Just a few days ago I was getting ready for bed when I heard God whispering to me. “Betty, did you see me today?” I thought for a moment and then it became clear. I see God in the eyes and unconditional love of my dog. He looks at me much in the same way I believe that God looks upon me. He doesn’t judge, he isn’t expecting that I attempt to be someone or something that I’m not and his love and affection aren’t based on how many good things I have done for him. The more I think about it, the more I am absolutely convinced that even though we are made in God’s image….a dog’s heart is made in God’s image – because it forgives and loves in ways that as humans we can’t even understand. I see God in the eyes of my Cookie. And I know that he was brought into my life by a God who loves me in ways I cannot yet imagine.
Last night I had a profound dream about a little girl and her brother. They were both in kindergarten and very sweet children. It became clear to me that they were going to be my children as their mother had abandoned them both at the school and they had no place to go. I told the little girl, Ashleigh that they would be coming home with me after class that day and she laughed and jumped up into my arms so grateful to have a home to go home to at the end of her day. As I squeezed her in my arms she said to me quietly “I just hope that when I see my mother again I will have the courage to ask her why she did this to me.” This moment to me in the dream really meant something. There is a message there for all of us, I think. We all have times in our lives where we are abandoned at a crossroads – where we no longer have a path but a briar patch instead, through which we must tread in order to find the next path. There will be scratches because there are always thorns in the briars. Those wounds may even leave scars.
There are so many obstacles and challenges in life that feel like earthquakes shaking the foundation of our very existence. From divorce to the loss of a job or family member there are many things that cast us off the nice patted down path of life we are walking on and toss us out into the briar patch. It’s so easy to get lost in the chaos. We get lost from our friends and family. We can even get lost from ourselves. We can find ourselves alone and afraid, bitter and angry at life and at God. But if we remain awake within the nightmare and we do our best to balance our perspective which means looking at our circumstance from a higher place, sometimes we can discover the right question to ask ourselves that will help us to navigate toward the next path to better our situation and to take our lives to a better destination.
This may sound silly at first. But if you really consider that we each have a higher consciousness deep within us that views the world from a non-emotional perspective this truly makes sense. Why wouldn’t we want to find that clarity and understanding? It is a priceless tool for life’s navigational purposes. Sometimes we might even just consider that a lot of the briar patches we find ourselves scrambling through are ones we chucked ourselves into by making emotional decisions from places of pain and chaos because we never found the stillness within ourselves that can override reckless emotions. How many close relationships have you been involved in that didn’t work out? Maybe there were fights. Maybe words were used as darts from both sides like a battleground at breakfast. Maybe there was silence and distance. Maybe there was disillusionment. Maybe there was betrayal. It could be that you were the betrayer. Or you could carry the scars of the betrayed. How many of those ended relationships do you look back on today and realize that the other person wasn’t nearly as bad as they seemed at that time? How many times do you view them from this new perspective and see the truth about yourself and the honesty of that relationship? I certainly have many times. It’s easier to see a situation from another person’s vantage point when we put down our weapons and listen for the truth.
Sometimes the wars we fight with others are really wars that we are fighting with ourselves on the inside. We just involve them because those places of pain inside of us project onto those relationships the things we fear most. So we fight and struggle to press down those seemingly external threats. And at the end of the war while we bandage our wounds and sit in reflection of the loss we realize how many of those were actually self-inflicted. Sometimes good people murder decent relationships as part of a war within themselves because the fight continues on no matter who the other person in the relationship happens to be at that moment. It’s the same war just on a different battlefield. And wars always leave casualties.
People hold onto pain. We cling to regret and resentments that do nothing to bring about healing of any kind. We grasp what we consider to be truth (whether it really is or not) and we run through our lives shouting it to the world. We have been wronged! We have been damaged! We are angry and unforgiving. But why? Sometimes forgiveness is a huge ring of fire to try and jump through, especially when we are still hurting inside. Wounds on the inside tend to fester. They fester into deep anger, hatred and bitterness and soon the only thing we can hold onto are the resentments themselves. Wounds on the inside of people, meaning emotional pain has to be drained in order to establish healing. They do not close on their own. They just fester and spread. They spread because we begin to feverishly see repetitions of the pain we so much want to avoid in other people. We silently and fearfully weigh out the probabilities that new people will create old pain for us. And we never put down our weapons because we are wounded and always at war.
