Mind Matters: Mantras for a new generation

Turn on, tune in, drop out. That was the mantra of a generation of young people 50 years ago. It led some individuals to enlightenment. It led others to ruin. The mantra means use psychedelic drugs, attend to your experience under the influence of the drugs, and reject the rat race of society.

Timothy Leary got the mantra going, after he started exploring LSD and psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms). While teaching at Harvard, he took the drugs and gave them to many students. He had a fellow-psychologist sidekick named Richard Alpert. Harvard canned them both. Their fame grew nonetheless.

Long ago, The Moody Blues recorded a song titled Timothy Leary's Dead, even though Leary was very much alive. He used drugs like crazy year after year and still lived to be 75. The current young generation is ready now for a new mantra. I used to think young people had adopted a mantra from the movie Wall Street: Greed is good. That phrase is out of fashion now.

Richard Alpert contributed a possible mantra. Decades ago he found non-drug enlightenment in Nepal and changed his name to Ram Dass. Then he wrote an interesting book titled Be Here Now, a phrase he had often heard from a guru. That phrase might make a good mantra for young folks. It fits the widespread interest in mindfulness.

Relatives of mine suggest these mantas for the young: Peace, love, unity, respect. Conserve, preserve, persevere. I asked members of my Mind Matters Facebook group to propose a mantra for the youth of the world. Suggestions: Believe, achieve. Dream, desire, do. Listen, learn, teach.

One member of the group wrote: "I have nothing to offer, sorry," I was unsure whether she was making an apologetic statement or offering a pointed mantra for young people.

Health organisations sometimes develop and promote mantras, for example: Slip-slop-slap. It means slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat. The mantra has alliteration going for it in that all the words start with the same sound. On the other hand, we have unpleasant associations for every word in it: We slip in the shower, we slap someone's face, and we slop the hogs.

I wish I could produce a mantra that would make me the voice of a generation. But that is not to be - unless I find the next great mantra in a magic mushroom. What mantra do you suggest to the youth of the world?

John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England.