Friday, April 24, 2009

Release or Relinquish?

Things are on the move—both in my physical world and in learning some valuable spiritual truths. Since January I have been running through three moving projects simultaneously. Two trips to California have been dedicated to assisting my mother in leaving our family home and moving to a retirement centre. A half a dozen trips to White Rock have moved a portion of our belongings to that “second” home. And in Victoria I am moving from the very spacious two floors upstairs to a one bedroom suite in the basement.

I have sorted through box after box, closet after closet, basement hide-outs, back porches and attics. From baby clothes (mine in California and my children’s here in Victoria), to magazines and books with beautiful art in them, treasures from my travels, long lost and neglected sewing and knitting projects and even programs from concerts of long ago.

However, there is nothing like doing something over and over again, that gives us the opportunity to hone our skills! And this is what I have learned…..

As we use the power of discernment, it sharpens and strengthens, the result being heretofore unknown clarity allowing us to see things in a new way. Its OK to reminisce and spend some time remembering and honouring the people or places that were meaningful to us in the past. I spent many hours sifting through a box and just letting the memories flood back.

However I did stop using the word “release” and instead starting using the word “relinquish”. Release almost implied that if I opened my hand, the object would, (metaphorically) disappear with hardly any effort. What I discovered was that it was also necessary to consciously and persistently untangle and relinquish the emotional hold these things had on me. I discovered that with time, it became easier and easier to recirculate items. And, my ability to trust and place my faith in the Infinite Source played a key role.

My son witnessed me reluctantly letting go of some old calendars with breathtaking photos, and reminded me how I always find beautiful art work and that there is more to come and enjoy, without having to hold on to these old ones.

There is so much good waiting to come to us. When we relinquish our hold on the past and make room - there is much more good to come than we can imagine!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Freedom of Forgiveness

My daughter works in a shipyard and every year boats come in for repair and maintenance. Over the last 7 years she sees many of the same boats - owners knowing the value of regular maintenance. And then she sees a boat every once in awhile that she knows has not been in for a long long time. The bottom is covered in barnacles, the wood is starting to rot, the boat is sometimes even in danger of sinking. What has happened is that little by little the barnacles have attached themselves, and over time the integrity of the boat is in jeopardy.

There is something in our lives that works in a similar way – and that is holding onto the hurts, grudges and resentments of the past. And that past can be a very long time. Because it starts with our earliest memories.

Gary Simmons, a Unity minister and creator of Peacemaking Ministry, says that if we were raised by human beings then we were raised imperfectly. So starting from a very early age, we can start collecting these hurts and over time, they will have the same affect as barnacles on a boat. We begin to sink – or for sure, the weight slows us down and compromises our health and wholeness.

As children we are vulnerable and open – it is easy for us to absorb and believe everything around us. As we grow and are in contact with more people, chances are we had things say to us that hurt our feelings, we felt were unfair, that need to be corrected or made right.

And we carry all this stuff with us. I bet if we spent a few moments here, right now, we could easily come up with a few things that we still remember – unkind words, hurtful actions. Perhaps we even have this mental list of past wrongdoings that we could easily list off the top of our head.

And as adults when we think about these incidents we might tell ourselves – it doesn’t matter, it wasn’t that bad, it was a long time ago. But the truth is – if we can bring them to our mind – we haven’t believed any of that. It has been an intellectual exercise – but deep in our hearts, we are holding on to those hurt wounded places.

Yes things may have happened in our pasts that were traumatic and painful. And now these very things are directing our choices in life. They have affected how we trust people, how we interact with others. How much we take risks.

And those unresolved feelings stay with us and build up over time, like barnacles on a hull. Now the good news is: unlike a boat we don’t need anyone else to do the work for us – well, that’s kind of the good news and the bad news. we can do it ourselves and we don’t need anyone else.

Because even though these past hurts involved other people, WE are the ones that need to do the work to be free of them -it is about US not THEM.

And that’s where forgiveness comes in. Forgiveness is a way of releasing those feelings, of letting go of the past. We can only act in the now – we cannot, as hard as we may want – to create a different past. The only thing we can do now is take steps that create a different future.

