Every morning, I centre myself, based on the Loving Kindness Meditation: May I be safe, May I be healthy and happy, May I live with ease (go with the flow, not fight). Then my own line: May I live in the Beloved (which I think of as a kind, warm, loving bubble). And taking it further: May I be a blessing to someone today.
This morning, I realized that in the year or so I have been using this prayer, in fact it has come true. Perhaps just drawing attention to the desired state makes me more aware how I approach life. Sounds possible when studies show that just reading a list of positive words increases participants' generosity.
My starting point was great pain, which is considerably less now, fear of increasing decrepitude, isolation – a beaten down, defeated feeling, based on the many doors that were slamming shut in my face.
Now, I feel more grateful and confident. I can't join in many activities, but I am comfortable reaching out and making new connections, although on my physically restricted terms. Instead of a bleak loneliness, I feel love and kindness. Interactions are easy and affectionate.
I am physically safe. Healthy – I live with chronic pain, but my body otherwise is healthy and I haven't had a cold for three years. Happy – that I did work on, monitoring my rumination, telling myself firmly, “This is the life you've got, so it's your choice to be happy – or not.”
Happiness has been a conscious decision, taken every day. When the pain is so bad my eyes are swollen and I can't think straight, I can ask the question: “At this moment, are you unhappy?” And actually I am not, because unhappiness to me is brutal, despairing. I may not be happy in pain, but the mood within me isn't actively unhappy. Over the months, contentment has become my default state, not the brilliant sunlight of joy, but a caressing warmth.
Then the Beloved, which comes from this content and the fact that I try to balance my pain with love towards others. I don't want victim status or pity from my friends. So I try to be a giver, a lover and let the reciprocal kindness wash over my heart and blot out the pain.
So, why not add another line to my prayer? One about being pain-free, which I can immediately see won't work. Affirmations, we are told, must not contain negatives. The last thing I want is for my obedient subconscious to beaver away creating pain. Is there a positive word for pain-free? Google doesn't think so.
OK, then a phrase describing a pain-free state? “May my body move easily”? Yes, but the pain is much worse when sitting or standing. I learnt that fallacy when recovering from spinal surgery. Having read about “remembered wellness”, I spent hours imagining walking freely. But I forgot to include sitting, with the result that I walk really well, just can't sit and read a book.
Bill suggests “May my body live in comfort.” Better, but good affirmations need pictures and feelings. Comfort is too weak. They also need to be believable, so my subconscious can look inside for verification. If I affirm I am a good skier and my subconscious can only find memories of me head down in the snow, it won't be very convincing.
Finally, I come up with “May I have ease in my sitting and moving and in my being.” Long-winded? Probably, but it has a cadence that soothes. Will it work? I don't know, but am saying it as I move about and immediately becoming aware of tensions and restrictions. In some strange way, my being becomes an act of gratitude.