The Librarian’s Mantra

I was about 10 years old and my family took me camping for the summer, like we did every year. I was bored with card games and reading, fishing and cooking stew over the fire, so my mom took me to a nearby lake to go swimming with other kids my age. I found a few kids to play with and together, we swam out to a square dock just beyond the rope that marked shallow areas. It was a “big kid” play area until a boy’s younger brother joined us. We quickly voted that he was too young to stay and play and his brother kicked him off, telling him to swim back to mom. I watched him paddling back with short, awkward strokes and realized that he was swallowing a lot of water. He was going under for longer and longer on his way back to the rope and by the time my new friends really took notice, I was in full moral panic. I was a brave kid, but I didn’t want to help him because I knew I could. I was TERRIFIED that if he died, I, too, would drop dead and be sent directly to the fiery depths of hell for watching him drown. So I took a deep breath and I went after him.

It did not go well. I didn’t come extremely close to dying, but I had some bruises and absolutely no gratitude from the boy’ s mother who informed mine that I almost drowned her son. (For the record, all other witnesses concur, he was in deep trouble until I managed to pull him to the rope.)

So it’s probably strange that I think about that lake a lot. When I meditate, I picture it without all the people and the noise. I remember the smooth rocks on the shore, the blue-green water, the island dotted with tall, skinny pines, and the sun-bleached skull of a deer that I could see there. I like to think of myself floating alone with the mists of the smoky mountains fighting against a clear blue sky. It’s my heaven.

Photo Credit: Payton Chung

Photo Credit: Payton Chung

And when I meditate, I sometimes think of this mantra. Feel free to use it or share your own version, too.

Today I will feel all that I feel

I will not neglect my anger or my sadness

I will not avoid or turn to apathy

Instead, I will take a deep breath and I will sink, sink, sink

To where the world vibrates and echoes with the lives I touch

And I will feel calm

When I help a patron with a difficult problem, I will not think of all the emails in my inbox

When a co-worker needs to complain, I will not call to mind all my greater obstacles

When a friend is experiencing grief and heartache, I will not retreat from her pain

And when a child is boisterous and needy, I will not tune him out

I will be present with the people who trust me to help

I will hear need and I will respond with gentle empathy

I will be available and generous in sharing burdens

And I will be in control–a teacher in the moment when a child is ready to absorb

And when my peace is shaken

When I have no more staff

When I lose all my money

When there’s not enough time

I will remember the strength that has carried me thus far

I will remember how I was persistent in the face of discrimination and job scarcity

I will remember how I was resilient against abuse and control

And I will remember that physical violence couldn’t make me afraid

I have never run away. I have never given up. I have never stopped.

I will defend my peace.

It is mine; bought with tears and nightmares, prayers and determination.

Only I can give myself peace and only I can protect it.

So today I will feel all that I feel

I will not neglect my anger or my sadness

I will not avoid or turn to apathy

I will take a deep breath and I will sink, sink sink

To where the world vibrates and echoes with the lives I touch

And I will feel calm.

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