An affirmation that actually works

Posted September 5, 2021 · 2 min read

About a month ago, I finished Mindfulness for Beginners, an excellent introduction to mindfulness, awareness, and meditation. Recently I've been thinking about something I read in the text — that Buddhists group "poisons", or toxic mind states, into three categories: greed, aversion, and delusion (or illusion).

The illustration that the book gave was this: if you experience something and want more, you've fallen into greed; if you want to minimize it or push it away, you've fallen into aversion; and if you don't notice you're experiencing it, you've fallen into delusion and ignorance. Mindfulness, then, is crucial to keep from falling into the poisons — you are simply aware of the experience as it is, and you accept it without trying to change it.

Wanting more

Since reading that chapter, I've noticed all three toxic categories in my life, but the most prominent one has been greed. I often find myself wanting more: excitement, rest, attention, success. I spend my precious time wrapped up in future visions, where my life is just "better".

In fact, I used to use the "more" metric whenever I tried a new dish — I asked myself if I wanted more of it as a way to assess how much I was enjoying it. (A clear violation not only of mindfulness but of the law of diminishing marginal utility.)

What is the purpose of living? Is it only to get someplace else and then when you're there realize that you are still not happy and you now want to be someplace else?

My thought patterns of greed and desire keep me from appreciating and dwelling in the present moment; instead, I feel dissatisfied and incomplete.

On affirmations

Last week I logged onto Pinterest only to discover that my feed was covered in infographics about morning routines, "glow up" recommendations, and daily affirmations. After showing my roommate some of the more ridiculous examples, we began to discuss affirmations. Could we think of one that we could actually use, that would mean something to us?

We came up with: you have everything that you need.

Since then, I keep on coming back to this statement. It reminds me of two crucial things:

  • that I can be grateful for all the things I have, and
  • that life is not about striving, but about acceptance.

Or, as Alan Watts would put it:

The whole problem of justifying nature, of trying to make life mean something in terms of its future, disappears utterly. Obviously, it all exists for this moment. It is a dance, and when you are dancing you are not intent on getting somewhere. You go round and round, but not under the illusion you are going somewhere.

What I have is enough; I don't need more to be complete. That's a truth worth affirming.


Julia Cooke © 2022