glow notes

Thursday, May 19, 2005


At the most basic level, mantras are repeated syllables, often used in meditation. Sometimes they are chanted, which is to repeat them aloud. You may have used them in a yoga class. You've probably heard the famous one "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare" sung by people with shaved heads at airports.

The Wikipedia talks about a mantra being akin to a spell, which is to say that the syllables themselves have power. I don't know about that, though I'm open to the idea that language has power.

What I do know is that consciousness has power. And a mantra brings your consciousness to a particular focal point.

I would argue that we're using mantras all the danged time. Even when we don't mean to, want to, or know any Sanskrit or Tibetan. Even when we aren't aware of them.

For instance:
  • I'm fat, I'd better diet
  • I'm so bad, I can't stop eating chocolate
  • Asshole! Beeeeeeeeeeeeep! Vroom Vroom!
  • He's going to leave me, they all do
  • I hate to work out
  • I never have enough money

Or, alternately:

  • My body is strong and healthy
  • I deserve, am nourished by, and enjoy good food
  • Wow, that was close, I sure am lucky on the Freeway
  • I have such a great husband, I think I'll buy him flowers today
  • I love to move my body
  • Look at all this prosperity in so many areas of my life!

The thing is, and I've seen this over and over and over again, we'll keep seeing more of whatever we're focused on.

This concept is obvious and not woo woo when it comes to prejudices small and large. If we expect, for instance, pit bulls to be big mean menacing dogs, we'll notice all the articles about viscous pit bull attacks. If we expect them to be bundles of wiggly loyal love, we'll notice the one article about a pit bull saving a woman from being mauled by two large dogs. If we expect women to be irrational, we'll see the lady at the grocery store yelling at her kids as confirmation of that fact.

Works for other things, too.

If you've struggled with your weight, you've probably felt fat. Ever notice that how fat you feel may not have anything to do with how fat you actually ARE? In fact, I can feel fat at the start of a workout and like a lean mean iron pumping machine by the end. My body didn't change that fast, folks. My brain did.

Ever notice that repeating to yourself that you are a fat, ugly lump, it doesn't exactly fix the problem? Indeed, it often drives me right to the store and proceeds to purchase potato chips and chocolate ice cream.

That's not just because I eat when I feel bad. Because there are many times that I feel bad (in other ways) that I don't overeat. It's also because I've repeated the mantra "I'm fat I'm fat I'm fat" so often that consciousness says "OK, fine, you're fat" and makes sure that's the case.

If I repeatedly tell myself that I hate to work out, I'm ignoring evidence of all of the glorious ways that I can move my body pleasurably. I'm cutting myself off from the potential joy of having a human body. If I'm "being good," I repeatedly force myself onto the treadmill in a stuffy gym on a gorgeous day and huff my way through a workout, which pretty soon leads to burnout, a confirmation that I hate to exercise, and more time spent on the couch with chips and ice cream and a mystery novel.

Conversely, when I tell myself that I'm an athlete who needs and deserves nourishment, I choose foods that I love and that my body loves. I eat the right amounts effortlessly. When I remind myself with each breath of my love of movement, I notice and allow myself ways to move that feel great, like hiking up a mountain or taking a modern dance class or pumping iron. If I don't feel like doing the elliptical trainer, that doesn't mean I hate exercise, it means I don't want to do the elliptical trainer today.

This is spiritual stuff in the sense that we're talking about your spirit. But it's also simple human psychology, simple cause and effect.

The cool thing is that it only takes a bit of energy to turn it around. Just consciously changing that mantra from "I'm fat" to "I'm uniquely sexy and probably deserve to be memorialized in marble" created a rapid shift both in mood and behavior, if done sincerely and repeatedly.

Really, it does.


  • At 7:40 PM, Blogger Braidwood said…


    I just read your comment on Starling Fitness. I trained with the San Diego track club. How about you? Also, I think it would be cool to have a San Diego bloggers blog ring.

  • At 2:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi braidwood - tried to email you back but you didn't leave your email. I haven't trained with a team in San Diego, I don't run far or fast enough to need one yet. Do you like SD track club?

    Sure, let me know if you decide to start up a ring, that sounds like a good idea.



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