The Power of Words

Language shapes our concepts about who we are and what we can do. Even idle words tossed off without thinking can be taken to heart and turned into beliefs. Hiding beneath the notice of the analytical mind,these beliefs govern behavior even when the person has opposing conscious beliefs.

I was once told by a healer that I was acting on ideas about having the “right job”, the “right clothes”, and the “right car.” Indignantly, I protested. Not true, I said. More interested in leading an authentic life, material possessions approved by the common culture had seldom interested me.

“Yes,” the healer said with a smile. “But your mother held those beliefs, and she gave them to you.”

My mother had passed on several years before, so I could not question her about it, but lo and behold, when I examined my own beliefs, using a simple muscle testing system, sure enough, I was holding onto unconscious ideas that conflicted with my value system.

Beliefs can be tricky, since those that most affect us most are often buried under layers of experience. They must be coaxed out, with meditation, journaling, or whatever healing method works for you.

A simple way to start examining our beliefs is to notice how we talk to ourselves and others. Do we use a lot of judgmental words? You should. I ought. That’s hopeless.

If you use judging words every time you make a minor mistake, is there a way you can substitute kinder words?

  • I forgot again! Could be changed to I am working on remembering
  • I’m so stupid! Could become I made a mistake, but that’s okay because I’m human.
  • How could I have done that! Could transform to I am learning from my experiences

If you try this exercise, it may feel awkward at first, but with some practice, you’ll soon learn to catch those automatic judgments and start speaking to yourself like a friend.

James W. Pennebaker, the pioneer in research on expressive writing for healing, discovered patterns of language typical of those who get the most benefit from expressive writing. He used a software program to analyze both written and spoken communication and found that pronouns (I, he, she, we, it) are a key to change.

When people who have experienced trauma write about the event, they can create a more coherent story which leads them to new understandings of what happened to them. The use of causal (because, why) and insight (realize, understand) words predicted how well the writers recovered from the trauma.

The most interesting and unexpected result came when he found that people who changed the pronouns they used (from first person to third person, for example) improved most in mood, health, and sociability.

By counting pronouns, Dr. Pennebaker found that people whose health was improving tended to decrease the use of first person pronouns. They gained perspective and the ability to see the situation from more than one point of view.

If you’d like to learn more about his research, he has written a popular book on the subject.


His original research, which inspired my own investigations into the benefits of writing for healing, is discusssed in his first book.

Wbat about you? Have you noticed how you talk to yourself? Have you tried journaling to uncover beliefs and stuck patterns you want to change?

Healing Words

Writing for Release

When we write with the intention of healing ourselves or connecting more deeply to our Creative Source or both, we may encounter “negatives.” Anger, disappointment, fear, jealousy, regret, even terror of admitting our own truth.

There’s nothing wrong with this.  To move through unpleasant experiences, it is often necessary to write about what happened and how we felt. Positive and negative.

A faster method for releasing is to express the held emotions in primal ways, such as crying or screaming.  If we don’t subject others to these outbursts, it’s fine. Magnetically polarized people, who hold onto more emotions longer, often must use nonverbal means to get them moving enough that space opens in our systems for new information to enter.

Any kind of expression, if it does no harm to another, is good.  If the idea frightens you, a professional facilitator can help.

Once space opens and we no longer feel at the mercy of our emotions, positive affirmations help.  Start with something simple.  I use the affirmation “I love myself” nearly every day.  How about:

  • “I can change my life in positive ways.”
  • “I express my love for myself and others.”
  • “I am grateful for my life and ______”
  • “I co-create with Source to improve my health.”

What affirmations can you use to change negative beliefs or patterns you’ve noticed?

 Take a few minutes and jot them down.  A special notebook for your affirmations or beliefs you are changing is useful, as you can look back at your record and see how far you’ve come.

Prayer

We may forget that affirmations are prayer.  When we affirm our health, we accept our role as co-creators. Instead of asking for divine intervention, we acknowledge we have a part to play with our Source.

Larry Dossey, MD has written a fascinating book, Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine

He talks about the concept of “prayerfulness” as a state where the person does not pray for something in the traditional sense, but lives with a sense of the sacred, of being aligned with “something higher.” Prayerfulness accepts without being passive, is grateful without giving up. It is willing to stand in the mystery of life where much is hidden from the rational mind.

