As someone who has her 200 hr. yoga certification and spends time around people who are concerned with their mental and emotional well-being, the practice of using a mantra is pretty familiar. At various times in my life, therapists, prayer warriors, and energetic healers have encouraged me to start looking at myself in the mirror every morning and repeating positive phrases to myself out loud.
A mantra is a tool that can be used to rewire our brains. We can start to shift our thought patterns from negative to positive simply through consistently using our voices or thoughts to emphasize what we want to believe, AKA truth. While the practice of using mantras may look different today than it did in its original context in Hinduism and Buddhism, healers everywhere stand behind this idea.
Some encourage the use of mantras in the manner of which I’ve already spoken. You look yourself in the eyes using a mirror and say a phrase of affirmation to yourself. Ideally, you’ve had help creating this phrase to stand up against a foundational lie that you believe about yourself. You can also hold onto a phrase and meditate (think continuously) on it all day long. Thirdly, you can borrow someone else’s mantra and repeat it over and over to yourself while sitting silent and still with your eyes closed. These are just some of the ways that you might see mantras pop up in our current wellness context.
This practice of becoming aware of and subsequently shifting our thought patterns is extremely important in our spiritual walk. It’s something I’m keenly aware of as I’m moving into motherhood and a new year. At the suggestion of a friend I’ve confided in about my propensity to think negatively, I purchased Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer. Girl, what a book!
She gets down to it right in the introduction by quoting Proverbs 23:7. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (King James Version). Wooh! If that’s not an argument for paying attention to your thoughts, I don’t know what is.
Here’s the problem, though: how do we know that the mantras we’re using to defeat lies in our lives are based on truth? I’ve personally always struggled with this aspect of using mantras. I can look myself in the eyes and tell myself that I’m amazing all day long, but if I don’t believe it to be true, if I know it’s just an arbitrary phrase that someone made up who was trying to help me, I can’t fully believe it. Call it skepticism, but no matter how long I repeat it to myself, it doesn’t resonate. That’s because I feel the lie in it every time. And I mean, I almost physically feel it—like a sting of bitterness at the end of a piece of fruit. Somehow, I know it’s made up. I can’t claim it because I need more reliable evidence behind it.
Enter God’s word.
For the last—I don’t know—couple of months? I’ve been writing down pieces of scripture in a journal to help combat anxiety. It started with a piece of paper and graduated from there. Whenever I stumble into a verse that causes me to breathe deeply or relaxes my mind or body, I handwrite it in this little notebook. Whenever I get anxious, I pull out that notebook and read these verses like they’re written directly to me, sometimes replacing “he” with “she” or “his” with “my” to personalize it. After a while, I began to notice affirmations tucked into certain verses. It started with Psalm 34:4-5 (NIV):
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
“Those who look to him are radiant,” it says. Wait, I thought, that’s me! I’m looking to him right now, which means I’m radiant. I tried it out: “I am radiant,” I said to myself and softened. Finally, I could believe it. I wasn’t radiant because I embody the feminine spirit, because my therapist told me I was, because I wanted to be, or because I was perfect. I was radiant because, in my anxiety, I looked to him. I am radiant, and my face is not covered in shame because of him. How can that be true? Because that was a promise from God, and “no word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37). I swear, the rest of the day, I walked around with a glow, repeating to myself, “I am radiant,” and believing it.
Anyway, that sent me on a little chase through my notebook for more affirmations. For now, I’ve added six to the list, and I offer them to you. Each affirmation is backed up by scripture.
I encourage you to read the verses that I offer with each affirmation to see if you want to edit the affirmation or extend it at all. For example, with the one I just mentioned, I sometimes tack on “because I look to him” to the end. Whatever it takes for you to own it and believe it, do it. Then choose one to use as a mantra for your day, week, or year. Repeat it to yourself, write it down, post it on your fridge, make some fancy image with it for your phone’s screensaver.
Whatever helps you hold onto it, do it, and may the peace of God be with you.