About 10 years ago I was assisting one of my teachers, Anodea Judith, at Kripalu Yoga Center. It was the first time I had done this and I was very excited to have the opportunity to learn from her in this capacity. I was still working for the federal government and believed that I wasn’t productive unless I was constantly working towards the next goal. I will never forget the day that she guided the class through a meditation that I had never done before. The ending left me completely pissed off. Yes, you read that correctly.
Yesterday I was reading an article in a Yoga Therapy Journal. It was discussing scientific studies done on Mantra. A mantra can be a statement, a word, a sound. Often in yoga, there might be a chant done with a mantra. I personally love OM. It connects me vibrationally to “the source” and I feel a sense of peace. The article discusses how several studies have shown that mantra has a positive impact on one’s health. For instance, one study showed that veterans with PTSD actually experienced less depression and anxiety. It also talked about family caregivers were found to have a decrease in depression and have an overall boost in cognitive functioning. I really can’t think of two more stressful jobs than serving our country and taking care of aging
parents or ill loved ones, so how great is is that mantra (something that can be done anywhere-for free) used for a few minutes each day can yield such high returns on your well being!?!
The article goes on to state: “When mantra is paired with calm and peacefulness it becomes associated with positive memories that are more easily accessed when the mantra is repeated during stressful moment.” (Julie Staples, PhD) . I believe reality is that most of us really fight peacefulness because we fill our heads with negative ‘mantras’ each of us uses everyday. “I’m Fat!”, “I’m stupid”, “I really suck at that”, “I’m not enough”, “I must do more”, just as examples. One could argue that these types of “mantras” are helping foster dis-ease in our mental and physical being. For me, my ‘doer’ mantra opened the door to me getting shingles at age 39, along with several other physical challenges. How awesome would it be to replace those negative thought patterns with a positive mantra, such as OM, that could help bring you to a place of peacefulness?
So…why did I get so pissed off during that guided meditation? When I had a different career, I was the ‘make it happen’ person. You gave me a problem, I would figure out how to resolve it and I rarely rested. I was a doer, even when doing wasn’t always the best answer.
I was convinced this particular moment was going to give me some level of enlightenment. I had been with Anodea almost 10 days and I was feeling pretty good. I was learning a lot from a woman I admire. I was getting sleep, eating healthy and feeling relaxed. And the message I got during this guided meditation was…. “Just Be”. The “doer Wendy” felt completely robbed. Doer Wendy felt like that was just a complete waste to ‘just be’. I mean I had lots TO DO! (Can you hear my old mantra hard at work?)
As the years have gone on this message has become more present in my life. Never so much as the last 4 months, which have been rough to put it nicely. When life has hit the fan and I want TO DO, I have really been conscious of this message I gave myself in my younger life. I’ve been OMing more regularly and when my old behavior patterns start to arise, I have been envisioning what it feels and looks like to “Just Be”. My vision of this is floating in a gentle flow of a river. It hasn’t stopped life from hitting my fan, but it has changed the way speed in which the propellers blow and lessoned the anxiety within me.
Have you ever considered chanting or using mantra to boost your mental clarity and/or improve your physical health? What would your mantra be? I would love to hear more!