Affirmations are statements we make about the changes we want to see in ourselves. These are statements made in the present tense and are usually used in conjunction with visualizations. An affirmation for an obese person, for instance, could be: I have a slim and fit body. An affirmation for a person who suffers from lack of confidence in public speaking could be: I am confident about speaking in public, and I speak relaxed and with full assurance. Neuro-Linguistic Programming [NLP] makes use of affirmations and visualizations to effect several of the changes it brings about at the body, mind and spiritual level of individuals. Ancient Yoga and modern psychology both believe in the enormous power of affirmations to transform ourselves. Several meditations and meditation traditions make use of the power of affirmations to bring about transformations and events that appear miraculous.
The Life We Are Given by George Leonard and Michael Murphy[i], a book teaching what the authors call Integral Transformative Practice [ITP], speaks about Focused Surrender which Leonard discovered during his work on another book, The Silent Pulse. Focused Surrender is based on the principle that affirmations, visualizations as well as openness to grace work best when they involved “the unlikely marriage of trying and not trying, of zeroing in and letting go.” According to the book, “it appeared that both focused intentionality and the surrender of ego were necessary for experiencing existence at such a fundamental level and creating what often appeared miraculous.”
Given below is an exercise in Focused Surrender from The Life We Are Given . For more such exercises, as well as for several other exercises in self-transformation and personal growth, get a copy of the book.
Find a carpeted or matted space where you won’t be disturbed. Lie on your back with your feet about as far apart as your shoulders and your arms out a few inches from your sides, palms up. Close your eyes and breathe deeply, letting the incoming breath expand your abdomen as well as your chest. Feel the surface beneath you. Shift slightly, as if you are nestling deeper into this surface.
Now send a beam of awareness through your body, searching out any area of tension. Wherever you find tension, le tit melt away, as if it is sinking into the surface beneath you, then into the earth. After completing this process of relaxation, you will spend a few minutes on a special kind of breathing that will require your concentration – your surrender.
Start by taking a deep breath through your nostrils, with your mouth gently closed, being sure to let your abdomen expand. After you have inhaled fully, part your lips slightly and consciously blow the air out. But do it noiselessly, as if you are blowing a soap bubble away from you. Continue blowing the air out consciously until you have fully exhaled. Then gently close your lips and simply wait, fully relaxed, expecting nothing. This is your moment of surrender. The incoming breath will enter your nostrils of its own accord. You need do nothing at all. If you are in a complete state of surrender, the precise moment of inhalation will come as a slight surprise. After the inhalation has filled you, open your lips slightly and repeat the cycle, consciously exhaling, then closing your lips and waiting for the spontaneous inhalation.
In this process, you are joining the voluntary with the involuntary, the willed with the spontaneous, the conscious with the unconscious. Then in the timeless pause between the willed exhalation and the spontaneous inhalation, you can begin to experience that state of egoless not-doing that is the very essence of creation and grace. Continue with this mode of breathing for a few minutes, then let your breath return to normal.
Now place your left hand, palm down, on your abdomen. With eyes still closed, bring to mind one of your affirmations. Say it aloud several times. Then create a mental image of yourself and your life as it would be, were the affirmation already realized. Make it real in your consciousness in your body. Flesh out that reality with as many feelings as you can. As soon as the realized affirmation becomes vividly present, let your left hand rise a few inches above your abdomen. Le tit float there as if suspended, with no effort on our part. Focus intently on the image, holding it in your mind with all your will. Concentrate!
When you can no longer hold the image in place, simply give up and let your hand fall to your abdomen. Lie there in a state of grateful acceptance of whatever maybe, with a feeling of total surrender, a sense of alignment with the divine spirit or with the universe itself.
Whenever you are ready, repeat the exercise. There’s a good chance the image will become more vivid with repetition. It might well be that your left hand will begin to rise spontaneously, with no conscious effort on your part, accurately signalling the presence of a vivid image in your consciousness.
When you choose to end the exercise, remove your left hand from your abdomen and put it on the floor a few inches out from your left side, palm up. Lie there in a state of acceptance for a while, then deepen your breathing. Move your body around gently with increased awareness of the surface beneath you. Stretch your arms and legs and, if you feel like it, yawn. Then open your eyes and sit up.
While in many ways different from this, another tool used for achieving personal transformations is the swish technique, which I have used in a few of my training programmes for corporate executives. For several reasons, though, I like Focused Surrender much more than the swish technique, one of them being that Focused Surrender has roots running into the rich soil of spirituality which the swish technique lacks.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the transformations and events brought about through the power of affirmations appear to be miraculous. The Life We Are Given talks about many such experiences.
[i] The Life We Are Given, by George Leonard and Michael Murphy, Editions India, an imprint of Stone Hill Foundation Publishing, Kochi, Kerala, India.