The Everyday Magic of the “I Am” Meditations
(or: How to Stop Worrying and Love Yourself)
Part 1 – Theory
The beauty of the “I am” meditations – plural, for you’re always free to adjust them to your comfort zone and make them your own – is that they work no matter what your belief system or lack thereof.
If you are Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, “I am that I am” is equated with God’s name in the Old Testament. If you are Shinto, Buddhist, or otherwise take Nature as your deity, “I am” puts you in identification and empathy with the natural sources of life. If you are an Atheist, and believe there is no personal God outside the self, then revering nature and putting a positive spin on yourself is just survival. No matter where you are on the scale of belief or disbelief, it is also plain good sense. And whether you believe it works at a subconscious level or a spiritual one, if done regularly this meditation does work to heal and calm.
People naturally use their own version of the “I am” mantra as a form of self-hypnosis, and the way they use it affects every sphere of their lives. On the negative side, “I am ugly/inadequate/a loser/pointless/stupid/poor/a failure/a mistake/cursed/unlovable/unlikable/unworthy” – however the self-negation is framed – becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and eventually a vicious circle of self-loathing. It is usually accompanied by either shallow and listless or rushed and anxious breathing.
It also becomes other-loathing. The misanthropic go on about the evils of humanity, born of our Will to Power. This is the thinking of deeply unhappy minds and denies everyday goodness and the little joys that make up so very many fulfilled lives. Isn’t the Will to Happiness stronger than the Will to Power? The fact of the matter is that most people, given a choice, would not define happiness as power over others. And most would not trade the things/people that make them happy in their ordinary, wonderful lives for any type of power. Most would take happiness over power any day.
Yet all around us we also see people taking their own names in vain; we see the seeds and sprouts of all that pollutes their happiness and world. Depression, hatred, violence, slander, greed, all of these are born of fear, untreated mental illness (which we all experience to greater or lesser degrees for greater or lesser time periods) and low self-esteem, and they have brought us nothing of true value. Everything of value in society has developed in spite of these fearful, fearsome tendencies in people, not because of them.
Some say that to identify oneself with “God” is blasphemy. In fact, the opposite is true. It is not ego to conflate oneself with God, where “God” is defined as “goodness, kindness, creativity, abundance, and expansion of the positive”. The Holy Books call in places for the identification of oneself with God (Psalms 82:6; John 10: 25-30); the Biblical Jesus called himself Son and all of us Children of God and exhorted these Children to follow his example of godliness, love and acceptance. Similarly, Ramana Maharshi said that God, guru, and the Self are the same. This is, again, just good sense – and responsible humanity.
In reciting the “I am” meditation, one variant includes the repeating of both “I am” and “Maya”, the latter being one traditional name given to Nature, the Earth. This reminds the practitioner that they are not a mistake but as much a part of Nature as the birds, the trees, the soil, and the elements. There are no mistakes here, just fragments of Life Energy developing at their own speeds, in their own planes of existence, at this moment in time.
It may also remind the practitioner that cleansing your own life is not selfish, but a service to all life. Many books and movies and articles have been written about the interconnectedness of all souls in ways we may never see or note but are entirely real. Every moment of your life has brought you to this one; even those moments you think you would erase bring you to the experiences you wouldn’t trade for all the world.
Therefore, there is value in reminding yourself that you are part of nature, that you are important to keep optimal, that you are not alone – and that all the little victories and defeats of life are ephemeral, while that which is eternal will always be available to you in moments of stillness and mindfulness.
Identifying yourself with the positive energy in the universe simply feels amazing, because when you don’t choose to focus only on the negative, there’s a mind-blowing amount to like about life, the universe, and our blue planet in particular. Keep lists of things and people you love, note and reminisce on moments that bring you joy. Don’t fetishize the negatives in life or define yourself by your worst moments. Celebrate yourself and the good in your life every chance you get.
Identifying yourself as unworthy of existence is not only unpleasant, it is also wrong. Does Saturn question its own existence? Rest assured you are as much a part of the universe as Saturn, and no more a mistake. To take your own name in vain is the ultimate blasphemy because it starts a vicious circle of self-defeat and prevents the perfection of your particular unit of life-energy.
This does not mean that we should never acknowledge our errors or fully experience such negative emotions as sadness, grief, or fear; it means we should not pathologically choose to live in them forever. As a defense against the unexpected, to live in memory-influenced worry is useless – most of what we guard against never happens, and too much worry and mistrust of others can actually kill us from stress. It will never be a bad idea to try to feel better as soon as it is reasonable to do so.
However, this may be easier said than done to many. Any difficulty staying positive should not be another source of stress. However, it is also not the impossible task some will tell you it is. It is a muscle that can be developed, and like developing any kind of muscle, failure will depend on whether you come to see the exercise as a chore or an enjoyable way of life. (It also means finding the regimen that works for you.)
Some will tell you that many of us cannot stay positive because happiness is not a natural state in a dog-eat-dog world. This nonsense is like telling a physically unfit person that it is unnatural to exercise when clearly the body’s “natural” tendency is to be out of shape. Our evolution in a dangerous world may well have left some anxiety in our DNA, to oversimplify the science of it all, but if our evolution into couch potatoes does not make couch potato-hood our natural optimal state, our evolution into “stress puppies” does not make stress puppy-hood natural or optimal, either.
When you regularly (and easily) exercise your positivity by ending the phrase “I am” with booster words, you evolve the terms into joyful reality. Dr. Wayne Dyer expressed the faces of Intention as Creativity, Kindness, Love, Beauty, Abundance, Expansion, and Receptivity, and I like to end my “I am” sentences with these words to start. You may add your own: Strong Health, Freedom, Prosperity, Friendship, Comfort, whatever you intend to have and be.
