I am a good listener. That I know. If I was going on a job interview where the interviewer asks for my top strength and top weakness I would probably choose that as my top strength. Never mind the weakness, it would take me too long to choose one! The advantages of being a good listener are that you can listen to a story without interjecting your own take on the situation and allow a person to unload their chaos and free their nervous system, at least temporarily. In my “practice” as a good listener I am sometimes asked for my opinion on a situation. This is something I purposely try to withhold unless specifically asked. After all, I certainly do not proclaim to know all the answers. I am on the same path as everyone else, learning how to live with peace and happiness despite life’s constant distractions. But sometimes I am pointedly asked how I would deal with a situation.
When these conversations arise I find that my opinions have become strangely similar and even a bit repetitious. What’s even more surprising is the specifics of each story may be completely different but I keep coming up with the same words of advice. It seems that unbeknownst to me I have created my own personal mantra for dealing in challenging times.
What is a mantra? A mantra is defined by Wikipedia as “a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that are considered capable of creating transformation.” They are energy based sounds that vibrate through the body and are a powerful way to reduce negative energies and change negative effects. They will allow you to remain focused when your thoughts and emotions are scattered and frantic. Chanting a mantra is the process of repeating words or sounds over and over to reach the deepest levels of the soul. The repetitive nature of chanting is felt as vibrations through the body and over time making the intent of the mantra a physical reality.
We often practice mantras in the yoga classes such as Lokah, Samastah, Sukino, Bhavantu. This translates loosely as “May all beings everywhere be happy and free.” This is one of my favorites because it’s simple and to the point. But mantras can be about anything and everything. It can be as simple as “I am worthy” or “I am happy” or even “I am not my big thighs.” Mantras are powerful and using them consistently will bring a shift in your thoughts, actions and energies sometimes without your realizing it. One day you find that you are living and breathing it. It has become automatic.
In the past, when angered or frustrated with something or someone I have often reacted like a lot of people, allowing my emotions to take hold and spewing out judgments to explain someone doing me wrong. But after four years of a consistent yoga practice, I think I have finally made some progress! Yoga has helped me shift the tensions in my physical body, calming my nervous system allowing me to be less reactive and more present. The yogic principle of Vairagya, or detachment, has taught me to detach from my emotions and feelings in order to evaluate exactly the truth of the situation. The qualities of a yoga practice like flexibility, strength, and focus have over time moved off my mat and into my daily life. Finally, mantras have helped change my thought patterns and internal vibrations to alter years of negative self talk.
So that brings me back to my own personal mantra for dealing with difficult situations and people. This is still an ongoing practice for me. I continue to repeat this over and over again to keep in the forefront of my thoughts and actions. However, I now understand the power of the universe. As I offer my mantra as advice to a friend, it is allowing me to continue the chanting process even further embedding this into my soul. Sometimes I do fall back on old habits but now I am faster to recognize when I am being led by accusations and judgments instead of compassion and gratitude and I now look for the lesson in the situation. Finally, I humbly pass on this mantra to all of you with the hopes that you can take it into your life, repeat it in your thoughts, actions and spirit and allow its power to transform you:
I choose to look at situations and individuals who challenge me the most not as enemies, but instead as great teachers purposely put on my path to show me about myself. It is in these difficult interactions that I often learn the greatest life lessons and grow the most. I will remember that these individuals are on their own paths of self-discovery and are being distracted and led astray by their habitual patterns of negative thinking. I will remember as humans we are all connected, coming from one source. I choose to shift my mindset from anger and resentment to that of compassion and empathy. I choose this way of thinking to allow the anger to dissipate making room for peace.
I promise you if you can make this shift in your thinking it will change your life! It is a daily practice that requires discipline and mindfulness but know that the shift will happen, maybe without you even noticing!
Gina DuBois is a 200 hr & 500 hr certified yoga instructor & owner of Hidden Haven Yoga Studio located in the Hudson River Valley, New York.