On September 11, 2001, the United States suffered it greatest trauma, 2996 people were killed and another 6000 wounded. As the first act of such magnitude to be committed within the continental U.S., America lost its innocence along with any sense of domestic security. As the deadliest terrorist act in world history, the world, but most especially the United States, has not yet recovered. I’m not sure we ever will. Since the moment the planes flew into the Twin Towers, the U.S. has been at war – first against people of color in countries made of sand and now against each other. For the past 17 years the United States has known nothing but war, and our current cultural climate suggests that as a nation we are collectively suffering the effects of trauma.
The Effects of Trauma
In the simplest of terms, when we have an experience that our mind interprets as traumatic, we are instinctually driven toward one of three survival tactics: fight, flight or freeze. If the trauma is not resolved or if the traumatic response is not released from our emotional/physical bodies, the trauma remains. When this occurs, we might find ourselves in a permanent state of fight, flight or freeze. In this state, we respond to anything that (even subconsciously) reminds us of the initial trauma as if it is happening again. This is known as a triggering episode. Unless the trauma is effectively treated, we will find ourselves in an endless loop of reactionary behaviors. Until someone points out to us that our behaviors might be the after effects of trauma, we think nothing of them, often to the point where they become normalized. I contend that our current cultural climate – defined by fear and division – is in fact, trauma coming out sideways.
United States of Trauma
Whereas September 11th initially had a unifying effect, since the decision to go to war, we, as a nation, have become increasingly polarized. Our increasing access to information (both true and untrue) has hastened this polarization, and it seems there are those who might actually be feeding this division because it benefits them in some way, or perhaps this is their own reaction to unresolved trauma. Unresolved trauma comes out sideway in behaviors that are uncharacteristic, often irrational and fear-driven. We obsess. We worry. We fret. We become angry. We want to fight. We become immobile. We ignore what is right in front of us. Instead of identifying the fear that is unhealed within us, we want to make someone or something outside of us the enemy – the cause of our concern. In the current state of our culture, many “enemies” have been named: Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, Conservatives, Blacks, Whites, The Police, Muslims, Christians, Millennials, Baby Boomers, Screen time, (remember when TV and Rock Music were the “enemies?”) Men, Women, The Media, The NRA, those seeking gun control, Pro-Lifers, those who are Pro-choice, The Rich, The Poor, Corporate Greed, those taking advantage of the system, The Economy, Banks, Illegal Immigrants, those seeking refuge, the mentally ill, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. The bottom line is that the fear and division that currently control our culture have absolutely NOTHING to do with all those things we want to point our fingers toward as being “the enemy.” Instead, it has EVERYTHING to do with unacknowledged and unresolved TRAUMA.
Healing from Trauma
We are a nation in trauma. We have been for a very long time (I’m still not sure we’ve recovered from the Civil War!), but even more so since 9/11. In order to heal from the effects of this trauma (increasing fear and division), we have to name it as such, and then do the difficult work of healing from that trauma. Healing from trauma happens when we are able to:
- Name the trauma. What is actually at the heart of our fearful thoughts, reactions, and behaviors? What is the true cause of the fear? Maybe it is 9/11, or maybe it stems from something even older – an experience of childhood abuse, bullying or rejection, a devastating loss or disappointment, a past failure or betrayal?
- Acknowledge that the fear has NOTHING to do with what you are currently perceiving outside of you (events in the news, the disagreement with your spouse, what you read on social media), but is instead related to something within you asking to be healed. Once you are able to identify the fear comes the hard part.
- Instead of following our instinct which is to “make the fear go away,” (by pointing the finger of blame at someone else, ignoring or denying it, numbing it, etc.) we SIT with the fear. Allow yourself to actually FEEL the fear. Identify where in your body you might be feeling it, breathe into that fear, and then breathe out love. Remain with this practice (which the Buddhists call Tonglen), until you feel the fear change. Maybe it moves. Maybe it is resolved and you find yourself coming to peace. Maybe it changes to anger or sorrow. Whatever you do, don’t respond or react to the fear, instead, allow it to be healed.
