“The mantra, taking us into the present moment
and beyond the ego, slips through the
narrow gate into the city of God.”
~John Main, Benedictine Monk.
Robert Schuller (1926 –2015), an American Christian televangelist, pastor, motivational speaker, and author, built a career upon the empowering aspects of “possibility.” The televangelist was principally known for the weekly Hour of Power television program. He was also the founder of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, where the Hour of Power program was later broadcast. Schuller advised that we should, “Cut the word ‘impossible’ out of (our) vocabulary and be a ‘possibility thinker.’”
Schuller focused on what he believed were the positive aspects of the Christian faith. Schuller encouraged Christians and non-Christians to achieve great things through God and to reach for their dreams. He wrote, “If you can dream it, you can do it!”
Schuller’s awesome possibility, when realized, results from a nurturing environment and unique genetic code. Personality emerges early and continues to change in meaningful ways throughout our lifetime. Beginning from childhood we chose our roles. Winners take action. They lead by example following their dreams and reciting positive mantras. Losers make excuses. They languish in their merry-go-round world of self-pity and impossibility.
Joe McConaughy, 25, offers an excellent example of a ‘possibility thinker,’ an individual who pushed far beyond personal boundaries to claim his dream. His goal was to run the Appalachian Trail in record time, by himself and with no outside assistance. The rugged Appalachian Trail is a 2,190-mile stretch that extends from Springer Mountain, Ga., to the top of Mount Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak.
McConaughy, a gifted athlete, had already thru-hiked the Pacifi c Crest Trail in 2014 in just over 53 days. He approached the Appalachian Trail with a determined confi dence and a well defined goal.
McConaughy began his hike in the early morning of July 17, 2017 and verified his location through GPS updates. The former Boston College track and cross-country runner, nicknamed “Stringbean,” accomplished his lofty goal, burning across the famed Appalachian Trail in a record time of 45 days, 12 hours and 15 minutes. He
navigated the trail covering an incredible 48 miles per day, running through blinding rain and harsh winds. It was the fastest known traverse of the trail.
It is easier to comprehend the extent of McConaughy’s unbelievable physical conditioning and effort, but how can we understand the mental state needed to pull off this seemingly impossible task? Many have struggled and suffered The Appalachian Trail’s challenge, soon realizing that only the strongest of the strong survive.
Perhaps McConaughy developed a personal mantra combining determination and self-confidence. He had plenty of time to think, to reflect, and to keep his inner voice grounded and true. His mantra had to be a strong and positive one. Perhaps it went something like this … I can make it. I can survive. I can push beyond my limits. I can get there. I can break through the darkness and see the light. I can do this. I will do this.
And he did.
It was August 31, 2017. After completing his ordeal, McConaughy described his arrival at the Katahdin summit “greeted by 70 mile winds, hail, rain, mist and endless boulder scrambles.” McConaughy further explained, “After a 37-hour push, I managed 110.8 miles straight to do what I had to do, more than I have run at once by almost 50 miles. I honestly don’t know what to say. I’m in shock and pain, joyful and thankful, humbled and tired, in disbelief and exhilaration. I will be forever perplexed and appreciative of what the wilderness brings out in myself and others. I hope anyone watching is at least inspired to become more involved in the outdoors. Every day has been a battle, but I am very thankful to be safe and have accomplished my dream…”
McConaughy realized his dream through physical preparation, mental toughness and an all-important positive mantra. Allie Burdick of RunnersConnect, instructs, “Practice your mental toughness. If you don’t practice, it won’t work. You cannot suddenly use a mantra you do not fully believe in… During practice come up with a mantra that works for you,” she says. “Be careful to use positive words like ‘stronger with every step’ instead of something like ‘can’t stop, won’t stop.’”
According to Tris Thorp, Lead Educator and Vedic Educator at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, “The word mantra can be broken down into two parts: ‘man,’ which means mind, and ‘tra,’ which means transport or vehicle. In other words, a mantra is an instrument of the mind—a powerful sound or vibration that you can use to enter a deep state of meditation.”
At the Chopra Center, students are given a personalized mantra, their Bija, believed to be the sound vibration the Universe was making at the time of their birth. This mantra is repeated silently over and over during the meditation practice to assist the student in transcending the activity of the mind, helping access heightened levels of awareness.
Although most believe mantras to be solely the domain of Eastern religions, namely Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, they have their place in Christianity as well. John Douglas Main OSB (1926 – 1982) was a Roman Catholic priest and Benedictine monk who presented a way of Christian meditation using a prayer-phrase or mantra. Drawing directly from the Gospels and the early Christian mystical tradition, Main advocated using the ancient Christian prayer-word Maranatha consisting of two Aramean words meaning, “our Lord comes,” or is “coming.” Main’s work became the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM).
Another influential thinker and motivator was Og Mandino (1923 – 1996). Recognized as “the most acclaimed self-help writer of this generation,” Mandino has sold over 36 million copies worldwide of his many books. As an example, his 1968 text, The Greatest Salesman in the World, has sold fourteen million copies and has been translated around the world into 18 languages.
Mandino’s instructions were a call to action. He believed that a person needed to assume responsibility for his/her destiny. He strongly encouraged people to place words into action as they recited his pro-active mantra, “I will act now. I will act now. I will act now. With these words I can condition my mind to perform every action necessary for my success,” he proclaimed.
Mandino’s was a lesson of mind over matter, of doing, not being, and of taking control of our destiny through action and determination. Mandino was a possibility thinker, a dreamer whose personal mantra evolved, inspired by self-help motivators W. Clement Stone and Napoleon Hill.
Angel Chernoff, another self-help motivator, has furthered our discussion. Chernoff’s article titled “40 Powerful Mantras to Help You Think Positive,” appears to have been tailor made for Appalachian Trail endurance runner Joe McConaughy. It reads cryptically, “When things are tough, you must be tougher. Don’t pray for an easy life. Pray for the strength to endure a tough one that leads to success.”
And succeed he did, savoring his victory in record time, with the wind to his back and a summoned mantra swirling in his head… I can make it. I can survive. I can push beyond my limits. I can get there.
Maxim W. Furek has a rich background that includes aspects of
psychology, addictions, mental health and music journalism. His
book The Death Proclamation of Generation X: A Self-Fulfilling
Prophesy of Goth, Grunge and Heroin explores the dark marriage
between grunge music and the beginning of the opioid crisis. Learn
more at www.shepptonmyth.com