On Forgiveness

On Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a topic that has shown up a lot in the past couple of weeks. I listened to a mother who lost her son during 9/11. She spoke about the importance of forgiveness and yet, reserved the right not to forgive the terrorist organization as they showed no remorse for what they did. I listened to a holocaust survivor talk about how she forgave the Nazis and that it helped her live a more peaceful life. She went on to share that there are many fellow survivors who are angry at her for publicly forgiving the Nazis for their wrongdoing.

Forgiving is not the same as condoning. We think we are punishing others when we don’t forgive. The only people we are punishing is ourselves when we don’t forgive others for the wrongdoing that caused us harm. It is the act of holding onto our past hurts that cause us to continually re-live them. What we resist persists. The person who harmed us goes about their life with remorse, or not. Our lack of forgiveness affects us, not them. Bitterness is a terrible thing to live with. We can hold people accountable for their wrongdoing at the same time we forgive them.

What happens then if the person we need to forgive is ourselves? I work with parents, especially mothers, who beat themselves up for messing up on-the-job. If the kid gets a bad grade, we parents ask ourselves where we went wrong. Worse yet, if our child is using drugs or depressed, we blame ourselves. We think we must have done something desperately wrong to have that outcome. I know. I am a mother of four. I, myself, have wished I would have been wiser, more evolved, handled situations differently, been more skilled, over and over and over again. At the root of all this beating myself up is shame. Shame is rooted in the belief that I am not good enough.

So, if shame is the obstacle to self-forgiveness, what is the solution? The first thing to do is to see the story that we are not good enough as just that…a story. Acceptance of ourselves as the flawed humans we are is paramount to having any peace. Next, I have incorporated the idea presented by Brene Brown, author of Rising Strong, that everyone is  doing the best they can given the conditions they were brought up in and the resources or limitations they have. Many of us instantly protest this idea, claiming that people are not doing the best they can. Whether that is true or not, imagine how much less you would suffer if you adopted this belief as well. Try it out for a day.  See what it feels like to give yourself and others the benefit of the doubt.

If I am still having a hard time forgiving myself or others, I practice lovingkindness meditation. This is a process that really opens your heart with compassion for others. For free monthly meditations, click the link below and sign up for monthly newsletters. https://westchestercenterformindfulnessandwellbeing.com  September’s newsletter featured the lovingkindness meditation. I encourage everyone to do this meditation every day for a couple of weeks and see what happens. When we  practice lovingkindness we are actually re-wiring our brain and opening our hearts.

May you be happy. May you be well. May you abide in peace. May you feel safe and secure. May you feel loved and cared for. (And May I feel all those things as well!)


Conscious Creation

As a life coach, I start every session by asking my clients where they are emotionally on a scale from 0-10. I believe we are all meant to be Happy, Joyous and Free and my work is to help people live from that place as much as they can. But none of us can live there always. Before anyone gets the idea that people, like myself, who are on a journey to see the good in the world, who speak about what they are grateful for instead of what is irking them and post inspirational quotes every day on Facebook don’t have really sucky days, I want to share my story… of one day…today. The reason I have embraced meditation, prayer, gratitude journals, affirmations, exercise, and conscious creation is because without it, my life would be a nightmare. My natural tendency in life is to be Irritable, Judgmental and Discontent. When I hit the floor in the morning, I am not Miss Sunshine. If I don’t take some action to transform my natural tendencies like prayer, meditation, journaling, my morning goes like it did today: “Uggh! I have to get up. It’s 6:50.” “Damn, I overslept!” “OMG, we have no milk. OK, here is a granola bar for breakfast….it is NOT the end of the world! People are STARVING, for God’s sake. YOU have a granola bar!” When my daughter is having trouble finding her shoes, the next sentence that comes out “what do you mean you can’t find your shoes? If you put them where they belong, you would be able to find them!” Then my next thought is “Are these words coming out of my mouth or did my parents sneak in the house this morning to do some pinch-hitting parenting?”  Next, I interrupt my husband, who is seemingly unaware of all that needs to get done to successfully have our child out the door in the next 10 minutes, lowering my voice so that my daughter who is hunting for footwear cannot hear, “Honey, could you please pack a snack while I write a note to the teacher, fill out the permission slip for the class trip, write a check for the class dues, find an envelope for the class dues, and then slit my wrists!” My husband is happy to help out. Maybe he really doesn’t want me to slit my wrists! But while he starts the process of packing a snack, I do not miss a trick! (In case you didn’t know, my part-time job is “Family quality assurance director”, a nicer title than “control freak”.)  I informed him the snack was not healthy enough, he needed to get something else. He picked an apple and a pear and then proceeded to place them in a Ziploc bag which I did not see the necessity for since I have a reusable snack bag that will not wreak havoc with our environment. That was the last straw. The lines in the sand were drawn and a battle ensued about our differing views on packing snacks, health and the environment. In the midst of all this, my daughter could not wait to get to school, away from this madness. Boots on her feet, granola bar in hand, apple and pear packed in the Ziploc bag, permission slip signed, class dues in envelope, and off to school my wonderful and peaceful daughter went. I said my good-byes and watched as this precious child walked to the car with her father and immediately felt the pang of sorrow and regret of NOT being PEACE.

