My Mantra


That’s the thing I say to myself, over and over.

“Loved” is my mantra, when I meditate.   Those five letters do the job of any other mantra: the return my awareness from whatever thoughts have popped inside my head.  They are my anchor to this moment that is happening right now, tethering me to the only time we are actually alive.  Regrets might want to push me back into the past.  Worries might try to rush me into the future.   When I feel this happening, I say that word to myself, dismiss the things that are clamoring for my attention, and then I am here, in the present.

Some of the time, anyway.  Other times, letting go takes this strange sort-of repeated not-effort.  Sometimes I get swept up a little bit.  I see that getting frustrated with myself at these times is an adventure in missing the point.  So sometimes, I might make several attempts, saying that word, to myself.

There are lots of different types of mantras.  Not just words but images, candles, sounds, sensations like breathing.  All of the those, I think, perform equally well for all the things listed above.

But personally, I get a little extra mileage out of that word, “Loved.”

Difficult and terrifying things came up when I sit in the silence.  Some of them would be dismissed by any old mantra.  But with my word, there is a second line of defense.

When I truly embrace the reality– not only that God is love, but also that I personally am loved– everything also just fades away.  There is not a single fear, worry, memory or feeling that can stand before that simple truth: I am loved.

Saying the word once doesn’t instantly awaken myself to this reality.  But each time I think it, I believe it a lot more.  And that’s a really good feeling.

#5 Would a Rose, By Any Other Name…

Names are no small thing in the bible.  There are many figures who are given a new name when they perform a great deed.  Angels go to the parents of  John and Jesus and tell mom and dad the names the kids will have.  The evil spirits cast out of people frequently make a big deal out of knowing their own name, and they often place importance on the fact that they know Jesus’ name.  The book of Revelation tells us that we have a secret and true name carved into a stone that is waiting for us.

There are things in the bible that don’t feel very relevant to us today.  So  we might try and pay lip service to the idea that names are just arbitrary and meaningless.  We could claim that they are just a random series of sounds assigned to us birth.  But our life experiences don’t bear this out.

So many  groups that wants to create a community will assign its members new names.  From summer camps to street gangs, from college fraternities to online communities, we give each other new names.  We go to restaurants or coffee shapes, and when we interact with people we will never see again, we find it important to make sure that they spell our names correctly.  Kids that are just reaching their adult years often find it necessary to re-name themselves, requesting that others call them by some new name, a process not unlike ancient tribal people, who would endow those entering adulthood with a new name, often earned through some sort-of vision quest.

When you engage in meditation today, perhaps you would like to choose a word, today.  People use mantras as a way to focus.  Repeating the word silently is a strategy to get past the distractions which our minds will throw at us.  Some people like to use words with a specific meaning they won’t to focus on: “Love”  or “Jesus” or “Yahweh.”  

Contemplative John Main suggests the word “maranatha.”  Before I researched this word, I kind of liked it.  It is almost as long as each of the breaths I take.  When I choose a shorter word, I find that distractions creep in, between repetitions.  And when I looked the word, discovering it is one that Jesus himself said, an invitation for God to come and a declaration that God has already arrived, I liked it even more.

There is no magical meaning to these sounds.  They are just words.  But even without magic, words and names are powerful things.  Choose a mantra today, and let go.