part of that life-changing practice.
A key to sharp mental acuity is reflecting on the way we feel about the world. Our mind processes things differently as it is accustomed to do. The good news is that as long as we practice the right mental things, we never need to suffer the way we do in our physical aging. In fact, if we stay mentally “worked out,” we can be more enlightened the older we get. Kind of cool eh? So, just to clarify the big picture here:
Physical Practice = Winning races/competitions
Mental Practice = Seeing the world the way it is.
One mental exercise we should engage in is the practice of having an open mind. Just like running one mile and skipping the rest of the week will not make a young runner any stronger, so we are made “mentally flabby” when we neglect this practice. The time this verb “practice” is most vivid to me is when I get angry or when I get disappointed or otherwise discouraged. It’s in those moments I can hear that inner psychologist on the couch in my mind say: “Calm down, this is what practice is all about.”
When and how to use a mantra to keep your mind open:
- When we are out of sorts it comes from 1 of 2 sources: a) Internal – we have a chemical imbalance happening and need food or medicine to balance it out -or- b) External stimulus has disagreed with us in some way. The first step therefore is to determine which source is bringing you down. For example: Would a glass of water help? Some peanuts? You make the call there. This step is kind of like a stop and regroup.
- The second step is to ACT to accept the cause of the problem. It could be your blood sugar or a person in your face. Either way: ACCEPT the cause for what it is.
- The third step is a mantra. A mantra isn’t a middle eastern mystery, it’s just a phrase that has good energy for you. Remember the little engine that could? His mantra was: “I think I can, I think I can.” You can use many mantras that already exist or make up your own. I really like the mantra: “Is that so?” Eckhart uses it and recommends it in his book. I recommend it as well.
Other things you could say are (for example): “That’s one way to look at it,” “This too shall pass,” etc. I know you are creative because you’ve read this far. I encourage you to pick a mantra, write it on a card and when you lose your peace in the day, read the card, say the card, BE the card. I think you will as I have that the mental and spiritual rewards are mammoth. Another interesting thing to look into is making your own acronyms.
When you exit a room of dissent and feel like you’ve made a contribution of peace, it’s one of the most powerful victories you can imagine.