- Shampoo, Rinse, Repeat. Each and every one of us is a bundle of unacknowledged and unresolved woundedness and fear. Until we are able to heal the trauma that dwells within us, we will never be able to heal the fears that have placed fear and division as the rulers of our country.
Healing from trauma is difficult and challenging work, but enormously rewarding. Freeing ourselves from the effects of trauma empowers us to see our world through a different lens, allowing us to come to the discussion table where we are able to effectively work together for justice, peace and reconciliation. Until we can heal what is broken within us, we will never be able to heal what is broken in our nation or our world.
NOTE: The practices shared here are for the purpose of addressing normal, everyday fear. If you find your symptoms persisting, please seek additional support through spiritual counseling, traditional counseling, self-development courses, or through any of the methods of intervention which have proven helpful in healing trauma: EMDR and Brainspotting to name a few.
If you are looking for a way to join with others in the efforts of healing our broken world, please check out the Love Warriors project. Learn more HERE.
Superhero Academy – We Are Here to Heal and Change the World.
The Superhero Academy’s headquarters are in Oshkosh, WI.
We have two meeting options Mondays 6:30 – 8:30 pm or Tuesdays 9 – 11 am.
To learn more, click HERE.
At this week’s Superhero Academy gatherings, we covered resistance. Resistance is a force of the false-self/ego in its desire to keep us fearful and small. Resistance shows up EVERY time we draw close to or dare to be open to the call of our Soul. Soul is the place within us that knows, without a doubt, our purpose on this plane. Soul is the uniquely creative way in which we are gifted to find meaning and purpose in our lives and through which we are fulfilled in contributing to the betterment of our world. Soul is the LAST thing the ego wants from us because Soul means the death of part of the ego. The ego wants fear, small, limited, constricting. The Soul wants freedom, expansiveness, and fulfillment.
Resistance shows up in any number of ways – fear itself, excuses, distractions, inner and outer perceived obstacles, boredom, confusion, mental, emotional, and physical pain. Resistance also shows up in our material world as struggles, challenges, things falling apart. At its core, resistance is about FEAR. As such, it is helpful in working through resistance to FIRST identify the fear that is driving. To facilitate that process, the Superheroes reviewed the seven core spiritual (universal) fears as outlined in Authentic Freedom.
- There is not enough
- I have nothing significant to contribute
- I can’t live as my most authentic self
- I am not loved (I will be rejected)
- I am not free to express my truth
- I do not know my truth or my path
- I am alone/I have to do it alone
The Superheroes then participated in a meditation process that facilitated the identification of part of the Soul – a call, invitation, gift that is seeking attention and cultivation. Then, the Superheroes entertained all the voices of resistance that sought to derail their quest of their gifts. Through a flash-journaling exercise, the Superheroes wrote down all the reasons, fears, excuses for NOT pursuing their gift. Then they identified which of the above seven fears was at the root of their resistance. Finally, we learned and engaged in the practice of Tonglen to help facilitate the release of these fears.
Tonglen – a mindfulness practice for moving through fears and painful emotions:
- Be attentive to when you are feeling fear.
- If you are able, identify which of the seven universal fears you are feeling.
- Allow yourself to experience the fear.
- Draw your awareness to your physical body, specifically where in your body you are feeling this fear.
- Breathe in the fear toward the place you are feeling the fear.
- Breathe out from the place of fear, visualizing yourself sending love into the world from that fear.
Through this practice, we discovered that the most common fear that arose in the Superheroes in response to their gifts was the fear of rejection. This will be the theme of next week’s gathering.
If you have always felt that you were here for a reason, but perhaps didn’t know what that reason was….If you want to change the world but don’t know how, or have felt alone in this desire….The Superhero Academy might be for you. To learn more go HERE or call Lauri Lumby (920) 230 – 1313 or email email@example.com for more information.
