Words to Live By: Why Everyone Should Have a Mantra
Mantra: (noun) 1. a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation; 2. a statement or slogan repeated frequently.
I used to think mantras were hokey or just generally unimportant, but then I wrote one of my own and now I live and die by these words:
My life choices are not up for debate.
Everyone's mantra is different. My mantra speaks to my soul because for many years I let people who purportedly cared about me determine the direction of my life, even when they led me in a direction that was the complete opposite of where I wanted to go. When I started listening to my heart and doing what I knew was right for me, I lost some friends and a lot of family.
And it was worth it.
My mantra reminds me to stay true to myself, no matter what the cost and if a bridge is burned, it's one I never intended to cross again anyway. My mantra is a constant reminder that when I'm honoring my highest good and not letting myself be steamrolled by the whims of others, I'm always making the right decision.
I used to keep my mantra to myself, only repeating it inside my mind as needed. But then I started saying it out loud and it was a game-changer. Once I had to say it to my mother four times in a row. After the fourth time she yelled, "I heard you the first time!" I said, "Heed it, then!"
Being a writer, I found it most appropriate to write my own mantra. However, there are many ways to get one even if you're not a writer and one of them is poetry.
Often phrases that become mantras are quotes, so while mantras can come from any kind of literature, I find poetry to be a good source of mantras because the language is usually succinct and artful. I believe a mantra should be memorized and something you enjoy saying frequently, so the succinct and artful qualities of poetry are ideal for mantra-making.
A couple of poetry collections where I've found arresting quotes include
- Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
- Salt by Nayyirah Waheed
- Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire (or anything at all by Warsan Shire)
- Citizen by Claudia Rankine
- The Crown Ain't Worth Much by Hanif Willis Abduraquib
- Magic City Gospel by Ashley M. Jones
I'm not going to suggest quotes that would make good mantras because what makes a good mantra for one person may not work for another. Actually, I don't believe we choose the mantra, but rather, the mantra chooses us. You'll know it when you see it because you'll want to memorize it or write it down or get a tattoo of the words on your body.
Once you've found your mantra, commit it to memory and repeat it often. A mantra can't work for you if you can't recall it in times of need.
And, if you feel comfortable, share your mantra. It's your personal poetry, especially if it's one you write yourself. At first, I only shared my mantra with a few people, but I found that when I started sharing it more widely, it resonated with people I had no idea it would. Now, in addition to reminding me to always stay true to myself, it's a reminder that I'm not alone.
Do you have a mantra? If so, share it in the comments below!