Causal Rewrite- Ugandanknuckles

SHMHBS

If I told you that whenever you were sad or felt bad about yourself, you could just sit down and chant some magic words to be happy, would you believe me? There are people who actually think you can do just that. While the practice is rather old and dates back to the early modern era, possibly earlier, we know now that there is no such thing as magic.

An excerpt from an article written by Lori Majewski on the benefits of mantras titled “9 Empowering Mantras to Shift Your Mindset,” will help give you can idea of how bs the whole “mantra” movement is:

I didn’t “get” Kaur or her mantras right away, though. The ones on her album Feeling Good Today! initially struck me as too simple, too obvious, and, dare I say, hokey. “Feeling good today, I am feeling good today,” she sings on the title track. “I am happy, I am good. I am happy, I am good,” she intones on “I Am Happy.”

Still, I kept the songs on in the background as I went about making myself breakfast, during my morning yoga practice, and throughout the workday. Ever since, I’ve started most days singing along to Kaur’s mantras. Whenever I get up on the wrong side of the bed, a dose of “I am happy, I am good” right-sides my mood; it helps me to approach the work day with confidence and anticipation. Far from corny, I now see these, yes, simple phrases—and mantras in general—as quite powerful.

She has no evidence to back up the idea that these songs that sound like something off of a children’s CD were the reason she felt better, nor does give a specific example. She could just be trying to promote Snatum Kaur’s CD as part of a business deal. Majewski and many others subscribe to the idea of chanting or mantras as a way to feel better, rather than finding something more effective.

Hard facts, however have proven her to be wrong- mostly. A study done by The University of Waterloo and the The University of New Brunswick shows that the only people mantras actually help are the people who don’t need them. People who already have high self-esteems or feel good about themselves don’t need to feel better. People like to try and prescribe people with poor self-image/self-esteem cure-all mantras, but it has the inverse effect. It doesn’t help that a highly publicized and praised figure promotes this system. Oprah Winfrey is a proponent of the mantra movement for anyone and everyone, but I doubt she’s ever done much research on the topic.

Sas Petherick, a well known self-help blogger from New Zealand, explains why mantras are bullshit fairly well.

Our super-smart brains see straight through us wanting to want to believe something we actually don’t.

So you might find yourself saying a version of ‘I am: loved, whole, fit, abundant, free, successful, strong, beautiful, joyful, unlimited, powerful, creative, expansive, sexy, thriving, rich… I am enough!’ *ends with dramatic flourish*

Except actually: its Lady Moon Time, he’s left a wet towel on the bed AGAIN, you suspect Little Miss might be being bullied at school, the car needs new tyres, you have four missed calls from Mother, no pension plan, your favourite frock is feeling a bit tight, you’ve spent three days ignoring the ominous letter from The Bank, you can’t have a family holiday this year without extending the overdraft, you’ve found yourself having a tiny cry in the loo after every meeting with that bloke from sales who makes you feel about nine years old….

Its no wonder that after a few days of repeating an affirmation, we start to think – actually, this is bullshit.

When our reality is in such contrast to our mantra – those  hopeful thoughts of a different result – we end up feeling trapped in a circuitous loop of repeating the same crappy patterns.

You are not going mad – this is exactly what is happening. Because our brains are hard-wired to look for patterns and make connections. So when thing X happens we believe it will result in outcome 56 – we focus on the evidence that reinforces what we think about X.

We expect these things to work, but then our lives prove the opposite. We need to confront the issues in our lives before we attempt to try to move passed them. Sitting there repeating that you’re a good person isn’t gonna help if you’re an asshole to everyone around you, and telling yourself that you can be successful is useless if you’re not gonna take steps to try and better yourself. At the end of the day, action speak louder than words, but if you do manage to get your actions right, some words are alright.

References

Wood, J. V., Perunovic, W. E., & Lee, J. W. (2009). Positive Self-Statements. Psychological Science, 20(7), 860-866. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02370.x

Majewski, L. (2015, March 27). 9 Empowering Mantras to Shift Your Mindset. Retrieved February 26, 2018, from http://www.sonima.com/meditation/mantras/

The stuck record: why mantras feel like bullshit. (2014, August 21). Retrieved February 26, 2018, from http://www.saspetherick.com/the-stuck-record-why-mantras-feel-like-bullshit/

Bibliography- Ugandanknuckles

(In order of how I found them, not alphabetical)

1. Bard, E. (2015, August 04). Why Affirmations Don’t Work (& What You Can Do Instead). Retrieved January, 2018, from http://ellenbard.com/why-affirmations-dont-work/

Background: This article talks about how Self-help mantras aren’t as helpful as people once thought they were, and how they can actually be detrimental. It cites a study done by The University of Waterloo and The University of New Brunswick.

