Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Talking to Myself

I’ve always known words have power- to belittle or lift up, to shame or encourage. Having said that, I’m always a little ambivalent about suggested affirmations. Sometimes they just feel like too much cheerleading or someone’s attempt to get me to talk myself out of feeling the way I am feeling. And, having said that, I know that how we talk to ourselves (often just below our most conscious thoughts where it’s hard to catch) has a profound effect on how we behave, feel, and respond to life.

I’ve been reading Eve Ensler’s new book, In The Body of the World, a profoundly personal and insightful account of her journey through cancer and the creative chaos of healing her life and contributing to the world. In the middle of the book, unexpectedly, I found something I am using as a kind of affirmation with which I could actively work. I wasn’t looking for one, I’ve had my doubts about them all, and I still feel a little odd looking at myself and speaking out loud to the reflection in my bathroom mirror first thing in the morning. But every time I do it I am moved to feel deep compassion for and empowerment within myself, so I offer it here in case it is of benefit to others.

Early on in Eve’s cancer treatment she meets a man she calls “the most handsome doctor in the world.” One of the first things Dr. Handsome says to her is, “Before we begin I want you to know how much I admire you and all you have done in this world for women and all you have written and all the ways you have made the world better. It is a privilege to care for you and I will do my very best.”

My throat is suddenly full of tears as I read this passage. To be offered real and concrete care from someone who is in a position to offer it, who genuinely feels it is a privilege to provide it, who sees and appreciates what you have done and try to do with your life. . . . what a gift! 

And then I wondered, “What if I could give this to myself?”

And so I walked into the bathroom and looked in the mirror and said out loud to the woman with the blue-grey eyes who looked back at me, “I want you to know that I appreciate all you do. . . . all the places where you do your best to love well and contribute to the world.” I swallowed hard and continued more slowly. “It. . . is. . . a privilege. . . to care for you, and I will do my very best to do so.”

I started doing this each morning, often starting the way Dr. Handsome did with Eve, saying, “Before we begin I want you to know. . . .” The specifics about what I appreciate about myself change. Some days it is my efforts to be a good mother to the two wonderful men who are my sons. Other days it’s my unwavering commitment to writing. One morning I expressed appreciation for how I had gotten up at all after a night of too little sleep and too much pain. Another day I appreciate that I do my daily practise even when I do not feel like it, holding the world in my prayers to the best of my ability.

Each time, after I have expressed some appreciation for the human woman I am, I repeat slowly: “It is my privilege to care for you. And I will do the very best I can today to do so.”

And every time I do this I get that it is indeed a privilege to care for this one small human life and how much I appreciate the life I have been given and the woman I am. And acknowledging my appreciation, I recommit to caring for myself today, that I may receive what I need, that I may offer what I am able to the world.

These are the words I need to hear right now, and I am the one I have been waiting to hear them from.

Oriah House (c) 2013

20 comments:

  1. Thank you for seeing me today. This is your affirmation.

    These are the words I need to hear right now and I am the one I have been waiting to hear them from. What a gift indeed. Your face is so beautiful. Thank you for letting me see. I am. Listening. Learning.

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  2. Oh Oriah. Thank you.
    Thank you.
    Thank you.
    This resonates with me in so many beautiful ways.
    I'm sharing it, too.
    Namaste Dear One.

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  3. Beautiful Oriah - thankyou. Just prior to reading your post I was responding to another post on another blog about creating beautiful daily rituals, and I caught myself using lots of struggling words - challenge, try, trouble, effort - and I had to go back and delete the whole lot! Thanks for the reminder to be more aware of the language we use and how it affects us and those around us.

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  4. Dear Oriah,

    The mirror has two sides. You speaking to you, and me speaking to you. Affirmations work coming from either side of the mirror. You were touched in reading Eve's story and created a personal way to speak with appreciation of yourself. How wonderful!

    I appreciate you and the words you have written that I turned to in difficult times.

    As you have become aware, self-appreciation and affirmation is a very loving gesture. You have a very unique life with gifts to offer. I am happy to have met you years ago in Santa Cruz and continued our connection.

    Fritz

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  5. Thank you Dear Oriah! Its beautiful and perfect.

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  6. I'm with you when it comes to affirmations generally - I've never found them very effective and they strike me as being a bit like putting a sticking plaster over my unwanted emotions and pretending they're not there. But this one I like......this one I can use. Thank you.

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    1. Gilly, think the trick is to find one that you feel you can "work" and "play" with- one that lands internally and does not just feel like sending a voice "out." :-)

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  7. Dear Oriah,
    Thank you for this personal sharing - a revelation for me. In reading this I see something that I've been unaware of, but now you've shown it to me. Now I must look at why watching over my life feels like a burden....Thank you.

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    1. JoAnn, what a great self-observation- to take a look at the times when we feel that caring for our own lives is a burden and gently investigate why that might be. Thank you- I will be pursuing this introspection myself.

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    2. Thank you Oriah. I just read 'Rumi & Leaf-Blowers before checking back here. Getting up before dawn to hear secrets in the breeze and perhaps wisdom in the new light would be, like for you, a gift - to join the choir of birds in praise for another new day - taking time to let go our burdens by uncovering the grace and gratitude waiting quietly inside each one of them. Time to let in more self-love. Again, thank you.

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  8. You are the best. Thank you for continuing to publish this and remind me why I bother to meditate in the first place.

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  9. Dear Oriah
    Thank you, I regularly read your blog and this piece came at a particularly opportune time (though probably any time would have been!), When, like JoAnne, self-care feels like a burden, this powerful way of speaking to myself touches my heart deeply. Deep bows to you both, thank you.

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  10. I don't often 'tear up' reading blogs, but this one hit my soul....thank you for sharing. As a social worker, I will use it with my special clients.

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  11. Years ago after suffering a nervous breakdown and reading Louise Hays Book You can Heal your Life. I started affirmations.. THEY WORKED.. I need to remember to cherish myself.. Thank you for reminding me yet again..
    Namaste.
    Sue

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  12. What a deeply nurturing act of self-kindness and self-compassion. Thank you for sharing this powerful ritual.

    I am glad Joss of Crowing Crone Joss discovered your blog post and shared it with her audience; linking it to the weekly Nurturing Thursday.

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  13. Thank you for this. Too often low self image stops me achieving what I am capable of doing. I hope I can remember and practise these wise words.

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  14. thank you Oriah, brought tears to my eyes right away. I will try doing this from my heart. Blessings

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  15. Yes...we should acknowledge ourselves and appreciate ourselves and let ourselves know just how incredible we are. Thank you for starting this process for me.

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