AWAKEN: Louise, I am just so happy to spend this time with you! I have admired your work and your writings for so long,
and it is a thrill to finally share this moment and ask you some questions one on one. As this is for Awaken.com and we love to explore all things that foster the awakening of humanity, I’d like to get right into it and ask you what it means to awaken… or to become enlightened…
LOUISE HAY: To me, to be enlightened is to go within and to know who and what we really are, and to know that we have the ability to change for the better by loving and taking care of ourselves.
AWAKEN: Interesting that the state of awakening starts with the resolve to take care of ourselves. The cultivation of self love and the feeling of self-worth seems to be at the root of so much of our healing, doesn’t it?
LOUISE: I continue to explain that no matter what their problem seems to be, there is only one thing I ever work on with anyone, and this is loving the self. Love is the miracle cure. .
AWAKEN: But so often, this is mistaken as self-centeredness, but this has nothing to do with ego…
LOUISE: I am not talking about vanity or arrogance or being stuck up, for that is not love. It’s not selfish to love ourselves. It clears us so that we can love ourselves enough to love other people. I am talking about having a great respect for ourselves and gratitude for the miracle of our bodies and our minds.
AWAKEN: What would true self love look like?
LOUISE: We accept all the different parts of ourselves – our little peculiarities, the embarrassments, the things we may not do so well, and all the wonderful qualities, too. We accept the whole package with love. Unconditionally.
AWAKEN: And when you speak of love… simply “love,” without any object, what do you mean?
LOUISE: “Love“ to me, is a deep appreciation… to such a degree that it fills my heart to bursting and it overflows. Love can go in any direction.
AWAKEN: Yet, we generally feel love for something or someone, but when we are bursting with it, then it seems that it is limitless…
LOUISE: I can feel love for:
The very process of life itself.
The joy of being alive.
The beauty I see.
The process of the mind.
Our bodies and the way they work.
Animals, birds, fish.
Vegetation in all its forms.
The universe and the way it works.
AWAKEN: And when we don’t extend love to ourselves, how does that show up in our lives?
LOUISE: We scold and criticize ourselves endlessly.
We mistreat our bodies with food, alcohol, and drugs.
We choose to believe we are unlovable.
We are afraid to charge a decent price for our services.
We create illnesses and pain in our bodies.
We procrastinate on things that would benefit us.
We live in chaos and disorder.
We create debt and burdens.
We attract lovers and mates who belittle us.
AWAKEN: The idea of creating illness is still met with disbelief by many… Can you comment on the mechanism by which this happens?
LOUISE: I’ve learned that there are really just two mental patterns that contribute to dis-ease: fear and anger. Anger can show up as impatience, irritation, frustration, criticism, resentment, jealousy, or bitterness. These are all thoughts that poison the body. When we release this burden, all the organs in our body begin to function properly. Fear could be tension, anxiety, nervousness, worry, doubt, insecurity, feeling not good enough, or unworthiness. We must learn to substitute faith for fear if we are to heal… if you find yourself with some sort of dis-ease, become your own investigator and healer. Ask yourself: Is it one of the forms of fear or is it one of the forms of anger? Are you willing to release those thoughts? Are you willing to replace those thoughts with positive affirmations? Loving yourself will contribute greatly to healing your body, for love heals.
AWAKEN: What are some other ways that the lack of self love shows up in everyday life?
LOUISE: Our partner is tired and grouchy. We wonder what we have done wrong to cause it.
Our marriage ends, and we are sure we are a failure.
We are afraid to ask for a raise.
Our bodies do not match those in Gentleman’s quarterly or Vogue magazine, and we feel inferior.
We don’t “make the sale,“ or “get the part,“and we are sure we are “not good enough.“
We are afraid of intimacy and allowing anyone to get too close, so we have anonymous sex.
We can’t make decisions because we are sure they will be wrong.
AWAKEN: I’m sure that everyone can see themselves in at least some of those examples… can you recommend a meditation or daily practice that would serve as an antidote to this deficiency of self love?
LOUISE: I ask clients to pick up a small mirror, look into their own eyes, and say their names and, “I love and accept you exactly as you are.” This is so difficult for many people. Seldom do I get a calm reaction, let alone enjoyment from this exercise. Some cry or are close to tears, some get angry, some belittle their features or qualities, some insist they CAN’T do it. I even had one man throw the mirror across the room and want to run away. It took him several months before he could begin to relate to himself in the mirror.