He mentions research on cases of spontaneous remission of cancer which suggests that prayerfulness and an indwelling spiritual sense has the most effect on the process of cancer.

Making friends with the unconscious mind, for some the seat of all healing and inspiration, seems to be key.  People who experience radical, spontaneous healing have a quality of acceptance and gratitude, as if things are all right despite the presence of disease.

When coping with a life-threatening illness, gratitude may be a stretch, but the more we can forgive, ourselves and others, we open the door to transformation.

Here is a lovely prayer to start the day. From Nick Polizzi of the Sacred Science website. If you haven’t seen the video or read his book about an amazing journey of healing that people with serious illnesses undertook with indigenous shamans, it’s worth checking out.

Dear Great Spirit,
You are inside me, within my every breath,
Within each bird, each mighty mountain.
Your sweet touch reaches everything and I am well protected.
Thank you for this beautiful day before me.
May joy, love, peace and compassion be part of my life
and all those around me on this day.
I am healing and I am healed

 


Writing for My Life

The Book of the Center

While I was working on my novel a few years ago, a thought dropped in. It had nothing to do with the book and came with the little jolt I associate with the part of me that is NOT my ego-mind. The thought was, “The Book of the Center.” I heard the words as if a voice had spoken aloud.

The first time this happened I was 28 and it scared the heck out of me. I thought either God was speaking, or I was losing my mind. Maybe both. A self-professed humanist, I had no religious convictions or grounding in metaphysics. I sought help. To no avail. Finally, I realized the voice was a part of myself I didn’t know. It seemed prudent to record what it said. That was the beginning of my awakening to spirit.

I’ve learned (the hard way) to listen. When I heard about this mysterious book, I pulled out a fresh file folder, labeled it The Book of the Center and stuck in a file with other writing projects. Going to write that someday, I thought. Wonder what it means. Sometimes I pondered if Center meant my own center or Self, my heart, a place of neutrality, or something different.

Reading The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself recently, I remembered how my Book of the Center appeared. Finally, I’ve started it.

Journaling for Healing

Between the first intrusion of the voice of my Self and the title of a book I didn’t understand came a lot of years of journaling. In the beginning I journaled to deal with the drama of my life.

In midlife, I was embroiled in a difficult relationship that made no sense. By then, I had learned to meditate, work with my own energy, and use healing methods to address my issues. With this situation, nothing worked.

One day I sat at my computer, opened a new file, and wrote my latest take on The Situation. Although I judged my relationship problems as too petty to bring to the attention of my deeper parts, I decided to try anyway. I typed a single question: “What is going on with me and this person?” Then I sat with my keys on the keyboard and waited.

After a few minutes I wrote whatever came up, without thinking or judging. No voices spoke, no visions came, I just wrote.

What I wrote was not profound or particularly clear, but it made enough sense that I asked another question, waited again, and wrote again.

That was the beginning of me using writing to connect with Self.

The more I dialogued with my Self, the more useful the exercise became. It took several years to convince me I was talking to more than my ego-mind (one of my issues is self-doubt), but I kept going. No one read my journal. I didn’t talk about it. I just kept writing because it seemed like the right thing to do. Also, I’m a fast typist and the faster I write, the easier it is to bypass the mental critic in my head.

Many others have discovered this method. It’s even mentioned in books on journaling. I teach my journaling students how to do it. The great thing is you don’t have to learn to meditate, take a class, or learn special techniques. All you need is a notebook and pen or a computer, and a mind willing to open.

An Easy Exercise for You

Have you tried it? If not, this could be the time. This is how it works.

  • Assume you have an aspect of your identity that knows more than you do, that loves you, and is willing to communicate.
  • Settle yourself and clear your mind.
  • Ask your Self a question in writing. About a crisis, a choice, a pattern you don’t understand. Anything you want to know about yourself.
  • Wait.
  • Listen.
  • Write what comes.
  • Refrain from judgment.
  • Repeat.

This works. I swear. You may have to be patient, but persistence counts.

If you give this method a try, send me a comment about your experience. I’d love to hear your reaction.

 

 

 

Changing Your Story

Changing our words will change our story. Changing our stories can change our lives.

