Archive | Forgiveness Series RSS feed for this section

6 May 2011 0 Comments

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 15: Practicing Forgiveness, Part 2

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 15: Practicing Forgiveness, Part 2

This Post follows the Social and Mental Forgiveness Tips from Part 1. You can P1040653move from Mental toward Transcendental Forgiveness like this: Realize that forgiveness and even love need not be held hostage to understanding. We may have no clue why loved ones let alone strangers act as they do. Being willing to extend compassion for their humanity whether or not we understand is a transcendental act.

Now we continue with Emotional and Transcendental Forgiveness Tips:

Emotional Level

  • Acknowledge and accept your pain. Release judging or shaming yourself for feeling pain.
  • Be kind to yourself, especially when others are not. Extend compassion to yourself when you are in pain.
  • Notice the way stuck rage and pain poison and pollute you.
  • Notice the ways you fight off receiving forgiveness—and soften.
  • Make friends with your pain. It guides you to healing.
  • Seek to release getting mad at yourself for getting mad at yourself.
  • Be consistently loyal to your authentic feelings, whether or not you choose to share them.
  • Discover the vulnerable feelings beneath your anger. Face them gently and find out what you need to treat the vulnerable part kindly.
  • Cry, letting your tears purify your heart. (If you would like a recording of my )****
  • Use flower essences or homeopathic remedies that address your exact emotional patterns.
  • Get support for issues you repeat over and over. Energy-based therapies help such as EFT-type methods, Thoughtfield Therapy, and EMDR.
  • Set up circumstances where you can experience totally safe touch, like massage or reflexology.
  • Pay attention to the way you hold your pain in your body and breath.
  • Practice compassion for people’s vulnerabilities and compensations, including your own.
  • Give your sub-personalities each a voice. Allow the hurt and angry ones to express. Let the parts that long to forgive to speak too. How do you feel in your body when each voice speaks? See yourself as bigger than your wounds so your healthy parts can support you.

If you are going through recent or severe trauma, see:
Self Care for Serious Betrayal of Major Transitions”

Transcendental Level

  • Find the place inside where you are willing to let your protection layer be removed.
  • Open yourself to grace, even when you cannot feel it.
  • Forgive the soul, not their actions.
  • Discovering new dimensions of your inner experience by going deeper.
  • Practice Positive Vulnerability (see Post 7 in series).
  • Before sleep, set your intention to experience forgiveness in your dream state.
  • Keep the company of profound and loving people.
  • Pray. Or somehow open your heart to larger-than-self assistance. If you are too angry to do so, work with the Emotional Level tips first.
  • Learn to recognize the difference between the good clean pain of your heart opening and the crushing heartache of being treated cruelly. Welcome a breaking heart when it means developing greater tenderness and compassion.
  • Explore what it means to be fully and completely human.
  • Learn to broadcast authentic energies and sensations of forgiveness.
  • Work with a group of people who combine their intention toward forgiveness. Make sure they are authentic and admit their wounds.
  • Dedicate every bit of energy you release to healing the kinds of issues that caused your wounds, for all beings.

Take your time to forgive, going ever more deeply through the spiral of experience that covers the same ground over and over, yet every time with more of yourself Present.

Which Forgiveness Practices work best for YOU?
Which discoveries have surprised you about yourself as you’ve explored forgiveness?

Please share YOUR tips and insights about forgiveness.

29 April 2011 3 Comments

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 14: Practicing Forgiveness, Part 1

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 14: Practicing Forgiveness, Part 1

Forgiveness is totally tied up in our personality structures and belief systems. This post contains potential action-steps from the Forgiveness series. Tips and tools in this text help create conditions that support authentic forgiveness from the inside out. Each person may need a different prescription, so I am including a Holistic selection.

Tips are categorized with respect to the Modes of Forgiveness in Posts 1 and 2. These suggestions areP1040674primarily Inner Work (see related post series). Forgiveness is internal. When we forgive inside, and forgive ourselves, authentic external expression naturally follows.

These behaviors and exercises help us to respect and release our wounds. They begin with practices that help us to avoid setting ourselves up for resentment, and work toward more profound strategies for managing and releasing pain. Part 1 covers Social and Mental skills and tips. Part 2 goes into Emotional and Transcendental.

