The Mantram And The City

Meet Sarah, a YA who lives in San Francisco. Sarah shares the way the mantram helps her in day-to-day city living.

I enjoy living in San Francisco very much.  There are beautiful parks and interesting architecture, and I love the circles of friends and communities of which I am part.  Like any place, however, there are challenging parts of life here, too.  It can be draining to be surrounded by people, vehicles, and buildings whenever I go outside.  And having so many people in such a relatively small area sometimes feels chaotic and claustrophobic — I find myself feeling very close to people's problems, but not necessarily able to do much about them.  I've found that the mantram is a great answer to some of the difficulties of city living, from the deeply upsetting to the mildly annoying, and everything in between.

One of the things I find most distressing in my city is passing by people who are in need of help, and not being able to help them.  In some parts of the city, there are many people asking for money.  I sometimes will give a few dollars to people who ask, and I often buy snacks for people who are sitting outside grocery stores or share some of my own food, but these gestures don't solve problems of homelessness, health issues, and poverty.  Being able to consciously repeat the mantram for people who are asking me for things is something I can do in all situations, whether I engage directly with the person directly or not, and even if I see them from the window of the bus as I'm traveling on my way.  (I've also found a local organization that offers daily hospitality to homeless people that I am happy to support.)

In other situations where I observe people who seem to be having problems (like folks who have just gotten into fender benders, who are having arguments on their phone as they walk, or who simply look upset), I also use the mantram.  And in the cases when it's seemed appropriate for me to get involved with problems like this, saying the mantram has helped me to stay calm.  (If you were wondering, I almost never say it out loud.  I usually say it silently to myself, and I make a conscious effort to focus on the words.  You can find a much more thorough explanation of the mantram, as well as a list of mantrams suggested by Sri Easwaran here.)

One of my most common uses of the mantram is while waiting for the bus.  I don't have a car, and my major modes of transportation are walking and riding the bus.  And as any bus rider knows, riding the bus also means waiting for the bus.  


The bus reminds me to say my mantram. 

Rather than staring down the street and getting more and more annoyed (an old habit I still fall into sometimes) I try to use this time to breathe deeply and repeat my mantram.  


The outbound M offers me a big chance to say my mantram! Hmm... maybe the M stands for Mantram? 

Integrating the mantram into my daily life has many benefits.  I am much more relaxed and calm, even when the bus is delayed or I witness something upsetting.  Repeating the mantram as I walk or ride on the bus helps me to feel fresh when I've arrived at my destination.  And I've even found myself feeling more connected to other people I see on the street, allowing me to offer a sincere smile, friendly nod, or "Good morning."

Finally, I've recently noticed that my capacity to see details has been enhanced, which is closely related to slowing down.  I walk a very similar route every weeknight after I get off the bus on my way home, and the other day I glanced down to see this flower growing out of a crack in the sidewalk.  


A cheery reward for slowing down! 

It made me so happy to see it!  A few days later I looked for it again and it was gone, but I was glad to have noticed it when I did. 

I know that the mantram can also be helpful to you, whether you are a fellow city dweller or not.  Best wishes to you, from the city of St. Francis.