Tag Archives: consciousness

Affirmations: Programming Language for the Brain

Standard

I’m old enough that when I think of affirmations, I think of Al Franken’s character of Stuart Smalley in Saturday Night Live, and I laugh. With a big dopey grin, he affirms, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darnit, people like me!”

And yet, I know from personal experience just how powerful and transformative affirmations can be. Our brains are a bit like computers, and our thoughts, shaped by language, does the programming. With a steady application of affirmations, you can reprogram negative thought patterns that are holding you back, and even manifest into your life things that will bring you greater joy. Affirmations are a powerful tool that are often underestimated.

Affirmations can be used in the context of a wide variety of issues. Got love problems? Try affirmations. Battling depression? Try affirmations. Trying to find a job? Try affirmations. Want to lose weight? Be more peaceful? Want to lucid dream? Meet your spirit guides? Be less shy around people? All these kinds of things, and more, are suitable subjects for work through affirmations.

About 20 years ago I was in a professional development workshop through my job, and the workshop presenter offered a method of applying affirmations by using index cards. I used his method daily for about a year, tweaking the instructions until I found a method that really worked for me. That was a year of tremendous growth for me, with deep-seated issues that came unstuck for the first time in my life. I saw first hand the power that affirmations can have, and have been a devoted follower of this method ever since. The affirmation cards were an important tool for helping me reset my thinking into more healthy channels. It’s a great tool for manifestation as well. I have used affirmations ever since. I offer this method below:

The deck of affirmation cards I used are easy and fun to make, and very simple to use. I used a package of regular 3×5 index cards for my deck. (I later used unlined cards and a printer to make them even more colorful, but you can make these by hand as well.) Each card will contain an affirmation of a new reality you want to manifest in your life. Nothing is too big or too small to be worked on through affirmations. Emotions like anxiety, fear, depression, anger, loneliness, etc. are all excellent fodder for this tool. So are more tangible goals like career, family, finances, home, car, etc. And before you pooh-pooh the idea of affirmations like I did, give it a shot for a few weeks. This is a powerful tool that did really deep transformative work on areas that I had been stuck on for years.

So, put one affirmation per card. Use colors and/or images if you like, but the words you choose are important. Each affirmation needs to be phrased in the positive. Our subconscious brains are very literal and latch onto action words, not the smaller parts of speech. For example, if you want to work on anxiety, don’t say “Don’t Panic” because the subconscious will focus on the word “panic” – that’s counter-productive. Instead, use a phrase like “Stay Calm” which gives the subconscious an action that it can work on. Focus on the present tense – the subconscious mind operates in the eternal now; instead of saying “the perfect job for me is coming” (which keeps this perfect job somewhere in the unreachable future) say “I am ready for my perfect job”.   I’ve found that inspirational quotes can also make effective affirmation cards.

Create as many or as few cards as you like. Once you have a “deck” of cards, you can also add more or take away cards that are no longer as relevant. Once you have your deck, simply flip through them and read them once a day. (Or more often if you like, but once daily worked for me.) You can do this at any time, any place. I often flip through my affirmation cards while waiting in line at the bank or the grocery store. That’s it. Just read your affirmations to yourself daily. It usually only takes 2-3 minutes. You don’t need to meditate on them (although focusing on your affirmations in a meditative state is another very powerful technique.) You don’t need to particularly “work on” these things. The daily read-through is the work. The brain is like a computer and will program itself with whatever instructions it receives. Your affirmation cards are the programming instructions. Input daily for best results.

Here’s a partial list of affirmations that I use or have used in the past:

¯ Expect joy
¯ I am guided from within.
¯ My spirit shines brightly
¯ I am open to receive
¯ I have the strength I need.
¯ I radiate peace.
¯ Laugh daily.
¯ Listen within.
¯ With one deep breath – let it go.
¯ Pay attention.
¯ Play with abandon.
¯ Practice wellness.
¯ Seek peace.
¯ I love going to work.
¯ Stay calm.
¯ My heart is filled with love.
¯ There is always a reason. Each result serves me in a useful way.
¯ There is perfect abundance.
¯ Trust the process.
¯ I see the next step.
¯ My memory improves with each passing day.
¯ I am stronger than my temporary cravings.
¯ I can easily resist temptations.
¯ “Expect your every need to be met, Expect the answer to every problem, Expect abundance on every level, Expect to grow spiritually” -Eileen Caddy
¯ I am motivated to accomplish all that I have to do.
¯ At all times, I have unlimited access to my Inner Wisdom.
¯ I look forward to the challenges each day brings
¯ I say YES to opportunities
¯ I deserve to be successful
¯ My joy in life is clearly apparent for all to see
¯ I express myself freely and easily
¯ I am confident of my abilities
¯ I am good at saving money
¯ I love vegetables.*

