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forgiveness

Forgiveness

forgiveness

“You shouldn’t hold a grudge. Just let it go!”

Forgiveness means you have another chance to start again. Often, that means evaluating the person who behaved hurtfully to determine whether the harm was intentional or accidental.

Well-meaning people frequently admonish those who have been seriously hurt by another person to forgive the one who hurt them. If the person did not normally behave that way, it makes sense to forgive. Everyone has reactions they regret and bad judgment once in a while.

But when the person possesses no empathy or compassion, when they not only refuse to take responsibility for their long-term pattern of damaging behavior, but they blame someone else (often the victim!) and play the victim themselves, victims of this kind of person find it hard to forgive. Because the perpetrator does not feel sorry or regretful, and often feel fully justified in their actions, the injured person cannot even begin to consider forgiveness.

They blame you when they’re the perpetrator.

So this situation will bind you to the hurtful person with the strongest of cords. You hold these cords in your hands yet you pull them taut every time you immerse yourself in the past. By holding onto your feelings of pain, anger, and betrayal, you give that person free access to your mind and your soul, your entire inward person. You give away your power to someone who wants to control you. As long as you go back into those memories, you live in the past and give up your sovereignty to someone who does not deserve it.

Separate yourself …

By seeking to forgive the person, you cut the cords that bind you. Acknowledge that the person who hurt you does not or will not understand how they have hurt you. You also acknowledge that they don’t care. You are not saying that it’s okay that they hurt you, or that it wasn’t that bad, or that it doesn’t matter.

Quite the contrary.

… and release.

By forgiving them, you release their hold over you. By forgiving, you show that you do not intend to keep diving into the bad emotional experiences that you have had with them. You won’t think about them at all. For anything! You sever emotional ties and remove their hold on you. You will no longer accept their valuation of you, nor will negativity from them be tolerated by you any longer.

Forgiveness in this sense means simply letting go: letting go of the pain, the memories, your history with this person, sometimes letting go of the person. It is not condoning, letting it slide, and saying it was okay to hurt you.

You are not to blame.

Forgive yourself for those times when you might have responded in a less-than-ideal way. Who wouldn’t have? You were not the problem; you never were the problem.

Ultimately, forgiveness removes obstacles to perceiving your relationship with this person clearly. Once you remove the obstacles, you will be free – free to choose to walk away from the person and your relationship with them, and to have a new beginning (but not with them). Forgiveness gives you a chance to separate yourself from the painful situation, and from the person who caused it – and if it takes separation to bring you peace and wholeness, then do it.

Goals Vs. Tasks

Goals create big changes; tasks keep things the same.

We need to have a balance; we need both.

The mindset of achieving goals at any cost creates chaos because those people and things you already have are neglected or damaged.

The mindset of maintaining and avoiding change creates stagnation and leaves you nothing to replace those things that wear out or break, or the people who move out of our lives for their own reasons.

A balance of creation and maintenance allows both change and preservation. Trees spend the spring madly creating new tissue, and they spend the rest of the year solidifying and integrating the tissue they created in the spring.

A goal and a task are not the same thing. If you can just take the correct action and get the result you want, that is not a goal; it’s a task. And lots of us could use some support and encouragement to get our tasks done.

Routine work like home maintenance, yard maintenance, car maintenance, parts of your job at work are tasks. No special techniques are needed, just the necessary tools and supplies, and enough time to do the work. And maybe a little motivation is in order, too, like a self-directed kick in the behind.

A goal is a large change in ourselves or our lives. This could be a career change, a move, a relationship change (in any kind of relationship, not necessarily just in an intimate relationship), or anything that could be considered disruptive if it weren’t our choice to change.

Goals require many steps to accomplish them, oftentimes specialized techniques or tools, and a huge amount of work. They do not maintain what we have but rather change what we have in a fundamental way. Goals often require more than one person working together to accomplish, and they impact both people and things. The hope is that the impact is positive for all concerned.

So seek balance, and work on both your tasks and your goals.

The Key to Change

“And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been … and let us see that we learn to take it without letting fall too much of what it has to bestow upon those who demand of it … great things.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke, 1892-1910

The new year holds such promise, with its clean slate and its fresh beginning. We can almost feel the field of infinite possibilities unfolding before us as we look ahead unencumbered by our past that we left behind in the old year.

We feel passionate, hopeful, eager for transformation, seeing the world with new eyes so that the world looks new again, filled with the promise of “things that have never been”.

We believe that this time, things will be different, we will be different, and our lives will become what we want them to be. We even understand the magnitude of the effort and time involved in the transformations we ask of the new year, and are willing to put in that effort and time to accomplish them.