If you have been through horrific experiences of loss and abuse you may need additional support. Practice forgiving yourself in all the ways you are able until you can take on challenging incidents involving others, or life itself. The frustrated rage of torment can make us push away the energy and possibility of forgiveness. Whenever you can, stay open to even small experiences of relief and release. No matter where you start to eat the elephant, you will make progress.

Social Level

  • Change “What’s wrong?” to “What do you need right now?”
  • Place more value on what you think of yourself than on how others perceive you.
  • Acknowledge and communicate your needs–without making others responsible for them.
  • Acknowledge other people’s needs–without assuming inappropriate responsibility for them.
  • Take careful note of people’s capacities before making yourself vulnerable. Expect a learning curve, and possible inconsistency under different circumstances.
  • Set boundaries with compassion for yourself.
  • Make yourself vulnerable and open where compassion is abundant. Talk about your wounds only with people who can relate, understand, and make a caring response.
  • Notice when and why you begin to blame or become defensive. What is going on inside? Seek to use clear boundaries instead of defense.
  • Notice when you feel like you need pretense. What do you need from yourself at that moment, in order to be authentic?
  • Resolve disagreements whenever possible–and attempt to even when you’re not sure you can. Life goes by quickly. People can die before you forgive them. Forgive whether or not you care to spend time with someone again. You can release them in peace.

“Never let the sun go down on an argument.”

Mental Level

  • Remember that lack of forgiveness binds you to the people who hurt you. Consider exactly what it costs you to maintain a grudge. Free yourself.
  • Learn from your mistakes—especially if they hurt. Let the lesson be about insight and understanding, not a way to be hard on yourself but a way to move forward with grace.
  • View pain as a form of guidance. What needs does the pain speak for?
  • Find the gifts in your wounds–authentically.
  • Think, visualize, imagine, intend, and wish for authentic forgiveness (but do not fake it).
  • Notice claims you make against yourself and assess what kind of personal development would allow you to release them.
  • Read my Post series on Betrayal.
  • Notice your internal talk. Never talk to yourself in ways you wouldn’t dream of addressing someone you care about. If you speak harshly to yourself, invite a compassionate voice to come forward. Do this every single time, if you can. The nasty voice is not “you,” but only a part of you. You need not to take its comments to heart. Talk back to that voice, balancing its harsh assumptions with loving truth.
  • Put yourself in the place of others and seek to understand the circumstances and conditions that formed their fractures.

Which of these tips stands out for YOU?
What can you do to help yourself to remember to practice it when you need it the most?

22 April 2011 3 Comments

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 13: Social Appearances & Inner Wounds, Part 3

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 13: Social Appearances & Inner Wounds, Part 3

“Being positive” or acting “loving” can be driven by narcissism. Denying wounds drives them deeper and makes them inaccessible to healing or forgiveness.

I am going to say some things about narcissism. Please understand that this discussion is less about the disorder itself than a further commentary on the importance of owning our wounds.

Narcissism, in my estimation, is a kind of a turning point. One common expression of narcissism represents an extreme of social adaptation. It’s like social conditioning on steroids. Appearances have turned the corner from being socially useful and are now headed down the road to pathology.

Narcissists do exist whose adaptation is focused on professional attainment, who do not care how they appear to others. They are perceived as jerks. This post focuses on those whose world revolves around being liked.

P1040458Society generally envies narcissists. And why not? They have mastered the art of social appearances and seem so enviably well-adjusted and well liked. External appearances are maintained without functional introspection or sensitive awareness of other people’s feelings. Narcissism is a personality disorder. Something is not working correctly.

Recognizing the disorder is essential self-care. A sensitive and loving person can get drained and dispirited relating to a narcissist. Staying in the relationship too long is likely to become something for which the sensitive person needs to forgive him or herself.

Narcissists are motivated by how they appear to others. They may seem very normal. A crucial difference between someone with a bad case of “nice” with an intense need for approval and a narcissist is that the latter is incapable of putting themselves in another person’s shoes. If you feel distress about something a narcissist has done they blame you for making them look bad–if only to themselves.

Someone who lives in their image of themselves CANNOT understand or value in you what they push away in themselves. The wounds. It’s not personal. That makes it more confusing.

The most confusing interactions I have ever had were with people who excelled at appearing positive, confident, and caring as a way to avoid their wounds. Sensing what was actually going on was like being lost in a fun house with a distorted hall of mirrors.