*My favorite example of an affirmation that worked for me is the one that says “I love vegetables”. This was never true for me. As a kid, I avoided anything that resembled a vegetable with very few exceptions. Lettuce and corn were about it. As an adult, I learned to eat at least a limited few vegetables, but I still didn’t like them. I wanted to love vegetables, but… ick. So I put this issue into an affirmation card and worked on it. Every time this card came up, I chuckled with dubious amusement. After all, affirmations are good for some things, but this? Ha ha. But I kept the card in the deck. Month after month I laughed at my “vegetable affirmation.” It took about a year or so before I noticed that I had gradually begun adding more and more vegetables to my diet in ways that I hadn’t been conscious of. I’d go to a restaurant with a salad bar, and instead of lettuce and a few pieces of shredded carrots, I’d come back with my plate loaded with all sorts of things that just sort of “looked good” to me at the time. I gradually became aware that I was looking forward to such voyages into veggie-land. That was a long time ago, and now I can say without a hint of my former reservations that I really do love vegetables. A lifetime of revulsion was transformed into a much healthier attitude.  Go figure.  My silly “veggie affirmation” worked.

Affirmations can be created around any issue you want transformed. Just read through your cards daily, and, as one of my affirmations reminds me, “trust the process.”

Advertisements

Drum Therapy

Standard

LATE BREAKING NEWS: Drum Circles Cure Common Cold!

These are some of the drums I bring to my monthly drum circle.

But like any miraculous headline, there’s a catch.  In my case, the effect lasted only so long as I was actually drumming.  Once the drum circle ended and I was packing up the drums to go home, all of the symptoms of my heavy head cold returned.  But while we were playing last night, it was a surprising miracle.  It was such a noticeable difference that the other members of the group remarked on the change in me. But I shouldn’t have been so surprised.  Research supports the idea that drumming truly is a healing art.

Mostly I drum for the sheer joy it brings me.  Rhythm touches something deep inside of me, and affects me in ways not usually so dramatically noticeable.  Drumming relieves tension, stress, anxiety, fear, anger – the entire range of emotional states that leaves people tied in knots.  For me, at least, it’s impossible to hold onto these states while drumming.  I may start drumming from that place, but the rhythm lifts me out of that emotional state and transports me to a stronger, calmer, more genuine state of relaxation.  Relaxation doesn’t always mean calm – I’m usually energized by the practice, but it relaxes and unwinds all of the emotions that have me wound up.  And when you clear that away, what is left is a natural feeling of well-being and joy.

Necessary Context: I’m something of a science geek.  I enjoy reading the latest research findings from a diverse range of fields of study.  I like looking for connections between these domains, in search of my own unified theory of the universe. A lofty ambition perhaps, but really, aren’t we all in search of greater understanding and unity of meaning?  So I subscribe to science newsletters, and try to give attention to the front lines of research.  I’m no expert, but I try to stay informed.

Scientists have been studying the healing effects of drumming from a number of different angles.  One of the most interesting to me are the effects that drumming has on the brain.  As you may be aware, the activity of our brains can be measured in brain waves with devices such as an EEG (Electroencephalography).  Electrodes are attached to the scalp which measure the electrical activity of the neurons firing in the brain.

(Aside:  isn’t that COOL?)

Through EEG studies, we learn that there are different brain wave patterns associated with different states of consciousness, both awake and sleeping, and the stages in between.  When we are awake and focusing our attention, our brains produce beta waves.  By immersing ourselves in highly structured rhythmic environments such as drum circles, our brain waves begin to align with the rhythms in a process known as entrainment, which alters brain waves in measurable ways.

(Again, COOL!)

Alpha waves bring us to a state of deep relaxation, where creativity is unleashed.  This state can be achieved in the brains of drummers fairly easily and quickly.  It produces feelings of euphoria and well-being.  As the drumming persists, the brain can shift gears again, and produce theta waves.  Theta waves are associated with a deep meditative trance state where a doorway to the dreaming mind is opened. Insight and inspiration are often found in this state of mind.  Drumming is a key that opens the door to these states of consciousness.

But wait!  There’s more! (I apologize for the excessive use of exclamation marks, but I really find it quite difficult to curb my enthusiasm when it comes to this subject.)

The effects of drumming extend beyond their influence on brain waves.  In addition to producing a measurable relaxation effect, drumming also releases endorphins, neurotransmitters that act as natural opiates which relieve pain and produce natural feelings of euphoria.  Recent promising research also shows that drumming boosts the immune system, helping the body produce more killer cells that work to combat everything from viruses to serious illnesses such as cancer.  Cortisol, the stress hormone suspected as the root cause of many diseases, also decreases measurably while drumming.  Our entire biological response seems to get a tune-up when we immerse ourselves in highly rhythmic environments.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that I should feel so fantastic while I was drumming last night.  I went to the drum circle feeling generally miserable, chained to my box of tissues, and desiring little more than to crawl into bed.  But drumming lifted me out of that entirely, creating a state of energy, joy, and euphoria that lasted even after the drumming stopped and my nose resumed it’s dripping.  It’s no wonder why I’m such an enthusiastic ambassador for the drum.  Next time, come join me.

For a well-cited overview of Drum Therapy, see http://healing.about.com/od/drums/a/drumtherapy.htm
Another nice summary can be found at http://www.shamanswell.org/shaman/powerful-healing-benefits-drumming-circle
To find a drum circle near you, visit http://www.drumcircles.net/circlelist.html