So how do we find ourselves in the same situation we left behind, year after year? How do we lose sight of the bright shining future we envisioned for the new year yet again?

The key lies hidden in plain sight, as it so often does: at the new year, we choose to see the possibilities, we stoke the fires of desire for transformation, for evolution, for growth and change, and perhaps most importantly, we let go of the past, releasing it to stay in the past, in the old year that’s ending.

You see, as long as we’re holding onto the past, we can’t create a new future. As long as we feel emotions like anger, regret, sorrow, grief, frustration, annoyance, vengeance, we are tied to the past by the strongest of cords.

The key to lasting, effective change is simply to allow the past to stay in the past instead of holding onto it by reliving our emotions.

During the holidays, we have a break from our routines, along with a festive spirit and (hopefully) time away from work to relax with family or friends. Because we have broken our routines, our minds have become more open to new possibilities, and our focus is on the future.

We often feel emotional about what the future could hold as well, and we’re ready to open our hands and our hearts and let the past fall out and lie amongst the ashes, where it belongs, while we turn our eyes and minds toward the horizon and the shining new year rising before us, replete with promise and possibility.

This year, keep your eyes on the future. It will be bright, because it will be what you create. Allow the past to remain behind you, unseen and unfelt. You have lived through it once; carrying the past with you will not mitigate its effects; rather, you will strengthen it by pouring emotional energy into it.

Pour your emotional energy into your future instead, into the infinite field of possibilities lying before you. You have the ability to choose the future you want to walk into; you can create the life you want to live. Study the possibilities with an open mind and an open heart, thrill with the possibilities, infuse them with positive emotions, and start working to manifest your dreams.

It’s time to set down your baggage and leave it in the past. Turn your eyes to the horizon and embrace the promise of the new year.

Carpe Annum

Carpe Annum

Seize the year! The Chinese New Year, the Year of the Earth Pig, has begun, offering the promise of new possibilities, new opportunities, new chances to make changes.

The new year is as good a time as any for a fresh start.

Make your fresh start last all year by having specific goals along with specific plans to see them through.

Know what you want, know who you want to be, know where you want to go, and know what you want your destination to be like.

  • Do you know what you want? I don’t mean a million dollars and a 90-foot yacht. What do you want to accomplish in the next 12 months? Toward which outcomes do you most want to work? Are they really your outcomes, or is someone else trying to push you to do or be something pleasing to them at your expense? Are you limiting your choices of outcomes because of limiting thinking? For example, if you are looking for a job, are you seeking one that offers the same low pay, the same lack of benefits, the same lack of advancement opportunities as the one you’re leaving? Have you trapped yourself in a salary expectation or a type of job? Sure, you probably can’t successfully get a job as a neurosurgeon if you haven’t got the degrees and experience, but you can probably step outside your comfort zone and move into an exciting and better-paid career if that’s an area you’d like to change.
  • Do you know who you want to be? Do you want to be a non-smoker? Do you want to be a highly paid executive? Do you want to be a professional speaker? Do you want to be a fit and healthy person? You could be any of those things if you chose to be them, and were willing to put the work in to achieve them. Do you want to be someone who watches television and talks around the water cooler at work about what other people get paid to do? Or would you rather do something interesting and talk around the water cooler about what you did instead of what you watched?
  • Do you know where you want to go? The answers to this may be geographical: “I’d like to work in California or buy a vacation home in Florida”; but they may also be metaphorical: “I’d like to be closer to my master’s degree”, or “I’d like to be closer to my ideal weight and BMI”. Do you want to have a better job, or to start a business, or to learn a new skill, or to be a better person in a specific area? Where exactly do you want to be? What is the route on the roadmap to get to where you want to be?
  • Do you know what your destination looks like? How would you know if you have arrived? Is your ultimate outcome for this year to be healthier, wealthier, happier, luckier, more spiritual, fitter, or more educated than you are today? How do you know when you are happier enough? How will you feel when you reach your destination? What will it look like to you? What will it sound like? Does it have a taste or a scent? Does it have surfaces with texture? Immerse yourself in the complete sensory experience of having successfully arrived at your destination.

When you can answer all these questions, vividly, using all your senses, experiencing what achieving your goals feels like, then it’s time to plot out your road map to get there. Break the big goal into steps, so you can make measurable forward progress while still feeling like each step is completely doable. Now schedule each of these steps into your calendar every day until the day the goal is reached.

That is how you seize the year. You start by identifying what you want to seize, then every day you seize the day by accomplishing its tasks, and you move a little closer to your goal, until you hold it in your hands.

Remember, a goal without a target date is just a daydream.