I think it was Wayne Dyer/Gerald Jampolsky who said, “forgiveness is letting go of wanting a different childhood.”

Before we talk about what forgiveness IS, let’s take a minute to remember what forgiveness is NOT.

Forgiveness is not the same as forgetting. As we do our forgiveness work, we may in time, forget – but the forgiveness – the letting go – comes first.

Forgiveness does not mean it didn’t happen. It is coming to your own terms with what happened and making a decision to release it – to free yourself from the past.

Forgiveness is not reconciliation. We don’t need the other person. This may be someone we never want to be in the presence of again. It may not be physically or emotionally safe to be around this person. This person may not be in physical form anymore – perhaps they have passed on. Forgiveness does not require the presence or participation of another.

Have you ever had the chance to go back or WISH you could get them to see what they did was wrong and say they are sorry?

When I moved to Victoria I got a job at a school as an administrator. The Board, headed by a particular woman, brought me to a meeting and told me what an awful job I was doing, the office was being mismanaged, I was wasting their money. It hurt me deeply to be accused like that. This was 20 years ago and until recently I could still remember the pain and anguish that woman caused me.

Last year I got a call from a young couple to marry them. They had been to this school as young children and it was my joy to do their wedding. The mother of the bride was – guess who - the Board president who had chewed me out so badly and I must admit I was not sure how I would handle meeting her again. At the dress rehearsal I was introduced to her – and she looked at me politely and said hello. Then she said – you look familiar – do I know you from somewhere? She didn’t remember the incident, she didn’t remember me, it was all past history – out of her mind.

You’ve heard the expression – unforgiveness is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. All these years I had been holding on to that pain, thinking – I want her to acknowledge how badly she hurt me and apologize. Who was I hurting – only myself! She was merrily living her life – unencumbered by any memories or misgivings about the incident.

Some of the people that are involved in our forgiveness process may not even be alive - this does not mean we cannot forgive and free ourselves - we don’t need them to do this.

Forgiveness does not mean it was OK, It is not about letting the other person off the hook – it is about letting ourselves off the hook. it means that we are no longer going to let this event affect who we are and how we live our lives.

But when we make the choice to forgive we are saying: what you have done to me is not going to run my life. What you said to me has no power over me any longer. I am in charge of my life.

Forgiveness is attending to our own health and wholeness. It is taking care of ourselves and allowing us to live the fullest life possible, not slow and encumbered by the weight of the past.

We have the power to scrape off those barnacles. We don’t have to wait for anyone else because forgiveness is our work. Only ours.

Forgiveness is a way of releasing energy from the past that you may still be holding on to. When you forgive you move that energy out of the way and make room for greater possibilities.

p.249 The Quest: Harboring unforgiveness and resentment in our hearts does not hurt others. It only hurts us. It eats away at the soul, filling it with bitterness and blocking the free flow of God’s love, which is the essence of our true nature.

Holding grudges and unforgiveness is self-destructive.

Holding on to the past is limiting your life expression now. Grudges, resentments, disappointments all weigh us down. Unforgiveness is one of the things that creates barriers between us and the flow of God’s good. When we are holding onto the unforgiveness and we can’t open our hands to the good that is coming to us.

matt 18:21 If a member of the church sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven time? Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but seventy seven times.”

Forgiveness happens over time. We often find we need to do it over and over as we discover or uncover more woundedness within us. It is like uncluttering our hearts – as we get rid of some stuff, we find out there is more. It is a natural healing process – so it can take time.

What is the first step? Willingness. Look into your heart and see if you are truly willing to let go of the hurt. Sometimes we are not. We have been comfortable with it. Just remember – we are the ones who are keeping ourselves stuck.

So – are we willing to let go? And ask ourselves……..
does it matter if the other person acknowledges their wrong – no
does it matter if we ever see the other person – no
does it matter that they never said they were sorry – no

We are doing it for ourselves. When we can let go of the past resentments and hurts, we are truly free. We have the power to cut the cord that binds us to this other person, the cord that is choking us. We choose the time for this to happen. No one else can set us free. How about sooner than later?

Give the gift of forgiveness – to yourself - and start now!