Monthly Archives: July 2015

Forgive Yourself and Others

For those of you who read my blogs on a regular basis, it might seem like I share a lot about forgiveness.  I do . . . because resentments are one of the most common mechanisms that we use to keep ourselves invested in being “right.”   We often feel threatened by someone who does not believe as we do, or who might think beyond our own realm of understanding, or who did something to hurt us or a loved one.  When we feel threatened, it just keeps us tied to our fears, anger and powerlessness – hence to the extra weight or the effects of whatever compulsive behavior we use.  And we do whatever we need to in order to feel in control.

The following is an excerpt form the book, A COURSE IN WEIGHT LOSS: 21 Spiritual Lessons for Surrendering your Weight Forever (by Marianne Williamson).  If food is not your “addiction”, feel free to substitute whatever has meaning for you.  It works the same for all:

Forgiveness in hugely powerful yet often resisted fiercely.  A young man I knew in an AIDS support group years ago once asked me, “Do I really have to forgive EVERYBODY?” to which I responded, “Well, I don’t know .  .  . do you have the flu, or do you have AIDS?  Because if you only have the flu, then, heck, just forgive a few people. . . but if you have AIDS, then yes try to forgive everybody!”

You certainly wouldn’t ask a doctor, “Do I really have to take ALL the medicine?  Take the ENTIRE ROUND of chemo? Can’t I just so SOME of it?”  Nor would you say, “Doc can I just take the medicine when I feel bad?”  No, medicine is medicine.  And you respect it enough to take the amount you need.

Forgiveness is more than just a good thing.  It is key to right living and thus to your healing — not just to be applied every once in a while, but to be aimed for as a constant. . . .the effort keeps the arrows of attack at bay.  Holding on to judgment, blame, attack, defense, victimization and so forth are absolutely attacks on yourself.  And you attack yourself with food.

As you forgive others, you begin to forgive yourself.  As you stop focusing on their mistakes, you will stop punishing yourself for your own.  Your ability to release what you think of as the sins of others will free you to release yourself, putting down that particular weapon with which you punish yourself so savagely.

Forgiveness releases the past . . . and the future to new possibilities  Whatever it was that happened to you, it is OVER.  It happened in the past; in the present, it does not exist unless you bring it with you.  Nothing anyone has ever done to you has permanent effects unless you hold on to it permanently.

Forgiving is letting go of that need to control and be right.  It is allowing ourselves and others to live in the flow of life as it comes.


The Other Side of Grief

We recently lost a family member to cancer.  While we all know we’re eventually going to go through the process of putting our lives back together after the death of someone we have loved, when the time actually comes, it can feel like we never REALLY believed it would happen to us.

As I have contemplated this new loss and have begun to process how it affects my own life and those who were closer to our loved one, I decided to pull out one of my favorite blogs about grief that I wrote several years ago.  It helps me make sense of things.  I hope it helps you as well.


I’m constantly reading books and listening to audiobooks and podcasts that help me understand life and the processes we all experience.  The most profound realization I’ve had as I’ve been so focused in the past several years with learning about what happens to us once we shed our bodies and leave this realm, is that by studying this, I have learned SO MUCH MORE about how I want to live my life here and now – more than I have ever learned from any psychology or counseling class I ever took!

Today’s recommendation on grief and life after our life here on earth is a small book called THE OTHER SIDE OF GRIEF, by Ara Parisien.  I was fortunate to see Ara work in person at the Afterlife Awareness Conference in St. Louis.  She is a medium, with a very kind demeanor.  I’ve read a lot of books on grief and bereavement, taken several courses and worked with many clients in the midst of grief, as well as having dealt with my own losses. Ara’s book is only 117 pages, and while much of it is not new material, it’s packed with enlightenment and a very real comprehension for what people experience when they grieve and what happens once we’ve left this life.  Her perspective is both from personal experiences and from the many connections she has helped others make over the years.

Here is just a short excerpt from her book:  (Not all are direct quotes, as I’ve edited here & there to fit this briefer format).

Grief is the most growth-producing experience we have as humans. . .Spirit have shown me that it isn’t the grieving of a loved one that causes the anguish but more of a shutting down of the love center which is what births and perpetuates the pain.  What is really occurring is that from the moment a terminal diagnosis was made or the moment your loved one passes. . . you actually experience an expansion on a vibrational level.  (Later) you recall it felt like time virtually stopped.  You felt a rush of adrenalin that virtually exploded through every pore of your body and paralyzed your mind.  This is the trademark of intense expansion.  But what is this expansion all about?  It is a tangible moment in time when the person you ‘were’ becomes a person that has expanded into a newer version of itself.  There is a cognitive dissonance at this time because nothing seems to fit the usual parameters of who you were. . .