How I Used It: This is how I found my initial topic. I had always found psychology to be interesting, and I thought, “Hey, it’d be interesting to further investigate those.” Although my current and final topic is the inverse of what the article is trying to argue, it was still important to starting my research as a whole.

2. Wiseman, R. (2012, June 30). Self help: Try positive action, not positive thinking. Retrieved January, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/jun/30/self-help-positive-thinking

Background: This article talks about how actions have a more profound effect on us than words or thoughts do. “Actions speak louder than words” is the overall message.

How I Used It: Mantras are commonly coupled with yoga, so I used it in my reflective essay as an idea of how yoga can help make mantras more effective for someone who isn’t really feeling the effects.

3. Majewski, L. (2018, March 05). 9 Empowering Mantras to Shift Your Mindset. Retrieved February, from http://www.sonima.com/meditation/mantras/

Background: Lori Majewski talks about her experiences with mantras, and includes stories from other people of how they use mantras.

How I Used It: I used this article at the end of my Research Essay to reference real-world examples of how people discover and utilize mantras.

4. Breeze, S. (2016). The Meaning of World’s Most Popular Mantras. Retrieved April, 2018, from http://www.sunnyray.org/The-meaning-of-the-most-popular-mantras.htm

Background: The mantra community member, “Sunny Breeze,” explains the menaing behind some of the more commonly used mantras, and a few mantras that are a little far out in their spelling.

How I used It: This article was very important because I needed it to explain what mantras mean. If the words have no meaning behind them, they are useless, and this article helped me define the more well known ones most people use.

5. Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. (n.d.). Retrieved February, 2018, from http://fetzer.org/sites/default/files/images/stories/pdf/selfmeasures/Self_Measures_for_Self-Esteem_ROSENBERG_SELF-ESTEEM.pdf

(2007 is the most recent date on the document, there’s no publication date)

Background: This article contains and talks about the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale.

How I Used It: I used it to help me talk about self-esteem. It’s the most commonly used scale, so I needed to talk about it.

6. Heatherton, T. F., & Wyland, C. L. (n.d.). Assessing Self-Esteem. Retrieved February, 2018, from http://sites.dartmouth.edu/thlab/files/2010/10/TFH03.Hea_.Self-regulation.pdf

(2001 is the most recent date on the document, there’s no publication date)

Background: Heatherton and Wyland talk about the operative part of self-esteem, self-concept, and some of the misconceptions surrounding self-esteem and self-concept. Misconceptions like how the different genders (pardon my lack of PC) build self-esteem, and the differences between them.

How I Used It: I used it to explain the idea of self-concept, and how self-esteem has many factors contributing to it. Mantras can help boost self-esteem, but it can’t help a person’s self-concept, or what they perceive to be true about themselves.

7. How to increase your self-esteem. (2016, June). Retrieved February, 2018, from https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/self-esteem/#.WoiKJ6jwY2w

Background: This page goes over the traditional ways to diagnose your self-esteem, and ways to combat low self-esteem. It includes help lines and ways to remove yourself from emotionally toxic situations.

How I Used It: Background info/research.

8. Horton, A. P. (2018, February 15). Positive Self-Esteem Is Overrated, Here’s What You Need Instead. Retrieved March, 2018, from https://www.fastcompany.com/40531879/positive-self-esteem-is-overrated-heres-what-you-need-instead

Background: Melissa Dahl explains why self-esteem is overrated, and why the other concept, self-clarity, is more important. Self-clarity being how well someone knows themselves (similar to self-concept).

How I Used It: This was an important piece of my work before I changed my topic, but I used it in my rebuttal essay to help me find what some of the main arguments against my research were.

9. Petherik, S. (2014, August 21). The stuck record: Why mantras feel like bullshit. Retrieved March, 2018, from http://www.saspetherick.com/the-stuck-record-why-mantras-feel-like-bullshit/

Background: Sas Petherick (possibly her first name?) talks about why mantras feel like they’re ineffective, and possible ways to help them seem effective.

How I Used It: For my old topic, this article had been what I thought to be a breakthrough. It was not, and it actually ended up making me rethink my topic.

10. Axel, G. (2013, October 02). Your Brain on Om: The Science of Mantra. Retrieved March, 2018, from https://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2013/10/02/your-brain-on-om-the-science-of-mantra

Background: Gariel Axel explains the science of sound on the body, and why mantras are effective because of that.

How I Used It: I used the article to help explain why mantras are effective through the science of sound. It was especially important in the writing of my rebuttal essay to combat the idea that only people who devote a large portion of their lives to mantras can benefit from them.

11. The Science of Mantras: Mantras Work With or Without Faith; Research Supports the Effectiveness of Sanskrit Mantra for Healing – and Even Environmental Transformation. (2017, March 05). Retrieved April, 2018, from https://buddhaweekly.com/science-mantras-mantras-work-without-faith-research-supports-effectiveness-sanskrit-mantra-healing-even-environmental-transformation/

Background: This article by Buddha Weekly explains how sound effects the environment, but more specifically water. Water is in most living things, including humans, and the article goes from that perspective to explain how different types of sounds can effect you based on how they are conveyed.

