Monday, April 27, 2009

Aiming Our Awareness

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the use of affirmations to harness our creative powers. I'd like to explore that theme a bit further here. 

While affirmations may, at first, seem like New Age fluff, the concept has been used for decades in the field of psychology. It is accepted that negative comments made repeatedly to children become internalized, woven throughout the personality with far-reaching effects. Identifying and altering these largely unconscious beliefs is part of the work of psychotherapy and self-help practices. Devising life-affirming statements to supplant negative ones is an important tool in that process.

But affirmations are not just for healing childhood wounds. They can befriend each of us as we expand beyond our current limitations.

These personalities of ours are lenses through which we relate to the world around us. These lenses, however, are not of clear glass, but colored in ways unique to our dispositions and our histories. We do not perceive the world as it is, but rather interpret it according to the hue of our individual selves.

But these lenses affect also what we give of ourselves. Like a stained glass window, the unique light of the Divine flowing through us shines out through our psyches. Our task is to cleanse, as much as possible, our personal lens. Affirmations are a powerful method for doing just that.

To begin, choose an issue that keeps you from freely expressing your unique essence. A lack of trust in your ability to make good choices, for example, might keep you from fully committing to those endeavors that might enrich you.

To devise an effective affirmation to transform this notion, use the following guidelines.
  • First, a positively worded statement is best. “I want to stop doubting myself” is not as potent as “I want to trust my ability to make good choices.”
  • Second, a statement in present time, as though it were already true, will be strongest. “I trust my ability to make good choices” is, therefore, more robust.
  • Third, an affirmation should feel at least partially true, though you may need to root out its veracity if you tend to be hard on yourself. Most often, any affirmation you devise will contain that kernel of truth or you wouldn’t have conceived it. In our example and keeping in mind the plethora of choices you make every day of your life, you do make good choices frequently, don't you? And most of these are made reflexively, without undue anxiety or self~doubt. 
  • Fourth, affirmations that are active and imbued with pizzazz will most fully enlist your spirit in the process of change. "I direct the power of my innate wisdom to choose well today.” Now that’s a declaration with oomph!
Once you have your affirmation, repeat it several times daily. Enter it as your computer’s screen saver. Whisper it to yourself before sleep. Modify as appropriate. And enact your affirmation through behaviors that nourish it. In our example, explore the various options available, and then be still and allow your choice to rise from within. And perhaps develop a new affirmation to grow the fortitude needed to enact this choice in a sustained manner.

Through committed use of affirmations we strengthen, over time, the capacities we seek--just as we also reinforce our insecurities, albeit unwittingly, each time we batter ourselves with negativity or resist forward movement.

Try the following affirmations on for size: 
  • “I seize opportunities to grow faith and trust in God.”
  • “I embrace, with enthusiasm and trust, all that comes my way today.”
  • "I open to guidance that is always present, ever available.”
Affirmations are not wishful thinking. They are a powerful means for harnessing the incredible power of our minds and spirits to a positive end. 

Our pane of uniquely colored glass, wiped clean of accumulated dust and debris, can then recognize its own small place in that vast prism of the Divine. Wow!

Be creative and have a bit of fun with this technique. Play! And have a wonderful week letting yourself shine.


Loanne Marie

Monday, April 20, 2009

Another week off

Yes, life conspired once again to give me nothing new to offer you today. However, there's an essay I wrote a little over a year ago that comes to mind this morning. It's on the aging process, though I'm thinking of it due to having spent time yesterday with the woman~~now 99~~mentioned in that essay. 

If you're looking for something to read, this one's a possibility~~This, Too, Shall Pass

Have a good week!

Loanne Marie

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Easter Story as a Guide to Personal Development

The Bible can be read in several ways: as divine revelation, historical document, and guide for spiritual growth. It is the latter that speaks to me this year as we approach that most glorious celebration of the Christian calendar. Specifically, I am drawn to the lessons embodied symbolically in the persons and events of the Easter story.

I think first of Judas Iscariot. In the traditional gospels, Judas is cast as the betrayer of Christ, the man who sold his teacher, and his own soul, for a few coins. Yet viewed symbolically, this character teaches about the saboteur in our own hearts.

We all have a Judas within, itching to pull us from our path. While not as dramatic as the Biblical Judas, this inner voice encourages us toward ethical lapses in many ways. Perhaps our Judas justifies overtly explosive or self~destructive behavior. Often, however, his influence is deceptively subtle, urging us to forgo the endeavors that nurture our soul and create love in our lives.

Whatever these challenges, there's no need to deny this dynamic or be surprised by the setbacks it causes. Selling our deeper interest for short~term gain is just the way of the saboteur.