I took my dog to the car to set off on our morning hike. Her tail was wagging but mine was between my legs! Off I went to hike in the woods and do my walking meditation, concentrating on my breathing. Thoughts were swimming around, as they are always are, but I allowed them to float away, much like clouds in the sky. I was waiting for the sunshine, but the clouds kept coming. I was still not feeling as light as I usually do in the woods on a crisp September morning. I came home and spent some time journaling. When meditation does not relieve my angst, it is always time to take out the pen. There is something powerful about putting your thoughts on paper and getting them out of your head. Then I cried. I guess I was feeling sorry for myself. I just had surgery on Friday and although it was nothing major, 2 skin cancers were removed from my forehead, and I have been in pain. I have swelling around my eyes. My eyebrow looks disfigured. I have bandages across my forehead. I still have had deadlines to deal with; I have a daughter to care for and life goes on. I gave myself 5 minutes to cry. “I guess I have to accept my human-ness.” I wiped the tears and knew what I had to do next. Forgiveness was next on the agenda. I forgave myself for not having an award-winning parenting morning. Lastly, I asked the question, “How much should I battle to prevent one more Ziploc bag from entering a landfill?” I know that whenever I am disturbed, I only need to look inward for the source of the disturbance. It’s not really about the Ziploc bag. It is about my inner peace. It is about acceptance. It is about letting everyone else have their journey and not attempting to control them. I was able to reach a place of acceptance. I even managed to laugh at myself!  I said a prayer for peace, for inner peace. Then I took a hot shower, re-bandaged my forehead, put on make-up, styled my hair and started my day over.

It’s 10:30 a.m. I have a full day of work to do. I am starting anew. I pick up another journal, my gratitude journal. I write FIVE things that I am grateful for: hiking, meditation, my husband, my children, my dog. For the rest of the day, chances are the world is going to get a different person than the one that hit the floor at 6:50 a.m. I am a conscious creator. I decide to be HAPPY. I want to bring happiness to others. I decide to be LOVE. I want others to feel my love. I decide to be PEACE. I want to bring peace into others’ experiences.  Right this moment, I AM Happy, Love, and Peace. I don’t know how long it will last, but I have the tools to always return to this place, to return to who I truly AM.

Who do you want to BE today?

Regrets and resentments: the antidote: Forgiveness.

When you are feeling “bad”, however that “bad” shows up for you be it anger, depression, guilt, shame or just plain “life’s a bitch” mode–stop and take a look at what thoughts are predominating your time and space. Most often you will find they are thoughts of regret or resentment. Either you are wishing you did something differently or you wish someone else did something differently. This is yesterday’s news! But the process of thinking about this regret and resentment (over and over again like many of us do) is bringing yesterday’s problems into today. Now why do we want to keep alive the very thing that we are unhappy about? Quite simply, we don’t want to let ourselves or someone else off the hook. All it takes to let yourself or someone else off the hook is a dose of compassion sprinkled generously with forgiveness! Let’s keep it simple. There are 5 things that should be acknowledged:

1.         Acknowledge that we are all doing our best at any given moment.

2.         Acknowledge that forgiving yourself or someone else for our humanness is a gift to ourselves, a gift that we are worthy of.

3.         Acknowledge that each day is a clean slate provided we don’t drag yesterday’s dirt onto it!

4.         Acknowledge that every painful experience in our life launches clear desires of what we don’t want. This enables us to know clearly what we do want! This is the process of deliberate creation.

5.         And lastly, for God’s sake, if you have a regret or a resentment, acknowledge that the past cannot be changed; in no way, shape or form can the past be changed.

Here is what you CAN do: you can accept the situation as being exactly as it was supposed to be, forgive yourself or someone else, stop telling the story of failure and defeat, missed opportunities, and don’t waste another day of this precious life in yesterday’s garbage!!!!