How I Used It: I didn’t feel like my argument about sound science was effective enough in my rebuttal essay, so I used this article as a last minute boost to my credibility. It as well helped me find out more information on what I was talking about, thus giving me a more robust statement to provide on the topic of sound and the body.

Research- Ugandanknuckles

When we think of ways to improve our self-esteem, most people suggest a change of diet, getting a gym membership, or joining a club. Mantras are often dismissed as a fad and are chalked up as just another weird scheme promoted by celebrities that they don’t even care about. In reality, mantras are a self-help tool promoted by the personal-enrichment community that promises to help practitioners to improve their attitude and mood towards their everyday lives. Celebrities dominant in the fields of television such Oprah Winfrey practice mantra usage themselves, and promote it as a way to squash negative thoughts and attitudes towards ourselves. The power of words has been observed for centuries, and modern-day practitioners are just the most recent people to have recognized mantra usage as a way to improve their everyday lives.

Wildmind, a site about Buddhist meditation, defines mantras as “words or phrases that are chanted out loud or internally as objects of meditation.” Many cultures throughout the ages have believed in the power of words whether it be for meditation or for spiritual reasons. The power of words expands beyond just Buddhism, however. Even in modern-day English the connections between magic and words can be found. For instance, the word “spell” can mean both how “to write a word” or “mystic words said to use magic.” Further back in time, the words glamour and grammar share an interesting origin, all based on how words reached and evolved in different parts of Europe. Wildmind states,

Gramma-techne was the Greek term for the science or art of letters. This came into English as the word grammar, but also came in Scots (as “glammer”) to mean “to cast a spell upon”… The word “glammer” was anglicized as “glamour,” and came to have its more contemporary romantic and aesthetic associations, where someone is able to influence us, not by the power of their words, but by the beauty of their appearance.

If we travel to India, words, specifically names, had powers of their own. It was believed that if someone knew the true name of a god, then that person would be able to call upon that god for help. All religions in one form or another see words as powerful. Prayer is found in many religions, and it both uses words to help us ease our minds of something we may want or hope for, and acknowledges the possible existence of a higher power.

Even as kids we acknowledged the existence of power in words. Many of us pretended to be magicians by saying “Abracadabra” while moving our magic wands over our hats, and pulling out an invisible rabbit to the amazement of our parents. Pop culture cultivates new words all the time that have strong meanings. Every few months, there are new, fad words created, and people use them to try and seem cool. Not saying them make us seem like outcasts, and saying old ones make us seem slow.

In the modern era, mantras are popular because of how easy they appear to be. Giovanni Dienstmann, a meditation teacher and coach, helps us to better understand the thought process behind repeating a word or phrase. He says, “Sound is vibration. And all the cells in our bodies are vibrating. Everything in the universe is vibrating, and each has its own rhythm. Our thoughts and feelings are, indeed, vibrations in your body and your consciousness.” He goes on further to claim that it even affects our hormones, thinking, behavior, and our psychological well-being. Dienstmann says,

Sound, rhythm and speech have profound effects on your body, thoughts, and emotions. Mantra meditation is the use of these three elements with the purpose of purifying, pacifying and transforming your mind and heart.

Dienstmann calls mantras “instruments of the mind” that can help us change our body and psyche. For mantras to be effective, we need to focus only on the word or words so that we are no disturbed by other thoughts. Mantras create a peaceful feeling that can be held for as long as we can focus on just the words of the mantra.

According to Dienstmann, the next step is for us to select from the two different types of mantras, secular and spiritual. The secular approach is for those who wish to keep their mantra usage separate from their religion, and is commonly used to try and help someone feel better, relax, or grow as a person. Secular users—following recommendations from TV personalities—often try out several mantras that correspond to attributes they want to instill in themselves. In minutes they can find one that feels right.

The other type, spiritual, is meant to have more meaning. There’s normally a specific religious goal, or something very specific that a person is looking to achieve. Dienstmann recommends picking, “a traditional mantra – a word or sound that has been used by spiritual seekers for centuries, with noble attitude and intention.” The usual origins for a lot of these words come from many middle eastern countries. That said, he insists that the replicating the exact pronunciation and intonation of the word or words is important since there is a specific sound vibration being looked for.

Spiritual mantras feature a more rigorous process to use than secular does.  The first step, he says, is to “Find a teacher/master of that tradition – someone you respect – and ask him or her to suggest a mantra for you.” Given that mantras aren’t popular to the common person, this can be a difficult process. Once we’ve found it though, experimentation is key. Rather than trying each one for a few minutes, he insists that we experiment with it for a few days, until we find the one that works best for us. The key difference between secular and spiritual mantras is that we must keep the mantra a secret because “sacred is secret.”

