I have said for a long time that language has meaning, but have meant more than that a word has a definition. The definition is the denotation, the strict or literal meaning of a word. But, there is also a connotation—the suggested or implied meaning—to the words, the language that we chose to describe ourselves, our circumstances, our story. We have all met people who we would describe as a victim. Yes, that person has had a terrible thing happen to them, but it is as if because of that terrible incident they have defined him or herself as a victim, as if that terrible thing were happening over and over again every day. The incident has become who the person is rather than being just a part of that person’s life story. That person, in some sense, becomes debilitated or almost debilitated. She or he has trouble functioning and suffers from the incident every day. Others seem to be able to create language that defines such an incident as something that has happened to them, but not as a definition of themselves.
Most of us, fortunately, do not suffer in this way; however, all of us, including me, at times use language about ourselves that can become a block to moving forward; that sets limits or boundaries on what we think we can accomplish; and that stands in the way of our being able to see possibilities. We will say that I cannot do this or that; that I am unlucky, or that I am not ever able to finish something, for example. We can see the potential new ways of being and acting when we dissolve those limitations and see that options for acting and ways of being in fact actually exist in our lives and in the world.
One of the things I asked this client to do was the exercise called I am of Value exercise contained in my book, Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be. This exercise is based on image number 51 contained in Part 1 of Opening the Heart. I asked her to do this exercise because her default language around disappointments was that she is unlucky, that she cannot do things correctly, and the like. It was also clear that she is undervaluing herself and not acknowledging to herself how bright and talented she is.
This is meditation image number 51:
The expanded text in Part 2 of Opening the Heart is:
“You are the Beloved.
The One has created you. The One is infinite love, and, therefore, you are the Beloved of the One. This is the main piece of knowledge in your heart. Accept it. Acknowledge it.
In what ways can you fully live with this knowledge? What can you do to wholly, accept, integrate, and acknowledge this fact?”
The exercise I asked my client to do has you meditate on this image to breathe deeply, go deeply into your heart and ask it what of you is of value about you. Then you list the things it tells you. The point of the exercise is to help you see yourself literally with language of the heart; to bring language that describes you differently than that you usually use into your life; and then to help you integrate that new language into your consciousness.
One of the points of this exercise is to move out of our egos and to move into that deepest self that resides in or, at least, communicates with us through our hearts. We, in modern Western culture, have been taught that mind, intelligence resides only in the brain. But this has not always been true across time. It is my understanding (and I could certainly misunderstand this) that the ancients Egyptians thought that intelligence or wisdom resides in the heart. (And, I have had experiences of wisdom for myself coming from places other than my brain/mind.)
I was quite amazed at what some of the things my heart told me when I did this exercise. The part of me that is an introvert that does not want to feel as if I am bragging is a bit shy about sharing the list that my heart gave me. However, as I do ask people to share what they receive, if they feel comfortable, during workshops, I will ask that part of me to understand about sharing with others. This is the list that my heart gave me that it values about me: laughter, intelligence, nurturing, sparkle, wisdom, depth of feeling, clear-sightedness, peace, flame, willingness to work, belief in miraculousness, stick-to-itiveness, and too many things it would take too long to count.
If you choose to do this exercise, I believe that one of the ways that you know that the list comes from your heart is when you receive words and phrases that you would not consciously choose to describe yourself. Then, please work to integrate these things into your conscious being, change your language about yourself and, thus change your story.