I am in favor of affirmations. At a certain period in my life, I did not think much of selp-help gurus who were pushing them. I still have major reservations about affirmations that seem to be pitched from the head instead of the heart, and either project ego-driven “gimme” agendas or , alternatively, are shackled by received notions of what is spiritually correct. But I am greatly in favor of starting the day with a statement to the universe that affirms the intention to live as fully and creatively as possible, and return thanks for the gifts of life,especially when life seems hard. To affirm is literally “to make firm”, or strong. To make a conscious affirmation, on any given day, is to firm up our whole approach to life. Whether we know it or not,everything is listening, in our conscious universe.
In the United States, we are about to celebrate Thanksgiving, an all-American holiday I generally enjoy, though it was completely foreign in the country where I grew up. At Thanksgiving, I rarely think about the Pilgrim Fathers getting through a rough winter with the help of red people who did not yet understand what the irruption of pink people into this continent would mean for them. But I often think about how, for the First Peoples of America, prayer is often a practice of returning thanks for life, and all that supports life in our conscious, inter-connected universe, and how this is not just a part of one big turkey day, but of everyday affirmation.
Emerson gave us a wonderful affirmation for this, or any day:
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
And for those who are in pain or suffering, these words from Anne Frank may shine light through the darkest circumstances:
I do not think of all the misery, but of the glory that remains. Go outside into the fields, nature and the sun, go out and seek happiness in yourself and in God. Think of the beauty that again and again discharges itself within and without you and be happy.
I like to come up with fresh affirmations as often as possible. But I also find it good to voice “default” affirmations on any day they feel right, including those on which “fresh words” are lacking. Here’s a simple affirmation that came to me long ago, when my dreams and visions drew me into the imaginal realm of a Native American people – the Onkwehonwe, or Iroquois – for whom returning thanks is part of what keeps the world turning:
I return thanks for the gifts of this lifetime
and for its challenges
I seek to walk in balance between earth and sky
Photo: By the fire on Magic Mountain (c) RM