Mantras, as we’ve just learned, are used to help us improve our self-esteem, and to help us improve a chosen quality based on the mantra. Self-esteem is measured on the same scale that was made more than 50 years ago called The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. It features ten questions, and a point scale out of forty, and a higher score means a higher self-esteem. Men and women don’t feel self-esteem in the same way, contrary to popular belief. Most people don’t realize there is another factor that affects how we feel, self-concept.

Self-concept is defined in a study done at Dartmouth University as “the totality of cognitive beliefs that people have about themselves; it is everything that is known about the self, and includes things such as name, race, likes, dislikes, beliefs, values, and appearance descriptions, such as height and weigh.” Self-esteem in itself is defined as “the evaluative aspect of the self-concept that corresponds to an overall view of the self as worthy or unworthy.” The article reasons that low self-esteem is brought on by people having key figures in their lives reject, demean, ignore, or devalue them. Men and women normally gain self-esteem boosts in different ways, too. Females tend to gain self-esteem through positive relationships while males tend to receive self-esteem through objective success.

Now that we know what a mantra is and what they affect, why should we support the use of them? Mantras by themselves can be used to only slight effectiveness, but can be combined with many other activities throughout our days like getting ready for the day, walking the dog, or, for the more active users, yoga or working out. Yoga is especially good for mantra usage because we’re already relaxed. We’re always told that actions speak louder than words, but what happens when you put them together? Richard Wiseman wrote a good article for The Guardian about how positive action can be helpful while mere positive thinking can hinder us.

The article references a study done at the University of California, and it found that students who envisioned themselves getting a good grade on an exam were less likely to get that good grade. They were less proactive in studying and less likely to seek help because they had a finishing point in mind already- a preconceived vision of what their success would be like. This is excellent evidence that we need to focus on the now, be in the moment, and take actions to help improve ourselves.

While a mantra alone would be moderately useful, Wiseman suggests taking it a step further and that physical action is necessary to improve our emotions and wellbeing. He cites a a study done by Iris Hung at the National University of Singapore as an example of how muscle movements can be effective.

Studies led by Iris Hung from the National University of Singapore had volunteers visit a local cafeteria and asked them to try to avoid temptation and not buy sugary snacks. Some of the volunteers were asked to make their hand into a fist or contract their biceps, and thus behave as if they were more motivated. Amazingly, this simple exercise made people far more likely to buy healthy food.

That’s just one tiny movement that made those people resist temptation. Yoga stretches your whole body, and mantras hit our minds making for a fully body vessel of focus and motivation.

Ellen Langer, a psychologist at Harvard, conducted an outlandish experiment in 1979 on a group men who were over in their 70s. She tested many of their physical attributes like strength, eyesight, memory, and posture, and then encouraged them to act as if they were 20 years younger for the rest of the week while at a retreat. They were treated as if they were 50 years younger as well, and had little to no help going throughout their days. Within the week, the men started to show improvement, and some even dropped the use of their walking sticks. Acting as if they were 20 years younger helped them to feel younger, physically.

Mantras work in a similar way. To most, the different words have no meaning, so knowing the meaning of the words is important to effective mantra use. An article by the popular site, Sunnyray, defines the meaning of the different popular mantras. The one everyone thinks about right away is “aum.” Aum stands for the three different different levels of consciousness. “A” stands for walking, “u” stands for dreaming, and “m” stands for deep-sleep.

Another popular mantra is “Aum Namah Shivaya.” Since we already know what Aum stands for, Namah stands for respect, and Shivaya stands for God.  It’s meant to ask god to bring help bring peace to the user. One popular mantra that’s an absolute mouthful is “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare.” It’s sixteen words long, and all three words are different words for God. One mantra that has been recently made popular is “I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you.” It is taken from Hawaiian tradition, and is considered the most popular among new members to the mantra using group.

There are many who oppose mantras altogether, and they bring up a good point. To many, the biggest issue with mantras is that they are ineffective and limited only to the chosen few who devote their lives to it. A study done by The University of Waterloo and The University of New Brunswick is in support of that idea as it says,

…present results suggest that for certain people, positive self-statements may be not only ineffective, but actually detrimental. When people with low self-esteem repeated the statement, ‘I’m a lovable person,’ or focused on ways in which this statement was true of them, neither their feelings about themselves nor their moods improved—they got worse. Positive self-statements seemed to provide a boost only to people with high self-esteem—those who ordinarily feel good about themselves already—and that boost was small.”

Scientific proof of this common claim is enough for most people to shut out mantras completely, but this concern is flawed as it was never argued that mantras would work for just anyone. Also, mantras are more than just saying a basic statement of “I’m a lovable person,” as most would seem to believe it is.