But, what we need to realize is the simple truth that every battle has two sets of stories. There are reasons and reactions and emotional decisions that keep the battles heated and going on in our lives for decades. People get tired of fighting and leave but they are replaced by new people we fight the same battles with again and again. Did you ever consider that we are both the giver and the recipient of our own pain? There are two sides to every story and somewhere in the middle is the truth. But we will never find the truth until we are willing to see things from both sides. The accomplishment of this amazing feat requires stillness, openness and trust.
So, how do you drain those emotional wounds and prevent poisoning of your entire life? By first creating the intention to do so. Secondly, by consciously putting down your story and your weapons (meaning judgments and harsh thoughts against others) and finally by exercising forgiveness. But forgiveness is more than words that put a band-aid on a situation. It goes far deeper than that and requires us to experience honesty and openness on a level we most likely have never known before.
In my dream, Ashleigh and her brother were casualties of some unknown war being fought in the battleground of their mother. Ashleigh represented a wounded part of her mother and her willingness in the pain to commit to asking herself courageous and profound questions meant that she had already outgrown the scars of the battle and that for her the briar patch had already become an open path to understanding.
So, if you’re standing in the briar patch today, then maybe it’s time to start asking some really important questions. The first is do you want healing for your life? Are you tired of fighting battles that repeat endlessly? Are you finished hurting yourself? Do you want a better life for yourself and your loved ones? If you have answered YES to any of these questions you are ready for the next step.
And so, today began much like any other. I got up and saw my hubby off to work and set about my day at home by starting the laundry and taking care of some little obstacles. I really didn’t feel any differently than any other morning since my grandmother passed away last June on my wedding day.
It seems the same sadness coupled with dizzying fearful thoughts accompany me throughout the day – and it’s so commonplace now I don’t even recognize it. The fear started when my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer last Spring. We spiraled from her diagnosis to her funeral in less than two months. And after the reality of her passing settled on me it brought a fear of sickness along with it. And that fear has hovered over me and whispered its threats into my ear every day for the past nine months.
Today, as I was driving down to pick up my daughter I heard the Lord speaking to me in my heart. He said what if you live your entire life and none of the things you are fearing so much even happen to you? What if on that day you look back and realize that those fears have stolen all of the moments of joy from your life? For some reason this really shook me out of my driving coma and I felt a pang of recognition deep within me as I instantly recalled many occasions when I have replaced a joyful thought with a fearful one.
It was true. I have been trading my joys for the sorrows and burdens of paralyzing fears and whispered threats lingering somewhere in the back of my mind for so many months now it has become habitual. I understood today how often I interrupt a joyful thought with -but what if? It was all true. I never even realized that every time I feel joy of any kind that fear rushes back in and I shrink back down into sadness and anxiety. I knew that fear had become part of my life, especially since I lost my grandma last year. But I never really understood just what that fear was stealing from me.
So I asked God – well, how do I stop the fear? It’s so automatic – and it feels so real and it knocks me down every time it hits. And He said, Give it to me. Give me the fear. Give me the tears. Leave the uncertainty up to me. Let it rest on my shoulders. Immediately my thoughts were – but what if the things I fear actually happen to me? And He replied, I have given this day to you just as I have every other that has gone before – and there is so much joy there for you. Why are you living your life every day as if the things you so desperately fear have already happened to you – when I have given you a rainbow at the end of every storm in your life?
