Since I wrote the article “A Conversation on Affirmations” I have thought more on this subject and I feel that it is necessary to talk more about affirmations and their purpose. This is especially important since I have a series of hippy affirmations that I regularly post.
My introduction to affirmations came through reading the book, You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. That was quite awhile ago (sometime in the late eighties). According to Louise Hay, any statement that we make is an affirmation. This includes every word we speak and every thought that we think. Doing affirmations is consciously choosing to make positive statements with the purpose of improving our life. We want to open up the channels in our own consciousness to create the effect that we want in our life.
If we walk around all day thinking and saying negative things that is the effect that we will cause. It’s a much better idea to make positive statements about what we want ourselves and our life to be. Our subconscious mind is aware of our thinking and will obey our directives. The book goes on to quote best-selling author Dr. Bernie Siegel, “affirmations are not a denial of the present, but a hope for the future. As you allow them to permeate your consciousness, they will become more and more believable until eventually they may become real to you.”
Affirmations are tricky. Upon first practice they do not seem believable or real. This is especially true if you are trying to affirm something that you do not already believe deep down inside of yourself. For example, people rarely love themselves completely. There is usually some judgement or criticism within. Some people are so hard on themselves that they cannot even imagine speaking an affirmation such as, “I am perfect just the way that I am.” I found this inability to be able to accept affirmations that I just didn’t believe yet to be a roadblock to practicing affirmations. I had to persist. I had to keep doing them. But, I also had to do other things to help myself get over that roadblock. I had to go to therapy, meditate and do things that gave me confidence.
I also needed to listen to people who saw me differently than I saw myself. My friends and associates kept telling me that I had many talents. They kept telling me that I was fun to be around and that they really liked me. Why should I not believe them if I was being genuinely myself when I was around them? I am fortunate that I don’t feel as uncomfortable now when I do affirmations that are positive about myself. I’ve grown. I’ve overcome a lot of feelings of not being good enough. I admit that I still have some feelings of not being good enough. I’m learning to how to deal with that and I hope to eventually overcome it.
Buddhists practice right thought (right mindfulness) and right speech. It is part of the basis of Buddhism – The Noble Eightfold Path to Enlightenment. This path also includes right view, right resolve, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, and right “samadhi” (meditative absorption or union). Right thought (mindfulness) means never being unconscious in mind so that you are aware of the present and what you are doing at all times. Right speech means no lying, no rude speech, no telling one person what another says about him. Positive affirmation is essentially right thought and right speech.
A positive affirmation needs to have right thought as a component. When we go unconscious with our thoughts we often think obsessively. This thinking trap takes us out of the present awareness. We are not practicing right mindfulness by it’s definition. A positive affirmation also needs to have right speech as a component. Which means that the words used are pure in intent and in no way meant to cause harm.
Don Miguel Ruiz wrote a book called The Four Agreements. There are four agreements that we can make everyday that are life guidelines for conducting ourselves in a positive way. One of them is, “Be impeccable with your words.”
His recommendations for doing so are:
- Speak with integrity.
- Say only what you mean.
- Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.
- Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
To me, this is just another way of using right speech that Buddhism promotes and it falls in line with what I have been saying about doing positive affirmations. It is not essential to be a Buddhist to practice using affirmations. It’s also not necessary to follow the ideas of Don Miguel Ruiz. These are just extras that can help you deepen your understanding of speaking in the positive.
It’s interesting to me that this fundamental thinking about how we use our words is promoted in many different ways by many different people. It’s even inherent in The Ten Commandments with the commandment to not bear false witness against your neighbor. And to not take the Lord’s name in vain. These commandments do not include our speech to ourselves but they do illustrate the importance of right speech.
Beginning with monitoring our words that we use every day when we speak to others and to ourselves while adding the practice of affirmations we can go a long way in changing the course of how our life goes for the better.