During the past few years, I have been studying the Eastern Wisdom Traditions. These are very different ways of thinking and behaving from those we have grown up using in the Western world. These practices are thousands of years old, so what can they teach me about living as a woman in the twenty-first century?
In my studies, I have grown very fond of the principles of Buddhism. Buddhism is a way of life, and not a religion. There are many beautiful practices in Zen and Shinto, but as I study, I have become most enamored with the ideals of Tibetan Buddhism.
The Dalai Lama, leader of Tibetan Buddhism, gives us great advice when he encourages us to “not convert to Buddhism, but to instead use the principles of Buddhism to make us better at being “whoever we already are!”
The Dalai Lama is the Bodhisattva of Compassion. He is believed to be a reincarnated being who has become fully enlightened. He has attained “Buddhahood”, but instead of going on to his reward of Nirvana, he has elected to come back to teach others the way to enlightenment.
Anyone who has seen the Dalai Lama knows his joyful and compassionate nature. Most of us would aspire to be more like him in these attributes. When he speaks, his chosen words are always kind, generous, playful, insightful, benevolent. In meditation, he has freed his mind of self-talk.
We have all felt the powerful effect that words have on our lives. Power to lift up, and power to tear down. At times, a kind word is all we need to lift our spirits. At other times, we remember all too well the words of someone intent on hurting us. There are long-term consequences associated with words. Once uttered, they are nearly impossible to take back.
We are constantly surrounded by words. As we grow older, and supposedly wiser, we should learn to consider and choose our words more carefully. What do our words say about our practice of life? What is the intention of our words? Are they uplifting? Are they positive or negative? Why are words so important?
Words carry a vibrational energy and frequency. They penetrate us and have the power to change our being. The higher their vibrational frequency, the closer they are to the frequency of light. Each word that we speak sends out a vibration that attracts other like vibrations. If we send out love, we attract love. If we send out anger, we attract anger.
Even without speaking we have the ability to sense the vibrations of another person in close proximity. Our vibrations attract people who are of the same vibrational frequency. We attract what we are! We are attracted, than, to people who vibrate at the same or similar frequencies. This also explains why we are not comfortable with certain people who do not share a similar vibration to our own.
If the spoken word can have a dramatic effect on others, just imagine what our own thoughts are capable of doing to ourselves! Who is it that we speak to most often? I propose that we spend most of our time talking to ourselves. We are having an ongoing conversation in our heads. It has been proven that what we think can actually change our biology and our chemistry.
I am sure that all of us have heard the same self-chatter our entire lives. It is a pattern that is very difficult to break. Women are taught unattainable examples of what it means to be “pretty”. Boys are taught to “man-up” and that “crying is not acceptable.” From an early age, then, we begin the negative self-chatter.
I have a positivity coach that has worked with me for years to try to eliminate what he refers to as “the monkey-chatter” in my head. He checks me, whenever he sees me going down this path, and asks me “What are you thinking? This is not serving you!” He is always right! Negative self-talk never serves us.
Not usually a slow learner, I find that mastering self-talk is a constant battle and a long work in progress. If we want to break out of old habits, moving to a better version of ourselves, then eliminating negative self-talk is the place we should begin.
“The thought manifests as the word; The word manifests as the deed; The deed develops into habit; And habit hardens into character; So watch the thought and its ways with care, And let it spring from love born out of concern for all beings …As the shadow follows the body, As we think, so we become.”
― from “The Magician of Lhasa”
In his 2002 New York Times Bestseller “The Hidden Messages in Water”, Japanese scientist Dr. Masaru Emoto showed the profound effect of thoughts, words, and feelings on water droplets. Using high-speed photography, Dr. Emoto discovered that crystals formed in frozen water reveal changes when specific emotions, words or thoughts were directed toward them.
If the water droplets were exposed to loving words, the crystals that formed showed beautiful, bright, complex snowflake patterns. If the water was exposed to negative thoughts or emotions, the frozen droplets would look muddy, asymmetrical, and were dull in color.
How does this impact our self-talk? Our bodies, depending on our age, health and nutritional status, are composed of 60-90% water! What we think can therefore directly affect 60-90% of our chemistry!
You’ve heard the old saying “garbage in/garbage out”? This is exactly what negative self-talk becomes.
If we want to break free of this destructive habit, we must find ways to speak positivity to ourselves. It might be helpful to engage a friend as your coach, to alert you when they see you going down this path. The sooner you become aware, the sooner you can learn to check yourself.
If you find yourself speaking negativity, take a moment to reflect on your intention. Perhaps an apology to someone else, or to yourself, is in order.
Here are a few things that I have found helpful with negative self-chatter:
- Write down your negative thoughts, and then burn them. When you next hear those same words in your head, remember seeing the flame, and stop the pattern immediately. These thoughts need to be burned away from our memories.
- I have a Japanese meditation jar. I try to energetically send all of my negative thoughts to that jar, getting them out of my head before they can do their damage. I never open the jar, so the thoughts are “trapped” somewhere other than my head.
- Use a Sharpie to write positive affirmations on your bathroom mirror where you will see them often. Read and repeat them. Make sure that all positive affirmations begin with the words “I am”. Affirmations should never contain the words “will”, or “going to”. Visualize an affirmation as having already happened. Remember, what we visualize, we move toward.
Striving to be the best version of ourselves takes years of practice. Negative self-talk will only slow down the process. Wouldn’t it be much more productive, more empowering, and just more fun to be kind to ourselves and to others? Defeat the negative words in your head. The result will be more peace, more productivity, more growth. Let this be your mission!