Mantras are made to work for people who have high self-clarity. Self-clarity is defined by Melissa Dahl as, “how well we know our own strengths and weaknesses, as well as our ability to accept them.” This is where most people run into trouble. They think that self-esteem is the key. For the most part, self-esteem is overrated. Melissa Dahl, a writer for the New York Times, states that,

…high self-esteem inflates your ego, which can make the reality of how others see you harder to bear. With high self-clarity, though, you can see and accept yourself much more easily–even your flaws. But this form of self-acceptance doesn’t leave you there, gaping at your imperfections.

Boosting our self-clarity is important to using mantras because we need to be in-tune with ourselves. We have to have a good understanding of who we are on the inside before we can look introspectively for positive energy and power. Self-clarity can be learned through embracing mistakes we have made, and realizing that everyone makes mistakes. Changing ones’s philosophy from that of a pessimist to that of a optimist isn’t necessary, but looking at things from a neutral standpoint rather than a negative one is key.

Mantras harness the power of sound, and Gabriel Axel wrote a great article on how sound affects the body on October 2, 2013, in the US News Website. Different sounds have different meanings, such as a car screeching to a halt followed by a crashing sound is connected with an accident and all that entails. Axel states that the word mantra is Sanskrit for “sound tool,” and that many languages evolved to include onomatopoeia to make use of the movement of energy through those words.

This evocation is qualitative and subjective and is linked with interoception (inner body sensations) and emotional sense of self, both predominantly represented in the right hemisphere of the brain. Conversely, the narrative strand of sounds in which we give them meaning is done predominantly through the left hemisphere.

Sound itself, from a physics standpoint, will resonate in different parts of the body and mind before it is assigned a meaning. The different areas where the sound resonates can make us feel different emotions, or remember old memories. Feelings and effects will vary from person to person, but the best effects are found in people who know themselves. The better the condition of the body and mind, the better the outcome. People who become well versed in mantra usage can eventually not even have to use their voices because the feelings produced by their voice can be replicated through their thoughts alone.

If my arguments still haven’t convinced you, then at least let me convince you of the power of sound. Buddha Weekly wrote a good article about the science of mantras, how they work with and without faith, and how they effect the environment. In the medicinal field, mantra usage has been found to be beneficial to people with PTSD. The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioral Science states that patients experienced,

lowered levels of tension; slower heart rate, decreased blood pressure, lower oxygen consumption, and increased alpha wave production. The benefits experienced in 20 minutes of meditation exceed those of deep sleep, thus indicating the regenerative power of meditation and saving of wear and tear on the body.

Chanting and other self-created noises have been found to help oxygenate and synchronize the right and left sides of the brain, reduce our heart rate and blood pressure, and calm brainwave activity.

Researchers attribute a large portion of the benefit of mantras and chanting to sound’s effect on water. Maseru Emoto, a researcher, published his findings in the peer reviewed journal, Journal of Scientific Exploration. He photographically demonstrated the effects that mantras had on water. Negative sounds and thoughts created common and negative ice formations, while positive sounds and thoughts created rare and positive formations. His work is commonly debated, but most researchers agree that sound can positively and negatively impact humans (who are made up mostly of water).

Many people have their own tales of how mantras have helped them. Lori Majewski, a contributing writer to the website Sonima, states that Oprah herself turned her onto the idea of using mantras. She finds that we hear mantras all around us, and don’t even know it. Happy little notes posted on our fridges and songs like “Let it go” are filled with mantras that we use each day, and nobody ever realizes it.

At first, she found that her use of mantras was clunky, and she didn’t really get it at first. Persistence is key though, and slowly but surely she was able to start finding the usefulness in them. She as well cites their usage in yoga being a staple with a lot of instructors. “You’re doing a mini-meditation when you’re saying a mantra,” says Psychologist Vanessa Pawlowski, Psy.D.. “When we are feeling flooded by obtrusive thoughts, it gives us something we can hold on to.” Mantras are everywhere, and we all use them whether we realize it or not, and it’s there that their true effectiveness shows. The unconscious, not the conscious.

References

Axel, Gabriel. “Your Brain on Om: The Science of Mantra.” US News, 2 Oct. 2013, 11:27, health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2013/10/02/your-brain-on-om-the-science-of-mantra.

Bodhipaksa. “Mantra Meditation.” Wildmind Buddhist Meditation, 2006, http://www.wildmind.org/mantras.

