Friday, August 12, 2016

Setting an affirmative intention for the day: You don’t need to learn a difficult meditation practice to do it

Regardless of how often the power of positive affirmations has been presented to me, I’ve never carried it farther than going through phases where I post them on my wall, mirror, or workspace. I’ve never gotten around to looking in my own eyes in the mirror while saying positive affirmations to myself, or writing the same affirmations over and over. I have also never consistently done what Arielle Ford calls “feelingizations,” which go beyond visualizing or saying your intention in your head to feeling it in your body. 

It’s been hard for me to focus on any of that before getting up in the morning, which would be the best time to do such a practice. Any time I’ve attempted such a practice, forty minutes would go by as I kept resetting the meditation after floaty post-dream thoughts would repeatedly derail my focus. 

Recently I decided to try something else, rather than continue to not do any anything at all because I don’t want to invest that kind of time lying in bed on workday mornings. First, I decided to simply state in my head how I want to feel when I get up. 

I started with such a basic intention because mid-April through mid-July, how I felt most mornings upon first standing up made me want to cry. My previous few posts, starting with this one, describe the health journey I’ve been on, dealing with a gastro-intestinal problem that had me feeling almost every day like I’d been hit by a truck (or how I imagine being incredibly hung over, which I’ve never experienced personally, feels). 

Just getting up was one of the hardest parts of each of those days because of how disappointing (and, on my lowest days, discouraging) it was to feel like that, especially the first two months when I didn’t even know why. After I found out in late June why I felt that way, and started taking action to change it (including taking supplements from my holistic health specialist and making different food choices), the hit-by-a-truck wakeups were intermittent for the following two or three weeks.  

One of those days, I decided, “I’m NOT going to feel like that when I stand up in a few minutes. I’m making the decision that today will be one of the days I actually feel like I just got eight hours of sleep.” 

This, of course, put my thoughts and my attitude at a much higher vibration, and, sure enough, I did feel better than I had the days before. Raising my vibration in this way also enabled me to take more ownership over how I feel in the morning, rather than remain at the mercy of the imagery truck, my good or bad wakeups sometimes seeming independent of how well or not I took care of myself the previous day. 

With this new approach, even if I didn’t do as well as I could have the previous day, stating the intention to feel better and do better today is helpful to hedge against feeling guilty for not getting to bed on time, or for how much sugar I ate, or for allowing myself any moments of feeling afraid and small in the face of my problems. 

This doesn’t 100% guarantee I feel great every time I do this. What it does is help me focus without needing to develop a new meditation skill first, and not keep doing the alternative of mindlessly getting up and not really feeling truly awake until I’ve been up for an hour or two. It also contributes to a more spiritually-productive morning gongyo (Buddhist daily prayer): I’m awake when I start gongyo, rather than using gongyo to wake me up. 

So, even if I never get serious about affirmations as part of my daily spiritual practice, I’m at least doing something with the same general purpose. I find this far more helpful than taking an all-or-nothing approach. And, if I do decide to develop an affirmation or feelingization daily practice, I can see my current practice as a valuable first step in building up my focus and my meditational skillset. 

Start small rather instead of not start at all. 

Image: “Woodburn Window on a Rainy Afternoon,” by Karla Joy Huber, 2011; Prismacolor marker and Sharpie marker

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