I live in Boulder, Colorado. A place where words like bliss, transcendence, energetic flow and yes, affirmation are a regular part of the lexicon.
I remember feeling like I was coming home nearly 2 decades ago, when I was preparing to permanently leave what felt like an uncompromising emptiness and sprint toward Great Achievement in the corporate world. I started meditating regularly and leaving my yoga classes feeling filled up. I began dancing again - something that nourished me completely my youth - and remembering what it is to move from my heart and body, rather than my mind.
Words like affirmation and bliss were exactly what I needed. Shiny things that helped me dig out of the hole of capitulation and complacency that I had dug myself into for the previous decade.
And so it came as a strange and curious thing when I was moving through a rough patch and people in my trusted circles suggested that I work with affirmations … and I balked.
It wasn’t the word “affirmation” so much as the implications that accompanied the word.
The suggestion was that I access my joy and light, amp up my positive vibration and self-love to thwart my periodic wrestling matches with fear, self-doubt and despair. Not that any of those things are bad. But when the insinuation is to do those things while turning away from the friction of tough passages and emotions, something starts to feel wrong.
All at once, the word that was at one point so comforting and stabilizing started to make me itch. To feel one-dimensional and shallow. I realized that I was in revolt against the notion that I needed to simply get positive and let go of the less-than-positive feelings.
This is when I started to see that there is a fine line between affirmations that are platitudes, meant to bypass the realness of a moment … and affirmations that have earned their stripes, pressing up through layers of sticky, gooey mud to be articulated like the thousand-petaled lotus.
Because the truth is, the word affirmation often gets watered down. On the internet, it is forever coupled with the word positivity. As if an affirmation must turn only toward the positive, be used to mask the unseemly odor of less-than-positive feelings.
And so you can imagine, this is when my balking begins.
For the full definition of affirmation is this (according to Webster):
The action or process of affirming something; stating as fact, asserting strongly
No reference to positivity. Or the suggestion of a superfluous conjunction of words intended to evade the reality of a situation, a super-sweet jam to spread over the top of something messy.
Affirmation is not about a single moment in time when our voice rises above everything else to douse out the negative.
It is born of a process. An experience of shoring ourselves up amidst our uncertainty and not-having-it-all-figured-out-ness.
Good affirmations have depth. Girth. Substance. Even if but a single sentence, they are backed by volumes of experience, the wild tangle of living life that brought us to the affirmation in the first place.
And that includes all of the not-so-pretty emotions that have us seeking a way forward in the first place.
And so you see, I am on a mission to re-empower this word affirmation. To return it to its full glory so that when I tell someone that I’m working with daily affirmations, I feel the completeness of such an act. The sheer magnitude of my willingness to affirm both where I have come from and where I am longing to go.