I’m not much of a mantra person. Sanskrit syllables I don’t understand get lost in the back forty of my brain. I did Transcendental Meditation for a while (during the Renovation Dark Time). TM uses a mantra to anchor the attention, and, guldarnit, if I didn’t keep forgetting the blessed thing. It’s supposed to be all secret and sacred, given to the meditator by her teacher, and I kept wanting to lean over to my sweetly meditating husband and say, “Uh, honey, can I borrow your mantra? I forgot mine. Again.”
But the other day, I found myself sweaty and plastered to my yoga mat, and a little mantra came to me: Easy Presence. Inhale, Easy. Exhale, Presence. Inhale, Easy. Exhale, Presence. I liked it.
I’m not sure where it came from. Probably my teacher, Sara, planted the “Presence” seed. (She’s like that.) And in trying times, I’ve used the word “Easy” to calm myself down. But there I was, sweating and breathing my little mantra in and out. Repeating it to myself actually had a sensation. It felt good. I felt solid and relaxed, strong and at ease. I remembered to let go of the tightness in my mouth…and my mind.
A memory from junior high popped in. When I was in school, I was dreadful at arithmetic and math (who am I kidding? I still flounder when I add up my Yahtzee score). In 7th grade, I stared at the pre-algebra test my teacher had just deposited on my desk. I didn’t recognize the problems. At all. I started breathing fast and my brain went haywire. I was on the verge of tears when a voice inside me said, “It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.” I took a deep breath. “It’s okay. It’s okay.” I wiped my eyes and breathed again. “It’s okay.” One by one, I figured out each problem. With those two words, I pulled myself back from the brink.
Maybe a mantra is not just a tool for quieting the mind. Maybe a mantra can transform the way I feel or remind me about what I want to be or do. Maybe no guru or meditation teacher knows better than I do what I need in my body and brain.
Easy Presence. That’s what I want to bring to my practice. When I’m on the mat, on the cushion, or teaching Nia, I want to offer an easy presence to myself and to others. I want to be there, someone who is connected and engaged and at ease with whatever happens. Easy Presence is what I want to bring to my relationships and my work, too. Easy Presence reminds me to unclench, to relax and sense. In every situation I can think of, this is the reminder that I both want and need.
What do you want to bring to your practice, your work, your relationships? What do you want to remind yourself of in times of trouble and algebra? Play around with a word or phrase that appeals to you. Importantly, see how you feel when you repeat it to yourself. Look for a sensation that feels nourishing and supportive. Find something that feels good. Say it to yourself when you are moving through your day, especially when you don’t need it. Then it will be there when you do.
See what you discover and share your mantra in the comments below.* It might inspire someone else to find theirs!
May you have Easy Presence and (enter your own mantra here) __________ this week.
*If you come to class this week, I’ll invite everyone to do this, so bring your mantra to dance with!