Mantras: Let’s Get This Under Control!

mantrasMany people find my blog every day searching for “mantras.” What intrigues me is the kinds of mantras people are looking for, and what they believe the mantras will do: “mantras to control children,” “mantras for stress,”  “parenting mantras,” “mantras to control anger,” or the very creepy “mantra to control wife.”

Over and over, the searches are for mantras to control something, whether it’s children or anxiety or thoughts. I guess it makes perfect sense that people searching for control would wind up on Left Brain Buddha. But mantras are not about control. If anything, they are about recognizing and accepting how much we do not control. We cannot control our thoughts or our children {and certainly not our spouses!} What we can control is our awareness and our responses.

Perhaps it’s because the word mantra, with its associations with meditation and chanting, conjures ideas about hypnosis or mind-control, a la The Manchurian Candidate. But mantras are simply tools, the navigational instruments we use to sail upon the stormy seas of parenting and living.

Mantra = a formula, word, incantation or prayer, often repeated as an object of concentration; a truism

In Sanskrit, the word “mantra” literally means “instrument of thought,” derived from manyate {“to think”}.

As tools, mantras can no more control our children than our iPhones can control the person with whom we are speaking. But they can facilitate communication and understanding. And they certainly make our lives easier.

I understand the desire to have mantras for particular purposes – for calming down, or dealing with angry children. So now that we’ve got the definition and purpose of mantras under control, I’ve created an organized, left-brain friendly list of my favorite mantras for a variety of life situations.

Mantras-by-category

Mantras for Dealing with Anger

Let it Go.

There’s a reason we all love the song. Letting go is powerful. How much anger and resentment do we hang on to even though it doesn’t serve us or help us? This isn’t resignation – if there’s something bothering you that can be fixed, then fix it. If not, release the anger.

Within me is a peacefulness that cannot be disturbed.

This is one of my favorite mantras from Bethany Casarjian and Diane Dillon’s Mommy Mantras. The deep calm and stillness we experience in meditation is always within us. Breathe.

Mantras for Dealing with Stress or Anxiety

Breathing in I calm my body, breathing out I smile.

This is my favorite Thich Nhat Hanh meditation. He describes it as feeling like he’s drinking a refreshing glass of lemonade on a summer day. Even one deep breath helps us relax. Putting a smile on your face – not a “say cheese!” smile, but a subtle Buddha smile – can dramatically improve your mood.

It is what it is.

Many times, the source of our stress is something outside of our control – perhaps another snow-day schedule disruption, or the behavior of another person. Think of this one as part of the serenity prayer, accepting the things we cannot change.

What is needed of me right now?

I love this one for the moments when I am overwhelmed, especially with my children or with a jam-packed to-do list. This question reminds me to focus on the task at hand, taking one moment, one breath at a time. Sometimes, it helps to focus on the tree and not the entire forest.

Mantras to Cultivate Patience

Breathe.

If just one deep breath felt good before, try three!

This too shall pass and I can stand this.

The crying will stop. Children will get potty-trained. Tell yourself, as Casarjian and Dillon write, “I can stand this.” They caution that if “the thought I can’t stand this comes into your head, consider it a crisis and remove yourself…. Take a deep breath and remind yourself … I can stand this. If you believe you can stand it, you can.”

Mantra for Dealing with Frustration with Others

Namaste.

This greeting, and the traditional end for yoga classes, means, “The light {or divinity} in me honors the light {or divinity} in you.” When I am getting frustrated with another person, I repeat this to myself. I remember we are all stardust and light, even this person who is driving me crazy. The Buddha taught that unkindness is due to ignorance of our true nature, of how we are all connected. This isn’t about feeling superior to the other person, but acknowledging that they likely need our compassion far more than they deserve our condescension or condemnation.

Mantras for Parents

Just dance!

I often find that my most challenging parenting moments are when I am trying to do something other than parent. If I am trying to clean or write or accomplish a task and my children begin to clamor for my attention, I tell myself to put that work aside for a time. Sometimes life is about our mundane chores, and sometimes it’s about dancing with our kids.

Surrender to the goat.

I love this one from Mommy Mantras. It comes from a new mother who needed to get out of the house each day, so she would take her 10-month-old to the zoo. The baby loved feeding and watching the goat every time, for what felt like hours. The mom didn’t think she could take much more.

