Using AffirmationsA powerful, but poorly understood practice is using affirmations. These have been used to such an extent in Western self-help and “positive thinking” regimens that they are often disparaged in serious spiritual practice. There are, however, many highly regarded non-dualistic teachers, like Robert Adams in Ramana’s lineage, who were strong advocates of affirmations as important practices in awakening. Ramana Maharshi himself, the archetype of meditative inquiry, stressed the value of affirmations of the nature of Reality encouraging many closest to him to repeat affirmations until they became the natural state. Some of the most widely used affirmations are:
- I am not this body, I am not these thoughts
- Nothing that I see is real
- Everything is consciousness/Bhahman/One
- Everything is perfect just as it is
- I was not born, I will not die
- I do not exist, I am everything
- I am all that is
- Everything is within me
- I am Brahman/Siva/Self
- I am That, That I am
- I am
Select one of these and repeat it on a daily basis, first thing in the morning and last thing at night. The selection should be something that feels and resonates, in a deep intuitive way, as the right one to work with at this particular time.
Extend it by picking a periodic event during the day, such as eating, going to work, answering the phone, all odd numbered hours on the hour, etc. and then doing the same affirmation, either silently or out loud as circumstances and inclinations occur. If you work with these diligently, the affirmation will take on a life of its own and will continue to operate at a deep level, whether you consciously voicing it or not.
This process may be easy to logically discount as mere parroting and brain washing. But it has amazing power if properly and diligently applied. The brain washing objection loses its impact when you realize that you are continuously bombarded with brain washing from the internet, TV, music, parents, teachers, visual media, friends, etc. endlessly trying to exploit, manipulate or change you. It is a tribute to the power of the affirmations that they will work even with time allocated to them which is small compared to the time most of us spend processing opposing messages from a host of external sources.
Work with the affirmations deeply and ponder them, don’t merely repeat them mindlessly. You will find that they contain within them the implicit questions of “Is this true?” “Does this make sense?” and “Do I really understand and realize this at the deepest levels or is my understanding just intellectual?” Continue the affirmations within your meditation practice by making the assertion and then sitting with it and feeling the reality or unreality of it.
In working with “I am”, see what happens as you attach other things to it, like “I am Fred”, “I am Fred and I am mad”, then “I am Fred and I am mad because of what Mary said to me”. Then simply observe, and sit with the changes in the energy in consciousness and the activity of the thoughts as you build the chain. Then reverse the process and watch the changes. Successively remove each added piece until you are left only with “I am”, and abide there.
This approach can demonstrate the process that we go through countless times a day in unconsciously building thought loops that ensnare us. Watching the changes in consciousness as it is expanded and then reduced can move you into an understanding of the nature of thought. This understanding will then begin to dissolve the delusions that run, and confuse your life.