Narcissists can be consummate actors. Some narcissists can be generous with material things, attention, and loving words, and may even have scores of adoring friends. (Think: “Iron Man.) A narcissist may even run a charitable organization, become a doctor, or set themselves up as a spiritual leader. It’s easy to believe the narcissist’s act–because they do. Seeing what is going on can be shocking. You just don’t want to think someone who ACTS like they care so much could be so cruel without even noticing. They have no clue.

Trying to explain backfires. If you express distress or give them feedback, they may praise themselves as loving, generous, and skillful with people, telling you with apparent sincerity that you are way off base. Meanwhile they systematically ignore anything that does not support their glowing image. Attempts to communicate your own experience are interpreted as something positive or negative—about them.

If you become angry or hurt this only seems to prove that the problems are all yours. He or she maintains the illusion of being wonderful while you “carry” the difficult emotions for you both. Superiority is a powerful defense.

When we show compassion to someone with this character disorder DSC_0042they have no compunctions about using that—and the rest of our energy—for themselves.

Narcissism is extremely difficult to treat. Those who need treatment cannot recognize it. They are extremely successfully defended. Narcissists don’t seek help; they do not admit to having any issues. They are likely to put down people who appreciate or suggest therapy.

My heart totally goes out to anyone living with a narcissist. It can make you feel crazy. Even intuitive people can be taken in. I hope this post will increase awareness. If you’re partnered with someone who everyone seems to love, who is super-friendly with others and casually callous to you, this is a warning sign. Forgive yourself with great tenderness if you are in this situation. You can forgive the narcissist too—but remember that you are dealing with a personality disorder. Mind your boundaries and don’t let yourself be used.

A knowledgeable friend said, “They can be so charming and persuasive. And one can be fooled at first, then be ensnared by the time the damage is done.”

(The psychiatrist and Intuitive Judith Orloff has online resources for dealing with narcissists.)

Here are a few links for technical information in case you need it:

Symptoms of Narcissism
Diagnosis and Treatment of Narcissism

The rest of this post applies generally, not just to narcissists.

If the need to look good or nice or loving or even spiritual makes us deaf and blind to the distress of others, hidden wounds are blocking the ability to see out. We need to be able to see IN in order to see OUT clearly.

Acknowledging our own wounds is a genuine kindness to others.

Part 14 consists of tips and suggestions that support forgiveness, in each of the four modes from Part 1.

How do YOU feel around people who do not acknowledge any shortcomings or issues?
What happens inside you when you extend kindness to yourself?

Please pass this post along to those who need it.

15 April 2011 6 Comments

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 12: Social Appearances & Inner Wounds, Part 2

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 12: Social Appearances & Inner Wounds, Part 2

Positive people who have not experienced or do not accept emotional pain radically limit their ability to include and support others. This story shows how social contexts can suppress inner wounds:

One of my most vivid memories from seventh grade involves a lovely young man, a Christian in my singing class. He came from a loving, intact family. One day he made an overture to me, to join inP1040675 an after-school activity. I remember vividly the intense sensations that passed through me and the aftermath of this tiny moment. His eyes were so happy, so full of light. I so much wanted to join him. I actually sensed IN and THROUGH him his family and community support, and how loving they were to one another. I hesitated in terror that they would reject me, and asked a few questions to try and find out if I were truly welcome as myself. The light faded from his eyes. He did not meet me as I was. I could see the shroud of “other” settle between us. It felt like becoming a non-person.

Over the next few weeks I turned this event over in my mind. I realized at some point that his group was looking for recruits. They wanted me to believe something. Part of me wanted to believe it because I thought it might make me happier. I watched. What I saw struck me deeply. I noticed that the people in that group turned away from any expression of distress, however subtle.

I almost judged them for dismissing the people who needed them most. Then I realized that they simply were not equipped to deal with anybody who did not come from the same mold. They had great hearts and intentions. But they lacked depth. Their lack of depth diverted their compassion to the extent that they had no idea whatsoever that they were exclusive and closed to people who were in pain, people they could help.

I am not saying this is true of Christian groups in general. I am saying that the same thing happens, to a lesser or greater extent if more subtly, at a cultural level. Those who have not experienced suffering are generally incapable of compassion for those who hurt. And why not? It is not in their realm of experience.

I thought about that young man on and off in the course of my life. I wondered how he unfolded, whether he ran toward the arrogance of assuming that his way was better and isolated himself within his comfort zone, or whether his lovely heart gradually opened him to new people and experiences. He could have gone either way.

