As a kid I spent a week every summer at Phantom Lake YMCA Camp in Mukwonago, Wisconsin. As anyone who has been to summer camp well knows, it can be a magical and transformative experience….and it definitely was for me. Beyond teaching me basic things like how to be away from my parents…how to shoot a bow and arrow…how to use a compass…and some basic social mores (i.e., streaking across a summer camp lawn is NOT okay), my experience at Phantom Lake gave me something I still come back to today: a mantra.
Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, mantras seem to be everywhere – in yoga classes (the famous “om”), at the gym, and even at work – as meditation and mindfulness continue to migrate into the mainstream. According to Merriam-Webster, a mantra is “a sacred utterance (syllable, word, or verse) believed to possess mystical or spiritual power. Mantras may be spoken aloud or uttered in thought, and they may be either repeated or sounded only once. Repetition of a mantra can induce a trancelike state and can lead the participant to a higher level of spiritual awareness.”
The mantra I learned as a kid didn’t derive from a formally spiritual place, but it did come from a very human and unifying place. And it has never induced a trancelike state, but it has definitely calmed and centered me. Since I learned it when I was 10 or so, I’ve come back to it countless times when I’ve need a basic and familiar anchor. Here it is – it’s called the “Ragger’s Creed”:
I will be true, for there are those who trust me;
I will be pure, for there are those who care;
I will be strong, for there is much to suffer;
I will be brave, for there is much to dare.
I will be friend to all – the foe, the friendless;
I will be giving, and forget the gift;
I will be humble, for I know my weakness;
I will look up, and laugh, and love and lift.
As we think about our well-being – and specifically, the role our mind plays in it – mantra can be a simple and powerful way to stay grounded and centered. Do you have a mantra that you rely on? Where did it come from, and why did it stick with you? And if not, how might you find (or make) one that speaks to you?