I didn’t have an answer. I still don’t. But I know that I have to undo this automatic fearful response if I ever really want to enjoy my life again. At the end of the day we can’t really control very much of what happens to us. But it doesn’t make sense to go through life with so many fears boiling over that you can’t even feel happiness anymore. So, I have begun the process of recognizing and letting go of the fears and replacing the automatic fearful internal responses with my choice to give all of those things to God and let Him sort them out. I don’t feel much different than I did yesterday. But I have a whole new perspective on life.
Sometimes I find myself becoming a little harsh and judgmental toward others – especially with all of the needless violence it seems we are hearing about every day. I find that when I move too far over into that area I am far less able to extend compassion and far more likely to pass judgment instead. And it really is the little things that start to remind me to do a little inventory check. So, I begin by bringing to mind occasions when I have been mean to someone for no reason – or when I have been a little dishonest or when I have said something hurtful to someone. I think a
bout that – and then I think about what they must have been feeling about me during that time and I am reminded that Grace isn’t something we can receive and hold onto. Coupled with forgiveness and love, grace is meant to flow like water from one to another until we are all living, thinking and feeling on a more loving vibration. This is the cycle that can bring about peace on earth – but it’s a practice that can’t be missed by even one person or it all crumbles down.
Everyone experiences betrayal, heartache and pain at some point in their lives. It’s easy to let the pain of the event take control and set the atmosphere of our emotions according to those negative moments. Learning to disengage at the point prior to that emotional response as it begins to replay and recycle within us is where the true power lies. Of course, whenever a relationship comes to an end or a betrayal has been exposed there is going to be an emotional response. There is little we can do to thwart those initial negative feelings. However, as thoughts and feelings begin to cycle through us as we remember it in the days and months following the experience we have a myriad of choices with what to do with that energy.
Most people just witness the cycling and recycling of that old stored information as thoughts and memories and a general replaying of the event in its entirety begin the endless cycle of rolling through our minds. These thoughts are repetitive and set off events on a physical level each time they cycle. Cortisol and other components of physical stress are released and the body goes through fight or flight cycles over and over again just because we are becoming locked in the experience mentally and psychologically. In other words, we are reacting to a stressor that has already passed and we are continuing to sacrifice our health and well being by allowing this cycle to continue.
But how can we turn it off? You may be asking as you are reading this article. The answer is simple and yet complex. We cannot just turn it off. But we can disassemble it. The first step in the disassembly of this cycle is to mute the volume of the memory. We do this by a process of separation. In order to even slow down the whirl of screaming memories tied to powerful emotions that ravage us when we have a negative life event is to create space inside of ourselves. Below, I will outline the steps to take control of your memories and your life in order to accept the invitation to peace.
- Create a virtual memory box in your mind’s eye. Make it sturdy and strong and deep. Place a lock on it if you like. Be sure you are able to “see” this box when your close your eyes.
- Place the box in a room of your mind that you will call acceptance. This is a medium sized white room with white carpet and a thick white curtain covering the doorway. The room has a soft, plush feel to it. There is no sound in this room. Just plush, peaceful silence.
- Now you will envision yourself carrying your memory box into that room and placing it wherever you feel it should be. It can be close to the door or against a wall or in the center of the room.
- Once you have placed this box in the room you are ready to begin disassembling traumas in your life.
- Stand in front of the box and ask your body what event is trapped inside it and causing injury.
- Your body may show you several events simultaneously. You will only want to work with one at a time.
- Choose ONE circumstance or event that you have been shown that has made you feel particularly angry, hurt or abandoned.
- Next, identify the individual onto whom you are projecting your negative feelings. This person will be the one that you “blame” or feel aggression, hostility or anger toward. You may feel like they caused it – or that they simply didn’t protect you.
- Many emotions will surge forward at this time and the cycle of memory and physical response will begin.
- Don’t listen to the chatter or repetitive angry thoughts that are moving in your mind. Instead, place your palms together and intend to create a bubble as you slowly pull them apart. See the bubble growing a thick colorful wall that is also transparent so you can see that there is nothing inside of it yet.
- Now, take a deep breath focusing on the person you are angry with and the circumstance that is painful for you.
