At least twice a week, I tear myself away from my writing, scoot out of my study, and stride down the sidewalk away from my house. I have a cell phone pressed to my ear, but there is no call. My iPhone is a decoy, so that my neighbors will not conclude that my grueling schedule of writing for five straight hours a day finally has tipped me into talking to myself. “I play the piano with compassion and understanding,” I chant in a clear voice into the phone. I am on my Affirmations Walk.
I round the corner onto a side street. “Dedicated to the piano, I practice five times a week.” As I pass a neighbor with a casual wave, I angle my head in a listening pose, as though the party on the other end of the cell-phone network is responding. Once the neighbor is out of earshot, I speak with concentration: “I perform my classical piano music with passion and confidence.”
At least twice a week for the past fifteen months, I have taken my Affirmations Walk, a ritual that I believe has helped me (along with lots of practice) achieve my goals with respect to the piano. After affirming that I practice five times a week, I remember to log off email, turn off the computer, and sit down on the piano bench. Citing the affirmation that I perform with confidence reminds me to seek performance opportunities and to approach them with as much confidence as I can muster. The walk has helped catalyze for me a change of life.
Affirmations “should be in the present tense, contain only positive words, and serve as a response to an often-heard negative message,” explains Robert S. Ivker, D.O. and past president of the American Holistic Medical Association. Most importantly, they should give expression to a goal. In my case, my thirty affirmations span aspects from health to profession to relationships. To combat a tendency to sinusitis, I affirm, “My sinuses have healed.” With regard to my husband, David, I repeat our marriage vow: “I love, honor, and comfort David all the days of my life.”
While I usually chant my affirmations during a loop around my neighborhood, I have also been known to state them (while pretending to be in a mobile call) while waiting for my children at school or rushing up a Manhattan avenue for a meeting. I only require ten minutes to run through all thirty affirmations. If I skip the process, usually it’s because I’m avoiding my own procrastination, one of my faults that marks me as part of the Adult Children of Alcoholics tribe.
Affirmations do not have the power to change the future: rather, they make you more aware of opportunities teeming around you. In an example I cherish, Ivker in Sinus Survival tells the story of a single nurse in her fifties who lived in a small town with no prospects for marriage. Although dubious, she recited, “I am happily married.” Two months later, a former professor called after his wife had passed away, and now the nurse really is happily married. The secret in this modern day love story: declaring her affirmation did not cause the professor to call her, but when he did call, she was receptive to the possibility of love.
As an added bonus, Affirmations Walks grant me a dose of fresh air and put me in touch with unfolding seasons. A few weeks ago, while taking a loop around Brookdale Park as winter was drawing to a close, I noticed with pleasure how the dark limbs of the bare trees looked so sharply demarcated against the gray-blue sky. My life, although not without its heartaches, felt clear to me.