Monday, November 06, 2023

The Good and the Bad With Mantras

I know the social media loop means that sometimes people, myself included, have a tendency to temper or provide caveats for happiness. Like, "I had a delicious beverage. So privileged to have funds for such a beverage. Hope everyone involved in making this beverage earned a fair wage."
I hope I'm avoiding that, but perhaps not. 
I recognize that mantras can be incredibly useful. I've talked before about how I still chant, "Relax, relate, release" to myself. 
I took a writing course that encouraged us to repeat, "I am a great writer". 
But I participated in an event where we were encouraged to chant, "I'm sorry. I love you. I forgive you." And it was compared to the Polynesian principle of ho'oponuponu*. Now I would love to tell you I would have noticed this if they hadn't used a Polynesian principle. But they did. 
Now first, the lovely folks at SorryWatch already wrote a whole book about apologies, and howntheybshould work, I do recommend that. But basically, saying 'I'm sorry' by itself is not meaningful. Being sorry involves knowing what you are sorry for, and making steps to either address the harm, or not repeat the harm. USian culture in particular often looks for people to say they are sorry, to be followed by immediate forgiveness and scoot past all the other steps. (And yes, not all USians.)
The only thing faster than expected immediate apology, is turning it into a mantra where the words just follow each other, with again, no attachment to what they are or mean. 
And ho'oponuponu is similarly not a magic wand that gets waved at harm. It is a process of exploring, discussing, and redressing harm. The forgiving and moving on happens after those steps have occurred. 

*Ho'oponuponu is Hawaiian, but similar concepts of seeking reparation exist throughout Polynesia.