- Project both parts into this bubble. The person and the event. You will now be able to see them in the center of the bubble. You will notice there is no longer any chatter around you. You have sealed it within the bubble.
- You have just separated the event from yourself and your physical body.
- Now it is time to separate the individual from the event.
- Allow the bubble to float in front of you as you are still observing the event and the person inside.
- Create a smaller bubble by placing your palms together and pulling them slowly apart.
- Focus on the individual in the bubble and draw them out and away from the event and into the second bubble.
- Allow both bubbles to float in front of you for a few minutes. Observe how you feel about the person how that he/she has been separated from the event.
- Look at your box and see the lid open and a golden beam of light beaming out of it.
- Visualize yourself pushing the first bubble with the event trapped inside toward the light coming out of the box. You will see that the light is a vacuum and will pull it deep into the box now.
- Take the remaining bubble in your hands and pull it close to you in your mind’s eye.
- Look at the person and observe them. What are they doing? Are you seeing him or her at work or with their children? Are you seeing them crying? Are they just looking back at you motionless?
- As you quietly observe this individual in the plush silence of this soft, white room you are becoming more relaxed. You will notice you feel much less anger. Much less fear is surrounding this person.
- Ask God to show you this person the way He sees them. Ask Him to reveal to you the beauty and the pain of the person you have been holding responsible for your hurtful experience. Be still and wait. You will start to see glimpses of this person that will create a three dimensional image of them as a whole. You will see them possibly as a small child or even a baby. You will start to feel yourself soften toward them. This is very good. Allow this to unfold for your healing.
- Accept that while they may have actually intended to hurt you – they are still an individual who has been hurt in life as well. See yourself in that person. See your helplessness in them and feel their helplessness in you. Invite understanding and stillness into this experience.
- You are not accepting that this was rightful. You are not expressing that what happened or what they did is acceptable. You are accepting instead that what happened – has happened and it cannot be undone. You are accepting it in order to release the toxicity from your body.
- When you have begun to feel a neutral emotion toward the person (and this can take more than one exercise) you are ready to let them go. If it doesn’t happen in the first exercise simply leave the bubble floating in this room and revisit in a day or a week and pick up the exercise again.
- You will know when you are ready and it is time to release this person from your body’s cells.
- When the time is come and you feel ready to set this person free you will simply create a beautiful window in one of the walls of this room in your mind. Outside this window is a field of flowers and trees with birds and rabbits and a host of other animals.
- Open this window and carry the bubble toward it carefully.
- With a gentle push, release the bubble out the window and watch it float away into the distance.
- Now go back to the box.
- If it is closed, open the lid.
- Pull the bubble up out of the box. It is empty.
- There are no traces of the event left in the bubble that was trapped in the box. It is gone from your body and cannot do physical harm to you anymore.
Of course, when you do this exercise the first time you will doubt that it has worked. It will seem too simple to have any impact on such a traumatic event in your life. And the memories will try and replay again. The difference will be that you will not FEEL the negative emotions. You will now be a quiet observer of these thoughts. They have been separated from you and cannot hook themselves into your endocrine system anymore. You will have thoughts of the person. You may even have displeasing thoughts of the person. That’s okay. Because the work has been done and what you are experiencing now is a re-run of an old episode of your life that you didn’t like very much anyway. The best thing to do during these “re-runs” is to change the channel. Refocus your mind on something opposite and pleasing. Soon, you will not experience the re-runs as often and eventually it will fade to the background of your memory – no longer alive.
You see, our emotions are what give life to our regrets, our fears and our memories. Without emotion it is simply observation. Observation is healthy because it prevents the physical entanglement that has the power to do harm to us when our emotions become involved with the psychological experience of replaying past events in our minds.
