“The mind is everything. What you think, you become.” ~Buddha
“I will be okay,” I repeated to myself. “Deep breaths. You’re okay. Focus on the breath. I am going to be okay…”
I was on a small plane flying over the Rocky Mountains of Colorado on a hot summer afternoon—a notoriously turbulent time to fly.
I’m not afraid of flying. I do it a lot and it’s not something that makes me nervous, although the mantra could work perfectly well if I was. It does, for some reason, make me incredibly motion sick at times—scanning seatback pockets for white bags, sweaty forehead, trembling, white-faced…sick.
I was flying alone, and thankfully there was no one in the other seat next to me. (The plane was only three seats wide, with the aisle offset in the middle.)
I was glad to have personal space to sweat it out, bump by bump, mantra by mantra, coaching myself through, without having to tend to anyone else’s experience or reaction to my sickness.
I knew I would be perfectly fine, ultimately. Like those times with a bad case of the stomach bug, the body’s reaction can be scary, or super uncomfortable at the very least. The severity feels primal, and one generally goes someplace deep inside and gets through.
In this case, my mantra and the self-talk served as an anchor, a ray of hope, a deeply present champion who needed nothing from me. It was simply there, relaying meditative principles to my experience moment by moment.
A few years later, I was going through the grieving process of saying goodbye to a relationship, riding waves of feeling sad, hurt, and alone, sometimes with gut wrenching strength. I wanted to reach out to him; I wanted to hear words I felt I needed to feel better, tell him how I wanted it to be, and then have that actually happen.
I wanted control.
It was done, and I hadn’t anticipated the ending script. My head and heart spun from hurt and unfulfilled dreams. So I began telling my story to friends and family, trying to help process the emotions, events, and logic.
Sometimes it helped, others times it just hurt.
As the emotions buffeted up and down like airplane turbulence, I always felt alone in the moments when the crescendo peaked then pressed me down into an unsteady whoosh.
How was I happily engaged living life in the present one moment, then longing for connection, what had been, and feeling hurt, rejected, or confused the next?
And how could I support myself better without just craving what had been or wanting another version of the story? I needed a mantra for those moments.
A mantra is sometimes referred to as an “instrument for the mind.” The roots of man (mind) and tra (instrument) come from Sanskrit and can help us utilize the power of the mind to enter a place of healthy silence.
In this space we can gain distance, perspective, and awareness from the stories that we tell ourselves about our lives and get wrapped up in.
I think of mantras like yoga and church. (Go with me for a moment!)
One can attend, soaking in the principles, morals, and lifestyle, and walk out the door not to return to that headspace until the next entrance to the building. Or, one can walk out the door taking the values into daily practice, and upon return, simply enrich the soul and fundamentals nourished from previous visits.
I vote for integration and transference in all we do.
On the plane, my mind would get caught up in a story such as, “How long is this going to last?!”and upon realization, I would come back to my mantra.
Integrating mindfulness into more turbulent emotional times challenged my personal integration edge; after telling stories, feeling the emotions, and sometimes just trying to push them away, I walked back into the building.
If I choose to stay attuned, present in my life, and committed to growth, I can honor the ups and downs and have the power to provide myself what I need.
I am there. I can always be there—the constant, ever present voice in my life.
It’s not that I don’t have good friends, loved ones, or a strong support system. I do. Most of the time they are probably best as the cherry on top, supplement, or supercharge to my own inner knowing.
Imagine, what if you were always there for yourself, providing just what you needed, allowing your friends, family, and significant others to delightfully enrich your life?
Coaching myself through living is more complicated than moments of seeing black spots, with sweat dripping off my face, sick as a dog on an airplane. But I believe I can—we can—learn and always become better supports for ourselves.
At the very least we can be willing to search, learn, and try when we do not know.
And in the end, for me, the mantra from the plane works, for heartache and quite a lot of other things. “I will be okay. Deep breaths. You’re okay. Focus on the breath. You are going to be okay.”
Your mantra may sound different. My hope for you is to remember the instrument of your mind in times of smooth passage or turbulent flight, then sing, whisper, or chant yourself a perfect melody for the moment.
Man on a bench image via Shutterstock