September 19, 2014

The Trouble with Mantras. ~ Meaghan Mcquade


I had always had difficulty connecting with any sort of mantra or affirmation—both of which are commonly used in the context of many spiritual practices.

They always felt forced and phony to me and until recently, I  didn’t really understand why. Some things do require the “fake it until you make it” approach, but I feel like the mark has been largely missed with mantras. Asking ourselves, or telling ourselves we are grateful, we are happy or we have let go of a situation when we clearly haven’t only serves to highlight the opposite within us.

Watch what happens when we tell ourselves we aren’t grumpy when we are—we end up being grumpier than when we began! Using mantras and affirmations in this way is like putting a spiritual band-aid on the boo-boo of how we actually feel. When we can’t come into alignment with the truth of where we are in the moment—in the present now—there is little hope of actually shifting into where we really want to be.

In order to mend this broken process, we must first acknowledge where we are emotionally. It’s our feelings in our bodies that contain the wisdom and insight to carry us forward on our path. It’s like using the body as a tool—a sign-post for where we need to be.

The mind is powerful but it needs to be in service of something greater than itself. Think of all of the innate intelligence that is in nature—the wonders of finely tuned ecosystems, the instinctual behavior of organisms. There is a sense of connected knowing in all things natural.

And guess what? That same intelligence is within us! Have we stopped to think about how amazing the human body is? The vast intelligence that lies within us is the same universal consciousness that we seek from outside ourselves. We have just been trained to believe that the body is animalistic—something that must be transcended in order to move into the realm of the divine.

But in fact what we are as human beings is a unique blend of the ephemeral and the impermanent physical.

We are essentially bridges between heaven and earth, and in order to fulfill and blossom into this birthright we must find a balance between the ungrounded mental forces of the mind and the innate wisdom of the body. When we can have a mind in communication and service to our bodies it creates the most powerful symbiotic relationship possible.

What does all this have to do with mantras, though? The purpose of a mantra has been shifted strictly into the realm of the mental—the place most people are living their lives.

Mantras and affirmations do point at truth, but they end up being misconstrued when we leave out an integral piece of the puzzle—the body! We connect with our bodies through feeling and sensation and when what we are trying to tell our bodies is out of alignment, it creates more disconnect.

It is important to first connect with whatever it is we are presently feeling; if we are working on gratitude, we will likely have to admit that when we first tune into our emotional body we are feeling anything but grateful! We must admit what we are feeling without judgment—there’s no right or wrong. It’s completely acceptable to feel exactly how we do in each moment.

Now that we have come to acknowledge where we started, we now have the power—the light of awareness—to shift to where we desire to be. The trick is to keep it in the realm of the physical rather than building elaborate sandcastles in the clouds of the mental; stay connected with the feeling/emotion.

Instead of repeating a mantra that we can’t truly connect to, we must ask ourselves what it feels like to be grateful. Stay with the body and keep asking. Pay attention to any small shifts in sensation, or where attention is drawn to in the body. If we keep asking what gratitude feels like, we will be awed that in a matter of minutes we can get into the vibrational space of gratefulness.

Something we simply can’t do when we are in the mental headspace using a series of repeated words.

Connecting with what something feels like is one of the fastest ways to shift into that vibration. We are acknowledging where we are in our physical reality by first tuning into the body—then we use the power of imagination, of mind, to direct our physical reality into the space that we desire.

By acknowledging the integral relationship of the body and mind, we can effectively change our reality. The beauty of this is that when we truly come into alignment, we will find ourselves spontaneously using mantras and affirmations—but they will feel very different, because they are words that overflow from a truly authentic place.

This is the truth of the mantra and affirmation. It starts with a feeling that is then transferred into the mental sphere—into the concept or construct of a mantra. It points to this possibility within us, but to unlock its secrets, we have to honor where it came from. Retrace its steps from the mental back into the physical.



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Apprentice Editor: Melissa Horton/ Editor: Travis May

photo: Flickr Creative Commons, Sean and Laura

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