For years I looked into the mirror only to criticize what I saw there. Recalling the endless hours I spent plucking my eyebrows trying to make myself fairly acceptable amuses me now. I remember it used to frighten me to look into my own eyes.
This simple exercise shows me so much. In less than an hour, I am able to get to some of the core issues that are beneath the outer problem. If we work only on the level of the problem, we can spend endless time working out each and every detail; and the minute we think we have it all “fixed up,” it will crop up somewhere else.
AWAKEN: The problems that manifest from the lack of self love are so vast. To be clear, you are saying that the one common denominator in all healing journeys is the discovery of self love?
LOUISE: After years of individual counseling with clients and conducting hundreds of workshops and intensive training programs across the country and around the world, I found that there is only one thing that heals every problem, and that is: to love yourself. When people start to love themselves more each day, it’s amazing how their lives get better. They feel better. They get the jobs they want. They have the money they need. Their relationships either improve, or the bad ones dissolve and new ones begin. It’s a very simple premise – loving yourself. I’ve been criticized for being too simplistic, and I have found that the simple things are usually the most profound. Someone said to me recently, “you gave me the most wonderful gift – you gave me the gift of myself.” So many of us hide from ourselves and we don’t even know who we are. We don’t know what we feel, we don’t know what we want. Life is a voyage of self discovery.
AWAKEN: Do you believe that everything that happens to us is something we ourselves chose for the purpose of our own awakening?
LOUISE: I believe each one of us decides to incarnate upon this planet at a particular point in time and space. We have chosen to come here to learn a particular lesson that will advance us on our spiritual, evolutionarily pathway.
AWAKEN: But yet, so much of our suffering seems to come from the feeling of having been wronged by others, and we fall into this sort of “victim consciousness” that makes it hard to move forward… what are your thoughts on that?
LOUISE HAY: We are all victims of victims, and they could not possibly have taught us anything they did not know. If your mother did not know how to love herself, or your father did not know how to love himself, then it would be impossible for them to teach you to love yourself. They were doing the best they could with what they had been taught as children. If you want to understand your parents more, get them to talk about their own childhood; and if you listen with compassion, you will learn where their fears and rigid patterns come from. Those people who “did all that stuff to you” were just as frightened and scared as you are.
AWAKEN: Maybe it’s just another way that we cling to the past, which prevents us from enjoying our life, right here, right now?
LOUISE: Many people come to me and say they cannot enjoy today because of something that happened in the past. Because they did not do something or do it in a certain way in the past, they cannot live a full life today. Because they no longer have some thing they had in the past, they cannot enjoy today. Because they were hurt in the past, they will not accept love now. Because something unpleasant happened when they did something once, they are sure it will happen again today. Because they wanted something that they are sorry for, they are sure they are bad people forever. Because once someone did something to them, it is now all the other person’s fault that their life is not where they want it to be. Because they became angry over a situation in the past, they will hold onto that self righteousness. Because of some very old experience where they were treated badly, they will never forgive and forget.
Because I did not get invited to the high school prom, I cannot enjoy life today.
Because I did poorly at my first audition, I will be terrified of auditions forever.
Because I am no longer married, I cannot live a full life today.
Because I was hurt by a remark once, I will never trust anyone again.
Because I stole something once, I must punish myself forever.
Because I was poor as a child, I will never get anywhere.
What we often refuse to realize is that holding onto the past – no matter what it was or how awful it was – is ONLY HURTING US. “They” really don’t care. Usually, “they” are not even aware. We are only hurting ourselves by refusing to live in this moment to the fullest.
AWAKEN: And so, it all boils down to reclaiming our sense of responsibility over ourselves and our own inner power?
LOUISE: Don’t give your power over to other people’s pictures of right and wrong. They only have power over us when we give our power to them. Groups of people give their power over to others. It happens in a lot of cultures. Women in our culture give their power to men. They say things like, “my husband won’t allow me to.” Well that’s certainly giving your power away.
AWAKEN: I can certainly relate to that example, having once been married to a domineering man!
LOUISE: A woman once shared with me that when she got married, she was very unassertive because that was the way she was brought up. It took years for her to realize that her conditioning kept her locked in a corner. She blamed everyone – her husband and her in-laws – for her problems. Eventually, she divorced her husband, however, she still blamed him for so many things that were not right in her life. It took her 10 years to relearn her patterns and to take her power back. In hindsight, she realized that she was responsible for not speaking up and for not standing up for herself — not her husband or her in-laws. They were there to reflect back to her what she felt inside – a sense of powerlessness.
