This article originally appeared on VICE US
One of the ways I've found some relief in life is through a morning meditation practice. I don't practice meditation to become more enlightened, holy, or "pure" than other people. I do it to massage certain qualities within myself that make it difficult for me to live on Earth—qualities that include a discomfort with living in a body, a terror of both death and existence, and the desire to self-soothe using things that will actually destroy me.
Often I've felt like my morning meditation practice is just me meditating on how much I hate myself. Usually it takes me the full ten minutes of sitting for all of that gunk to finally come out of my head, so I may experience a bit of peace. In the past, I would stay in the meditation for a while longer and enjoy the newly-carved quiet place in my mind. But for the past year, when my buzzer rings after ten minutes, I'm kind of just like "Bitches, I'm out." It's as though the practice has turned into a duty: something that I am just checking off a list of things I need to do to be okay.
This is not to say that the goal of meditation practice is necessarily to have an enjoyable experience, or that there even is a goal. In the style of meditation I practice (which is really no style, just sitting on my ass with my eyes closed and breathing) there isn't a goal. But I do miss the serenity it often gave me in the past.
Every positive statement I am asked to make only makes me feel the deficits in my own self-esteem more fully.
Recently, in an effort to re-invigorate my practice, I've been doing some guided meditations, complete with positive affirmations, like a real fucking hippie. In some ways these guided meditations are easier, because they offer a distraction for my mind. In other ways they are much more difficult, because every positive statement I am asked to make only makes me feel the deficits in my own self-esteem more fully.
In the interest of self-inquiry, I decided to actually record some of the thoughts that go through my mind in response to these positive affirmations. It is my hope that this might help me to clear out the bad stuff in there more thoroughly and get back to that peaceful place.
Affirmation: I am grateful for every lesson I've learned and for those I still need to learn.
Response: Eh, not really. I feel like I've already learned a lot of lessons and the thought of having to learn any more lessons seems terrifying. I'm tired. Please don't make me grow any more. I'd be totally fine with not learning any new lessons.
Affirmation: I treat myself with love and kindness, because I am a wonderful being who deserves only the best and deserves to be happy.
Response: Who says I deserve to be happy? Really I'm just another consumerist American (and one who is often a little lazy about recycling). I could rant about political issues on Facebook, call myself an activist, but my tax money still goes to drones, bombs, and missiles. If I really got what I deserved, it probably wouldn't be happiness.
P.S. Didn't the Buddha decide that life was suffering? When did it become happiness?
Affirmation: I feel pure.
Affirmation: I trust the process of life and I am safe.
Response: The thing about life is that we are powerless over everything: especially death. So how the hell can you trust it? Seems to me that I'd have to be pretty egomaniacal to think that life is safe and is going to work out for me. Why would it work out for me but not for other people? The truth is that I can die at any moment. Any moment! So who is to say I'm not about to die right now?
Affirmation: I am beautiful.
Response: Any time I've thought this I ended up fucking someone with whom I had to fake an orgasm and/or accidentally walking into a wall.
Affirmation: I am perfect just as I am.
Response: Sorry, I just don't feel safe thinking this. What if I accept myself too much, totally let myself go to a point where I can never get back ("back" to the insanity of the beauty industry) and then regret having loved myself?
Affirmation: My body always knows what is best for me so I always listen to my body.
Response: If I listened to what my body thought was best for me, I'd be on heroin at Panda Express right now.
Affirmation: I am very grateful for the wonderful things and events that have manifested in my life.
Response: Is it me who has actually manifested these things? Or is it mostly just the luck of the time, place, and body that my soul decided to surface in? It seems kind of mean to people who don't have wonderful things and events in their lives to say that shit sucks because they haven't done enough manifesting. I mean, aren't we all trying to manifest wonderful things? Also, I feel like some of the wonderful things in my life probably piss people off. If someone else was having a lot of wonderful things and events happening in their life, and I wasn't having any wonderful things or events happening in my life, I would hate them.
Affirmation: I feel good.
Affirmation: I am attracted to food and drinks with high vibrational levels.
Response: Actually I'm attracted to packaged foods that tell you how many calories they contain. Also foods like diet ice cream and Splenda, wherein you can eat a shitload of them, not gain weight, and then die of cancer.
Affirmation: I exercise my body often to keep it in perfect shape.
Response: I exercise my body often, because I have body dysmorphia and an obsessive and compulsive personality that tells me if I don't exercise a crazy amount of minutes per week I'm going to blow up into a size that is unacceptable to me.
I know that the purpose of affirmations is not to create an immediate self-love fest like MDMA might provide, but to see exactly where these deficits in my self-esteem lie. Yet I'm not sure how one overcomes so many deficits. Perhaps through doing the repeated affirmations enough I will finally give in and just be like "OK, fuck it, I'm not that bad." Or maybe I will feel better about myself based on the sheer fact that I'm not some asshole telling people that their lives would be amazing, and that they would be healthy and rich, if only they believed more.
If you are concerned about your mental health or that of someone you know, visit 1177 Vårdguiden.
Illustrations by Joel Benjamin