Those who come from families who seem to “have it all” and do not have a heart focus as his DSC_2892did often become hardened to feeling and focus on external attainment. Their children tend to lack compassion and even look down upon those who are in pain—and themselves when THEY are in pain.

Serious competition is not compatible with compassion. When we get caught up in trying to be better than others they become heads to walk over. This is an extreme state of ego with the wounds hidden and denied. It’s all about the outside.

Even being ‘all about other people’ can become an ego defense. It can be another way of being all about the outside. Those who study what it takes to please others and do it in order to avoid pain by securing love for themselves have not processed their wounds. They may have authentically loving natures and values. In general they get by well in the world. They may even get by in close friendships with clearly defined roles. Profound intimacy challenges people who use this defense because it goes beyond roles, brings up wounds for healing, and requires receptivity.

Forgiveness asks of us to feel first what is going on inside and to understand that others too are molded by life circumstances and conditions.

How do YOU feel around people who are in pain?
Are you able to be present with them, or do you turn away?
What do you tell yourself about people you perceive as being better than or not as good as you are?

8 April 2011 4 Comments

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 11: Social Appearances & Inner Wounds, Part 1

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 11: Social Appearances & Inner Wounds, Part 1

Day-to-day social life can convey the impression that there is something wrong with us when we hurt inside. Understanding why enhances forgiveness and healing. The next three posts explore social impediments to emotional health, and support integrating self-awareness with life in the world.

P1040454Remember that social life is our external life. Emotional health is balance between our internal and external lives. Society sees to it that we learn social norms. Instruction and modeling for our internal lives is sadly uncommon.

Social personas or images seem to work in the outer world but often retard or prevent inner healing. Those who do not process their wounds often hold an attitude of superiority toward those who are in pain. There is nothing superior in being out of touch. Despite posturing and pretense, lack of compassion and insight is not social or moral high ground.

AVOIDING wounds strains social life and creates a need for pretense. HAVING wounds is not necessarily a problem. How we MANAGE them often is. Noticing wounds with the intent to HEAL them is healthy. Once we have healed our wounds we become infinitely more socially functional—authentically. No pretense necessary.

Motivation to heal is less likely to be strong in people skilled at social adaptations. Is this good or bad? That depends whether you want to stay in adaptations or heal deeply and become fully authentic. In some ways being unable to hide wounds can be an advantage over being able to bury them so well you can get by without working on them.

We get socially conditioned to shut down the feelings that others are uncomfortable feeling themselves. We get social messages to turn away from our wounds. The only necessary change is to be careful to discuss the wounds only with persons who have developed compassion already, can make a caring response. If we talk about them with someone who cannot manage or see their own wounds they must reject us in exactly the same way they reject that part of themselves. They cannot do otherwise.

Awareness of wounds indicates being healthier, not more messed up. Those who appear really together without processing their wounds have just as many problems. They are simply less apparent—until they do something obvious. How many times do we hear about someone in a public office or position of service, or religious power like a priest, whose wounds overwhelm his or her ability to stay balanced in the role of public service or sanctity?

Here are some of the societal reasons why we get the impression there is something wrong with us when we are wounded:

  • People ask, “What is wrong?” instead of “Can I do anything for you.”
  • Our pain scares people who are not able to embrace their own.
  • We live in a culture who “medicates” with drugs, alcohol, and diversions instead of bonding in ways that connect and involve people in healthy ways
  • We may have been scolded when we cried or had a tantrum
  • People who do not know how to express compassion pull away when we express our pain
  • We send people to professionals to deal with “their problems” instead of supporting them appropriately before this becomes necessary

In the movie “The King’s Speech,” Bertie was imprisoned in his royal persona. He lacked the positive vulnerability (see post #7 in this series) essential to effective therapy. He wanted the speech therapist to fix his problem on the surface, without approaching its causes. The therapist was blocked from access to Bertie’s inner world of feeling.

Bertie lived in the emotional isolation common when worldly roles are of greater importance than personal feeling. He was unable to fulfill his role of King until he confronted his depths by allowing his therapist, Lionel, into his inner world. Through the mirror of both therapy and genuine friendshipP1040293 Bertie learned to allow his inner life its central place in his own world. Then he could be King.

