Words Translate Will and Desire Into Action

The July Project: Day 14

It takes a thought to make a word
And it takes some words to make an action.

—Jason Mraz, “Life is Wonderful”

For two weeks, I’ve been kicking around a draft post about mantras. I approach the topic with trepidation, because I don’t ever want want to sound like I’m trying to spout “wisdom.” (Somebody please kick me in the head if I ever start believing I’m wise.) I have no wisdom except what I’ve borrowed from other sources, so I can only add my two cents—the results of experiments that I’ve carried out in the search for understanding.

I’ve never made any systematic study of Eastern spirituality, so I thought I’d better look up the word mantra to make sure that I don’t use it here in a way that tramples on the formal and traditional meaning. I found lots of definitions. Here are my favorites: “a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that are capable of creating transformation” and “a translation of the human will or desire into a form of action.” These definitions seem reasonably consistent with my own use of mantras to refer to the incantations I recite to encourage, inspire, and energize myself.

I put a lot of stock in the power of words, so I’ve collected several mantras. One of the wordier ones was the basis for Day 4’s brief meditation:

It took years of bad habits to get out of shape. It’s going to take years of good habits to reverse the damage. That’s okay. I’ve got years.

That’s a useful spell to speak silently to myself as I’m pulling up my socks, retying my shoes, adjusting my shorts, positioning my earphones, and clipping on my iPod. The words remind me that today’s walk is part of a lifelong project, and that the reward for my patience and persistence is having the strength and good health to do this daily ritual again, right here, right now, today.

But sometimes I run. When my arms are swinging and my legs are pumping and my lungs are working hard, 28 words is too hefty a mantra. The phrase I often use to drive myself forward at these times is:

I will be one of the body guys.

Should I try to explain exactly what that means? Depending on how you experience the relationship between your body and your mind—or spirit, or soul, or consciousness, or essence—I suspect that you either get a sense of my meaning already, or my explaining it wouldn’t help much. In any case, the meaning of my mantra is only important to me. I encourage you to think about mantras of your own. What words or phrases are capable of creating the transformation you seek?

As I wrote the words I will be one of the body guys just now, it occurred to me that I can make this mantra more powerful with a minor revision:

I am one of the body guys.

My exercise lifestyle is a constant—and constantly changing—state of becoming. Does it make a difference which words I use to describe my desire? The only way to know is to experiment.

Words have power. Find words or phrases that can translate your will and desire into action. Try saying them as you begin to exercise, or prepare a wholesome meal, or work on your art. If you feel so inclined, please share a mantra with us in the comments at the bottom of this page.

1 comment to Words Translate Will and Desire Into Action

  • Donna

    I like the way you choose your words so carefully so that they convey precisely what you are thinking. This appears to be easy but I know from years of writing art criticism (or praise) that it most definitely is not! Inspirational, but I still don’t have time to walk this morning!

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