Language and how I use it is important. My Mindfulness practice has influenced my choice of words and how I express myself. I’ve slowly, over the years, learned to pay attention to some of my habits of speech. Learning to listen to myself has been equally as important as learning to listen to others. I know and understand so much more about myself, since I began to listen and reflect on what I say, both to others and to myself.
Unexamined speech, carelessly spoken, was a part of my early environment. Certain choices of how I expressed myself verbally became a habit that influenced my thoughts and feelings. Equally true, I have sometimes embraced certain negative speech because it matched thoughts and feelings that were already there.
There was a time when I used expressions that I now hear as negative and not helpful at all. I accepted them as some sort of truth. They were an expression of my view of my world. I’m happy to report that this view is no longer true for me.
Some of these simple phrases were, for me, expressions of my view that the world is made of victims and perpetrators.
“To roll with the punches” is an American colloquialism to express flexibility. Then, one day, I visualized what is actually happening when one is “rolling” and being “punched.” Wow! The image of myself (or anyone else) lying on the ground, rolling from side-to-side, enduring another’s abusive behavior is not pretty.
In the past, I occasionally felt that “my back was against a wall,” an American way of expressing a belief in having no alternatives (in a particular situation), a way of saying that I’ve reached an obstacle, a difficult situation of some kind that I cannot jump over or go around. I’ve gone as far as I can go. The image conjured up by the language is that of someone running from someone or something, of trying to avoid something (usually a difficult decision). She reaches a wall and believes she can go no farther. She turns, waiting, unable to escape, yet again a victim. This is not a good feeling.
I’m happy and grateful that I can say that I no longer embrace that paradigm, that way of viewing the world as made of victims and victimizers. This way of thinking about things, about particular situations, is not helpful for anyone. I choose to believe that every one of us is powerful…limited only by our way of thinking.
I’ve learned that I have two legs and two feet. As a Human Being, I’m meant to learn to stand on them, and I have, but not without plenty of conscious effort. I’ve learned to take responsibility for getting my needs met, for taking care of myself. “Rolling with the punches” no longer describes my way of being in the world, and I no longer feel my “back is against a wall.”
The belief that I have no choice, no alternatives, is a false one, though I lived a lot of years before I realized it. That belief is based in fear. In my process of self-discovery, I’ve learned there is a different way of responding to the “walls” I encounter. Instead of turning my back to the wall, I do my best to face it. I look right at the situation. Rather than feeling hopelessly “caught,” I know I can find a way to see the wall for what it really is… fear.
As part of my practice of awareness, I now look for more beautiful ways to express myself. After I realized that I was holding onto such negative thoughts and beliefs, I began to use my intelligence. I made a decision to replace them with thoughts and beliefs that work for me, rather than against me.
Positive affirmations have become a part of my practice. Some of the ones that have helped me to transform fear into more loving and confident ways of being are:
I am lovable. I like myself. I am good enough, just the way I am.
I am a courageous person. I can do it!
I am surrounded by Love. I can trust whatever is happening.
I like to make small notes to myself. I stick them in my purse, on the fridge door, on my bathroom mirror, wherever, so that I see them, here and there, throughout my day. I read them and smile.
I also have some favorite mantras, verses that I repeat to myself, in order to support my aspiration to do all I can to alleviate suffering in myself and in others. Some of them are above, in the form of written affirmations. Perhaps my favorite is:
Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.
These affirming ways of talking to myself have tremendous power to influence my beliefs and attitudes. I don’t have to believe these affirmations, in order to practice them. I use the “act as if” approach. I “act as if” I believe what I am saying to myself, until, at some point, I become convinced of the truth of it.
The effect of the practice of Mindful Speech and, in particular, the use of affirmations is similar to my experience of repeated exposure to advertising, with one HUGE difference. Now, I (with the emphasis on the “I”) am consciously choosing what I think, say, and do.
I’m so much happier since discovering the power of Mindful Speech.