Social life may require images from time to time. Authenticity does not require full and complete disclosure at all times or with all people. We pick and choose appropriate expression for this moment. I am suggesting that the motivation for what we pick can be based on comprehensive values, not unconscious compulsions or social conditioning.

Social life, in balance, is our exterior life. Its healthy function does not take the place of your inner life or cripple your personal life. The horror movie in which the mask becomes stuck on someone’s face depicts this malady. In real life this issue is more of a problem the less we are aware that it is occurring. Wounds wake us up to our humanity, needs, personal emotions, goals, dreams, and capacity for genuine intimacy.

How is YOUR balance between your social life and your inner life?
Does one take over the other, or can you move back and forth between them with ease?
What makes this balance easier or more difficult?

1 April 2011 6 Comments

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 10: Self-Forgiveness & Inner Wounds, Part 3

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 10: Self-Forgiveness & Inner Wounds, Part 3

If you have to stretch to relate to this post or have trouble staying present in your body while you read it, be sure to stick through the series. Hidden issues can make this topic tough. Although my words are spare and direct, I wrote this post with the utmost love, thinking of some brilliant, warm, profound people who have needed support to deal with Inner Wounds. The insights in these posts have made a difference in many lives:

The urge to defend is generally driven by internal self-criticism. Like conscience, forgP1040451iveness entails sensing inwardly. Tracing sensitive feelings is incompatible with defensive behaviors. Defense shuts down feeling. Unwinding these patterns requires vulnerability.

Defense divides us into the parts that are sensitive and the parts that are aggressive, blocking effective introspection. For this reason criticizing ourselves makes it almost impossible to change our behaviors.

These formulations of feeling arose for a client who has the guts to clearly observe how her inner patterns are structured (shared with permission): “When bad things happen I’m not good enough,” and “When bad things happen I deserve it.” A child next door was making a lot of noise, for example. She took this to mean, “I deserve to suffer.” Self-berating followed almost every discomfort. She was “supposed to be good enough” that nothing painful occurred. Of course she was raised by parents who hurt her if she expressed pain.

This woman is a competent professional. It took real Inner Work to learn to observe and give voice to these patterns instead of living on the surface, and going through life asleep to yet acting out their unconscious messages.

Self-blame originates as a defense. It can be an attempt to be flawless to avoid abuse, win approval, earn love, and so forth. Love is to be given freely, not earned with perfect behavior. When we are very young and have inconsistent or violent parents, how simple it is to believe we are flawed and worthy of blame. Feeling responsible is a way to have at least the illusion of some control, or a feeling that the crazy world has some rhyme or reason.

I have seen quite a few people call themselves stupid for not knowing something that they could not possibly have known in advance. This is an internal verbal attack, so it increases defensiveness, blocks creativity, and retards healing.

Calling one’s self “stupid” for not knowing something before having the EXPERIENCE by which we LEARN it mimics the experience of an abused child. We are not “supposed” to be omniscient. Life is to learn. We are not “supposed” to be perfect, all on our own and in our egos. Imagining that we can is actually an arrogant fantasy, if you think about it. It’s way too much work and feels cramped. Kindness is infinitely more spacious.

Accepting wounds gives us humility.

Olive Branch

Olive Branch

We are not stupid, wrong, bad, or flawed, for having wounds. Wounds are doorways into our own humanity. They are vehicles through which we learn. Wounds enable us to see the humanity of others, as we embrace our own. Wounds are also a medium by which many develop intuitive skills and learn to read energy. They spur us on spiritually—if we are willing to dignify our pain by accepting it as a part of life. Accepting does not mean you invite more. It means being present to what is real instead of living in pretense.

Create something beautiful with what you have already, starting where you are NOW.

Remember, our wounds originate with separation. We must separate ourselves from others to abuse them. When we are One, hurting others hurts. Of course, we always ARE One, we just forget.

Pain embraced develops compassion. Pain rejected creates masks.

What do YOU notice about your own patterns of defensiveness?
Are you able to trace back into the more-vulnerable emotions underneath?
What happens when you do?

25 March 2011 2 Comments

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 9: Self-Forgiveness & Inner Wounds, Part 2

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 9: Self-Forgiveness & Inner Wounds, Part 2

Why learn about inner wounds? Simply being able to see and talk freely about the things that hurt frees and relieves us. Understanding wounds in a container of forgiveness is a big step toward wholeness, authenticity, and relaxed Presence.

