“’We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet. ‘Even longer,’ Pooh answered.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
My God and My All. These are the prayer words of St. Francis of Assisi, and I have been turning to them for comfort and support for more than twenty years. These words are my Sacred Mantra. As I explain in my book The Practice and here on my website, the Sacred Mantra is “a word, phrase, verse, or prayer with a long history of use that is hallowed or considered holy by the tradition or culture from which it originated, which you have personally chosen for your use.”
I have been using my Sacred Mantra for so long now that I consider it my sacred friend. I have experienced and enjoyed the many benefits of having this tool—this friend—by my side and in my heart. My Sacred Mantra helps me put my stress in perspective, quiets down my mental chatter, helps me to gain clarity of thought, and brings me back to the present moment when my mind wanders to the past or future!
When I discuss the Sacred Mantra in my workshops, I often talk about using it during times of uncertainty, fear, worry, and stress. In the beginning, it takes a lot of practice to train the mind to turn toward the mantra rather than to the worrisome or agitating thoughts that do not get us anywhere. I always say, “If worrying worked, then keep doing it.” But we know it doesn’t. What does work is the Sacred Mantra.
When the mind becomes accustomed to turning to the mantra, we move more easily throughout our day with more patience, compassion, strength, and love. It is as if a good friend is holding our hand and showing us the way!
The Sacred Mantra keeps us present in the moment, giving us an opportunity to really be aware of our actions and interactions with others. It gives us greater control over how we respond to life—because, frankly, that is where we really are in control. Think of this tool as a “thought interceptor”; when your mind starts down a negative, fearful path, start repeating your Sacred Mantra silently to yourself to bring your mind back to the moment, back to the place of reality and choice.
When you use your Sacred Mantra day after day, it becomes rooted within—a part of your being. So not only does it help me during times of worry and stress, it also comes to me in times of joy. One of these occasions, as I describe in my book, was my daughter’s graduation from college. I felt such incredible happiness to see her reach this amazing accomplishment in her life, and suddenly, there was my Sacred Mantra, like a chorus resounding within me! My smile could not have been brighter.
This simple phrase, the deep meaning it holds, and its power are transformational. Mahatma Gandhi called his mantra, Rama, Rama, Rama, “his staff of life.” I urge you to consider choosing a Sacred Mantra for your use and experience the many benefits of this beautiful friend firsthand.
“To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”
In the upcoming months—from Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day—we will have plenty of opportunities to enjoy celebratory feasts and activities. These special times of the year are often filled with precious moments as we spend quality time with our family and friends. These memories, in large part, are what give meaning to our lives, showing us how blessed we are to have opportunities to give our Focused Attention to those we love.
So with this feeling of gratitude in our hearts, wouldn’t it be important to show up for these moments in the best of health? Our bodies are the vehicles that support us and give us strength. To be in the best health possible is a daily practice. So, as this holiday season approaches, consider making good health a priority by trying out the tips below. Know that if you are taking care of yourself, you will be giving those around you a priceless gift—your presence in mind, body, and spirit.
- Get your body moving. Physical activity doesn’t have to be strenuous, but it does have to be consistent for good health. Stretching, walking, yoga, bicycling, tai chi, swimming—these are all low-impact activities that keep your joints nimble and your muscles toned. Start small, try a few different activities, maybe 10 minutes a day, and settle into one that you enjoy. Remember, moving every day is the key, so commit to spending some time moving your body.
- Make healthy food choices. The holidays can be our most challenging times when it comes to food. We will most definitely encounter high-calorie meals and out-of-the-ordinary desserts. For me, this is a time to really make an effort to be mindful and know at each moment that I have a choice. It can be easy to fall into automatic pilot and just eat whatever is placed in front of us. The point is to consciously make the choice to have that second helping or just half of that outrageous dessert. Be in the moment, knowing that you have the power to make smart choices around food. Your body will thank you!
- Give up an unhealthy habit. Is there something in your life that you know is not healthy for you? Whatever it is, contemplate a plan to kick whatever “habit” it is. Maybe it is an addiction like smoking. Did you know that November 20 is the Great American Smokeout? That’s just two days from now! Days like this are reminders that we are never alone. There is a tremendous amount of support out there—you just need to ask for it.
- Replenish your body. Our bodies are made up of mostly water. In fact, we come into this world from a “sac of water.” So it makes sense that when we spend time in and around water we feel an overall sense of well-being. When I get into a bathtub, my first response is, Ahhh. That’s my body’s way of saying thank you. So replenish your body with this life-giving gift. For instance, take a warm bath, nurture your body with a tall glass of fresh water several times a day, or if weather permits, go to the beach or a lake.
- Sleep well. Do you have too much to do to get a full night’s sleep? The importance of sleep is in the media a lot lately, and I am very happy about that. When it comes to sleep, I know that if I don’t get enough, it is difficult for me to be at my best for the day ahead. Figure out the best sleep schedule for you, and make every effort to stick to it. If time is short, make it a point to take on just one less thing so that you can get your adequate amount of sleep.
