Give Yourself the Gift of Forgiveness

Several years ago on this blog, I shared about a profound forgiveness experience I had with my Dad who had been very abusive when I was growing up. My Mom had died on this December date when I was 10 years old, and he became my sole guardian.

However, the purpose of this post is not to focus on all the negative accounts of my upbringing but to focus on the healing power of forgiveness, which is the best gift we can give ourselves.

That said, back in 2000 when I first got the call that my father was dying, I had a lot of concerns about the whole situation. We hadn’t seen each other for quite some time, and I wasn’t sure seeing him again was in anyone’s best interest.

However, my wise mentor and coach at the time encouraged me to see him, and said that I’d be going to heal myself and not as a favor for him.

So, I hesitantly went to where he was hospitalized, and upon arrival, I saw a man I didn’t recognize. He was no longer the big and tall man I remembered but actually looked quite frail, and was uncharacteristically, not in control of his surroundings.

Over the course of several months, my siblings and I took turns visiting with him, so that he was never alone. Then, on one particular day, when my sister and I were on our way out of the hospital, I got this extremely strong internal push to return to his hospital room.

So, I quickly turned around and headed back toward his room with my sister following behind. Once inside, I approached his bedside, which she said was like a scene from a movie, with the director calling out, “action.”

I walked right up to my dad and said, “Hi dad just wanted to come back and tell you that I love you.”

He said, “I love you too,” which are words I never heard from him before.

My sister, who was in the back of the room silently observing the whole scene, said that the nurses in the room had stopped in their tracks while these unplanned and unexpected words were coming out of my mouth.

Soon after that he died.

My mentor had been right about my going to see him, and how healing it would be for me, and I suspect it was for him as well. I would have missed out on this great opportunity, if I hadn’t taken the action and gone to see him, in spite of my misgivings.

I would have missed out on the internal freedom and good feelings that resulted from the experience, as it helped me to heal through much of the emotional charge and pain surrounding my past.

Forgiving another is not about condoning, reconciling, minimizing or letting the offending party off the hook, but letting ourselves off the hook from carrying around the pain that resides in our minds and hearts.

Forgiveness is a process and not an overnight matter but continues to be the best cure for resentment, anger and all other forms of internal suffering.

Therefore, it is extremely important to courageously take the necessary steps to release ourselves from the negativity and grief that may be keeping us stuck.

A few methods that can assist us in this process are:

  1. Writing a letter to the offending party and expressing all the hurt that we have inside but not mailing it.
  2. Praying for the resented person in order to get the spiritual help, and courage to release the potent anger within.
  3. Being willing and open to follow the guidance, opportunities and situations that present themselves toward our healing.
  4. Learning and understanding that hurt people tend to hurt other people, and their behavior isn’t because there is something wrong or unlovable about us.
  5. Talking to a professional or an understanding friend to discuss and process the negative feelings we have about a particular person, memory or situation.

We learn that it is up to us to ask for help and come to terms with our experiences. No matter what our relationship is with our fathers or anyone else, let today and this holiday represent the healing power of forgiveness.

What processes help you to forgive?

Action Step:

If you are struggling with unpleasant feelings and thoughts about someone in your life; ask in meditation that you be shown the way to forgiveness, and be given the courage to follow the actions you are guided to take.

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Do What’s Right for You

 The nature of conflict means you can’t set a boundary in your life and take care of someone else’s feelings at the same time.   Martha Beck

Each holiday season is a good time to remember to strengthen our personal boundaries. During this festive time of year, many of us have an extra tendency to take on too much, and over commit ourselves. Sometimes, this is because we are excited about the season and enjoy the gaiety; while other times it is because we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, and want to avoid feeling guilty.

Only we can tell the difference within ourselves if we are pleasing ourselves or people pleasing others. If we are engaged in the latter, then it is time to strengthen our boundaries by developing a stronger “no” muscle.

