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Backpacker Magazine – October 2013

Survival A to Z: Mantra

M is for Mantra

by: Shey Kiester


Developing a mantra—which means "instrument of thinking" in Sanskrit—can help steer you away from negative thoughts. "Mantras help overcome your tendency to focus on pain and instead concentrate your attention on the positive aspects of the here-and-now, while maintaining focus on the target: survival," says Dr. Rob Bell, a sports psychology coach. Here are the phrases that carried these seven survivors through epic tough times. 


“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound..." 
Linda Forney, hiker, 1975. Became disoriented on a short Grand Canyon hike, spent 20 days alone with no food and little water. On a stormy night, she kept her spirits up by singing “Amazing Grace.”

"Pizza, french fries, pizza, french fries."
Jens Holsten, mountaineer, 2013. Holsten uses this phrase to propel himself home after excruciatingly tough expedi- tions, including a new route on Denali.

"Man of action."
Yossi Ghinsberg, backpacker, 1981. After a rafting accident, he became separated from his companions in the Amazon rainforest and spent three weeks alone, struggling with rotting feet and surviving on wild fruit.

"Just have one more try—it’s dead easy to die.
It’s the keeping-on-living that’s hard."

Douglas Mawson, explorer, 1913. After falling into a crevasse in Antarctica, he recalled these words from Robert Service’s poem “The Quitter.” 

"You’ll make it because you have to."
Roberto Canessa, rugby player, 1972. The 19-year-old trekked through the Andes for 10 days after the crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 to alert rescuers to the remaining 16 survivors. He made it, and rescuers were able to locate his teammates.

"Keep going. Look how far you’ve gone. Just do it, don’t think about it."
Joe Simpson, climber, 1985. Shattered his leg in the Peruvian Alps. His climbing partner was forced to cut the rope. Simpson survived a 150-foot fall and crawled 5 miles back to camp, an inner voice spurring him on.

"Just hang on. That’s all you can do."
Aron Ralston, canyoneer, 2003. While trapped in a Utah slot canyon for 127 hours, he clung to images of friends and family and eventually escaped after amputating his own arm.

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