Enter Pontius Pilate and the angry crowd. They, too, live within us. Pontius is the part of us that knows full well what needs to be done. A weak Pontius, however, allows us to abdicate our duty to stand firm, and instead hands our higher good over to that raucous mob. Surrounded then by our own negativity, energy drains from us. We are led away.

So, our Judas sells us, our Pontius abandons us, our ugly crowd assails us. And we hang. And we wait. 

Fortunately, just as in the Easter story, we also have a chorus of wise women inside as well, offering moral support throughout our travails, standing witness as we move toward the inevitable conclusion. For Grace finally arrives, releasing us from our pain and bringing us new life. Somehow we wake up and get back on the path, with our earthbound selves expanded and connected once more to Spirit.

So there you have it, the cacophony of voices existing within the average human psyche, moving us again and again toward our suffering~~and redemption. For after participating in our own demise repeatedly, we begin to recognize the price of moving unconsciously through life. We gain wisdom.

Remember those inner wisefolk? As the process of spiritual maturation continues, we begin to lend our precious energy to their empowerment. Our wise ones gradually grow strong enough to support Pontius in doing as he knows he should. The power begins to shift away from Judas and the harsh crowd.

But this doesn’t happen quickly or easily. In fact, it seems that our challenges merely become more subtle, though so do our powers of discernment. Such is the journey of evolving consciousness.

So as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the coming week, let us also celebrate the many times we, too, have risen through suffering. And let us continue to fortify our inner resources and listen, willingly and gratefully, to the wise voices within as they grow stronger, bit by bit.

As this process unfolds, Christ has provided a model to guide us~~the path of surrender and faith in a redemption that will surely come. As we die again and again to our limited, earth-bound selves, we can open~~
consciously and willing, as did He~~to a resurrection in Spirit. 

Thus the beauty of the entire cycle shines forth, as it moves us inexorably toward unity with the Divine.

Happy Easter! And I send good wishes for your personal sufferings~~and for the resurrections they offer. 

Loanne Marie

Monday, April 6, 2009

Receiving What We Seek

As the self~imposed deadline for my last essay approached, I was confronted by an unusual phenomenon. I was totally without ideas. Usually, raw material for an article has been rumbling around for days before I sit down to write. I may have only an inkling of a theme, but I usually arrive at the keyboard with something. But not this time.

I found myself telling a friend that I had nothing to say. I joked that inspiration better strike soon or I’d be in trouble.

Then I stopped. I mentally replayed the words that had just left my mouth. The statement “I have nothing to say” expressed as permanent what was truly only a temporary lull. And joking about being “in trouble” could only nurture the anxiety that had already taken root. Such sentiments certainly weren't going to stimulate my creativity!

Even more importantly, though, these casual comments provided a window into the unconscious mindset I still carry with me. What I consciously believe is that we are surrounded and imbued with an unending fund of creative energy. I find that what needs doing in my life gets done most effectively without inordinate struggle. And I recognize worry as a toxic emotion that depletes my spirit.

But my words suggested a different internal reality, didn’t they? Old patterns were with me still.

I knew my energy would be better spent fostering a worldview that encouraged success. I am not a passive recipient, as the phrase “inspiration better strike soon” implies. There was much I could do. So, I reminded myself of my beliefs and crafted a statement to reflect them.

“I open to the boundless creative force that is always present, ever available.”

And I sat, receptive and still. Letting go of attempts to force anything, I allowed thoughts to rise up on their own instead. After a minute or two of emptiness, ideas began to stir and soon moved one to another. I found myself watching for avenues that beckoned.

And there, in that metaphor, I encountered the theme that grew into the finished piece (see Avenues That Beckon).

Making conscious the many beliefs we unconsciously affirm is a powerful method for assessing the current state of our spirituality and making modifications that better serve us. When I said “I have nothing to say”, I affirmed lack. When I instead acknowledged the presence of inspiration and chose to open to it, I affirmed abundance. And in affirming abundance, I received what I sought~~just as I had when I affirmed lack.

This is only a small and relatively insignificant example of this phenomenon. Think of the effect of any of the following statements, some of which you may have verbalized yourself:

Life sucks. 
I’m stupid. 
It’s hopeless. 
I’m all alone. 
I don’t have enough __________.
I hate myself. 
I’m trapped. 
Nobody cares.

As a psychotherapist, I recognize the importance of speaking what feels true, and of telling our experiences of personal wounding and loss. Authentic healing oftentimes comes through engaging in just such a process. However, we also are called to turn the full force of our creative powers toward developing an outlook that brings us a rich and vibrant experience of living, today and always. Affirmations can be a powerful tool to this end.

In a future essay, I will explore this theme in more detail. Until then, it might be useful to notice your own life-defining thoughts, particularly the negative ones that permeate the crevasses of your soul like chill fog.


Loanne Marie

For more on crafting affirmations, see Aiming Our Awareness.