Being Before Doing

You must become that which you want to be first and let the world follow in your tracks…. Your world faithfully and accurately reflects, not what you have put in an order for, not what you have correctly and clearly asked for, but the person you are! *  ~Genevieve Davis

Every great work is just that: work, that someone did. Someone took an action which produced a result. In our scientifically oriented, mechanistic culture, nothing happens without an introduction of work into a system. Without work, a system by nature moves toward entropy –  disorder and chaos.

Even in the art world, masterpieces and not-so-masterful pieces are called “works of art”. Like everything else, art is something we do.

Nothing happens until someone moves something.

This scientific view, this cause-and-effect perspective, is the perceptual framework that defines western civilization. It’s a good and a valid perceptual framework, but like any framework, it can only show us part of the entire reality.

Our mistake arises when we see part of the picture but believe we’re seeing the whole.

The disconnect between “western” and “eastern” medicine, science, and philosophy stems partially from this clash of perceptual frameworks. In the western viewpoint, the whole is the sum of its discrete parts and is defined by their specific functions; the eastern perception is that everything is a reflection of the whole and contains the whole within itself.

Even in the west, we acknowledge the idea that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.

Stepping beyond our perceptual frameworks….

Take your eyes off the obvious to see the possible.

Perhaps we should step back and look at our ideas of working, of doing, because maybe we’re putting the cart before the horse; maybe we’re looking at the end result of a process but thinking that the result sprang fully formed from an isolated action or set of actions.

So let’s look at producing a work of art so we can see the process behind the result; that will equip us to apply it in useful ways to the other areas of our lives.

How to create a masterpiece in three easy steps….

If we’re going to paint a picture of a vase of flowers, we first have to get a vase of flowers, whether that’s an actual vase with flowers in it, or a picture of a vase with flowers, or a memory of one, or even an imagined picture of one. Then we just pick up a paintbrush and transfer that image onto a canvas or a building or watercolor paper.

If we sit down with a musical instrument, we need a piece of music to play on it. We get the sheet music, or a recording of a piece of music, or our memory of a piece of music, or an imagined piece of music. Then we just play that piece of music.

“But,” you object, “I don’t know how to paint a picture or play a musical instrument!”

The how is the process: not the mechanistic, step-by-step, painstaking instruction to replicate the object in a new medium. Not at all. That’s part of the work that produces the end result, the end of the process.

The process begins not with working in a medium to produce a result, but with becoming a person who can and will create that artwork.

Art isn’t created in a vacuum.

It’s created in the soul, the heart, the imagination of the artist.

You must be what you want to create first. If you want to create something beautiful, you must have a beautiful soul, one that loves and is attracted to beauty – not shallow judging of physical good looks, but the deep appreciation of beauty within the object of your vision.

If you want to create art that promotes social justice, it must first live in your soul.

If you want to create art that demonstrates the beauty or the power or the majesty of nature, you must first love, appreciate, and understand it in the deep places of your heart.

Notice there’s no mention of talent.

Talent usually means that someone can be good at something more easily than others can. The rest of us have to work harder to be just as good. But there’s almost nothing that can’t be taught to someone who wants to learn, and once she masters the techniques, she immerses herself into the expression of passion and emotion and gratitude, and that person can produce art that moves people, art that means something.

The person expresses the soul, and what emerges from that expression is art.

The same holds true in every area of our lives. When we express who we are, what emerges from that expression is our life. Our experiences reflect – at least to an extent – the person we are, and the beliefs we hold. Of course, the people around us and our circumstances affect the kind of life we live, too:  if we can barely feed our families, then we likely won’t be making scientific breakthroughs or writing classic literature.

Nevertheless, despite bad circumstances that may be beyond our control, some manage to have homes filled with happiness, children who feel understood and appreciated, and friends who seek them out.

Yet others, perhaps even those in fairly good circumstances, have rather average lives. These people have chosen, for whatever reason, not to be extraordinary, not to seek beauty, not to understand themselves. They have chosen to live by default, responding to every situation but never creating, living their lives on autopilot. Maybe this even describes you.

What would your life look like if you chose to be extraordinary?

What makes your soul sing? Who could you become to give voice to that song? How could you give expression to the beauty and depth and passion in your soul? Where is the inspiration?

Life is not doing. Life is becoming. Being is enough, and yet being isn’t static. It’s changing, flowing, charging, calming.

Being is becoming is being.

Be the voice for the voiceless, if that sets your heart on fire. Express beauty – or pain or anger or social injustice or any other important message through a medium that appeals to you. Change the world, or change your world: it can only happen through being.

