Back in the ’60s, a CIA investigator named Cleve Backster claimed to have discovered that plants can detect thought. More recently, a researcher named Dr. Masaru Emoto claimed that water can also detect thought and form crystals that reflect positive or negative vibrations. Both have been called pseudo-scientists and have acquired plenty of skeptics.
I don’t know if their claims are true or not, but I do believe that thoughts have power. This is the reason why hypochondriacs often fall ill and why people who are given placebos often quickly recover. The power of positive thought is huge. Likewise, when someone is consumed by negative thoughts, whether it be anger or depression, that energy is palpable to everyone within their radius. I believe that if you told yourself negative thoughts consistently, you would begin to manifest those beliefs. The same with positive.
Repeating to yourself affirmations or mantras like “I am beautiful, I am strong, I am healthy, I am well” can only serve to make you stronger, happier and more radiant. You should be able to love yourself and be your own best friend. This doesn’t mean that you are better than others. Indeed, there will always be someone more beautiful, smart, strong, accomplished, etc. But there are truly great things about you. For example, I have a spectacular belly button.
In Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” he says, “I celebrate myself, and sing myself … Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son/Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking and breeding … Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touch’d from/The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer … If I worship one thing more than another it shall be the spread of my own body, or any part of it … Mix’d tussled hay of head, beard, brawn, it shall be you! … I dote on myself, there is that lot of me and all so luscious/Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with joy/I cannot tell how my ankles bend, nor whence the cause of my faintest wish … I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable/I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world …”
He loves himself because he realizes the gift of his body and of life. It may not be a perfect body, but it is his. Fifty years before him and across the Atlantic, William Wordsworth composed a similarly rhapsodic “Ode” about the miracle of life: “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting/The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,/Hath had elsewhere its setting,/And cometh from afar: Not in entire forgetfulness, And not in utter nakedness/But trailing clouds of glory do we come…”
David McCullough’s commencement speech made the internet rounds a few weeks ago, shocking and delighting many with his seemingly refreshing message: “You are not special.” The speech made many great points, and the underlying theme is to stop congratulating yourself for merely existing and go out and accomplish something worthwhile. It’s true that life is hard, and that it’s particularly hard for today’s graduates and others dealing with the recession, and that it’s important to work diligently and be realistic. But I also think it is dangerous to tie one’s self-worth to, for example, a high-powered career title, a Nobel peace prize, a huge bank account, lots of Facebook friends, etc. Sometimes I feel like we feel so pressured to accumulate outward signs of success. If your personal goal in life is to earn an Olympic medal or a doctorate in quantum mechanics, than that is an admirable ambition. But if you really just want to enjoy the simple pleasures in life and don’t do anything that everyone else thinks is grand — if you don’t ever get on reality TV or lauded by Oprah or get mentioned in The New York Times— that doesn’t mean that you aren’t insanely special. And you should tell yourself, every day, that you are, and you should believe it. And when you do, you will eventually find your own path, your own life’s fulfillment, and lots of joy. We may not be perfect, but we have a whole lot of potential. One of my favorite quotes is by Nietzsche: “One must have chaos within oneself to give birth to a dancing star.” And finally, from Edison — not anyone’s over-indulgent mother — “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”