On our June Weekend Retreat we watched the documentary on Louise Hay – which relates to the theme of the meditation we had been doing; watching ones thoughts.
Louise Hay is an eighty year old ‘new age’ inspirational speaker and spiritual guide to thousands, if not millions. Certainly her books have reportedly sold over 35 million copies. In her 60’s she wrote her best seller You Can Heal Your Life in which the central message is hammered home – you can change your life, health, and even your finances, if you only change the way that you think.
Changing your thoughts is no easy thing however. Positive thinking is not an easy task. You have set up an endless karma with your thinking, where thoughts will replay according to your past thoughts and the importance (karmic weight) you have given them. Here Hay goes a step beyond most other ‘positive thinking’ philosophies by providing an effective and pr oven method to turn about ones thought patterns. She calls this method ‘affirmations’.
The Buddha recognised that thoughts are distracting, troubling, and sometimes dangerous. In one sutta he finds himself in a grave yard at night where the merest gust of wind swirling around a few leaves sets his bones chattering and his hair standing on end with fright. He refuses to let the thoughts overpower him, and vows on each occasion that if he is sitting, he will continue to sit until the fear and dread has passed. If he is walking he will keep on walking until the fear and dread has passed. Etc…
While the practise requires one to give up all thought (See Dvedavitakka Sutta which explicitly states that one must stop even the good thoughts) when thought patterns, or ‘scripting’ as psychologists call it, are negative and unwholesome they should be carefully managed, just like a cowherd who carefully tends his cows in the rainy season when they might wander on farmers crops earning him a beating. To do this, one method given is to bang out the unwholesome thoughts by replacing them with wholesome ones. In other words, positive thinking.
While we have had this pragmatic teaching in Buddhism for 2500 years, Louise Hay has taken it to a whole different level. No, her teaching will not gain you enlightenment in the Buddhist sense, but it is an entirely sensible and proven method for replacing unwholesome thoughts with positive ones. Her ‘affirmations’ entail endless repeating to yourself of set lines. A mental exercise for the thinking that works in a similar way as physical exercise works for the muscles.
- I love myself, therefore I forgive and totally release the past and all past experiences and I am free.
- Deep at the centre of my being there is an infinite well of love.
- I love myself, therefore I love totally in the now, experiencing each moment as good and knowing that my future is bright, and joyous and secure, for I am a beloved child of the universe and the universe lovingly takes care of me now and forever more.
Cheesy these affirmations might be, but they do work. They have worked and changed the lives, and health, of millions of people world wide. Most especially they have worked in the American culture where the practise has grown up in response to quixotically American issues of self worth and self esteem. You can write your own affirmations according to your particular blockages and needs. In fact, the affirmations are not entirely different from some Tibetan lineages that give individual practises to the yogis of concentration on certain deities depending on ones disposition. For instance, if you are trying to develop compassion you focus on Avalokiteshvara (or other deity) along with the requisite mantra. These repeated determinations, counted on a mechanical clicker carried in the hand, can turn the thought patterns around very effectively. Along with Hay’s affirmations comes plentiful good advice for making them work. One central theme is that of forgiveness for all people around you: She explains you do not have to figure out how to forgive. You are to complete your affirmation exercises until you are willing to forgive, and the universe will take care of the rest.
It is not necessary to examine Louise Hay and her spiritual guidance to advance spiritually. But if you are the victim of negative scripting in your thought patterns it might be worth giving it a try.
Our group had a varying response to the movie. It was just too new age for some, and too slick and market orientated for others. It was certainly pushing a product, but as Dr Holly pointed out, the product is a worthy one. It is a message of transformation by a lady who has proven her effectiveness in changing people’s lives. The far reaching health effects were questioned, particularly the inevitable cancer-cure claims (by the patients themselves). However the general mood was one of appreciation, and recognition that here is a person who has taken to the heights a straightforward teaching that we find in Buddhism, and changed people’s lives with it.