Be the kind of person people want to be with, the kind of person who lives a message, the kind of person whose life deeply touches other people.

Be your passion.

Being gives life meaning and purpose . . . makes a life well lived . . . makes a difference.

* Davis, Genevieve. Becoming Magic: A Course in Manifesting an Exceptional Life (Book 1) (pp. 62-64). Kindle Edition.

The Relevant Vs. The New

“The relevant versus the new is the fundamental battle of the current age.”*

The newest bright shiny thing captures our attention, dangled before us like the proverbial carrot.

We chase after the newest thing because it’s faster, thinner, prettier, more powerful, has more innovative features, and is altogether better than anything we’ve had before.

But does the newness really make our lives better – not the thing itself, which may indeed, but rather, the quest to have the newest iteration, and to have it first?

The search for newness leads to shallowness; not necessarily of character, though that too can develop, but rather, shallowness of thinking, of striving, of exchanging something of value for something new.

Is the newest iPhone relevant to me if the last generation still meets my needs? This is not a Luddite argument; we put so much emphasis on new features, new bells and whistles, new innovations, without regard to relevancy.

The question, as Dobelli points out, is whether we sacrifice relevance in our single-minded pursuit of newness, of speed, of efficiency – often merely a synonym for apathy.

What is relevance, in this context? It is, simply, usefulness combined with suitability. In our chase after the newest thing, does the item help us make better decisions? make better connections? make us better persons? Those are big questions, but life is a big proposition – too big to be engrossed in minutiae.

And the newest things, which will always be just out of our grasp, are almost always just pieces of minutia. They are mostly shiny, fast, expensive pieces of not much importance.

Dobelli challenges us to look away from the carrot, and evaluate what makes our lives better, and us better. He challenges us to pursue relevancy.

I think he may be right.

*The Art of Thinking Clearly: Better Thinking, Better Decisions” by Rolf Dobelli, published by Sceptre, a division of Hodder & Stoughton, part of the Hachette UK group of publishers, London.

#TheArtofThinkingClearly #relevancy
#ButterflyPhoenix #StopChasingtheCarrot

The Spirit of Autumn

autumn spirit spirituality
The spirit of autumn is our spirituality.

As summer fades into autumn, we enter a time often filled with introspection. For those of us over the age of 40, we begin to enter the autumn years of our lives. We start to wonder about the important things like ‘what do I really believe?’

In the autumn season, this question amps up in our psyche. Due to the approach of the holiday season, warm fuzzies permeate our being. Fueled by holiday music and seasonal treats, we socialize more with others in our lives. In addition, we are more likely to attend planned events by the benevolent organizations of our communities.

The autumn season brings back memories, for better or worse

Our old friend, Nostalgia, returns from the deepest recesses of our minds, bearing gifts from the Ghost of Christmas Past. Fond and not-so-fond memories of family gatherings bubble to the surface.

More people attend houses of worship during the holiday season than any other time of the year. They try to recapture something they had experienced as children.

With the autumn season come the questions

All of this brings forth the questions, ‘What do I really believe?’, ‘Why do I believe that?’, and ‘Is it true?’ Above all, what we really ask in the autumn years of our lives is ‘What will happen to me when this life is over?’

Cultivating our spirituality is an everyday endeavor. People who practice some form of spirituality throughout their lives often live longer and are happier than those who don’t. Moreover, they recover from illness or medical procedures faster.

Seek guidance

If you find yourself with these questions formulating in your mind, seek out a spiritual director through your specific house of worship. Likewise, attend the services. Pray or meditate daily. Read inspirational works or devotions.

In conclusion, our spirituality isn’t just a separate dimension of our being. Rather, it is a deepening foundation of our physical, social and personal dimensions.

A Small Change in Perspective

A change in perspective can bring about healing. I think we often underestimate the importance of spiritual and emotional healing. The wounds aren’t visible, so they’re easy to hide.

But they’re there, causing you pain, stopping you from reaching your potential, leaching the joy from your life, preventing you from finding satisfaction or contentment.

Those wounds were almost always inflicted by someone else. Regardless of whether they intended to hurt you, or not, the wound is there, and it stays because when you got hurt, you accepted a belief about yourself.

You can learn what those beliefs are by looking at the behaviors you have when you feel thwarted or unable to move forward. Eavesdrop on your inner dialogue. Sometimes the words aren’t even expressed but a part of you knows what the words would be.

Examine that belief in the light of day as the adult you are now. Is it really true? Was it ever true? If a powerful swell of emotion rises as you look at that belief to question its validity, emotion that makes you believe it’s true about you, then you have found the one (or one of the ones) causing you trouble.