Practice saying, “I am Freedom. I am Peace. I am Abundance,” or whatever “I am” will heal and advance you. It will not allow you to walk on water or raise the dead, but it will certainly make you feel better, and feel-good energy breeds more of the same. All positive change in your life will come through this process.
Above all else, be happiness. Be aware that it is a choice and can exist no matter the external conditions, as Dr. Wayne reminded us by introducing us to Immaculée Ilibagiza, whose positivity withstood and allowed her to survive the very worst horrors of humanity. Happiness, apart from being wonderful unto itself, can even be a kind of rebellion against imperfect conditions, against any who might wish you unhappiness of any kind. If there are truly those who wish you ill, do not reward them with your self-loathing.
It is far more likely, however, if you live in what is referred to as the First World, that the greatest contributors to your unhappiness are not other people but your own darker emotions: anxiety, regret, guilt – all the emotions, in fact, that take your sense of self and happiness outside the present moment. Anxiety is fear of an unknown future, while regret and guilt are useless muddling over the unchangeable past. You are free to leave them behind at any time – by refusing to obsess over them endlessly. You owe no one the illness of such obsession.
Some will tell you it is unreasonable to be happy when the world is so wrong in so many places, so many ways. No. It is unreasonable to be unhappy, and add to the negative in the world when you have a choice in the matter. (This does not mean you should not fully feel grief or sadness when such emotions are appropriate, only that you should at normal times strive to be as positive in yourself as possible.) It is reasonable to enhance your happiness by trying to have a positive impact on the wrongs you see rather than obsessively bewailing them.
Unhappy people have a hard time just getting out of bed, let alone affecting positive change, even in their own homes. Apart from just calming you, which it can certainly do, Meditation puts you back in the moment (and trains you to stay there), where happiness is always a valid choice, no matter what the temporary circumstances of your life.
Part 2 – Practice
The “I am” meditation as I practice it changes form quite often. Sometimes all words are recited silently, sometimes I speak them, sometimes write them, sometimes draw images as well. Sometimes I meditate in silence, sometimes with music or nature sounds. Sometimes I do just a quick emergency calm-down meditation at times of stress; most of the time I indulge in a long, unhurried everyday healing meditation for long-term regular effects.
If you are a beginner, I recommend synchronizing your breath to this diagram (it is also seen at the bottom of this site’s contact page), which has been shown to help people who suffer from anxiety attacks and provides the proper meditative rhythm. The simple act of regular deep breathing has huge wellness benefits even when no other components of meditation accompany it.
For sound, you may prefer silence, the sounds of nature, soft music, vibrations, other people chanting – fortunately, we live in a time when these are readily available online. Just enter the search terms, “soft music for meditation” “nature sounds for meditation”, whatever you prefer. There is, as with all aspects of meditation, no right or wrong here. It is whatever makes you most comfortable.
Some people prefer closed eyes, others open. I have done both, but if I’m sleepy and want to keep them open while remaining peaceful, I will sometimes look at a painting I love or pull up a video of a kaleidoscope or natural scene online. Again, there is no right or wrong here, just whatever brings you relaxation and joy.
I prefer to sit cross-legged on the floor in some places, on the couch in my current place which has drafty floorboards, but again there are no rules. Some prefer to sit with both feet on the floor (“grounding”), others may even prefer to stand, and some people may have physical conditions that limit their comfortable choices. You can be in an undisturbed space indoors or outdoors, sitting or standing, and you don’t have to stay in the same position if it grows uncomfortable. Continue to make yourself comfortable, wherever you are, throughout the process.
I usually do about 20-30 minutes, though even 5 minutes will help, and the more the better. I sometimes just visualize my power words, or sometimes write them as I meditate, while reciting “I am that I am.” Power words for me include: Creating/Creativity, Loving/Love, Beauty/Beautifying, Kindness/Being Kind, Freedom/Freeing, Forgiving/Being Forgiven, Abounding/Abundance, Expanding/Expansion, Receiving/Receptivity, Thankful/Thanking. I like to put both an active and a passive or noun form to remind myself about the dual nature of all things in life, and that both action and passivity are required in life at different times.
You recite what you want to manifest in your life and self, and always remember to be thankful for the good rather than obsessing over what’s missing. While doing this, identify yourself with God/the Force/the Source/the Quintessence/your highest self no matter what you call it, by saying “I am that, I am.” When “that” is Love, you are love. When “that” is Kindness, so are you, and so, by identification, is the Source of Life towards you in your consciousness.
It doesn’t matter if you believe in an actual deity. This works at a subliminal, subconscious level no matter what your belief system. You are not brainwashing, but brain-cleansing yourself to be the optimal you. You are cleaning out the gunk of your past – the self-doubts, angers, hurts, fears that life has put into your subconscious, retraining your brain from its old self-defeating exercises. It is up to you to choose whether to clean out the debris of that which has hurt you in life, or to let it infect and control you forever. You do have this choice, and while there is some work involved in feeling better, it’s happy work. The alternative is unhappy drudgery.
Doing this meditation first thing every day is optimal, but it can be done at any time. It is best to make it part of your routine to get the most benefit from it. It can also be quickly adapted to take charge of stressful moments at any time. I hope that this meditation works for you as it has for me, but I certainly urge you to find the meditation that you can make a daily, pleasurable workout for your mind and spirit. Namaste!
Author: Dana Hynes ♥