Sam Littlefair looks at the modern mantras that help us work through difficulties.
Do you have a favorite saying that helps you work through difficulties? Maybe a memorable quote or an old adage? Buddhism is filled with powerful phrases, from Om Mani Padme Hum to Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. These mantras are sets of sacred syllables, repeated in meditation to cultivate spiritual attainment. But, most of them aren’t in English, and many don’t even have a direct English translation.
But, as Buddhism takes route in the West, more and more English-language Buddhist aphorisms are popping up and growing in popularity. Some Buddhist traditions have collections of English-language phrases for use in meditation, like gathas or lojong slogans.
I thought we could look at some of the more informal phrases gaining popularity. These are simple sayings that you can call upon at any time to foster equanimity, compassion, insight, or whatever the moment calls for. To me, they’re like modern-day mantras. See how they work for you.
“Real but Not True”
Sometimes we think irrational things while the truth is right in front of us. When that happens, says Jeremy Mohler, four simple words can help bring us back to earth.
“Real but not true” gives us space to both notice thoughts and emotions and acknowledge that they might not correspond with reality. It’s an antidote to our habit of trying to escape uncomfortable emotions. It alleviates the suffering that is caused by futile attempts to avoid what actually is.
“May I meet this moment fully. May I meet it as a friend.”
Sylvia Boorstein explains the power of a this simple phrase for working with stressful situation — like a day at the airport. What better place to work with your mind?
These blessing phrases cultivate and sustain a mind of peace and goodwill. For me, they represent the promise of practice. “May I meet this moment fully” expresses my faith that an alert and balanced mind is a possibility for human beings. “May I meet it as a friend” reminds me that my mind’s natural benevolence is my best refuge.
“Right Now, It’s Like This”
Meditation teacher Vinny Ferraro explains this powerful phrase, and offers meditation instructions to go with it.
I think there is “a turning toward” aspect to practicing with “right now, it’s like this.” I think it resonates for a lot of our sangha and people in general who are tired of pretending that life is not hard.