We need to be able to go into the wounds in loving contexts so that when we end up in them by accident we can get back out. Those who feel intact certainly have loved onesP1040471 who can use their understanding. So let’s explore the wounded state as it relates to self-forgiveness.

Here is how we start blaming ourselves:

As children we think there must be something wrong with us when others are unloving toward us. We blame ourselves, often to protect ourselves against being blamed by our parents—which is more frightening. Parents, partners, or even strangers don’t withhold love from you because of YOU, they withhold love because of THEM. Their own self-blame–and denial of it—closes their hearts.

These are the sort of things we need to forgive ourselves for:

  • turning away from the love we need
  • withholding love from ourselves or from others
  • making choices that do not nourish our wellbeing

In addition to acts that have caused pain, our lapses in self care, sabotage of intimacy, over-giving, selfishness, blame for things we cannot control, and attempts to control things better left to grace express and aggravate the wounds we long to leave behind.

Here are some examples of traits that result:
Perfectionism, brittleness, inflexibility, projecting denied traits onto others, coldness, saccharine “niceness,” a holier-than-thou stance, resisting rather than accepting the shadow side of life, and so forth. These are ego defenses. They “protect” our sense of identity from material we are not yet able to deal with. These behaviors keep us simultaneously avoiding and replaying the wounds hidden beneath. We’ve all got some. Different personalities demonstrate such traits according to our natures and the way we react to painful circumstances.

Wounds–and their pet issues—take on expression through our actions and interactions. The way these wounds and issues impact our emotions and behavior separates us from feeling deeply connected—with ourselves and with other people. Separating ourselves emotionally from other people is as simple as rejecting a compliment or feeling uncomfortable receiving love. We shut it out—and at some level blame ourselves for it because we know we are doing it.

Going deeply into the wound without resisting it allows you to eventually gain full confidence that you can manage it. Skirting around it, intellectual analysis, giving it power by fearing it, and otherwise denying or avoiding keeps us stuck. Successfully climbing out of the wound-pit a number of times, with full awareness, can make it possible to clamber right back out any time we find ourselves in that pit again.


Olive Branches at Retreat

The pattern that makes it hardest to forgive ourselves is being hard on ourselves for being hard on ourselves. The illusion that we can and should control our feelings is persistent—and toxic. We do have social needs to manage BEHAVIOR. We feel what we feel inside, and address it with compassion when we can. Judging ourselves for feeling things we don’t like to feel, like self-sabotage, creates a vicious circle between self-blame and non-ideal behaviors. The patterns operate similarly whether they involve self-abuse or just wishing we were different than we actually are. It’s just more subtle.

Perfectionism is a common defense against an active Inner Critic. It doesn’t work. Holding a positive ideal is only as positive as we are compassionate to ourselves. If we are self-critical even the most positive ideal can become a measuring stick or a lash.

In psychology of abused children, the passive parent who did not step in to stop the abuse is usually harder to forgive than the abuser. For the same reasons we find it hard to accept that our own self—who should absolutely be the one to care for us and keep us safe—creates, accepts, allows, endures or condones the things in our lives that cause us pain. Like the passive parent, we do our best given our own fear, dissociation, social conditioning, and survival skills. We, like others, close down and get defensive when we treat ourselves to harshness.

Part 3 of Inner Wounds explores the habitual self-criticism and self-blame that can make us defensive. If we can unmask and accept these patterns, healthy self-love and true forgiveness become accessible.

Are YOUR positive ideals rooted in your real values, or in self-criticism?
What motivates you to contribute to others?

18 March 2011 5 Comments

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 8: Self-Forgiveness & Inner Wounds, Part 1

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 8: Self-Forgiveness & Inner Wounds, Part 1

Forgiving ourselves opens the heart, softens us to love, relaxes our bodies, allows us to ease into greater wisdom, tolerance, and emotional maturity.

What do we need to forgive ourselves FOR?

P1040378When I arrived at the retreat (described earlier in this post series) I would not have placed the need to forgive myself at the top of my Inner Work to-do list. My self-talk is almost consistently constructive. As the retreat process unfolded I began to sense directly how critical I tend to be of myself. Unlike my earlier years, this criticism no longer comes up in the form of self-recriminations, beating myself up with words, or self-punishment.

