Why You Might Need a Mantra

What’s your mantra? Self-help lingo aside, everyone seems to have a more or less conscious affirmation that gets them out of bed every morning, through stressful situations at their workplace and out that monthly/seasonal/yearly funk.

[You know that state when you’re perfectly aware that life can be marvellous and full of possibilities but they feel out of reach. Or reaching them would require a) getting out of your pyjamas and into proper clothes, b) realising that there is no better time than now, and c) deciding what it is you want and going after it at full speed.]

I’m neither religious nor particularly spiritual. I do not meditate but I might rely on yoga to bring some peace and clarity in my mind from time to time. However, I’m very keen on using mantras, may they be a single word or a full sentence. They easily summarise a state of mind, values, beliefs, an entire personality, and can frequently be that teeny tiny, last-moment, much-needed push that we need when our motivation levels are running low. Below are three mantras that I’ve been relying on lately:

Shit happens, suffering is optional.

Haruki Murakami opens one his novels with a similar sentence; I’m pretty sure he doesn’t use the word “shit” though. It doesn’t get more self-explanatory than this. Terrible, disastrous, life-threatening things might happen. The way we choose to react to – or, even  better, act upon – them is what creates the difference between finding a solution to the problem in question and crying our way through an entire Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough tub. If it’s something that cannot change – or cannot change in the immediate future, we can choose to think differently about it, look at it from a different perspective. How could it change? Why does it affect us the way it does? How could we think so it doesn’t affect us that much? Could it be worse? Also, most of the time, life has its way of showing us that things never were as bad as we initially thought.

This is fine.

This is an inside joke from work; three simple words that can crack the entire team up and leave everyone else in the room stare at us in disbelief. Truth is, it refers to the meme below:

It’s pure sarcasm. It’s definitely not fine when your project at work/ start-up /personal relationship/ 5-year plan/ weekend trip is going downhill. To me, “this is fine” implies acknowledging the full extent of an issue and accepting it as a full-blown reality. It’s the middle ground between realising that making a grand exit is not option but that whimpering about it isn’t one either. Action is the only way out. Or, as Winston Churchill wisely said, “if you’re going through hell, keep going”.

They don’t deserve you, stay busy.

This one’s a new addition to my mantra “collection”; it comes from an Instagram account that I love. We all follow someone who looks effortlessly put-together, classy and sophisticated, right? So, there’s this girl with the beautifully lighted flat-lays, the neat outfits and the carefully edited landscapes. When I first started following her, I noticed this line in her bio and I thought, “Hmm, I really like her but this is a bit over dramatic for my taste”. Who am I to be deserved and who are they to deserve me?

I want people to like me. Not any or all people; I want people that I like/admire/look up to to genuinely like me. To recognise me as one of their own. I believe this longing to belong and to be appreciated for who we are is universal; it’s engraved on our human nature. So, more often than I’d like to admit I try to be as accommodating and helpful and joyful as possible. Accommodating is not a good thing to be though unless you’re an Airbnb host. It often implies putting others over your own wishes to keep them happy. But what about what makes you happy?

So instead of waiting around for people to get back to me, to confirm plans, to notice my effort, to have a serious discussion, etc., I went into what I call my busy mode: this is me, my life, my desires and aspirations, my schedule. Can you get aligned with it? Can you add a certain zsa zsa zsu to it? Can you respect it being the way it is? If yes, then jump on board. If not, I’m too busy for you.

I’m writing these lines for the same reason I always do; for people to relate, to laugh, to disagree, to consider things a little be differently. We all have divergent ideas about life and coping mechanisms for challenging situations. At the same time, it’s good to know that there is a thought source that we can tap into when our usual way of thinking feels like a dead end. To me, it’s also extremely fascinating how two people can interpret a mantra or a saying in two fundamentally different ways. Do you have any mantras of your own? How did you come across them and why are they important to you?

Pensive (as always),

F.

 

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