Breeze, S. (2016). The Meaning of World’s Most Popular Mantras. Retrieved April, 2018, from http://www.sunnyray.org/The-meaning-of-the-most-popular-mantras.htm

Dienstmann, George. “Mantra Meditation – The Why, the How, and the Methods.” Live and Dare, 2 Feb. 2018, liveanddare.com/mantra-meditation

Heatherton, T., & Wyland, C. L. (2003). Assessing self-esteem. In S. J. Lopez & C. R.
Snyder (Eds.), Positive psychological assessment: A handbook of models and measures
(pp. 219–233). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association

Horton, A. P. (2018, February 16). Positive Self-Esteem Is Overrated, Here’s What You Need Instead. Retrieved March 17, 2018, from https://www.fastcompany.com/40531879/positive-self-esteem-is-overrated-heres-what-you-need-instead

Majewski, L. (2018, March 05). 9 Empowering Mantras to Shift Your Mindset. Retrieved February, from http://www.sonima.com/meditation/mantras/

Pham, L. B., & Taylor, S. E. (1999, February 1). From Thought to Action: Effects of Process-Versus Outcome-Based Mental Simulations on Performance. Retrieved April, from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167299025002010

The Science of Mantras: Mantras Work With or Without Faith; Research Supports the Effectiveness of Sanskrit Mantra for Healing – and Even Environmental Transformation. (2017, March 05). Retrieved March 23, 2018, from https://buddhaweekly.com/science-mantras-mantras-work-without-faith-research-supports-effectiveness-sanskrit-mantra-healing-even-environmental-transformation/

Wiseman, R. (2012, June 30). Self help: Try positive action, not positive thinking. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/jun/30/self-help-positive-thinking

Wood, J. V., Perunovic, W. E., & Lee, J. W. (2009). Positive Self-Statements. Psychological Science, 20(7), 860-866. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02370.x

Self-Reflective Statement- Ugandanknuckles

Core Value I. My work demonstrates that I used a variety of social and interactive practices that involve recursive stages of exploration, discovery, conceptualization, and development.

Throughout the semester, we wrote and revised different argument essays. The first draft of my rebuttal essay was repeatedly revised and strengthened as the semester progressed. As the end of the semester neared, we eventually needed to make a second draft of our pieces, and I learned I had made a lot of mistakes in my paragraphs. From using the forbidden word “y-o-u” to just general issues in how I was conveying my argument, there was a lot to fix. The drafts are hyper linked to lead to the original and corrected essays.

Core Value II. My work demonstrates that I placed texts into conversation with one another to create meaning by synthesizing ideas from various discourse communities.

I have had my professor’s help to very great extent throughout my different works. Taking a look at my rebuttal essay, we see that I was able to turn my professor’s criticisms into a revised piece. For example, I was very confused as to how to get my rebuttal essay to make sense, especially after I rewrote it entirely when I changed my topic. As it turned out, his original advice to me made more sense after reworking it from my initial topic. My rebuttal essay is hyperlinked to my rewritten version.

Core Value III. My work demonstrates that I rhetorically analyzed the purpose, audience, and contexts of my own writing and other texts and visual arguments.

My initial writings were done from the viewpoint that mantras are garbage. After struggling with the topic for a bit, I asked people what they thought of mantras. Contrary to my initial belief, people agreed with me. After that, I changed my work to argue the opposite of what I had initially been so that I had real opposition, and that can be viewed in both my white paper and in the differences between my Causal Argument paper and my other works. All of the works mentioned are hyperlinked.

Core Value IV: My work demonstrates that I have met the expectations of academic writing by locating, evaluating, and incorporating illustrations and evidence to support my own ideas and interpretations.

In all of my assignments I use different sources from all over the internet. I was relatively naive when it came to the topic of mantras, so it was important for me to do my research. This is best displayed in my definition essay and my definition rewrite.  I used direct quotes from my sources to help backup my arguments, as well as make myself more knowledgeable on the topic.

Core Value V. My work demonstrates that I respect my ethical responsibility to represent complex ideas fairly and to the sources of my information with appropriate citation.

Whenever I used outside sources for my essays, I used informal citations in my essay, and then I included a works cited section at the bottom of each page. It’s important to cite your references properly as it is important to give credit to other people for their work. I used sources in all of my essays, but I used the most sources in my rebuttal rewrite essay. I made a works cited for all four of the sources I used, and I used informal citations in my works when needed.

Grammar Exercise- Ugandanknuckles

If a primary caretaker has a negative attitude towards his or her child, it increases the risk that the child will grow up hostile towards others. And it’s not just aggression towards others that results from child abuse; a large number of children raised by abusive parents also harm themselves. This negative behavior occurs when children don’t learn appropriate techniques for handling life’s disappointments. If we aren’t raised with coping skills, we’re much too likely to act “inappropriately” than if we had developed more reasonable approaches. The effect of poor parenting, as reported by Dr. Geoffrey Dahmer in “The Bully Papers,” is that everyone gets the child they deserve.