Our parents tell us stories about our family, heritage, and culture. Our culture tells us stories about what people like us can expect.

The words we use are not coincidental or arbitrary. We are taught to name, identify, and classify. Words are used to classify us. Eventually, we get the picture. We don’t need anyone to tell us we need to shape up. We know.

Have you ever looked at the words you use to describe yourself? Do you see yourself as smart, attractive, competent, scared, passive, helpful? Are you loyal? Independent? A team player?

Which words are more positive to you? More negative?

Words create our sense of who we are. A good girl. A strong boy. Such a smart student. So good with her hands.

Even something as seemingly objective as our physical appearance is shaped by beliefs.

You have big hips. He’s small for his age. Red haired people have hot tempers. You’re too fat/thin/freckled, pale. Your hair is too curly. Rich people have straight hair.

We describe ourselves, first, as others have described us. Judged as children, we take the words to heart. The judge takes up residence inside our minds, and from there rules us. Later in life, we wonder why we never feel good enough, smart enough, and capable of making our dreams real.

How we talk about ourselves has a lot to do with what we’re willing to try. I had a student who was bright, attractive, and a single parent receiving public assistance. The class was on how to find a job. Marie was a high school graduate and well qualified to work as a hotel receptionist, but when I told her about a position in a downtown hotel, she said, “Oh, no. I couldn’t apply for that.”

I asked why, and she said, “People like me don’t go there.”

The hotel was upscale in an urban area. She was qualified. The job did not pay well enough to attract applicants with college degrees. What stopped her was the story running in her head. She was poor, Hispanic, “second class.” If she had applied, she would have been seriously considered, but I couldn’t convince her to make the appointment. She felt more comfortable in the fast food job she took.

Now when I teach journaling, creativity, and writing for healing, I ask students to examine their beliefs, the tapes running in their heads that are stopping them from reaching out. It comes down to words. Change the words, change your life.

If you’d like to try it, look at your life as a timeline

1.Draw a straight line across a blank piece of paper.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

2. Below the line, group your age anyway you like. By school grade, decades, whatever works for you.

3. Above the line write three words that best described you at that age.

Do this quickly. Do not mull. Your first responses are best.

When you finish, look at the words.
• Are the words from your younger years still true?
• Would you like to change any of them?
• Looking forward,  what new words would you add to describe yourself?
• Write them in the future portion of the timeline.

Did you notice any patterns? Any changes with time?

If so, I’d love to hear your reactions in the comment box.

Why You Feel the Way You Do

Do you ever wonder why you feel like you do?

If you’re happy and satisfied with your life, the question may not come up.

But what about when you feel:

  • anxious
  • depressed
  • sluggish
  • out of sorts
  • stuck?

Or maybe you can’t pinpoint why you can’t get going on that creative project, stick to your exercise or diet plan, or start looking for a better job.

It could be that you’re ignoring the messages from your own body.

If you’re a creative type, things can get more complicated. Creative people often live in their heads. Exciting ideas drop in and swirl around, but they have a hard time devoting the time and energy to produce their art, writing, or music. They wander in circles, not sure how to begin, or where to find resources. They think about the future (Who would buy my book?) and don’t finish writing it.

We have ready excuses for not moving on.  “I’m stressed!  I don’t have time.  I’ll feel better after the holidays when the weather’s warmer, when my mother-in-law goes home.”

All these may be true, but they don’t answer the question, Why do you feel the way you do?

The eastern metaphysical traditions don’t perceive the mind and body as separate systems. Healing modalities like yoga, acupuncture, t’ai chi and meditation assume that mind affects body and body affects mind.  A two-way street.

Many of us have adopted this belief because we got positive results when we tried them. But the medical establishment did not give up its insistence on the separation of mind and body until Candace Pert, a molecular biologist, discovered how peptides, a protein found in every cell of the body, carry information from and to all our organs including the brain.

Her research showed that the body works more like an information processing system than a clockwork. The peptides which carry glucose to our organs, are biochemicals which Pert called the molecules of emotion. They form a network of communication, the means by which thoughts affect the chemistry of the body. As the chemistry changes, so do our feelings.