AWAKEN: We give our power away by holding onto victim consciousness, don’t we?
LOUISE: If we play the victim role, then we are using our personal power to be helpless. If we decide to accept responsibility, then we don’t waste time blaming somebody or something out there.
AWAKEN: And again, to make this absolutely clear, responsibility means taking back our power?
LOUISE: When I talk about responsibility, I am really talking about having power. Blame is about giving away one’s power.
We must understand that we have the choice to use this power in any way. If we choose to live in the past and rehash all of the negative situations and conditions that went on way back when, then we stay stuck where we are. If we make a conscious decision to not be victims of the past and go about creating new lives for ourselves, we are supported by this power within, and new, happier experiences begin to unfold.
AWAKEN: Again, this really drives home the importance of presence… because that rehashing is just another way to cling to the past, isn’t it?
LOUISE: This is the only moment we can experience. The past is over and done and cannot be changed. Even when we lament about the past, we are experiencing our memory of it in this moment, and losing the real experience of this moment in the process. I know this sounds simple, but remember, the point of power is always in the present moment.
AWAKEN: Why is it so hard for us to live in the present moment? What holds us back?
LOUISE: I know that when we are stuck, it usually means that there is some forgiving to be done. The Course in Miracles says over and over that forgiveness is the answer to almost everything. When we do not flow freely with life in the present moment, it usually means we are holding on to a past moment. It can be regret, sadness, hurt, fear, or guilt, blame, anger, resentment, and sometimes even the desire for revenge. Each one of these states comes from a space of unforgiveness, a refusal to let go and come into the present moment. Love is always the answer to healing of any sort. And the pathway to love is forgiveness. Forgiveness dissolves resentment. There are several ways in which I approach this.
AWAKEN: Could you share any of your favorite ways?
LOUISE: There is an old Emmett Fox exercise for dissolving resentment that always works. He recommends that you sit quietly, close your eyes, and allow your mind and body to relax. Then, imagine yourself sitting in a darkened theater, and in front of you is a small stage. On that stage, place the person you resent the most. It could be someone in the past or present, living or dead. When you see this person clearly, visualize good things happening to this person – things that would be meaningful to him. See him smiling and happy. Hold this image for a few minutes, then let it fade away. I like to add another step. As this person leaves the stage, put yourself up there. See good things happening to you. See yourself smiling and happy. Be aware that the abundance of the universe is available to all of us.
This dissolves the dark clouds of resentment most of us carry. For some, it will be very difficult to do. Each time you do it, make it a different person. Do it once a day for a month, and notice how much lighter you feel.
AWAKEN: A very powerful mental visualization… You really are the pioneer in putting forth the idea that all of these unprocessed emotions manifest ultimately in the body as various and sundry ailments, as outlined in your book You Can Heal Your Life. In this work, you also explain that the healing journey to self love often begins with some sort of physical release—could you speak to this a bit?
LOUISE: Sometimes we need to experience a physical letting go. Experiences and emotions can get locked in the body.
A while ago, I had a pain in my shoulder for a day or two. I tried to ignore it, but it wouldn’t go away. Finally, I sat down and asked myself, “what is happening here? What am I feeling?”
I realized, “It feels like burning. Burning… Burning… That means anger. What are you angry about?”
I couldn’t think of what I was angry about, so I said, “Well, let’s see if we can find out.” I put two large pillows on the bed and began to hit them with a lot of energy. After about twelve hits, I realized exactly what I was angry about.
It was so clear. So I beat the pillows even harder and made some noise and released the emotions from my body. When I got through, I felt much better, and the next day my shoulder was fine.
AWAKEN: Letting go is the biggest challenge of life! Can you give another example of how the difficulty of letting go manifests as a physical ailment?
LOUISE: Swelling of the body… Represents clogging and stagnation in the emotional thinking. We create situations where we get “hurt,” and we cling to these memories. Swelling often represents bottled-up tears, feeling stuck and trapped, or blaming others for our own limitations.
Release the past, let it wash away. Take back your own power. Stop dwelling on what you don’t want. Use your mind to create what you “do want.” Let yourself flow with the tide of life.
AWAKEN: And so, by swelling, you also mean tumors and things of this nature?