As indicated in my book, it’s actually more loving to have boundaries, be authentic, and take care of our feelings as they arise, as opposed to a passive approach to life. When we don’t speak up for ourselves, it can only breed resentment toward others, and inevitably lead to unloving behavior which is inconsistent with the intention of harmonious living.

Therefore, if what we are being asked to do is not to our liking than we have the freedom to graciously decline the request. We need to remember that we are not responsible for other people’s feelings but are responsible for how we communicate our responses to others.

Similarly, it is important to graciously respect the boundaries of others as well. We may be good at delivering a “no” but not so great at receiving that response from others.

Just as setting loving boundaries with others is a crucial step in self-care, so is setting nurturing boundaries with ourselves as well. Many of us push ourselves beyond the point of what is healthy such as neglecting to put parameters around the number of hours we work or by skimping on sleep.

With that said, below are some wonderful permission slips from Dr. Christiane Northrup, which we can start applying today! The resultant good feelings will create a wonderful ripple effect both within and around us.

  1. Rest when you need to. If you are tired, give yourself permission to sleep. The dishes, the laundry, and the work you didn’t finish today will still be waiting for you tomorrow.
  2. Feel joy every day. Paint, sing, dance, play music, and have sex if you so desire.
  3. Let go of toxic relationships. Toxic people drain you. Work on creating relationships with people who support you as you are.
  4. Love your body. Stop comparing yourself to the air brushed models in the media. Dress the way you want. Do your hair the way you like it.  If this is difficult, do mirror work and tell your body how much you love it.
  5. Trust your intuition. Step out of your comfort zone and go for whatever feels right – maybe it is a new career path, a new health or fitness program, or simply speaking up when you feel the need.
  6. Simplify your life. Focus on what truly matters to you. Don’t let yourself get derailed by drama.
  7. Forgive yourself. Forgiveness is a process. Find time every day to practice forgiveness.
  8. Say “yes.” Saying “yes” to yourself is empowering. Say “yes” to whatever you want in your life, and say “no” to whatever you don’t want.
  9. Feel the guilt. Realize that the guilt you are feeling is probably just cultural programming. Thank it for sharing and release it.
  10. Be yourself. Accept yourself exactly as you are. You don’t have to fit any cultural mold.

What nurturing choices are you making?

 

 

 

Stop!

Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Victor Frankl 

Haven’t there been times when you just needed to stop what you were doing and get some “breathing space”?

With the holidays fast approaching, it seemed like a good time to stop and share a breathing exercise to help retain or regain our equilibrium. 

The practice below comes from Dave Potter who is a certified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction instructor, who received his training through the University of Massachusetts Medical School where Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Center for Mindfulness.

He provides a great way to step out of automatic pilot mode and move into the present moment to reconnect with our natural resilience and wisdom.

We are simply tuning in to what is happening right now, without expectation of any particular result.

If you remember nothing else, just remember the word “STOP”.

S – Stop and take Stock / Checking in to Head/Heart/Body

Bring yourself into the present moment by deliberately asking, “What is my experience right now”?

What are you saying to yourself, and what images are coming to mind?

What are you feeling and what sensations are being experienced?

Acknowledge and register your experience, even if it is uncomfortable.

T – “Take” a Breath / Directing awareness to Breathing

Gently direct full attention to breathing, to each in breath and to each outbreath as they follow, one after the other.

Your breath can function as an anchor to bring you into the present and help you tune into a state of awareness and stillness.

O – Open and Observe / Expanding awareness outward

Expand the field of your awareness around and beyond your breathing, so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture, and facial expression, then further outward to what is happening around you: sights, sounds, smells, etc.

As best you can, bring this expanded awareness to the next moments.

P – Proceed / new Possibilities Continuing without expectation

Let your attention now move into the world around you, sensing how things are right now.

Rather than react habitually/mechanically, you can be curious/open, responding naturally. You may even be surprised by what happens next after having created this pause.

What practice helps you to avoid unconsciously reacting, and choosing a better response as a result?

What positive  words would you use for S.T.O.P? I like Serenity, Tranquility, Optimism and Power.

