I am not a big fan of affirmations, y’all.
Most of the time, they just don’t do it for me.
One of my biggest wounds has been around embodiment, and healing the deep rift between my mind and my body has been at the center of much of my wild feminine work. In our imbalanced masculine world, the mind is placed firmly on top of the body. This underlying belief can be seen in popular sayings like “mind over matter” and “no pain, no gain”. I was in that camp for a long time, and I have seen and felt the consequences of ignoring and bullying my body (and the feelings that reside within it) into submission. Now I long to bring the mind and body back into sacred and reciprocal relationship.
This is why I have an issue with affirmations. For me, affirmations can feel like a return to the top down approach, especially when the affirmation is not in alignment with my current felt experience and lived reality. In those cases, they actually serve to further entrench the mind-body split rather than to bridge it.
Let’s say I receive some news that is disappointing and I feel sad about it. If my affirmation is “I am grateful, I am joyful”, continuing to repeat that over and over again when it is not based in the truth of my current experience feels like I am lying to myself. It is a way of bypassing the difficult feelings or trying to change them without even pausing to acknowledge them.
When I look out into the world, I see many of us expending a lot of energy trying to NOT feel how we actually feel, particularly when those feelings are uncomfortable or when we label them as “unproductive” (which is a post for a whole other day). We make ourselves wrong for how we feel. Our mind becomes a bully, telling us what we should be feeling instead of listening for the truth of how we actually feel and becoming curious about that. We do everything we can think of to get out of that particular feeling.
When it comes to interpersonal relationships, we are beginning to remember the value of empathy. I have read so many great articles over the past couple of years on how to sit with someone who is in grief or experiencing difficult emotions. When we are empathizing and holding space, we bear witness to the truth of another’s emotions, experience, and pain without trying to change it or fix anything. We allow them to feel heard.
But how often do we do that for ourselves?
How often do we bear witness to our own difficult emotions?
Instead, we have a tendency to revert back to the old model of wanting to fix or change the feeling as quickly as possible.
What if, instead of trying to change the way that we feel (or explain it away or bypass it or minimize it), we do the opposite and actually turn towards it? What if we build a container to consciously enter into the truth of how we feel and approach it with curiosity?
My favorite way of doing this is through Qoya movement. If I am feeling sad and disappointed, I invite in sacred space and turn on a song that evokes and mirrors those feelings within me. I give my body a voice and allow her to tell the story of how she feels. There might be tears. There might be frustration. I allow it all to be expressed and witnessed and moved through.
It is only after those feelings have been truly felt, witnessed, and acknowledged that I invite in the possibility of something else. Because truthfully, we can feel sadness and disappointment at the same time that we experience gratitude and joy. There is room for all of it, if we open ourselves to it. So instead of exiling or ignoring the feelings that are uncomfortable, we welcome them with open arms and expand our capacity to feel it all.
After I have moved with the present feeling, I shake my whole body vigorously! I don’t shake off the sadness, but I explore whether I can shake off some of the heavier physical sensations in my body. It’s an experiment. I also love to make a lot of noise during the shaking. Scream. Yell. Roar!
Then, and only then, do I introduce the possibility of how I would like to feel instead. If I want to feel joy, I put on a song that feels joyful. If I want to feel power, I put on a song that makes me feel powerful. The movement becomes a prayer for what I would like to feel in my life, not what I believe I should be feeling. I remember that when I move out of the judgment of the mind, I can feel many contradictory feelings simultaneously. That my experience of life is not either/or, but both/and.
I also remember that the intensity at which I am able to feel how I want to feel is directly related to how deeply I am willing to feel everything else.
This is my invitation for you the next time you feel poopy. Instead of pretending that you don’t feel that way or trying to convince yourself to feel differently, go into the feeling. Turn towards it. Give it expression through your body. Bear witness to yourself. It is when we resist the truth of how we feel that we get stuck. We build walls and dams within ourselves – coping mechanisms, projection, thoughts that protect us from what we are not yet willing to see or acknowledge. Emotion wants to move and flow with your experience. Allow your waters to run clear.
Going into the body can be very tender, especially if it is not something you are familiar with. If you have not been present in your body for a long time, you might feel a lot of things or you might not feel anything at all for a while. There is no way to do it wrong. If you are moving through or processing any past traumas, holding space for yourself in this way might not feel safe at first. Listen to your inner wisdom. If it feels too big or too raw or like the feelings might overwhelm you, reach out to work with someone who can help you to hold that container initially.
Above all, be kind and gentle with yourself. Go slow. Take breaks. But do not abandon yourself and your truth, even when it feels uncomfortable.