 

Rebuttal Rewrite- Ugandanknuckles

To many, the biggest issue with mantras is that they are ineffective and limited only to the chosen few who devote their lives to it. A study done by The University of Waterloo and The University of New Brunswick is in support of that idea as it says,

…present results suggest that for certain people, positive self-statements may be not only ineffective, but actually detrimental. When people with low self-esteem repeated the statement, ‘I’m a lovable person,’ or focused on ways in which this statement was true of them, neither their feelings about themselves nor their moods improved—they got worse. Positive self-statements seemed to provide a boost only to people with high self-esteem—those who ordinarily feel good about themselves already—and that boost was small.”

Scientific proof of this common claim is enough for most people to shut out mantras completely, but this concern is flawed as it was never argued that mantras would work for just anyone. Also, mantras are more than just saying a basic statement of “I’m a lovable person,” as most would seem to believe it is.

Mantras are made to work for people who have high self-clarity. Self-clarity is defined by Melissa Dahl as, “how well we know our own strengths and weaknesses, as well as our ability to accept them.” This is where most people run into trouble. They think that self-esteem is the key. For the most part, self-esteem is overrated. Melissa Dahl, a writer for the New York Times, states that,

…high self-esteem inflates your ego, which can make the reality of how others see you harder to bear. With high self-clarity, though, you can see and accept yourself much more easily–even your flaws. But this form of self-acceptance doesn’t leave you there, gaping at your imperfections.

Boosting our self-clarity is important to using mantras because we need to be in-tune with ourselves. We have to have a good understanding of who we are on the inside before we can look introspectively for positive energy and power. Self-clarity can be learned through embracing mistakes we have made, and realizing that everyone makes mistakes. Changing ones’s philosophy from that of a pessimist to that of a realist isn’t necessary, but looking at things from a neutral standpoint rather than a negative one is key.

Mantras harness the power of sound, and Gabriel Axel wrote a great article on how sound effects the body on October 2, 2013, in the US News Website. Different sounds have different meanings, such as a car screeching to a halt followed by a crashing sound is connected with an accident and all that entails. Axel states that the word mantra is Sanskrit for “sound tool,” and that many languages evolved to include onomatopoeia to make use of the movement of energy through those words.

This evocation is qualitative and subjective and is linked with interoception (inner body sensations) and emotional sense of self, both predominantly represented in the right hemisphere of the brain. Conversely, the narrative strand of sounds in which we give them meaning is done predominantly through the left hemisphere.

Sound itself, from a physics standpoint, will resonate in different parts of the body and mind before it is assigned a meaning. The different areas where the sound resonates can make you feel different emotions, or remember old memories. Feelings and effects will vary from person to person, but the best effects are found in people who know themselves. The better the condition of the body and mind, the better the outcome. People who become well versed in mantra usage can eventually not even have to use their voices because the feelings produced by their voice can be replicated through their thoughts alone.

If my arguments still haven’t convinced you, then at least let me convince you of the power of sound. Buddha Weekly wrote a good article about the science of mantras, how they work with and without faith, and how they effect the environment. In the medicinal field, mantra usage has been found to be beneficial to people with PTSD. The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioral Science states that patients experienced,

“lowered levels of tension; slower heart rate, decreased blood pressure, lower oxygen consumption, and increased alpha wave production. The benefits experienced in 20 minutes of meditation exceed those of deep sleep, thus indicating the regenerative power of meditation and saving of wear and tear on the body”

Chanting and other self-created noises have been found to help oxygenate and synchronize the right and left sides of the brain, reduce our heart rate and blood pressure, and calm brainwave activity.

Researchers attribute a large portion of the benefit of mantras and chanting to sound’s effect on water. Maseru Emoto, a researcher, published his findings in the peer reviewed journal, Journal of Scientific Exploration. He photographically demonstrated the effects that mantras had on water. Negative sounds and thoughts created common and negative ice formations, while positive sounds and thoughts created rare and positive formations. His work is commonly debated, but most researchers agree that sound can positively and negatively impact humans (who are made up mostly of water).

References

Horton, A. P. (2018, February 16). Positive Self-Esteem Is Overrated, Here’s What You Need Instead. Retrieved March 17, 2018, from https://www.fastcompany.com/40531879/positive-self-esteem-is-overrated-heres-what-you-need-instead

Wood, J. V., Perunovic, W. E., & Lee, J. W. (2009). Positive Self-Statements. Psychological Science, 20(7), 860-866. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02370.x

Axel, Gabriel. “Your Brain on Om: The Science of Mantra.” US News, 2 Oct. 2013, 11:27, health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2013/10/02/your-brain-on-om-the-science-of-mantra.

The Science of Mantras: Mantras Work With or Without Faith; Research Supports the Effectiveness of Sanskrit Mantra for Healing – and Even Environmental Transformation. (2017, March 05). Retrieved March 23, 2018, from https://buddhaweekly.com/science-mantras-mantras-work-without-faith-research-supports-effectiveness-sanskrit-mantra-healing-even-environmental-transformation/

Definition Argument-Rewrite

What is a mantra, and how does it apply to self-help?