New archeological layers pop up when we are ready for the next-deeper step in the spiral dance of healing. My new layer disclosed itself through observing: Subtle hitches in breath, twinges of tension, whether or not I chose eye contact, who I dared hug, which people I tended to avoid, my excuses for avoiding them. I noticed that I expect myself to be unequivocally loving to all people at all times—and absolutely authentic at the same time.

When I judge, withdraw, flinch from feeling someone’s imbalanced energy or psychic debris, or decline contact when someone wants my attention I feel somehow remiss or insufficient. This was not close to the first time I noticed these patterns. It was one of the first times I SAT with it–literally as well as figuratively–with full feeling and no diversions. For days. The silence and Zen sitting interspersed with heart-opening practices was powerful.

Some of this discussion gets tough as we dive into issues central to forgiveness. Please bear with me. Even if you do not feel it applies to you, it may help you understand loved ones.

Our Inner Wounds
Forgiveness takes on a whole new depth and dimension when we can apply it directly to our inner wounds.If we turn away from our wounds we cannot bring in the balm of forgiveness to the places inside where we most need it. Why is it that so many of us seem to need forgiveness for having been hurt?

  • we generally have some responsibility in the choices that led to being hurt
  • we may not have done everything in our power to heal our wounds
  • wounds cause us to act in ways we would rather not act
  • we may feel shame about being unable to change these behaviors

The ability to NOTICE your wounds and how they impact your behavior takes courage, insight, and love.

When we fully accept them wounds are like old friends. Why friends? Our wounds show us where and how we need to heal. They invite us to be fully intimate and accepting toward ourselves, like only a dearest friend can do. Wounds have their own eloquent language. They speak of soul purpose. It is by following them into our core and melting them with love that we gain the precious prize of self knowledge, awakening.


Olive Branch at Retreat

Wounds almost always have to do with separation: Separation from self (abandoning ourselves or dissociating), separation from Self (remaining in ignorance), separation from family through estrangement, separation from loved ones owing to our issues, separation from special people we lack the courage to love, separation from community, separation from the Divine.

Most of us find it easier to forgive others than to forgive ourselves.

In Part 9 we explore why it can be so hard to forgive ourselves.

Where did YOUR inner wounds originate?
What do you gain from through them?

11 March 2011 3 Comments

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 7: Positive Vulnerability and Forgiveness

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 7: Positive Vulnerability and Forgiveness

I have met a number of persons able to produce genuine positive emotion at will. Advanced guides understand that we do not arrive at a state of wholeness or Oneness by suppressing or glossing over difficult emotions. Authentic positive feeling rests on being able to experience the entire range of emotions—without becoming identified with them.

What does it mean to experience emotions without becoming identified? This means that when we feel a feeling we do not say 
“this is how I am” or “this is who I am.” We just experience it and let it flow by, like one does with thoughts during meditation or Zen sitting. We continue to be human. We just get better at moving through and out of difficult emotions because we’re not making a big deal of them. We have given up resisting them. Getting to forgiveness, joy and compassion is about being able to ALLOW and RECEIVE them, not to manufacture. Forgiving ourselves is a great second-starting point. The first place to begin is with the ability to be vulnerable.

Positive Vulnerability and Forgiveness
P1040444In the realm of intimacy with Self, others, and spirit, vulnerability means access. Without vulnerability we have no access. This is especially true for anything we may learn directly by experiencing energy or receiving intuitive input. Vulnerability allows energy to penetrate us. All that lies ‘Within’ and ‘Beyond’ require access to us in order for us to have access to them. This applies equally to feeling the energy of a loved one, receiving guidance of any sort, allowing compassion in, allowing one’s self to be forgiven, and experiencing the flow of forgiveness within and through our bodies. Being open and vulnerable to the involved energies provides access.

If this does not bring up the question of boundaries—it should. As a person with profound capacity to feel and “read” energy, I speak a lot about boundaries. Boundaries of different sorts counterbalance the intense vulnerability of being sensitive to energy. Boundaries allow for balance and even for sanity when it comes to knowing what is a part of you and what is not. At some levels of experience everything IS a part of us. At others, we need to be able to identify exactly what belongs to us and what does not. Energy awareness and boundaries go hand in hand.

We connect with the world larger than personal identity and vaster than our limited beliefs by opening to experiences that are beyond what we know ourselves to be. This opening involves vulnerability.

