About a month ago, Grayson decided he would start waking up a whole hour before his usual 7:00am. My body had become so accustomed to our routine that when he decided to suddenly start waking up at 6 it proved to be very disruptive.
I've always been a slow starter. I like waking up, drinking my tea in bed and doing a little meditation before changing anyone's diaper. Being forced to start my day before I'm ready is the quickest way to put me in a bad mood.
Grayson's early wake ups continued somewhat consistently for several weeks before I realized that getting out of bed grumpy was negatively affecting my entire life.
I began to notice that from the moment I opened my unwilling eyelids, my thoughts would begin to spiral into a litany of worries, to-do lists and complaints. If I wasn't actively doing things to change course, I would feel grumpy the entire day.
If your mood is reflective of the overall health of your energy field, then mine was in bad shape.
And if like attracts like, allowing myself to stay grumpy would be a quick way to invite more things into my life to annoy me.
Time to tackle the issue. I began to think about what advice I would give a client in this situation. Here's what I came up with:
My first thought was to get earplugs and ignore my child, but this just felt wrong. I also knew I needed to go to sleep earlier but I'm generally always trying to get in bed earlier. It doesn't always work.
Then I began to remember a time in my twenties when I was particularly stressed out about money. I was trying to live in the city off a yoga teacher's salary and it wasn't working very well. In addition to the breathing and stretching, it was the ancient yogic practice of mantra that got me through the stress.
So what is a mantra, you ask?
Mantra is the practice of using a simple word or sound as the focal point of a meditation. The sound is repeated over and over either verbally or internally until that sound or word is the dominant thought in your system and all other thoughts (including worries, and complaints) become background noise.
During that stressful financial period in my twenties, if my brain was left unsupervised, it would descend into an all-consuming story that ultimately ended with me living under a bridge and begging for pennies.
Since the primary feeling at that time was a sense of being stuck, I began to recite the mantra of "possibility" throughout my day and whenever the stress would appear. I knew intellectually that each moment is a field of infinite possibility. As we choose what to focus on it narrows that field down to the singular thing that ends up happening. That's why, for most of us, the outcome is so predictably consistent! The "Possibility" mantra reminded me to open my awareness wide and allow for a new outcome. I think of this as the miracle mantra. I still believe that it was a series of hundreds of tiny miracles, stemming from this mantra, that led me right in to the life I am loving today.
For most of us, it takes some kind of positive belief system as well as some level of discipline or practice to counter the natural tendency toward fear and negativity. Many evolution scientists believe that our brains have developed to be just slightly more attuned to the negative. This was a necessary function in the days of cave dwelling and bear hunting that helped to keep us alert and alive. In modern times, unless you are living in an active war zone or living rough in the jungle of Brazil, the hyper-vigilance that prompts us to focus on the negative is not necessary. In fact, if left unchecked, this once useful tendency can ruin you.
Though there are many practices that can help, using a mantra is one really easy way to begin to rewire your brain toward the positive. Over time, your mantra will create new thought habits that align more closely with the positive things you already believe.
If you've never heard of the Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto and his book The Hidden Messages in Water, this should give you some motivation if you're thinking you need to find a mantra.
The photos below show ice crystals that were created from water that had been sitting in jars with various words written on them. Each of these water crystals is from the same original source. The only difference is that they had different words written on their jars. Remember as you see this that your body is 60% water!
THANK YOU LOVE AND GRATITUDE
YOU FOOL I HATE YOU. I WILL KILL YOU.
(you can see a ton of cool photos if you just google "Masaru Emoto" or "Messages in Water".)
OK, back to my early morning attitude problem.
I settled on making my new morning mantra "Thank You" because I knew intellectually that choosing to focus on gratitude is one of the quickest ways to change a bad mood. And after seeing Emoto's Thank You water crystal, I trusted that reciting this word alone would begin to change my system on a molecular level.
So now when I am rudely awoken in the morning before I am ready, before I have too much time to grumble and groan, I say Thank You. When my feet hit the floor I say Thank You. When I see Nick having fifteen more minutes of sleep before he has to get up for his work day, I say Thank You (because he is on weekend duty). I say Thank You until I am out of the danger zone of misery and then I keep saying it throughout my day when something good happens or when I see something I like.
In general, I feel a heck of a lot better.
Are you ready to find a mantra for yourself? Here are Three easy steps:
Step One: Think of a positive belief you hold intellectually that hasn't quite seeped into your daily life. For example, you might have a belief that things work out as they are supposed to and yet you find yourself worrying constantly.
Step Two: Take a minute to feel what it would be like if you really knew your belief to be true. How would you act differently? How would you feel? Focus on that feeling then find a word or phrase that encapsulates the feeling and the positive belief that created it. This word or phrase is your mantra.
Step Three: Repeat your mantra often. Every time you use it, it will gain momentum. Write it on sticky notes and post it throughout your house or in your car. As you say your mantra, imagine it vibrating into your muscles and bones. Feel the meaning of it.
In moments of real stress, you may not have access to the feeling of your mantra. Don't worry about it. Emoto showed us that the words alone contain information. Most mornings, I am merely using my mantra as a way to take up brain space before the complaints have time to take root. Even if you are repeating without feeling, know that your mantra is changing your molecules for the better.
If you have a mantra, I would love to hear about it! Please post your comments below.