Choosing a daily mantra to help protect your mind

Any of my Tucson friends recognize these pretty angels? I had them in one of my exam rooms in my office at Arizona Oncology. I thought they would give my patients something pretty, positive, and inspiring to look at while they waited for their appointments. Then when I moved to Mexico, I brought them with me, and they now hang in my bathroom. Interestingly, when I was sick with my own cancer, they gave me something pretty, positive, and inspiring to look at each day while I was getting dressed. In yoga, we often choose a mantra, an intention, or an affirmation for our practice. In fact, I think this is a great practice to do every day, even if you aren’t doing a physical yoga practice. So I thought I’d share my angels, as they provide some good ideas for potential mantras.

Sogyal Rinpoche says “The definition of mantra is ‘that which protects the mind’. That which protects the mind from negativity, or that which protects you from your own mind, is called a mantra”. So we choose a mantra to help train our minds in the way we want to think, which helps protect us from getting stuck in negative thought patterns. Just as with everything, the more we practice bringing our minds back to our chosen mantra, the better able we are to redirect our thoughts when we need to. Don’t forget, it isn’t wrong to have negative thoughts or emotions. It is completely natural. We just don’t want to stay there all day. So this is where coming back to your mantra can help.

So a few tips on choosing or setting your mantra. Your mantra can relate to anything that you want to focus on or bring more of into your life. So you might choose “I am peaceful and at ease”, “I am strong and resilient”, “I am healthy and strong”, or “I receive my day with openness and enthusiasm”. Next, it helps to set your mantra or intention in the present, as though it is already true (even if it is something you are just striving for). So instead of saying “I will try to be more loving and kind”, we say “I am filled with loving kindness”, making it so in the present, instead of some future possibility. Other examples might include “I release all anxiety in order to be light and free” (this one is from Thich Nhat Hanh), “Every cell in my body is healthy” (this one is from my friend and fellow thriver Lori), “I am resilient and handle any obstacle that comes in my path with grace and ease”, “I trust my intuition and honor myself”, or “I am loving and kind to myself and others”.

I also like to wear bead bracelets, and at times will choose a number of qualities I want to cultivate, and then list one for each bead. For example if the bracelet has 7 beads, I might say “Peaceful, resilient, dedicated, equanimous, curious, kind, open”. Then whenever I am waiting in line or sitting on the couch, I count the beads on the bracelet to help me remember my list. I also love sanskrit mantras, and the melodious quality in the chanting that comes along with the meaning, but will write about that another day. But if singing spiritual songs or prayers works well for you, that is mantra too! Remember, you can choose anything that helps to protect the mind!

So make your mantra/affirmation/intention your own, crafted to whatever resonates with you. We all need different things, and even that can change from day to day. So practice setting a mantra that works for you, and then practice coming back to it throughout your day. I think it will help you feel and be your best.


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