It’s time to let go of that belief. It isn’t true, it doesn’t serve you, and it keeps the wound from healing. Get an outside perspective from someone who respects you but is uninvolved if you have trouble seeing that the belief has no relevance to you.

All you need is a small change in perspective.

Everywhere You Go, There You Are

I was a cheerleader in high school. Every time we got on the bus for an away game, we would sing: “Everywhere we go, people want to know, who we are! Who we are! So, we tell them! So, we tell them…!”

As we go through our lives, everywhere we go, people want to know who we are. The question is, what do we tell them? And, more importantly, what do we tell ourselves?

I used to tell people that I am a single-mother. I used to tell people that I am a woman business owner. These are two examples of self-labeling that I stopped using.

Now, I tell people that I am a mother. What difference does it make if I am single or married? In the end, I am still a mother, plain and simple. I tell people that I am a business owner, regardless of being a woman.

The labels that we attach to ourselves can, and often do, become a burden in our lives. When people attach labels to their everyday existence, we fall into the trap of limiting beliefs.

One of my favorite stories to tell is the day I told my neighbor that I was “just a secretary”. She responded, “If you really believe that, then you will always be secretary.” Mind blown! It was true. I had limited my life to a single vocation that never had a hope of rising above it. I stopped telling people that, and more importantly, I stopped telling myself that.

What are you telling others and yourself about you? Today, ask yourself, what labels can I remove from my life?

Hygge and Lagom: The Key to Contentment

Hygge lagom comfort
Comfort and conviviality in just the right amount.

What my Great-Aunt Dagmar knew about hygge and lagom,  and why you might want to know about them, too.

‘Hygge’ and ‘lagom’ are Danish words, and the Danes have built their entire culture around these ideas. In addition, the concepts characterize most of Scandinavia as well as France to one degree or another. The concepts describe a worldview, a mindset that colors the way one sees everything and goes about life.

Books have been written about hygge (not so much about lagom) because the concept encompasses so much. But it really applies to every area of life. ‘Hygge’ means a sense of coziness  and pleasant warmth, finding comfort and fulfillment, indulging in beautiful experiences of togetherness, and feeling satisfied with just the right amount of everything. Socioculturally, it means warm friendships and family relationships, hospitality, conviviality, and loving joyful tolerance toward all.

Quality bests quantity

My Aunt Dagmar first taught me these ideas when I was a very young child. Whenever I went to her house, she served me hot milk with a splash of coffee or tea and a spicy cookie or two. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on pillows on her comfortable dining chair, watching her hold her delicate china teacup and trying to do the same with mine.

When we drank our tea, she told me that one or two small butter cookies with cardamom, ginger, and just a touch of sugar were indulgences to be savored slowly and in the company of people we love – far better than eating an entire box of mediocre cookies alone.

She was right.

hygge lagom rose
Much sensory pleasure, but ephemeral in duration.

She always prepared indulgent food, she grew award-winning roses in her Minnesota garden, she walked barefoot with me in the stream behind her house. But she always had “just enough”, never too much. Ultimately, she was living the ideas of hygge and lagom, immersing herself in comfort and pleasure, in just the right amounts.

With regard to food, this concept is the real reason behind the so-called French Paradox. Many theories have been put forward about why the French people traditionally have eaten rich indulgent foods yet have stayed slim and healthy.

Fill your senses, not just your stomach

It isn’t the wine, or the fresh fruits, or the fresh air. The French understand the value of slowing down to prepare delicious foods, and to eat them leisurely with family and friends.

The wine, fresh fruit, and fresh air add to the pleasure. But it’s the appreciation of the complete sensory and emotional experience of eating well, together with people who mean something to us, that fulfills our deep needs for companionship, security, and meaning.

Because this gives us a sense of physical and emotional satisfaction from our food, we don’t need to continue eating to feel good.

Mindfulness is key

Mindfulness is key, being present and actively experiencing what we’re doing: cooking, eating, playing with our children, driving, visiting, working. Above all, life is about our experiences. So often we fail to be present in our lives, physically there but mentally abroad; we need to buy the mug and the T-shirt because we missed the experience.

Certainly, that realization was the greatest gift my Aunt Da gave me (other than her unconditional love and encouragement): she reminded me to appreciate the present moment — to experience deeply with all my senses whatever I was doing — by living that way herself, and by sharing her experiences with me.

So today I try to incorporate that mindful attitude toward my family and friends, spending time doing pleasant things with people I love; toward food and cooking, immersing myself in preparing wonderful comfort foods; toward gardening, tending my (non-award-winning) roses and herbs in the garden; and, remembering, most of the time anyway,  to be mindfully here in the present moment.