I first discovered Louise Hay in the bath.
It was after a breakup. It’s times like that when many people turn to Louise Hay. Breakups and breakdowns. I’d been given a copy of her international bestselling book, You Can Heal Your Life (published in 1984 and has since sold more than 50 million copies in 30 languages), which soon became sodden with bathwater and tears as I was too captivated to move. How utterly revolutionary for my 23-year-old self to consider that this sorry set of circumstances that landed me here might not be happening to me, but for me, as Louise suggested. “Every thought we think and every word we speak is creating our future”, her book begins. The idea that we might have some say in the course of our lives. It was a revelation.
Louise Hay, spiritual healer and teacher, platinum best selling author and publisher, who died this week age 90, is considered the founder of the modern spiritual movement, pedalling the then radical concept that we are the master of our own destinies, that our thoughts create our world, not the other way around.”Life is never stuck or static or stale”, I read, barely noticing the water going cold around me. “Whatever you choose to believe comes true for you. You can change your life by changing your thoughts”. Uplifting sentiments for the lovelorn, which, in Hay speak, is not unrequited love of another at all, but of our own selves.
Long before Oprah, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle and other household name thought leaders, there was Louise Hay, the doyenne of personal development, paving the way for this millennial wave of champions of spirituality, and publishing many of their books. She was a true heretic, a trailblazer of the mind body connection, not afraid to speak her truth in a world of sceptics, a pioneer who believed she cured herself of cancer, and found succour in the emerging science of metaphysics, way before it was the done thing.
In her forty-plus years as a spiritual teacher and healer, she helped millions of people to change their lives and heal themselves. Not just of illness of mind but of worry, self doubt and hopelessness. The Hay doctrine is one of self love and self worth as the non negotiable keys to positive change. She was the queen of positive affirmations prescribing daily repetitions of these sunny proclamations, in front of a mirror all the better, which she rolled out on social media until the day she died. “I deserve the best and I accept it now”. “I love myself just the way I am”.
When no one would publish her books, she did it herself establishing her own publishing house, Hay House, at age 50 which churned out millions of her own titles and affirmation cards, a Louise Hay book almost a standard offering on the nightstand of every woman (mainly) of several generations. In the thirty years since, Hay House is responsible for countless best sellers by more than 130 other authors, giving a platform to some of the most influential voices of our age including Deepak Chopra, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Doreen Virtue and Dr. Christine Northrup. As one commentator (a meditation and yoga teacher and Hay devotee) noted on Instagram after Hay’s death, “what a badass woman!”
“She was a strong, resourceful, entrepreneurial woman, one of the first spiritual entrepreneurs,” says TV executive turned Vedic meditation teacher, Neradine Tisaj, who attributes Louise Hay with inspiring her own recovery from breast cancer and finding new meaning in her life.
“She was really integral in helping me heal and come to terms with the fact that I was still loveable and worthy after the cancer”, says Neradine who was diagnosed with BRCA1-triple negative breast cancer in 2008 and is now cancer-free. “It was ‘the bad one’,” she notes, dryly. “My oncologist said he thought I was a goner. Part of my healing was meditation and reading Louise Hay’s book and doing her affirmations. It gave me hope to know that your mindset can be a huge part of the healing. It helped me feel whole again”.
Not that Neradine is suggesting that this is everyone’s path in cancer recovery, but she has no doubt it helped her. “I was incredibly upset when I heard she’d passed away because she represented a lot of hope”.
As it happens, You Can Heal Your Life is just as popular for the back pages as anything else.
The List, Hay called it. An alphabetical inventory of physical ailments or ‘dis-ease’ and the correlating ‘probable causes’, with handy new thought patterns to replace the negative ones. It may not cure the ‘problem’ (Hay’s term), but it certainly causes you to take note of habitual adverse thinking. I look up ‘sore throat’ after a recent bout of them. Hay ascribes it to “the inability to speak up for oneself”. Whether that be the case, or it was just the change in the weather or general run-downess, this was also true in several areas of my life.
“Louise Hay really conceptualised the whole idea of observing each thought and what it does to our physical body”, says Sydney life coach, Alexandra Andrews, who came across her books when she began working in the field of positive change a decade ago and has used her principles with thousands of clients. “She was one of the first to embrace the whole mindset of healing your mind through your thoughts. It gave people the concept of controlling their mind instead of their mind controlling them. She was ahead of her time and science is catching up”, she says.
Alexandra had the pleasure of meeting Louise and describes her “quiet, loving confidence. There was nothing bold or brash about her. She was pure love”.
Neradine also saw Louise speak a few times including her last visit to Australia where she received a standing ovation. “She had an amazing presence”, she says. “She emanated a light. People gravitated towards her”.
Much is being made of Louise Hay ‘transitioning’ (as Hay House calls it, no doubt with her blessing), two years to the day since the passing of her friend and fellow spiritual guru, Dr Wayne Dyer. For a pair who espoused the magic of synchronicity, it appears they not only leave resounding legacies, but they continue to walk their talk.
I have no idea what happened to my original crumpled copy of You Can Heal Your Life, the one with the rainbow on the front. I would have given it to a friend who I thought might benefit (they always do) as I’ve done with all my copies over the years, happy to spread the love. When I hear of Louise’s passing, I reach for my latest copy (the 25th Anniversary Edition). It flips open to this affirmation: “In the infinity of life where I am, all is perfect whole and complete”.
It’s the same affirmation posted on Louise Hay’s Instagram and Facebook pages to herald her passing.
She would expect nothing less.
Jacinta Tynan is a Sky News Presenter and author of Mother Zen