 

 

 

 

Stay Teachable

As mentioned in a prior post, this is my first semester at the local university as a part-time teacher’s assistant and not surprisingly, grading papers is a much different experience than writing them in my master’s program as a student.

Being in the dual role of student and faculty provides a unique appreciation for both sides of the educational equation.

Professionally, I find the blend of academics and coaching to be an interesting mix, since both environments provide knowledge and information for helping others improve their lives.

On the one hand are very young adults beginning their college journeys and pursuing up-and-coming goals, while others further down life’s road are seeking to ignite, enhance or establish their desires as well.

No matter the situation, exploring or learning something new can be a very expansive experience.

Speaking of expansive, some friends were telling my husband and I about their trip to the Grand Canyon recently, and couldn’t even put into words the vastness and beauty of what they experienced there.

It certainly affirms that it’s one thing to read or see something in a textbook, but quite another to experience it in person.

What new ideas, vacations or activities have you tried recently or thought about exploring?

 

 

Seize the Day

Very often we only focus on bucket lists or introspective matters when we or someone we love is diagnosed with a serious disease.

Suddenly, in these crisis moments with the prospect of not having much time to live, time becomes more valuable and choices more mindfully guided.

However, as we know, none of us are promised tomorrow no matter what our health status may be.

Therefore, though this reality can be sobering fact to dwell upon, it is also a wakeup call to living fully now, and not wasting time on inconsequential endeavors.

Below is an excerpt from the book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware, which reminds us to seize the day and avoid the pain of regrets!

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.

2.  I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But, as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. As a result, many developed illnesses related to the bitterness and resentment they carried.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, and choose honestly. Choose happiness.

 

Consider Your Legacy

As I learned about Louise Hays passing yesterday, I couldn’t help but think of the special legacy she has left.

For those of you familiar with her work, you know she spoke extensively about positive affirmations, mirror work and loving one’s self.

Her books and teaching have helped millions of people, along with the authors she gathered together in her Hay House publishing company.

Her life will be remembered as one who spread positivity and helpful teachings that encouraged people to treat themselves with love and respect.

Though I never met Louise, I’ve been inspired by the principles she taught and her ability to turn a rough childhood into such an inspiring adult life.

Even though she is no longer with us, her inspirational work will live on and hopefully prompt us all to create a lasting legacy of contribution as well.

Who inspires you and how would you like to be remembered?

 

Try Something New

As we know, a routine is “a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.”

When is the last time you stepped outside of your daily routine and tried something new?

I have been doing a lot of that lately.

For instance, for the fall semester, I will be working at a local university as a teacher’s assistant for an undergraduate psychology class.

I will remain writing my blog and other coaching activities, but thought this would be a great opportunity to extend myself and be a part of helping a class on a subject that I enjoy.

With regards to college, usually I have been a student, so it will be enlightening to see the other side of the educational format.

Similarly, this is not my usual training venue that I’ve utilized in coaching, so it will be instructional for me from that perspective as well.

In order to hopefully stimulate some routine busting, I thought I would rerun a poem I shared some time ago. I would love to hear about new things you are doing or want to be doing in the near future.

Please share your thoughts below and let’s inspire and support each other.

My Comfort Zone

I used to have a comfort zone where I knew I wouldn’t fail,
the same four walls and busywork were really more like jail.
I longed so much to do the things I’d never done before,
but stayed inside my comfort zone and paced the same old floor.  

I said it didn’t matter that I wasn’t doing much,
I said I didn’t care for things like commission checks and such.
I claimed to be so busy with the things inside the zone,
but deep inside I longed for something special of my own.

I couldn’t let my life go by just watching others win,
I held my breath; I stepped outside and let the change begin.
I took a step and with new strength I’d never felt before,
I kissed my comfort zone goodbye and closed and locked the door.

If you’re in a comfort zone, afraid to venture out,
remember that all winners were at one time filled with doubt.
A step or two and words of praise can make your dreams come true,
reach for your future with a smile; success is there for you!

– Author Unknown