It’s night time, you’re lying in bed, your mind spinning as you add the dry cleaners and the DMV to your list of Annoying Things To Do. An hour later you’re still tossing and turning, your brain jittering with dread-thoughts about that mixed martial arts class you signed up for on a whim. Sleep—yeah, not gonna happen.
Hey, we’ve all been there and it sucks. Anxiety is kind of like a runaway train—once it gets rolling, there doesn’t seem to be any way to stop it. And since we often can’t change the thing that’s worrying us to death, what we need is a coping mechanism. Lucky for me (and you!) I stumbled onto a trick a year ago that’s been amazing at clearing my mind and pre-empting my rides on that ol’ worry train.
Repeat after me: om mani padme hum.
And again: om mani padme hum.
Let’s stretch it out this time: ohm ma nee pad may hung.
There, you’re meditating! Now stay with me here. I’m not going to get all spiritual on your ass, because I was skeptical at first too. But it works. Take it from one chronically anxious girl to another—everyone can reap the benefits from a little peace out time.
Here’s why: your brain is constantly on, providing a running commentary on everything you see or do. And sometimes this voice just needs to shut the hell up. Because staying attached to past woes or future worries gets you nowhere.
Take A Deep Breath
My mantra came in really handy when I was studying to be a teacher in Chicago, and about to teach middle schoolers for the first time. I had plenty of worries—especially on my first day. And I knew that I needed to exude confidence, or there was a good chance they’d eat me alive.
So I put a little meditation into action, repeating my mantra silently in my head during my long, long commute to the school. I calmed down. I centered myself. And when I walked into that school, I wasn’t worried anymore about seeming like an imposter—I was ready to bring the learning.
Here’s how to do it: To meditate, breath from your chest, filling your lungs, and exhale through your nose, repeating the mantra silently to yourself. Don’t let yourself think about anything else as you focus on the mantra.. Continue breathing and chanting until you release your tension and feel a welcome wave of calm spread over your body. Try it at night, while lying in bed instead of counting sheep. Use it whenever you feel overcome by a difficult situation, or a negative emotion.
If you want to dig deeper, there are a lot of resources out there, and people to learn from, like Deepak Chopra, or my fave, David Lynch. And just learning about the history and meaning behind the mantra is fascinating stuff—for example, om mani padme hum is Sanskrit, and while it’s awkward to sum up the entirety of its meaning in just a few Western words, loosely it can be said to mean, “Hail the jewel in the lotus.” Each syllable purifies one of the six realms of existence in suffering. Check this out for a lot more details about the mantra’s true meaning.
Meditation works! So have at it, and be ready to have the best (or at least calmest) year yet.