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Woo-woo Stuff that Actually Works!

One word: Mantras. Mantras aren’t part of a particular religion, they’re not Buddhist or Hindu. They cross all religions, even Christianity, although Christians might call them prayer. It’s like Anne Lamont’s book title Help, Thanks, Wow. You only need one word or a few words to help you get to the next place. In fact, the word mantra, according to my favorite yoga teacher, Shannon, means “sacred message.” You probably learned your first mantra when you were in diapers and hearing the Engine Who Could (“I think I can, I think I can”) and maybe you repeated these words as you set out to climb the monkey bars. Let’s take a look at how mantras can help you now that you’re all grown up.

Mantras can be one word or a few words. You don’t have to chant them to the beat of drums and the smell of patchouli. Mantras can be said in your head a few times a day or written down in a journal or on a sticky note on your desk or even use it as a screen saver.

What’s the point of a mantra? The point of a mantra is to focus your attention. Instead of letting your mind wander like a 2 year old in a room full of toys, you focus the toddler’s attention on one thing. Sure, he’ll wander off, but you keep bringing his attention back to this thing. An example would be one of my first mantras. Having grown up going to church twice a week and memorizing Bible verses, when I started having severe anxiety during my first year away at college, I turned to a well-known verse: Be Still. I didn’t know it was a form of mantra, but I’d repeat it to myself over and over. It helped ground me and reminded me to stop freaking out and focus on being still (in my mind). A few years later when my husband suffered his first bout of major depression, I was so beside myself with worry for him, I unintentionally created a mantra I repeated like a prayer over and over: Help Chase, help Chase. I remember saying it in my head to match my inhales and exhales as I jogged. It was a form of prayer, but it also took my focus off me being able to save him and turned it over to a higher power.

Words have tremendous power. They can change the vibrational energy in a room. I’ve mentioned this experiment before, but the Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto’s water droplet experiments demonstrate this perfectly. The water molecules rearrange themselves in different patterns based on which words are spoken over the microscope. When words like peace and love are uttered, the molecules look like magnificent snow flakes. When words like hate and war are spoken, the molecules rearrange into ugly asymmetrical shapes. Watch a clip here.

Try saying the word Peace out loud. Peace. Peace. Doesn’t it make you want to relax your shoulders and take a deep breath?

What about affirmations? The premise of affirmations is that (shocker!) we get to choose our thoughts. This is a crazy notion the first time you hear it. At first you may think, “Well, duh. Of course I choose my thoughts. I’m in charge of me and my thoughts” but then you get all caught up in being upset about something and a part of you knows it’s ridiculous, but you can’t not be mad or upset. A part of you is watching this take place: your voice getting louder, your body language, words spewing out, but it happens anyway. If you’ve done work on identifying and changing your thoughts, you know how extremely difficult it is to stop the mudslide of negative thoughts.

That’s where positive affirmations come in. Most of our billions of daily thoughts are negative. Like 95% of them are negative even if you consider yourself a positive person. Our thoughts are so ingrained, they literally make neural pathways in our brain and the impulses travel these well-worn roads over and over without us even being aware.

Before the pandemic, I spent 4 months in neurofeedback sessions twice a week. I’d sit with this cap of wires on my head looking like a science experiment. The cap had little electrodes and I had dots of gel on my head that made the signals more transmissible to my brain. My job was to sit there and try not to think. Classical music helped. The point was to re-route the neural pathways. To identify via brain mapping the destructive pathways causing migraines and anxiety and to reroute them. If you don’t have access to neurofeedback, try affirmations to help rewire your brain.

As I mentioned, affirmations function like little seeds planted in your subconscious. We know our subconscious isn’t all that creative. It thinks the same thoughts over and over. If you can plant new seeds, it will eventually start to believe those new statements and make daily decisions to support those affirmations.

For example, My affirmations were as follows: I am fluent in Spanish. I am a kick ass yoga instructor, I am a phenomenal mama. My kids are amazing humans The reason I say “was” is because in one way or another, all those things came true. You see, we look for evidence to support our thoughts. If we think our kids are going to misbehave again, because they act the fool every time we’re in a restaurant, then yes, they won’t disappoint. If you think your kids are amazing, you’ll look for evidence to support this. You’ll notice how quietly they sit while the waitress takes your order, you’ll notice how your daughter puts a napkin in her lap. And on and on. Let’s look at the mantra, I am in the best shape of my life. Even if it’s not true, you say it over and over. You say it before you fall asleep and when you wake up. This is the seed planting and watering. You start to believe you’re in awesome physical shape. When someone offers you a big hunk of cake, you’re thinking, “I’m in the best shape of my life, why would I want to ruin it by putting this crap into my mouth?” Or, at least that’s the idea.

The last form of perceived woo-wooness I’ll discuss is manifesting. Manifesting got a really bad rap with the book, The Secret, which developed a cult following back in the early 2000s. What is manifesting? Manifesting is when you focus your attention and energy on something and it comes to fruition. It could involve mantras, or it could be as simple as visualizing someone you haven’t spoken to in ages and they call you later that day. Or maybe you want to manifest a new job but you have no idea how it could happen. Still, you think about this new job a lot, you visualize yourself working there, you have hopeful expectant energy that the job will come to fruition. Lo and behold, you run into the CEO of your desired new job at a local restaurant a week later and start up a conversation, which leads to a job interview, which leads to a job. Was it magic? No. You simply put out good energy that you wanted to work for this company and when you ran into him, you already expected you’d end up working there, so you had the balls to go for it. Your confidence was appealing and you got the job.

Here’s why it’s not magic or sorcery or anything weird. When you put your energy and attention on something or someone, you start to look for the thing or that person.