Mantras are a self-help tool promoted by the personal-enrichment community that promises to help practitioners to improve their attitude and mood towards their everyday lives. Celebrities dominant in the fields of television such Oprah Winfrey practice mantra usage themselves, and promote it as a way to squash negative thoughts and attitudes towards yourself. The power of words has been observed for centuries, and modern-day practitioners are just the most recent people to have recognized mantra usage as a way to improve their everyday lives.

Wildmind, a site about Buddhist meditation defines mantras as “words or phrases that are chanted out loud or internally as objects of meditation” Many cultures throughout the ages have believed in the power of words whether it be for meditation or for spiritual reasons. The power of words expands beyond just Buddhism, however. Even in modern day English the connections between magic and words can be found. For instance, the word “spell” can mean both how to write a word or mystic words said to use magic. Further back in time, the words glamour and grammar share an interesting origin, all based on how words reached and evolved in different parts of Europe.

Gramma-techne was the Greek term for the science or art of letters. This came into English as the word grammar, but also came in Scots (as “glammer”) to mean “to cast a spell upon”… The word glammer was anglicized as glamour, and came to have its more contemporary romantic and aesthetic associations, where someone is able to influence us, not by the power of their words, but by the beauty of their appearance.

If we travel to India, words, specifically names, had powers of their own. It was believed that if someone knew the true name of a god, then that person would be able to call upon that god for help. All religions in one form or another see words as powerful. Prayer is found in many religions, and it both uses words to help us ease our minds of something we may want or hope for, and acknowledges the possible existence of a higher power.

Even as kids we acknowledged the existence of power in words. Many of us pretended to be magicians by saying “Abracadabra” while moving our magic wands over our hats, and pulling out an invisible rabbit to the amazement of our parents. Pop culture cultivates new words all the time that have strong meanings. Every few months, there are new, fad words created, and people use them to try and seem cool. Not saying them make us seem like outcasts, and saying old ones make us seem slow.

In the modern era, mantras are popular because of how easy they appear to be. Giovanni Dienstmann, a meditation teacher and coach, helps us to better understand the thought process behind repeating a word or phrase. He says, “Sound is vibration. And all the cells in our bodies are vibrating. Everything in the universe is vibrating, and each has its own rhythm. Our thoughts and feelings are, indeed, vibrations in your body and your consciousness.” He goes on further to claim that it also effects our hormones, thinking, behavior, and our psychological well-being.

“Sound, rhythm and speech have profound effects on your body, thoughts, and emotions. Mantra meditation is the use of these three elements with the purpose of purifying, pacifying and transforming your mind and heart.”

Dienstmann calls mantras “instruments of the mind” that can help us change our body and psyche. For mantras to be effective, we need to focus only on the word or words so that we are no disturbed by other thoughts. It creates a peaceful feeling that can be held for as long as we can focus on just the words of the mantra.

The next step is for us to decide which type of mantra is right for us. There are two types, according to Dienstmann: secular and spiritual. The secular approach is for those who wish to keep their mantra usage separate from their religion, and is commonly used to try and help someone feel better, relax, or grow as a person. It’s relatively easy to begin using mantras. It starts by finding an attribute that we want to instill in ourselves, and then using it for a few minutes. If we feel that it’s working, then we can keep using it. If not, we can always find another one until we find the right one. This is the more common form, and is the one we’ll see commonly recommended by reality TV doctors and other TV personalities.

The other type, spiritual, is meant to have more meaning. There’s normally a specific religious goal, or something very specific that a person is looking to achieve. Dienstmann recommends picking, “a traditional mantra – a word or sound that has been used by spiritual seekers for centuries, with noble attitude and intention.” The usual origins for a lot of these words come from many middle eastern countries. That said, he insists that the replicating the exact pronunciation and intonation of the word or words is important since there is a specific sound vibration being looked for.

Spiritual mantras feature a more rigorous process to use than secular does.  The first step, he says, is to “Find a teacher/master of that tradition – someone you respect – and ask him or her to suggest a mantra for you.” Given that mantras aren’t popular to the common person, this can be a difficult process. Once we’ve found it though, experimentation is key. Rather than trying each one for a few minutes, he insists that we experiment with it for a few days, until we find the one that works best for us. The key difference between secular and spiritual mantras is that we must keep the mantra a secret because “sacred is secret.”

The article goes further in depth about the different ways we can use the words and what the best way us to position ourselves is, but for a newcomer to mantras, it isn’t necessary just yet.

 

References

Dienstmann, George. “Mantra Meditation – The Why, the How, and the Methods.” Live and Dare, 2 Feb. 2018, liveanddare.com/mantra-meditation

Bodhipaksa. “Mantra Meditation.” Wildmind Buddhist Meditation, 2006, http://www.wildmind.org/mantras.