Repeat after me, “I can do this.”

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When I think about positive affirmations, the first thing that pops in my head is the SNL skit from the 90s where Stuart Smalley looks at himself in a mirror and repeats the phrases, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”  Turns out that this is not just a hilarious skit on SNL that once famously featured Michael Jordan, it’s a real thing.  People have been following the guidance of the queen of positive affirmations, Louise Hay, since her first book, “Heal your Body”, was published back in 1976.  She insists “Every thought we think is creating our future”.  This is a very powerful statement considering the average person has 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day.  The question is, what are you thinking about?  Of these thousands of thoughts that pass through our mind in a single day, how many of them are we really aware of?

When I go into mediation, I am amazed by how active my mind is.  It is in the seat of silence that I really notice the constant chatter that is going on all of the time.  I always find myself at the end of a yoga practice, laying in savasana, a pose that only directs you to lay entirely still and focus on your breathing, a mantra, or sensations in the body.  Almost always I spend this time wondering what I am going to have for dinner.  I lay there and redirect my attention to my breath over and over again while my mind goes on and on: “I love sushi.  Maybe we can go for sushi after class.  Did I use that groupon at that place were there’s that one chef in Miami who can serve blowfish?  Wonder what blowfish tastes like?  Poor little blowfish.  I wonder what ever happened to Hootie and the Blowfish.. my god I really hated that album- my mom played that on crap on repeat for like a year. ‘I only wanna be with youuuuu..’ Oh god no, no no no, I am not singing that stupid song in my head now.  Stop stop stopppp.  Hey!  Cut it out! We’re meditating!”  And then the teacher rings a bell indicating it’s time to sit up and finish class.  I walk out of class humming that song I can’t stand and I head to a local sushi joint for dinner.  THAT is the power of our thoughts.

The example of a catchy song perfectly illustrates the lack of control we have over our mind.  Have you ever heard a song you don’t want to get stuck in your head, and the mere suggestion of it sends the voice (or voices) in your head into full song?  Even after the song or suggestion of it is over, you’re still hearing “Rumor has it oooo, Rumor has it oooo…”  I digress.  So, the mind is constantly rambling on without anyone checking the statements being said and often, the thoughts we are thinking are critical and negative.  Why?  Because mind is a problem solver.  And as such, it clings to problems.

Back to the topic of affirmations, the use of affirmations is helpful in giving your mind something to say and repeat over and over.  Since it wants to ramble and chatter on, giving it something to occupy itself with can be very soothing.  Mantra is another type of anchor that similarly can be used to hone the energy of the mind.  Affirmations are like pledges, you see the power of your mind and decide to focus it on what you want to bring into your life: “I trust, I am free, I am safe, I can do it, I am beautiful, I am strong, I am healing”. Mantras are often Sanskrit but can be anything really and the key is that it is repeated over and over again out loud or internally, like a motto.  These can be long or short.  The really cool thing is that repetition of an affirmation can literally change harmful thoughts you may have about yourself or others.

The Dare:  Pick one thing you do not like about yourself or your life. Even better, identify a negative statement you’ve caught yourself saying more than once. “I can’t run, cook, spell, sing, etc.”  Create a positive affirmation to counter that idea; “I can learn new things everyday, I am learning to..” You don’t have to do it in a mirror like smalley.  You can simply repeat whatever the affirmation that is right for you over and over in your head.  Put post-its in places you can see and will remind you of your mantra.  In this way, you can empower yourself to make conscious choices and use your mind to bring what you want into your life.  Give it a shot!

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Shared Imperfection

4AFB45D5-9B3E-4C24-AE35-EF397E6E67E2Happy Thursday friends!  I hope you all had a fabulous 4th of July weekend.  I enjoyed spending time with family and friends, watching fireworks blast off in the night sky, and consuming lots of unhealthy food and cocktails.  By the end of the long weekend I felt exhausted, worn out, and drained.  Typically, I would go hard on myself for over-indulging.  That part of my internal dialogue – the part that judges and criticizes myself harshly is really a drag.  This part of myself is convinced there is something really wrong with me, that I am a bad person, and that I deserve to be locked in a dark cave somewhere.  When I am not in that space, I can clearly see that those sentiments are not true.  This delusional blabbering about my perceived imperfections is something Carl Jung called a “shadow”.  We live with our shadow, or unconscious part of our personality, and it is a part of ourselves that remains mostly hidden until it starts to reveal itself in ways we might not understand.  Once we can see it, and we are aware when it is operating,  we can begin to heal it.  So this particular “shadow aspect” of myself is something I have recently become aware of and have started to work with. When I see this part of myself activate, I want to numb out, isolate, or disconnect.  Basically I don’t want to deal with it and I definitely don’t want other people to see it because I think it sucks.  It is a part of myself I do not like.  The interesting thing is that behavior is exactly what keeps the shadow intact. And this ties right into the work I am doing on mindfulness and self-compassion.

In the course I am doing on courageworks.com (http://www.courageworks.com/shop/classes/self-compassion-with-kristin-neff-brene-brown), they discuss something called “Common Humanity”.  Common Humanity is an incredibly powerful tool when you’re stuck in the vortex of self-loathing and self-criticism.  According to Kristen Neff,  “The emotion of compassion springs from the recognition that the human experience is imperfect, that we are all fallible.”  This piece is crucial to seeing that you are not the only one who feels the way you do no matter how bad you feel.  I know I am not the only one who felt overall low and tired after the long weekend of celebration.  My entire office on Tuesday was in full on zombie mode.

Another tool that’s really helpful for me when I get caught up in my delusions is asking the question, ‘would I treat another person the way I treat myself?’ And the answer is always NO.  If a friend of mine said “man, I feel like total crap for eating and drinking too much over the weekend”  I’d say “give yourself a break/ that’s totally what you’re supposed to do on a holiday/ it’s in the past so move forward with your healthfulness now”.  So why would I treat myself differently?  Am I not deserving of my own kindness and compassion?  Of course I am!  But when I isolate myself, I assume that no one feels the way I do, that I am alone, and worst of all, that no one would understand me.  So this piece of common humanity and connecting with others- through our perceived imperfections- is really a great way to lift yourself up out of that icky mud puddle of self-criticism.  We are all imperfect and talking about our shared imperfection is a great way to heal our own self-judgements and connect to others that judge themselves also.

THE DARE:  What are some ways you judge yourself?  What are some of the things you pick on yourself for?  What would you say to a friend or a child who felt the same way?  How can you offer yourself the same kind of tenderness and compassion?  Can you courageously share a part of yourself you don’t like with a close friend?  As we build more love and compassion for ourselves, we can accept ourselves more fully.  We can re-claim our freedom and release ourselves from old beliefs patterns that do not serve us.