To forgive is to release from bondage those people and things that continue to do us harm so long as they are trapped in the webbing of our emotions continually acting out a war on the landscape of our physical bodies. We can create blank canvases on which to live again and again when we learn to practice releasement and acceptance. Forgiveness is an invitation to peace. It is the same invitation issued from a thousand different sources to all of us and we cannot afford to deny even one without sacrificing our total well-being. Forgiveness is ointment to the soul and medicine to the body whether we are recipient or sender. To understand this is wisdom, to practice it is health and to share it is abundance.
Part One: Becoming The Observer
Toxic thoughts create the release of toxic chemicals known as stress hormones in our bodies. The energy of anger and resentment is a powerful trigger for these neurotransmitters. Over time, a buildup of toxic energies in our minds and bodies inevitably lead to illness. Every body is different and so is every mind, however the way in which the health of our bodies respond to these toxic stressors are remarkably similar across the board. If you want to be a healthier person then you must adopt healthier thoughts.
Eliminating toxicity in your thought life seems daunting when you imagine how many thoughts you think in a single day. Managing these thoughts (and by doing so-your health) is however essential for change and guarantees that you will reap a harvest of rewards in all areas of your life.
As a teacher and mind/body wellness practitioner I recommend that you start broad and narrow as you go. This means that you begin by becoming “The Observer” in your life. This doesn’t mean that you are taking a back seat and giving up control over where your life is going. Actually, quite the opposite. It truly gives you a much better ability to steer past potential obstacles that could get you “stuck” in wrong thinking and repetitive mistakes.
Becoming the observer is a simple concept that only requires intention and reinforcement. When you wake up in the morning on day one of this practice-simply say to yourself “I am only observing today-Not judging.” As your day progresses keep a mental tab of how many times you characteristically attempt to judge an event or situation. You will find that it happens A LOT more than you realized at the onset of this practice. Every time you feel a judgment thought rising up in your mind, simply remind yourself that you are observing only and let go of the judgment. Start out with one day, or even one morning or afternoon and gradually expand until you have the hang of it.
By allowing the information and energy of events to flow through you without attaching judgment and labels to it will prevent it from becoming “stuck” in your energy field. What happens when we make a judgment on an event is this:
- An Event Occurs
- We Attach A Label/Judgment
- By Labeling We Attach An Emotion To The Event/Situation
- This Emotional Attachment Carries The Toxicity of The Event Into Our Energy System
- This Event bonds to an already established energy blockage (from previous labeling & attachment sometimes even from early childhood experiences.)
- The energy blockage becomes bigger and now involves even more toxicity
- This toxic energy operates in the subcionscious levels by attracting similar events and circumstances to our lives and setting up negative patterning
- The Patterns it creates feels like something out of our control “bad luck, karma, Murphy’s Law”
- We judge the pattern which creates more toxicity and only adds to the problem
- We experience “more of the same” in our lives (bad relationships, money issues etc.)
- We attach emotion to each of these new events and the cycle repeats
So, you see the first step is non-judgment because it stops the cycle from repeating and prevents us from adding more toxicity to the blockages that are already in place. The next step is removal of these toxic buildups. But for now, concentrate on practicing non-judgement. Remember to be The Observer.
In a few weeks we will move on to step two: Removing Toxicity & Breaking Down Barriers
Many folks suffer from it. Most choose not to talk about it for fear of bringing others down. Christmas is the most unselfish and loving time of the year. It is most likely a time that we have emotional links to ranging far back into our childhoods. All of the memories sometimes can lead to an emotional overload, especially if we have lost loved ones that we shared holidays with in our past.
What can we do when the sight of colored Christmas lights or the sound of ringing Christmas bells causes us to dip down into that gloomy state of sadness? Denying that there is something wrong is not the solution. We can tell those closest to us to ignore the fact that we are emotionally wounded, but that just means we are shutting them out and it offers no real solution to where we are in that moment. Instead, it is a much better option to take a moment to verbalize what it is that is distracting you into sadness in that moment. Maybe it is the smell of grandma’s baked cookies. Maybe it is the familiar chorus to a favorite holiday carol that you associate with your mom.
