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Beyond 'positivity'

I first came across positive affirmations in a book called You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay; it was the mid-1980s and my life was definitely in need of healing.


Boat wreck, Cooktown, Far North Queensland

I first came across positive affirmations in a book called You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay; it was the mid-1980s and my life was definitely in need of healing.


I started to read the book and found some positive affirmations that seemed relevant: “I am thin”, “I am filled with love”, “I am perfect and whole”, “I choose to make changes”. As I repeated them to myself, I experienced an immediate rush of well-being and positivity. I wondered if perhaps I was onto something.


However, as I made my way through the book, I felt a simmering irritation beneath the optimism. I tried to push it away by reciting more affirmations – “I am calm and peaceful”, “I am whole and complete” – but the irritation grew into a blustery anger. Half way through the book, my neat underlining dwindled away and in its place came ferocious scrawls: "I don't want to be f**king calm!"


As I look at that book now, I can see that it certainly contains some truth: we are indeed Love, we are indeed Perfect and Whole, we are indeed Peace. But these are qualities of our True Nature and we are gifted them by grace as we awaken to the reality of what we are. The everyday self can approximate these qualities, imagine them, but it cannot will itself into them by simply repeating over and over its desire to do so. Doing so can only lead to frustration, a sense of failure and the telling of some serious untruths. The fact was, I wasn’t calm and peaceful, I wasn’t filled with love and I wasn’t thin.


But on top of that, there was a bigger issue. The Truth if we are ever to find it, is never anywhere else other than here; the Truth is what we have right in front of us. Now.


While I was trying to tell myself that I was filled with love and that I was perfect, I was neglecting the reality of my life in that very moment: I didn’t feel loving or calm. Our pain and suffering, in this very moment, is our doorway to Truth, and any attempt to bypass that by telling ourselves that our reality is different from the one we see in front of us, can only ever be a shallow or temporary measure. It is only by moving into our suffering, getting to know it in our bodies and understanding it, that it transforms and allows us to move more fully into the depths of what we most truly are.