Maybe it is about the energy sending out vibrational frequencies, but I think it’s simpler than that. I think by saying a mantra, using positive affirmations, or using manifesting, you are handing out big suggestions to your subconscious. By saying, “I am madly in love” when you’re not, or, “I am excelling as an accountant” even as a new graduate, imagine what type of vibe you’re giving off: confidence, joy, fun. You’re going to embrace opportunities, you’re going to smile more, you’re going to attract other high vibe people. I wouldn’t be surprised if you do end up as a bad ass accountant who's madly in love. Now, imagine the opposite. What if you walk around whining about how hard it is to meet a “good guy”. You believe you will never meet a life partner. You have resigned yourself to never fall in love, so you don’t even try. You may go on occasional dates, but you fully expect them to end badly. And what if you’re consumed with insecurity and fear, so your internal monologue is “I suck at accounting”. What kind of things do you think you’ll attract with these vibes? Are accounting firms going to snatch you up and feel like they’ve found a stellar employee? Are single people going to be approaching you because you have a glow of happiness and confidence around you or are they going to be repelled?

No, and no.

But Hope, that’s fake. And that seems egotistical. I don’t want to be all braggy about how amazing I am. That’s a turnoff.

No it’s not. I’m not asking you to walk around shouting about how awesome you are, but I am asking you to change your self-talk to acknowledge you are amazing because, duh, you ARE amazing.

So how do you decide on a mantra? Should you have one? Five? I recommend 1-3 at a time.

Mel Robbins recommends something similar with her book, High Five Habit. She says to promote your awesomeness by making eye contact with yourself in the mirror while you high-fiving yourself. I tried this in the mirror after I got out of the shower. I got a funny look from my husband, but my image in the mirror winked at me and mouthed “You got this!”

Start with who you wish you were. None of us have our fountains overflowing with self-love or we wouldn’t be reading this. Think of things you wish you could learn, or the person you wish you were. Imagine you walk into a crowded room. All heads turn to watch you, what do you wish they were thinking? "She is a bad ass ________ !" Or "That girl is on fire!" Or, "Whoa, she’s brilliant!"

The next step is to do a little trick where you make decisions AS IF you’re already that person or AS IF you've already got that thing. If you imagine a confident healthy woman who doesn’t put up with shit, when the boss asks you to work late for the third night, you’re going to politely tell him you can’t.

Now imagine something really difficult you’ve been trying to accomplish. For me it’s writing and getting a book published. I wish people would say “She is a phenomenal writer." Or, “She is a best-selling author”. One of my mantras is, “I am the author of a New York times best seller” and I not only say it, I picture my book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble with the NY Times Best Sellers. I picture my book’s jacket cover (red or saffron yellow) with my picture on the back flap. I say my new book mantra before writing, right before I fall asleep, and first thing in the morning. Literally in the seconds before I fall asleep, I say the words to myself, I am a NY Times best-selling author". Immediately before sleep is when the subconscious is very susceptible to suggestions. If you always think, “I am exhausted.” or “thank goodness this day is over, it sucked”, that’s not the kind of subliminal message you want your brain to receive.

Sometimes I also do a generic one if I just need some good mojo. I’ll say, “All is well” or “Be still” These mantras remind me a power greater than me has control.

What if you say a mantra over and over and it never comes true? Two things might be happening. One is that you may have changed. It could be that you deep down don’t really want that thing. It could also be that you don’t believe you’re worthy of that thing. A big reason I suggest doing a mantra is to convince you that you ARE worth it, but sometimes our limiting beliefs go so deep, we can’t and won’t believe good things await us. In this case, you need a life coach or therapist to hold up those limiting beliefs so you can see them and work on undoing them.

Do vision boards work? Absolutely. They work even better than writing out your affirmations a few times a day or if you visualize yourself accomplishing or becoming whatever you desire. Vision boards give you a vision of what you’d love to have or have happen. They're out in the open for you see it several times a day, so pretty soon you don’t wish for those things to come to fruition, you expect them to. This sends out a totally different energy.

I have a boat on my vision board, a sailboat. I wrote “take sailing lessons” on my New Year’s resolutions last year and nothing happened. Nothing happened because I totally forgot about it until I re-read them this December. When I re-read it, I decided it was going to happen. I made a vision board, put up a sailboat, a hot lady in a bikini, a surfer lady, and many other photos from magazines. I looked at it every day leading up to Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we ran into my sister-in-law’s sister in law who happens to live on a sailboat. I mentioned that my hubby and I wanted to take sailing lessons and she was like, “oh my, don’t do that! Come and stay with us for three nights and we’ll teach you to sail. It’ll be way better experience and it’s free!” Wow! And that was just a week of looking at this vision board!

Another great story of manifesting is one I just read about in Denise Duffield-Thomas’s book Get Rich Luck Bit*h. Denise really, really wanted to travel around the world. Because she wanted to do this, she made it known to her friends that this was her desire and vision. One of her friends heard about a competition. The competition was for couples and the winner would get an all-expense paid trip to all these countries over a 6-month period. Denise wanted so badly to win it. Then she decided she didn't just want to win it, she WOULD win it. She applied and started imaging what life would be like when she won this trip with her husband. They’d get to see the world for the next 6 months. She changed her password on her computer to winner, she told her boss she’d be leaving soon because she was going to win this contest, and she found someone to sublet her apartment because she just knew she was going to win. And out of thousands of applicants, she won.

Your homework assignment is to pick a couple of mantras, positive affirmations, and maybe even do a vision board. Try these things for a month and I promise you'll be amazed at the results!

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life coach, PA, Physician assistant, burnout, stuck, career, martha beck
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