The expectation of the soul is that you catch up to the new version of yourself because that is what the catalytic experience demands. Instead we flounder in the pain and anguish of the catalyst itself, not focusing on the Eternal Gift that has been provided.  It sounds cold and callous but it is innately true.  This does not mean your love is minimized in any way.  It simply means that shutting down the heart center keeps you at arm’s length from the love that you are and at the same time it keeps you from the Eternal Gift . . . Growth.

Grief is resistance. Love is non-resistance.  Resistance causes pain.  Love allows us to remember we are always connected with All There Is, at all times.

When one is ready to move into non-resistance, some may call this surrendering, that is where one grows in leaps and bounds.  Eternal Gifts are recognized and joy is the result.


Again, I strongly recommend this book regardless of when you experienced your loss.  We’ve all  felt that sense of aloneness.  This book resonates with me.  It’s more than just information.  It allowed me to experience a shift – which is what growth is all about.


Forgiveness is the Greatest Healer of All

I have so many clients who have been victimized, either as a child, or currently.  They find it difficult to get away from identifying themselves as a victim (even though many refuse to use that word).  Any time we feel like someone else has done us wrong, and that it has changed our lives for the worse – kept us stuck in any way – then we are identifying as a victim.  I’ve heard stories from “old-timers” in AA who used to say, “go by that guy’s house at 3:00 in the morning and see if HE’S up losing sleep over what he did to you”.  In other words, very often the other person doesn’t even know – or remember – that (s)he did anything to you.  If you are still ruminating over it and stuck in dysfunctional patterns, then YOU are the one who is keeping yourself a victim.  It doesn’t let him/her off the hook to be forgiven.  It only releases you of the pain.

The following is from LOVING EACH OTHER by Leo Buscalglia:

Of course, forgiving is not an easy process. . . . Rather than deal with it, we blame, we accuse, we condemn, we exclude, we damn.  Forgiveness can never be realized in an atmosphere of accusation, condemnation, anger and fault finding.

We will only begin to forgive when we can look upon the wrongdoers as ourselves, neither better nor worse.  We need to remember that we coexist as mortals in the world, together, the wronged and the wrongdoer; and that, in our common humanity, the situation could readily be reversed.

Emotional and psychological pain are at least as debilitating as physical pain.  Few of us will escape these pains in our lifetime.  It cannot be avoided.  It can only be dealt with. . . .

As David Augberger puts it, “Forgiveness is letting what was, be gone; what will be, come; what is now, be.”  It is a freeing of self from the past and facing the future wiser, with renewed hope and faith.  Forgiveness is often called an unconditional gift of love.  This implies not that, “I will forgive you if or when,” but, “I will forgive you because I must, if I ever hope to continue to live fully.”

Learn to Practice Self-Compassion

Self-criticism. Why do so many of us beat ourselves up over the smallest things? We would never talk that way to someone else we cared about.

One reason is that we each have a critical parent inside our head that judges us and tells us we are wrong.  It may have come from something our own parents actually said or did or it may just be from the social memes that we have incorporated into our belief system without actually considering whether they are true for our lives.  While we do have to follow laws (if we want to stay out of the prison system)  we don’t don’t have to comply with society’s (or someone else’s) rules about who we are at the core.

Many believe that self-criticism will prevent them from making stupid mistakes – or that it’s the best defense against criticism from others.  If I make it known that I realize I’m stupid/ugly/incompetent, etc, then they have nothing to attack.  And they might even throw some compassion my way.

The driving force of self-criticism is fear.  In my belief system, it’s the ego (the human side of us) that tells us we aren’t enough; that we’ll never measure up to others’ or our own expectations. Self-criticism and procrastination go hand-in-hand.  If I don’t put the effort into something early enough, long enough or hard enough, then I have an excuse for not succeeding. Then I beat myself up that much more.  I’ve had so many clients worry that they will be lazy if they aren’t hard on themselves.  Research shows this is not true.

Sometimes  we also put someone else down to make ourselves feel better.  According to Kristin Neff (researcher and author of SELF-COMPASSION), this is like eating a bag full of candy.  We’ll get a brief sugar high and feel great – and then we’ll crash.

Our emotions are real, but they are not necessarily our reality.  They’re real in the sense that they need to be observed, felt and honored.  But they are not  to be believed without question.  For example, many of us experience fear pretty consistently.  But that doesn’t mean that fear is real.  It’s often based on past experiences in similar situations or with people who trigger some old memories.  But it may not be the truth in the moment.

