What Do You Say When You Talk to Yourself?

I used to call my Mom “potty mouth.” Not only did she like to use expletives when she dropped things (which she did a lot, bless her, due to incredibly arthritic hands), but she also said things like “how stupid of me!” or “Dumb, Barbara, really dumb” quite frequently. If things didn’t go as she planned or she found herself standing in a room not quite remembering why she walked in, the litany would begin.

So what? you might ask. I say stuff like that all the time and I know  I’m not really stupid. But words have power — our bodies believe every word we say, and our mind lives in every cell of our bodies.

“Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones…”

The new science of neuroplasticity tells us “thinking, learning, and acting actually change both the brain’s physical structure and functional organization.” (from Wikipedia). Research shows that “repetition of the same information or experience may lead to more modifications in the connections that house it, or an increase in the number of connections that can access it…as a result of the amazing plasticity of our brains.”

Consider too the work of Dr. Masaru Emoto. He shows through vivid photographic images how simply placing a written word on a glass of water changes the structure of the water molecules. The structures become more coherent and symmetrical in the presence of words like “love” and “joy” and more fractured in the presence of words like “hate” or “intolerance.”

You are over 75% water – what words and energies do you want reverberating in
your body/mind? Knowing that they are malleable and changeable, how can you shift your train of thought when it starts heading down the path of least resistance?

You can start to call the shots

Thoughts are like bowling. There’s a pathway that you want to send the ball down, and sometimes it lands in the gutter. So you practice your throw and find that it starts staying more easily in the lane, knocking over pins at the end. And with even more practice and concentration, you are able to get that ball down the center and score more strikes with each game.

The mind isn’t that different, and there is a way to keep it out of the gutter – by training it with phrases of loving-kindness and mantras of wellbeing.

It’s clear to me that the more time I spend in meditation and mantra repetition, the more fluid my emotional world is and the less likely I am to stay engaged in negative self-talk when I find myself slipping up.

The Magic of Blessing

Many spiritual paths use blessings and repetition of specific phrases as forms of mind training. Through the concentrated use of these phrases, it’s possible to override negative thought patterns and invoke feelings of peace, happiness and compassion for oneself and others.

Here is a lovely series of phrases from the Buddhist tradition. You invoke them first for yourself, because compassion for others must begin with compassion for oneself, and because we are often harder on ourselves than on anyone else.

After repeating them for a while, replace “I” with the name of someone who has helped you or been an inspiration; then the names of friends and loved ones; then someone who you don’t really know but see in the post office or behind your deli counter; then those who you find especially challenging; and then say the phrases ‘for all beings everywhere.’

May I dwell in the heart,
may I be free from suffering,
may I be healed
may I live with ease.

Stay with this as long as you’d like, and repeat as often as possible. You can even challenge yourself to use this practice in the midst of your busy day, silently sending blessings instead of curses to the slow cashier whose line you’re impatiently stuck in, or the person who honks if you don’t move the millisecond the light turns green. And see if you don’t begin to have more emotional strikes than gutter balls, no matter what is going on around you.