We all have the goats we need to surrender to – another round of “Let It Go,” another tower of blocks to build only to watch it topple over, another reading of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. We tire of monotony, but our children thrive on repetition and routine. Surrender to the goat reminds us to embrace the present moment as if it contained exactly what we had chosen. Casarjian and Dillon counsel, “The more we accept the mundane, the less aversive it becomes. Sometimes it even becomes joyful.”

{You can find more mindful parenting mantras here.}

*****

And though this probably goes without saying, I have NO mantras for controlling your wife.

Namaste.

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Sarah Rudell Beach

Sarah is a writer, teacher, and mother. At Left Brain Buddha, she writes about her journey to live and parent mindfully, joyfully, and thought-fully in her left-brain analytical life. When not working, she enjoys dancing, reading, and hanging out with her little Buddhas.
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Comments

  1. Fabulous blog post Sarah! I have posted a link to it from our Facebook page for Everyday-Mindfulness. I like the idea that Mantras are just tools – they are quick things I can go to when I’m under stress to bring me back to mindfulness.

  2. That’s a great reason for people to find you. Most find me because of the TWO blog posts I wrote about barre in 3.5 years of blogging. I’m the barre girl, I guess.
    Nina recently posted…I’m on The Happiness Project Blog!My Profile

    • Sarah Rudell Beach says:

      Oooh, I want to read that one … I’ll google it! :) I’ve done barre before and really liked it!

  3. So true. I always thought of mantras as letting go, not holding on (or “controlling”). Asking yourself to be in the moment. Relaxing during a stressful situation or keeping calm in the middle of one. Sometimes even helping yourself remember what you want to improve.
    Sarah Brentyn recently posted…Melodious MorningMy Profile

  4. I love this. I shall create one for each of those emotions!
    Michelle Liew recently posted…The workaday kayakMy Profile

  5. I usually have a hard time with these, unless it’s something like “This Too Shall Pass” or something about daydrinking, hey we all need a hobby :) I do love the “Dance More” bracelet! And I guess it falls in line with my motto: “Whatever works!”

  6. Surrender to the goat is a great one! I will have to use it. Esp. because when I took my 3 1/2 year old to a petting zoo she was afraid to feed the goats so I did it to show her it was fine (if goat tongue slathering your hand is fine! ick!). But I surrendered to the experience.
    Liz recently posted…Zoe Versus, In Verse: A Sestina on SleepMy Profile

    • Sarah Rudell Beach says:

      I love that one too! I’m with you on being grossed out. For me it’s surrendering to playing Barbies or make believe.

  7. Great post Sarah, I think you could change the world if you could just get everyone who wants to control their wife (or whomever) to read this one post!
    Nancy recently posted…More MeatballsMy Profile

    • Sarah Rudell Beach says:

      Oh Nancy, you have no idea how much I wish I could find that person and get them to read my stuff!

  8. I say “Let it go,” “It is what it is,” and “This too shall pass” often. I love “Surrender to the goat!” I’ll have to remember that one.
    Lisa @ The Golden Spoons recently posted…Calgon, Take Me AwayMy Profile

  9. I love this so much! I use some of these already but ‘What is needed of me right now?’ is one I don’t and really, really need to. Thanks for this!
    Sandy Ramsey recently posted…Number One Songs 1984: The 80s (A Series)My Profile

  10. I think it’s perfect that people searching for mantras to control come here and read your wise words, and I hope they all find this post. I love “surrender to the goat” – so good. I’m breathing out, and I know that I can stand this. I can. Thanks, Sarah.

  11. I adore this and needed this right now like you wouldn’t believe. Feeling pulled in 30 different directions (in all new ways) has been painful – yet also completely in my control. Been working on reigning it in and it leads to dark moments. These mantras are healing and soothing to me. Thank you!
    Allison recently posted…Travel Log 2: Bald Head Island, NCMy Profile

  12. It’s so funny. When Isaiah is freaking out about something I always say “Slow down, take a deep breath” he always says “a deep breath isn’t going to help this!”
    Then I make him, and then we’re good. Sometimes that’s all you need :-)
    Also, I wonder how many people won’t even get the reference to The Manchurian Candidate ;-)
    JenKehl recently posted…Sensory Processing Disorder Can Also Mean Loud and RudeMy Profile

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