So if being self-critical doesn’t help, what does?   Aside from the ego telling us how awful we are, we also all have an inner soother that’s available to us. I believe that’s the connection we each have with our spiritual side.  The inner soother can help us change the words we use so we feel better about ourselves.  It’s called self-compassion.

People who practice self-compassion are better able to manage their emotions.  Painful feelings are temporary, unless we prolong them through resistance or rumination.  The only way to free ourselves of debilitating pain is to feel it.  There are no detours; we have to go through it.  However, if the driving force of self-criticism is fear, the driving force of self-compassion is love.   (Self-compassion doesn’t erase negative feelings, it embraces them with care and kindness).

One technique is to use the 3 doorways of KINDNESS, COMMON HUMANITY and MINDFULNESS.

KINDNESS: Silently say kind, nurturing words of support to yourself (the way you would to a close friend).  You might even give yourself a hug (if no one’s looking)  🙂

COMMON HUMANITY: Think of ways your situation connects you to others with similar problems.  I can PROMISE you are not the only one going through this.  You are not alone.

MINDFULNESS:  Try taking a few deep breaths, accepting that the situation is happening, whether you like it or not.  You can’t change it – might as well allow it to be what it is. Only then can you start dealing with it!

Now ask yourself what life might be teaching you.  There’s an opportunity somewhere in there.  To open your heart or your mind? To be more compassionate with others? Maybe this is a blessing, rather than a curse!

We often can’t see the lessons until afterward, but if we give ourselves a few moments, we can usually think back to other painful situations that taught us some of our more valuable lessons.  By pulling ourselves out of the thoughts and looking into the situation more objectively – with curiosity – we can distance ourselves from the current situation.

Remember, pain is inevitable.  Suffering is optional.




Freedom from Self Imprisonment

Since it’s the holiday weekend when we reflect and celebrate the freedom we enjoy in this country, I thought I’d re-post a blog from earlier this year, where I contemplated how we keep ourselves from freedom every day. Wishing each of you a wonderful, peaceful holiday.

I’ve come to understand that we are all seeking freedom.  Yet we are the ones who imprison ourselves by how we view and respond to the Universe.

Remember the old Mayberry show?  Otis, the drunk, would stumble into the sheriff’s office, into the jail cell and lock it behind himself.  The key was always hanging on the wall, just outside his cell.  He could reach it anytime he wanted, but he always waited until he sobered up.  Then all he had to do was reach outside the cell, grab the key, unlock the cell door and walk out.

What a metaphor for our daily lives!

Some of the ways we imprison ourselves include (but are not limited to):  limiting our beliefs about ourselves and what we can/cannot do, stories we make up in our heads about what others think of us, hanging on to resentments, refusing to hear others’ perspectives, thinking we know all there is to know about a situation or a topic, allowing negative thoughts to gain weight in our minds – about ourselves, our situation and others.  The list is endless.

Much of our imprisonment revolves around our need for perfection. Perfection is such a limiting word. It implies that if something is not perfect, it must be imperfect. Perfection is really just an opinion. My concept of what’s perfect might be totally different than what you see as perfect. In reality, perfection comes when we can allow things (and people) to be what they are. So perfection is a state of mind that keeps us imprisoned.

But, just like with Otis, THE KEY IS WITHIN REACH!

We think everything we want is outside where we are and unreachable.  But it’s already here, right within reach.  We just have to recognize how to “sober up” and do what we need to do to get there.

We stay inside our heads (our jail cell) with obsessions about how to please others so we can belong, or how others have done us wrong.  Or we beat ourselves up with rigid, shameful thoughts of things we should or shouldn’t have done.

Letting go of rules, “supposed to’s,” and ideas that limit us and others is one way to free ourselves.

Letting go of expectations of ourselves and others is another way.

Acceptance of what is – and allowing situations and people to be what they are is another.

Another way to say all of the above is FORGIVENESS.  Forgiveness of others – and perhaps even more importantly, self forgiveness.  When we can learn to be more compassionate with ourselves, we’ll be so with others.

Wayne Dyer often asks his audience what they get when they squeeze an orange.  Of course, they say orange juice.  And he responds with “yes, because that’s what’s inside”.  Then he asks what they get when they “squeeze” (or put pressure on) a person.  Again, it’s what’s inside.  If what’s inside us is anger or rigid expectations, that’s what will come out when we’re under pressure or have expectations that limit us to only one outcome.  But if we find compassion, love and forgiveness inside, that’s what will come out when we are put to the test.

So once we “sober up” as Otis did, and become more open to viewing our world from other perspectives, all we have to do is reach for that key, unlock the cell with loving, forgiving, compassionate thoughts, and walk out – into freedom.

The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask.    -Jim Morrison