In the everyday world we usually use the word vulnerability to describe a state of being unprotected and unsafe. The trick to intimacy with the world beyond our skins–and our defenses–is to learn how to feel safe enough inside ourselves that we can be vulnerable to life in a positive way. I’m talking about letting in love. I’m talking about being open to learning things that do not fit with our old set of beliefs. I’m talking about allowing compassion to overtake us, getting tears in our eyes when we hear something beautiful, and being deeply moved by gestures of kindness. Positive vulnerability is a real asset.

Defense closes us off to intimacy. We need not choose between being a brick wall or a living target. Sensing and honoring our needs for boundaries can assist both overly-open and overly-closed individuals. Those who tend to close others out can practice trusting their ability to close as needed—and hazard greater openness. Those who tend to be super-open need to make sure their choices involve compassion for themselves, not just for others. Knowing ourselves well enough and getting adept with boundaries support a sense of inner safety. These skills—accelerated by addressing our emotional wounds—make healthy openness possible. Emotional armor is deadening.

So how do we begin to peal off that armor? The rest of this post series is designed to make doing so more comfortable.

Self-forgiveness is key.

How and when have YOU experienced Positive Vulnerability?
How did you feel?

4 March 2011 4 Comments

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 6: Direct Experience

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 6: Direct Experience

Direct experience is a powerful teacher. Powerful teachers promote direct experience. This post describes an intense, direct experience of forgiveness, under the guidance of two powerful teachers.

As the ten-day retreat (see previous posts) began I was closed down after months of difficult experience without the cleansing release of tears. At that point God, love, and all such superlative positives felt abstract. A pragmatist, I enter states during which I am not inclined to “believe” anything based on rearranging the ideas in my head rather than direct experience. I talked to one of the senior retreat guides. He asked simply, “What DO you believe in?”


This is my Shadow, on mist!

I said, “I have experienced before that by doing various practices with sound, intention and energy we can resonate with energies that evoke specific experiences that move us and open our hearts. I believe in that.”

“That works,” he acknowledged. And it does.

Let me share an exercise he led as a further example:

After several days doing spiritual practices that sensitize the heart I was certainly not the only person keenly feeling his or her sandpapery ego. Fortunately the retreat guides were intentionally tracking the emotional states that began to emerge in retreat participants. Their book titlePhysicians of the Heartspeaks aptly to applying the right practice at the right moment to open and heal the heart. We had been using sounds that resonate in the heart center to evoke specific qualities of love or compassion. Now the retreat focus became forgiveness.

During another Dance of Universal Peace, the group circled up into two concentric circles. With eye contact and music, masterfully improvised, we were to focus on and transmit four stages of forgiveness, then advance to the next partner. The capacity of the leader to fully feel and transmit the sensations, energies and emotions of the four states supercharged the exercise. Here are the
four stages of forgiveness we worked with—as closely as I can recall:

1. Running our hands along their energy fields we visualized massaging the balm of forgiveness into the wounds of each dance partner, speaking a name of God that carries the resonance of this quality of forgiveness. We were to “Take forgiveness in to the deepest unforgivable place,” including the mistakes we repeat over and over again.
2. We placed our own fingertips together, then lovingly directed them toward the heart center of the other person, intending to enter the deepest wounds to the heart. We used another Name to “Allow this quality of forgiveness to penetrate all the way to the origin of those wounds.”
3. With one hand on our hearts, we opened our other hands out toward the world, as if erasing the footprints of the event from desert sands, inviting the ability to turn away from the wound without denying it.
4. We blew into our dance partner’s heart center, gently and with great respect, as if blowing away the last fleck of dust, “As if the wound or event had never existed, even in memory.”

This may sound a bit silly all on its own. Given the correct timing and the powerful, focused energies during the retreat process, it was incredibly intense. Most of the eighty or so participants were streaming tears. Each brought utmost sincerity and their most capable compassion to the party. Some were powerful healers.

P1040586I noticed how much easier it was for me to stand in and give out that compassion to others than to allow myself to totally receive it for myself. Fortunately I ended up paired not only with several effective and energy-alive partners, but with the current group leader. My moments paired with him during this practice were actually some of the most moving in my life. I was absolutely raw, absolutely vulnerable, and totally focused on allowing him to impact me permanently. While being as uncomfortable as a finger resting on an eyeball, this experience was profound and amazing. I have never felt such a profound emanation of compassion so directly—and as a healer with decades of different types of spiritual exposure, I’ve felt a lot of it!

What is the most powerful experience of forgiveness YOU have had?
How did it change your life?