- Smile and laugh. I say often, “Don’t take life so seriously, but be serious about the life you’re living.” See the humorous side of things as often as you can. Lighten up! Don’t take things personally; it really is not about YOU! When you make the decision to have a daily practice that nurtures your body as well as your mind, your practice will translate into your life as a deep, beautiful, light spirit that finds not only peace and joy in everyday moments but humor too!
“It is better to travel well than to arrive.”
Many of us travel today like no other time in history! My travels have taken me to many beautiful and fascinating places over the years. I feel deeply blessed to have had the opportunity to see many parts of our magnificent world and to meet interesting people along the way.
In The Wizard of Oz, one of my favorite movies of all time, Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home,” and I wholeheartedly agree! Dorothy’s expression of home here has two meanings: our physical home and, of course, our inner home of connection to our Source. I love to get away and experience different cultures and see various sites, both here in my country, the United States, and abroad. But without my deep sense of “home” within, I might tend to feel ungrounded and somewhat lost.
On May 13, I launched my first book, The Practice, and I have never traveled as much as I have these past six months while on my book tour. From state to state and from city to city, I hopped on planes, rented cars, taken taxis, and stayed in hotels dozens of times. I’m thrilled to announce that I make my first international trip with the book to Dublin, Ireland, next week! This tour has been quite an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience full of activity, and I have so much gratitude for this opportunity to speak about my life and encourage others to find their inner peace so that our whole world can begin to feel peaceful.
My travels these past few months have been seamless! This isn’t because there weren’t any delays or frustrating experiences at the airports, but rather because I was able to remain calm and present to whatever was happening around me.
So what makes travel a happy, calm experience? The greatest tip I have is to be in the present moment and to be accepting of whatever comes in the moment by practicing Focused Attention. Here are my three ways for making travel time meaningful:
- Stay in the moment—not anticipating your arrival or stressing about unexpected delays. Really use your breath to be in the moment.
- Take a look around at the people you are meeting, encountering, or passing by as you travel from place to place. Set the intention to smile, be kind, and send loving thoughts. If this seems difficult, remember you have a choice in each moment, so decide to be happy.
- Build in some time for nourishment of your mind, body, and soul—even if it is a working trip. Slow down, take care of yourself, and carry a book with you for some reading for inspiration. We must remember that if we are not feeling strong and fulfilled, the chances of our travel time being meaningful are slim. We may just get the feeling that we cannot wait until it is over. But this is our life, so do we really want to wish it away?
While traveling to a far off place or just taking a drive to the grocery store, focus your attention and be in the moment. You only have this moment, so ask yourself, “How do I choose to spend it?” Be here right now and when you arrive at the destination (on time or late, whatever the case may be), you will have a sense of fulfillment of having traveled well.
“Together we can change the world, one good deed at a time.”
To give pleasure and joy—this is exactly what we are doing when we do something nice for someone. Isn’t it such a wonderful gift, a great feeling, to brighten another person’s day? Often, all it takes is a few kind words, a thoughtful deed, or even a smile. When we do something for someone from that place in our heart where love and compassion reside, our good deed can be transformational and far-reaching.
Kindness also tends to have a boomerang effect, right? A person for whom we have done a kindness is likely to pay it forward to someone else as they journey throughout their day. And if they do, who knows, perhaps our one good deed or statement will get carried on a wave of kindness that might make its way right back to us..
As Princess Diana once said, “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” So kindness isn’t something we do so that we will receive a favor in return. Rather it is a selfless act that will nevertheless have a positive affect on our own lives.
I’ve chosen this topic for today’s blog post because October 5 is National Do Something Nice Today. How wonderful to have a whole day dedicated to this idea! But can you imagine if we dedicated a whole month or year . . . or even a whole lifetime to this? That’s what Mother Teresa did through her work with the Missionaries of Charity. While not everyone can dedicate their lives to selfless service as this great woman did, there is certainly something each of us can do every day to make life a little easier or brighter for someone else, even if that is as simple as a friendly smile.
Kindness takes many forms, both large and small. As you go about your day, try to notice opportunities to do something nice for the people in your life as well as for strangers you encounter throughout the day. Below I offer a few general ideas that can fit many different types of situations. I encourage you to get creative. Think outside the box as you spread kindness today!
- Lend a helping hand
- Offer words of encouragement
- Give a sincere compliment
- Support another’s efforts
- Donate your time
- Say hello to passersby
- Be present and listen closely
- Give a thoughtful gift
- Make a comforting gesture, such as a hug or smile
- Bring levity and laughter to a situation
- Spend quality time with others
By spreading the seeds of kindness, our good deeds and words will bloom like flowers. Everywhere we go, the fragrance of our love will be carried on the wind. This is such a beautiful thought to imagine: the whole earth as a bountiful garden of kindness! Doing something nice goes a very long way. . . .