Every now and then, I experience a professional workshop that’s actually a healing experience. A recent two-day training – integrating radical self-acceptance, mindfulness and yoga, led by author/teacher/therapist Mary NurrieStearns – was just such an experience. I’d like to pass on some ideas and practices stimulated by the workshop. If you’d like to learn more about her work, please visit her website: www.personaltransformation.com
Our brains are wired with a negative bias – a propensity to focus on what’s potentially dangerous and threatening. We learn danger quickly and forget it slowly. We learn shame quickly – and hang on to it. We find it easy to orientate our inner narratives around negative judgments of ourselves and others or around regretful and fearful stories about the past and future. After years of practice, these negative narratives become the “default setting” – internal habits of thought we automatically and routinely revisit – habits that harm us more than we realize.
Fortunately, mindfulness practices provide opportunities to notice what’s automatic and to make conscious choices about what thoughts to encourage. We can actually re-wire our brains. Doing so, however, takes much repetition and practice, practice, practice.
In the teachings of Richard Moss and Mary NurrieStearns, there is an emphasis on embodying deep truth, not just encoding it intellectually or conceptually, but integrating it into the body. So, with the mantras (healing phrases) I will be sharing, it’s helpful to sing them, move or dance with them, and use touch, tapping or holding as you repeat them to yourself.
Here is a menu of mantra meditations I’ve been practicing. Perhaps, one or more of them will be meaningful for you. Please feel free to experiment with your own healing affirmations and approaches.
On my morning run, I’ve been singing in time with my footfalls:
I’m connected. I am loved. I am one. I’m free.
With this or any of the four-phrase mantra affirmations, you can touch thumb to index finger with the first phrase, thumb to middle finger with the second, thumb to ring finger with the third and thumb to little finger with the fourth. I’ve been doing this thumb-to-finger touching practice in seated meditation, as I repeat four affirmations from the Buddhist practice of Metta (loving-kindness meditation):
May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be peaceful. May I be love.
The other pronouns – you, we, he, she, and they – are also used in Metta to send loving-kindness blessings. Feel free to create other affirmations to bless yourself and other folks.
Here’s another self-healing practice I find especially powerful as an antidote to shame narratives. With eyes closed, I lay my crossed hands on my chest over my heart – perhaps patting or tapping or gently rubbing or just holding – and say or sing, usually not out loud:
I accept you. I forgive you. I trust you. I love you.
For me, this practice embodies a commitment to stay in compassion with myself – no matter what. It weakens old habits of self-abandonment, self-rejection, and self-judgment. It promotes what Mary NurrieStearns calls “profound self-acceptance.”
Richard Moss teaches mantra practice as a wonderful way to reclaim ownership of our minds from the old conditioning that so often dominates our inner landscape. His recent teaching videos on this subject, excellent resources, are accessible for viewing, at no cost, through his website: www.richardmoss.com From his home page click on Resources, then on Free Videos and Audios, and then on YouTube in the line “For more videos take a look at Richard’s YouTube channel.” The videos are titled: Introduction to Mantra Practice for Calming the Mind – Parts 1 & 2.
I like the mantra he recommends. It’s great to sing to, run to, hike to, dance to or sit with:
Thank you. Thank you. I’m so grateful.
Lately, when I run or tap fingers with it, I’ve been breaking the mantra into four, two-syllable phrases:
Thank you. Thank you. I’m so. Grateful.
The brain likes habits. It likes to conserve energy by following old, familiar paths of least resistance. Conscious effort and practice is required to re-wire these pathways. With mantra work, we make conscious choices to interrupt habitual negative narratives that capture us in fear, shame and outrage. We make conscious efforts to create a compassionate inner space – a nice place to live.
We move toward friendship with ourselves and comfort inside our own skin. We shift the emphasis from looking out there for healing and nurture to finding more of what we need in here.
We exercise our love-ability. We partner with a wise and loving presence inside. We meet ourselves, and discover ourselves, in an inner I-Thou connection. We remember that we’re never alone.
Note: I am taking a break from this space for a few weeks to complete the mentorship program with Richard Moss. Will return in May.
Thank you. Thank you. I’m so grateful.