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Head Up. Heart Open. | December, 2013

When someone talks to me about “self-help” or “self-care,” I wave my arm toward the books jammed into my overflowing bookshelves, as well as their accompanying exclamation points: Get Out of Your Own Way! Exercise to Happiness! Be the Parent You Dream to Be!

But still I buy these books because as a parent and human being, I would like to be helped and cared for. Of course the books claim that the “self” should do this, but certainly I’m not the first to think it would be easier if someone else did it for me. In fact, saving me from myself is why I buy the books in the first place!
That’s what I was feeling on the day I was attempting to exercise my way to happiness while the kids were in the way of me being the parent I dream to be.

I looked to my husband. “A little help here?!” I asked. (Okay, I may have shouted.) But I was juggling a yoga mat, a can of peaches and a toddler covered in ice cream and dog hair.

He sat there, eyes closed, breathing deeply.

“Hello?!” I implored again.

He opened his eyes and said, “Sorry. I was saying my mantra. It’s really important to me.”

A mantra is a repeated sound, word, or group of words to help change your state of mind. One New Age guru offers consultations on mantras to the ultra famous in his Midtown Manhattan condo. But apparently everyday people like my husband are using mantras, too.

So I tried some on. I began the way any smart mom would: I Googled “popular mantras.” Then I closed my eyes in the midst of some small chaos, took a breath, and...mantra-ed.

First I repeated this popular one: “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better.” That didn’t work because, at least for me, it was a lie.

Then I tried chanting “Sat Nam” which translates loosely into “Truth is my name.” It had a straightforwardness I liked, but it rhymes perfectly with “But Mom!” which I did not.

Finally I settled on “Head up. Heart open.” It suits my need to face reality and my desire to behave lovingly toward my children.

And it works! Now when I stress I don’t go searching for a self-help book or religion of any kind. I just close my eyes and repeat my mantra in my head. It helps me accept any challenge with kindness.

I told my husband about this success, and he asked what mantra I was using. When I recited it for him, he said, “I might use that one.”

“What about your one from before?”

“Oh that?” he said. “I already forgot it!”

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