LOUISE: Tumors are false growths. An oyster takes a tiny grain of sand and, to protect itself, grows a hard and shiny shell around it. We call it a pearl and think it is beautiful. We take an old hurt and nurse it and keep pulling the scab off it, and in time we have a tumor.
I call this running the old movie. I believe the reason women have so many tumors in the uterus area is that they take an emotional hurt, a blow to their femininity, and nurse it. I called this the “he done me wrong” syndrome.
AWAKEN: Earlier, you shared the technique of looking in the mirror as a way to come back to self love. Can you recommend an approach toward forgiveness, so as to facilitate the process of letting go?
LOUISE: You can forgive in the mirror, too. Forgive yourself and forgive others. You can talk to other people in the mirror, especially when you are afraid to talk to them in person. You can clean up old issues with people –parents, bosses, doctors, children, lovers. You can say all sorts of things that you would be afraid to say otherwise, and remember to end by asking them for their love and approval because that is what you really want.
People who have problems loving themselves are almost always people who are not willing to forgive because not forgiving shuts that particular door. When we forgive and let go, not only does a huge weight drop off our shoulders, but the doorway to our own self love opens up. People will say, “Oh, such a load has dropped off!” Well, of course it has, because we’ve been carrying this burden forever. Dr. John Harrison states that forgiveness of both the self and the parents, coupled with the release of past hurts, cures more illness than any antibiotic ever could.
AWAKEN: You really laid the groundwork and advanced us in the healing culture, in terms of our understanding of the connection between our emotional life and our body. And yet, so many today are still suffering collectively from things like diabetes, cancer, strokes, and of course, stress. Could you go into more detail on any of these? These too, take us back to the need for self love?
LOUISE: Strokes are blood clots; congestion in the bloodstream in the area of the brain, cutting off the blood supply to the brain.
The brain is the computer of the body. Blood is joy. The veins and arteries are channels of joy. Everything works under the law and the action of love. There is love in every bit of intelligence in the universe. It is impossible to work and function well without love and joy being experienced.
Negative thinking clogs up the brain, and there is no room for love and joy to flow in its free and open way.
Laughter cannot flow if it is not allowed to be free and foolish. It is the same with love and joy. Life is not grim unless we make it so, unless we choose to look at it in that way. We can find a total disaster in the smallest upset, and we can find some joy in the greatest tragedy. It is up to us.
Sometimes we try to force our life to go in a certain way when it is not for our highest good. Sometimes we create strokes to force us to go in a totally different direction, to reevaluate our lifestyles.
AWAKEN: Do you begin your day with any special practice?
LOUISE: With my eyes still closed, I spend about 10 minutes just being thankful for all the good in my life. I program my day a bit, affirming that everything will go well and that I will enjoy it all. This is before I get up and do my morning meditation or prayers.
I can remember when I used to awaken in the morning and stay with a groan, “OH GOD, ANOTHER DAY.” And that is exactly the sort of day I would have, one thing after another going wrong. Now, when I awaken and before I even open my eyes, I thank the bed for a good night’s sleep. After all, we have spent the whole night together in comfort!
AWAKEN: What is something else that we can incorporate into our day to help us on our spiritual journey to self love?
LOUISE: Take one or two affirmations and write them 10 or 20 times a day. Read them aloud with enthusiasm. Make a song out of your affirmations and sing them with joy. Let your mind go over these affirmations all day long. Affirmations that are used consistently become beliefs and will always produce results, sometimes in ways that we cannot even imagine.
AWAKEN: What are some examples?
LOUISE: Everything is working in Divine right order.
All is well.
I am willing to release the pattern in me that created these conditions.
I am in the process of positive changes.
I experience love wherever I go.
I appreciate all that I do.
I love and approve of myself.
I trust the process of life to bring me my highest good.
I deserve the best, and I accept it now.
AWAKEN: Is there anything else you would like to say before we part today?
LOUISE: Cease all criticism of yourself and others. Accept yourself as you are. Praise yourself as much as you can. Criticism breaks down the inner spirit; praise builds it up. Look into a mirror often, and simply say: “I LOVE YOU, I REALLY LOVE YOU.” It may be difficult at first, but keep practicing, and soon you will mean and feel what you say. Love yourself as much as you can, and all of life will mirror this love back to you.
AWAKEN: Thank you Louise, for spending this time with me and for sharing your wisdom with Awaken today! And thank you for all you do and for all the people you have helped. It is so appreciated.