It turns out that the mystics were right.  The mind of the body is in every organ and every cell. The seat of emotion is not in the brain or the heart. It is in our cells, each and every one.

Like information, emotions travel physically between body and mind as the peptides and their receptors. In the subjective realm, we experience changes in feelings and emotions.

Pert agrees with Carl Jung’s intuition that the physical body itself is the unconscious mind. Which is why we often don’t know why we feel as we do. When we repress or discard uncomfortable feelings, we literally push them into our bodies.  Held long enough, they eventually produce stress and illness.

If we want to feel better, we can start by acknowledging and releasing our emotions from the bondage of the body. Energy therapies, yoga, acupuncture, any healing modality that involves therapeutic touch, and learning to clear the mind through meditation or prayer establish new pathways so our bodies can let our minds know what they need.

Expressing emotions in a safe environment results in more glucose being available to all the organs.  The peptides spread the word, and emotional blocks that have formed into physical blocks begin to dissolve.

Another way to open the lines of communication with your body is very simple. Journaling about what’s going on in your life and how you feel about it is a powerful tool.  It can help you get unstuck, boost your immune system, and improve your ability to make decisions and act.

All you need is a notebook and a pen!

Healing Broken Hearts


Our hearts are amazing organs of light and matter. On one level they pump blood to keep us alive. On another, they are the seat of empathy, of love for self and others. On a third, they bridge the gap between thoughts and emotions. The heart mediates conflicts and allows us to find the middle ground.

When a heart is open and free, it reconciles disparate energies from our bodies and spirits. An open heart feels soft and powerful. It is willing to trust and can make appropriate boundaries.

When judgment, fear, trauma, or over-reliance on rationality interferes with the free flow of energy in the heart, it starts to close. It can’t fulfill its function and loses flexibility. A heart of stone is not just a metaphor. A closed heart is judgmental, unforgiving, jealous, and often gives itself up for crumbs.

Most people living in our fast-paced, confusing world experience some level of heartbreak. Some symptoms are:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Compulsive behavior
  • Fixated on the future or past
  • Eating disorders
  • Abuse of drugs/alcohol
  • Physical symptoms of stress like worry, problems sleeping, unable to focus, hopelessness, low energy, headaches, frequent colds, muscle tension.

We know we’re supposed to eat right, exercise, control our emotions and not get caught up in the daily drama, but it’s hard. One reason is that our minds and emotions are not communicating with each other. The body is not getting the mental message that this difficult situation will pass, and the mind is not hearing the body say it’s scared and needs reassurance. Without healing, the broken heart cannot bridge the gap between what we think and how we feel.

In ancient Greece, the goddess Themis served as a bridge between the older Titans, who were all sound and fury, and the more rational Olympians. The child of Ouranos and Gaia, she represented the heart between spirit and earth, and her ancient function is being remembered today as a symbol of inner healing.

Her image is used as a symbol for justice and appears on the buildings of many courts. She carries the scale of justice and a sword, which reminds us that when justice is not served, there is a price to pay.

To reconcile opposites is to gain wisdom and consciousness. On a conscious level, this means we search for what connects the opposites. Subjectively, we allow ourselves to perceive, without judgment, the feelings and emotions that arise in response to our thoughts and actions.

Instead of listening to the culture or the common wisdom of family, clan, and country, Themis energy points to another way. We can make our own decisions based on discrimination informed by our feelings. Instead of bouncing from mind to emotion, from reason to gut, we can marry these aspects in the heart. We can learn to listen to Psyche, the spirit soul, and to Thymos, the passionate life of the body.

In the west, we have lost the idea of the body having intelligence and the ability to communicate, but new research in neurophysiology presents us with information that echoes the wisdom of Themis.

The Heart Math Institute offers research on how the heart mediates between our minds and emotions and how to reduce stress, gain balance and feel more at one with ourselves.

A great way to start on this journey is to practice a simple technique you can download at Heartmath.org. The Quick Coherence technique for adults is free at this link:

https://www.heartmath.org/resources/heartmath-tools/quick-coherence-technique-for-adults/

In future posts, I’ll be talking about how to make friends with the mind of the body and the practical things you can do to find heart balance. I teach a simple method of using journaling to reach heart integration in my Writing for Healing course which starts on April 18.