By Suma Varughese May 2005 In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God… Affirmations are powerful declarations that can transform your behaviour, attitude and nature. Affirmations help you to realize your highest potential. They are the easy path to self-realisation. Even as a youngster reading through the unfathomable mystery of the Bible, these lines quoted earlier would spring out at me and grip my imagination. Mystical and mysterious they may have been but I sensed in them a strange power. I repeated them frequently and wondered what they meant. But then I am a writer. Words are my stock in trade and since my very childhood they have fascinated and entranced me. The sound of words, the images they summon up, the emotions they arouse, the worlds they open up for me have held me in thrall all my life. How apt then, that my spiritual journey began with the word and has all through been strengthened and assisted by its potent magic. In the form of affirmations, it has been the indispensable third part of my path. The first two are awareness and acceptance. While these two have been deconditioning me, affirmations assist in reconditioning me, or, as I now recognize, in transforming me. It is only of late that I have begun recognizing the invaluable role of affirmations in my life. I see it as a tool that can change even the most recalcitrant. It is the common man’s route to transformation. Swami Sivananda, founder of the Divine Life Society, Rishikesh, corroborates this view. In his fascinating book, Japa Yoga, he writes, ‘In this Kali yug, japa alone is the easy way to the realisation of God.’ Not all of us can meditate. Not all of us have the discipline to do spiritual practice every day. Certainly I didn’t. But all of us can repeat a few words to ourselves. And from my own experience, I can testify that it is not even required to concentrate upon the words. You can mumble them even when your mind is racing like a horse. You can chant them absentmindedly. Just say them. Of course, the more force and intention you put in them the quicker they manifest. But the results will come as long as you persist, no matter how desultory your utterance. JUST DON’T GIVE UP! While this goes against received wisdom, which insists that affirmations must be said with intent in order to work, I am supported by the incomparable Swami Sivananda who stoutly declares: ‘Even simple mechanical repetition of a mantra has a powerful effect. It purifies the mind. It serves as a gate-keeper. It gives intimations to you whenever some worldly thoughts enter the mind.’ A Personal PathMy tryst with affirmations and indeed spirituality began several years ago when a relationship broke up and in parting, I was told that relationships were meant to be beautiful and ours had not been. I was also told that I had not made the person happy. Fascinated by the concept of a ‘beautiful relationship’ and by the idea of happiness, I vowed that I would make this person happy, come what may. This was by no means easy to do as I found myself reacting to his behaviour with anger and jealousy. And then I hit upon the magic mantra, which was my passage to spiritual understanding. It occurred to me that if I really wanted this person’s happiness, whatever he said or did should be okay by me. I formulated the thought thus: ‘It’s his happiness that matters and not mine’. I found my anger and reactivity receding and in its place a vast reservoir of peace and goodwill arising. Unbelievingly, I said these words again and again, and each time they worked like a charm, freeing me of my thoughts and feelings and allowing me to focus fully on seeing and understanding the other’s point of view. In my own way I was affirming, though I did not know it then. The words propelled me right out of my ego and into a state that I called ‘absolute happiness’. For a full year, they retained their magic for me. I used to accompany their recitation by pressing my thumb and my middle finger hard. I later discovered that NLP called this anchoring, and recommended it as a way of recalling an experience intentionally. Alas, all good things come to an end and my year of grace faded away. However, it left me firmly entrenched on the spiritual path. Why did this mantra wield such power over me during that time? Why not before and why not after? Such things are cloaked in mystery and it is hard to say why. Grace for me, is a good explanation for the first question. As for the second, I think of it as a trigger that launched me on the journey. That job done, it left me so that I could embark upon the hard and long task of dissolving all that stood between me and that state of absolute happiness… Explaining AffirmationsSo what are affirmations? They are positive declarations of intent. They are word seeds that germinate within us and recreate us. They encapsulate the power of thought which makes us who we are. Affirmations can be simple declarations like the 19th century French psychotherapist, Emile Coeu’s sweeping assertion, ‘Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better.’ They can be New Age statements that invoke everything from health, love, money, jobs, houses and other material and non-material visitations. Affirmations such as, ‘I am abundance and I attract everything I need,’ are typical of this genre. They can be power words that resound through our scriptures such as the great mahavakya, Aham Brahmasmi, the sufi saying, Al Haq, or mantras like Om Namaha Shivaye. They can be the prayers that we repeat ceaselessly such as the Gayatri mantra, the Mahamrityunjaya mantra, the Lord’s Prayer or the Hail Mary. All good words and thoughts that we repeat continuously are affirmations in action. Whether we call it japa yoga or affirmations, we are invoking the power of the word to create us, regenerate us and transform us. All spiritual traditions everywhere have intuited the awful majesty and power of the word. Whether it is the karadjeru of Australia, the Dogon and Igbo communities of Africa, the Mayan community of Mexico, the Sumerians, or the Buddhist, Christian, Islamic or Judaic traditions, there is a clear understanding that language, or the word, is a manifestation of God. Many of them, including the vedic tradition of India, maintain that sound is the building block of the manifested world. For the Dogon, words uttered during religious ceremonies contain nyama (life-force), which is conveyed by the breath and flows through the mouth of the holy person. Even in the Christian tradition, God is said to have created the universe simply by uttering a command-surely an early example of affirmation in action? ‘And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.’ (Genesis 1: 3) The Power of SoundIn India, the power of the word has long been recognized and used for spiritual transformation and for the ultimate understanding of life. Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, head of the Himalayan Institute, USA, writes in his book, The Power of Mantra and the Mystery of Initiation, ‘According to tantric and Vedic sources, the world manifests from the Word, exists in the Word, and at the time of annihilation returns to the Word. They tell us that for those who are unaware of the power of the Word and its binding and releasing force, this world is the source of pain and misery. Yet, according to the Shiva Sutra, this same world is a wave of joy to those who have penetrated the mystery of the Word.’ According to Wayne Dyer, author of the book, Manifest Your Destiny, the sound aaah is common to almost all the names of God, ranging from Brahma, to Allah to Yahweh and Ahura Mazda. This is no coincidence, he believes, but is rather proof that it is the sound of creation. Therefore when we chant God’s name we are invoking the power of creation. Many ancients would attribute the mantra om, with this power, but, says Dyer, ‘Whereas aaah is the sound of creation, om is the sound of that which is already created. Om expresses gratitude for all that has manifested.’ According to tantric adepts, the word is considered to be the Shabda-brahman, the Creative Source (Ashabda-brahman) embodied as sound. Scientists today confirm that the universe is actually composed of vibrational energies. Writes Wayne Dyer: ‘Every sound is a vibration made of waves oscillating at a particular frequency. The frequency range of the human ear is approximately 16,000 – 40,000 vibrations per second. It is theorized that thoughts and the unknown etheric and spiritual dimensions are in the realm of increased vibrations beyond anything that is calculable at this point of time.’ He adds, ‘Sound is the intermediary between the abstract idea and the concrete form of the material world. Sounds literally mold the abstract world of thoughts and spirit into shapes.’ Swami Sivananda confirms this by writing about the experiments conducted by an Englishwoman called Mrs Watts Hughes, who sang into an instrument called the eidophone. The sound traveled through a tube and was received on a flexible membrane holding tiny seeds. The seeds formed entrancing geometric patterns depending on the notes she used. He says, ‘Once when Mrs Hughes was singing a note, a daisy appeared and disappeared…now she knows that precise inflections of the particular note that is a daisy and it is made constant and definite by a strange method of coaxing an alternation of crescendo and diminuendo.’ Mrs Hughes apparently was able to summon up sea-monsters, forms of trees, and even landscapes of trees with a foreground of rocks, and the sea behind. Santosh Sachdeva, whose family owns the website indiayogi.com, affirms that when they conducted a yagna on behalf of one of their clients,
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