Relationships: Mantras from a Buddhist monk to help us love better

Odyssa Rivera Abille

Which mantra will you use today?

For Buddhists, love is not about gifts. It’s about compassion and kindness. In a relationship, a partner shows these through thoughts, words, and actions.

Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh teaches the 6 Mantras in The Art of Communicating. In this book, you will learn how simple yet powerful thoughts, words, and actions can be.

These are 6 mantras you can use to improve your relationship, as taught by Thich Nat Hanh.

1st Mantra: I am here for you.

Have you been on a date with someone who keeps taking his phone from his pocket to check email? I have. I smiled and pretended it was fine, thinking, “I wish he’d stop doing this” even though I felt disrespected.

You can be physically present but your mind is somewhere else. Work and life can preoccupy you to where you are taking your partner for granted.

You read, see and hear this mantra all the time, but using it when your partner is struggling may mean the world.

But it’s not only the words that your partner needs. You need to listen, make time, give undivided attention, especially during troubled times.

To live in the present moment is a miracle. The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now. — Thich Nhat Hanh

When you use this mantra, your partner will know that you are there, no matter what the circumstances are.

2nd Mantra: I know you are there and I am very happy.

Am I being valued in this relationship? Do I matter to my partner? This mantra can answer these questions that your partner thinks about but never says out loud.

Leadership coach Lolly Daskal talked about how tribes in South Africa greet each other, saying sawu bona. This is their version of our hello. This phrase, in literal translation, means I see you.

The typical response to sawu bona is sikhona which means I am here.

It’s an interesting and touching exchange. It’s almost like saying “Before you saw me, I did not exist.”

Everybody wants to be seen and heard.

When you use this mantra, your partner will feel acknowledged and know their presence in your life gives you joy.

3rd Mantra: I know you suffer, and that is why I am here for you.

Atlanta Falcons player Hayden Hurst was having the time of his life playing what he loved the most —football. The pressure to succeed got to him and he went through depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and attempted suicide.

It was not a smooth journey yet he came out victorious, creating Hayden Hurst Foundation.

When your partner is suffering, you may or may not hear about it. Isolation becomes the answer.

Recognizing that your partner is not being overdramatic and going through a tough time is critical. Instead of calling it petty, sit down and listen without interrupting. Listen without trying to fix it.

Sometimes, your partner only needs a listening ear.

When you use this mantra, your partner will feel that he or she can confide in you without being judged. He or she will be listened to and accepted wholly.

4th Mantra: I suffer, please help.

It may not seem like it, but I am doing my best using what I know. You hurt me and I want to understand what happened. I need your help.

When things go bad in your relationship, the first response is turning away and thinking of your partner as the enemy. Why not turn it around and do the opposite?

Turn to your partner as your anchor and admit that you need help. It’s not the easiest words to say, especially if there’s pride in your heart. One way to punish your partner is to say “I don’t need you in my life.”

The Greek word “hubris” means the excessive pride that destroys a hero. Too much pride tears down relationships. Seeking help from each other allows a relationship to flourish.

When you use this mantra, you show your vulnerability. No more hiding behind a strong facade.

5th Mantra: This is a happy moment.

To increase our gratitude, notice the small things that come your way. It’s not only during holidays and occasions that you remember the good times.

Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast says that gratefulness increases happiness. You don’t have to chase happiness to become grateful.

Thanks are the highest form of thought. Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. — G.K. Chesterton

There are hundreds of ways to express gratefulness to your partner, not only by using the words thank you. You can be creative and use your skills. Seek help from friends to help out or do acts of service.

And when you both feel that moment of gratitude for each other, acknowledge it.

When you use this mantra, you celebrate being together. You recognize how fortunate you are to be sharing that time and space with each other.

6th Mantra: You are partly right.

Did you say I’m awesome? You’re partly right. Did you say I’m lazy? You’re partly right.

This is a lesson of humility. Saying that your partner is partly right in praise and criticism is admitting that you are not perfect. No one is.

It gives you space to say that you could both be right in this aspect, and wrong in that aspect.

Humility isn’t denying your strengths; it’s being honest about your weaknesses. — Rick Warren

When we acknowledge our weaknesses, we become vulnerable. Researcher Brené Brown says “vulnerability is not a weakness but an accurate measure of courage.”

When you use this mantra, you take the courage to admit mistakes and own up to your actions. You open yourself to feedback that can help your relationship grow.

Love is more than an emotion.

It’s more than the spark that we feel at the beginning. It’s more than the feeling of wanting to spend the rest of our days with one person.

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. — Lao Tzu

While grand gestures are great, it’s the simple acts of compassion and kindness, and humility that mean more. Using these 6 mantras can help improve — or even get back — your relationship.

It’s simple but a lot of work. It’s unlearning what we’ve always known. It’s accepting that what we’ve always believed could be wrong.

Love is a choice you make every day. A choice that comes with an action, a spoken word, or a gesture. It’s not just feeling love, but showing love through words and actions. Which mantra will you use today?

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Odyssa is the author of two poetry collections on love and travel. This article was first published in Medium.

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I write about relationships, the complexities of human life, and writing. I'm a self-published author of two poetry collections entitled "Like A New Sun Rising" and "From Where I Stand" available at www.amazon.com/author/Odyssa.

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