For me, it can be something as simple as red jell-o and an old Buck Owens Christmas song. My dad always told us every single Christmas dinner that he didn’t want any jell-o on his plate because he refused to eat something that moved by itself. Although it was very funny when I was a kid – that memory became so painful when I lost my father several years ago that the thought of red jell-o made me fall into a darkness so deep that no one could reach me. And it wasn’t just the red jell-o. It was old Buck Owens Christmas songs that used to ring through the house all season long that triggered my mind to relive those times in my childhood when my sister and I would anxiously decorate the tree with our granny and stay up until midnight helping bake pies and turkey on Christmas Eve. I would remember with vivid detail the smell of pine needles and scotch tape and the sound of the mixer as it pulverized the potatoes in the old brown mixing bowl.
My sister and I would be so full of energy and anticipation every Christmas Eve because that was one of two times during the year when we would get to visit with our dad. We would put on our jammies and wait sleeplessly with our hearts thundering in our chests for our dad to show up on Christmas morning. And he always did. He would come in granny’s front door at 5:30 a.m. on Christmas morning every year like clockwork. I can remember the tree having only a few packages beneath it the night before. But when the smell of coffee and the wafts of cigarette smoke drifting in from the kitchen awakened us we discovered over half of our small living room floor covered in brightly wrapped boxes and gift bags with large sparkly bows. We could hear the conversations going on in the kitchen as the butterflies awakened within our bellies and began their frantic flight. It was never the packages that truly made us happy. It was our dad seated at the end of the kitchen table drinking black coffee in his plaid shirt with the rhinestone buttons down the front. It was the smell of his wool lined blue jean jacket mingled with the faint scent of his familiar yet nameless cologne when we hugged him. It was his funny facial expressions and his endless teasing. It was his laughter.
These memories are all beautiful and touching and they represented a time in my life that was less complicated and less hurried. They are filled with love and joy and excited anticipation. But when I realized that memories so sweet seemed to be causing sharp pangs of regret, loss and helplessness I had to really examine what it was that transformed them from beauty to pain. Of course, it was obviously because I had lost my father. But it wasn’t really only that which had given these soft childhood memories their sting. It was the bitterness I felt at the loss of him. It was the bitterness I felt toward him in some ways for abandoning me. It was the anger I felt because we would never again have that Christmas morning that my sister and I lived for all year long.
It took me a while to realize that what I needed most was forgiveness. I needed to forgive him, to forgive God – and most of all to forgive myself. You see, I was most bitter at me. From a place so deep within me that I couldn’t reach it for a long time I was holding blame and bitterness toward myself for not finding a way to keep him here. My father took his own life June 24th 2004. He had estranged himself from us – his daughters. Nothing was wrong. We had never argued or fought. It was just that his work and his other family obligations had stolen our place in his life. My sister and I had tried to reconnect with him and although he seemed happy for the visits – a large part of himself had been sealed off from us. We later understood that he was suffering from depression.
He had killed himself only a few days after Father’s Day. I had been aggravated with him for the distance that I at that time didn’t understand was because of his depression and I hadn’t taken him a card. Somehow I believed that if I had given him a card that year like all of the others before it – then on that horrible night he would have maybe seen the card as he lifted the gun to his temple and he would have remembered his daughters. And then maybe he would have remembered how much we loved him – and how much he loved us. Just maybe h
e would have stopped for a moment and realized how devastated we would be to lose him from our lives. Maybe he would have reconsidered. But there was no card on his mantle. There was no reminder of his daughters who loved him. There was only him, the depression and the rage. And now that same depression and rage had found its way into my heart. I had to find that still place where forgiveness, softness and allowance lives. It was a process but eventually I did find it. I went through all of the steps – and viewed the situation from all possible angles. And in the end I forgave myself, him – the rage and the depression.
Jell-o still makes me cry. But now it is tears that come from a very different place. I still miss my daddy. Especially at Christmas. But there is no unforgiveness and at the end of the day after the jell-o and sniffles have passed – there is peace.