Superhero Report – July 28, 2014
Our Relationship with Mood-Altering Substances
It is not something we like to admit, but the New Superheroes have often had trouble with mood-altering substances. Whether it is caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, a whole host of illegal substances or ones that have been prescribed by our doctors for ADD, anxiety, stress, depression, or panic attack, certain ascetic meditation practices, television, video games, the internet – the New Superheroes are likely to have (or had) some sort of habitual relationship with one or several of the above. There is a sound explanation for the attractiveness of these substances and to the way in which we are almost irresistibly drawn toward them and why they can so easily become addictive. There are also some simple practices we can engage in which can render these substances unnecessary. (Note: if you have an addiction, please seek out the support of your local 12-Step recovery program.)
The question of why we are drawn to mood-altering substances has a many-layered response:
1) We remember our true nature and our original home and we want to go home!
On an unconscious and often conscious level, Superheroes remember what “heaven” feels like. We also know our “true self” is not of this earth, but that we are pure, spiritual beings. Mood-altering substances stimulate the brow and crown chakras and give us an experience of being “home.”
2) We were given a vision of what the earth is supposed to be like, and this is not it.
Until we know how, we often resist this human form and are looking for ways to ESCAPE. The earth we are currently residing in is the not the vision of earth that was planted into our hearts and that we are here to make real. Again, mood-altering substances give us an experience similar to being home, thereby allowing us, at least temporarily, to escape the painful human condition.
3) The false belief that spiritual is better than human.
This is a biggie – especially among certain members of the New Age, Ascension, and Lightworker communities. We are NOT here to be spiritual, we are not here to ascend the limitations of our humanness, we are not here to sprinkle fairies and stardust upon the world singing songs of light and love and perfection, believing that if we think good thoughts all will be well and we will have everything we want. No, we are not here to do these things – not at the expense of being HUMAN anyway. WE ARE HERE TO BE HUMAN. PERIOD. We are ALREADY fully Divine. We came here to experience being human AND to bring our already perfect Divine nature fully into this experience. Rather than Ascension, the journey of the New Superhero (and the rest of the world with us), is actually INCARNATION – transcending the illusions of duality and becoming BOTH fully Divine AND fully Human. We already know the Divine part….let’s figure out how to be human! (ahem….I know a pretty cool dude who lived about 2000 years ago in and around Palestine/Israel who came here to do the same.)
As strangers in a strange land, we often have the experience of not fitting in, of being judged for being weird or strange. People don’t understand us, or the vision we carry in our hearts and the drive to make it real. When we feel rejected by those around us, and sometimes even by those we love, we take it personally. This rejection becomes internalized as shame. Mood-altering substances are a great way to numb the pain of this shame.
Just ask Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman, being a Superhero is lonely business. Until they discovered each other and formed the Justice League, these Superheroes were out there on their own trying to make the world a better place and feeling very alone. The same is true of us. We often feel alone in the world with few who understand our unique temperaments, gifts and call. Mood altering substances help us to numb the pain of feeling alone and misunderstood.
Again, if our relationship with mood-altering substances has reached the level of addiction, then it is time to seek help. 12-Step recovery programs are a great way to get support in stopping the use of the substance and Authentic Freedom helps to identify and heal the inner fears/wounds which led us to the compulsive behavior in the first place. If our relationship to mood-altering substances is less problematic but we still find ourselves drawn to them, the following practices may prove helpful.
Tonglen is a Tibetan Buddhist meditation practice which incorporates visualization and breathwork for the intention of transforming painful emotions. For the Superheroes, applying Tonglen to feelings of loneliness and shame can prove effective. Here is the practice in short:
- Identify the feeling you want to work with (shame, loneliness)
- Call that feeling up in your body.
- Identify where in your body you feel it.
- Breathe INTO that place in your body, while feeling the emotion (shame, loneliness).
- While breathing into that place, follow your breath with your mind.
- Now breathe out love, following the love with your breath as you imagine it flowing out of you from the place of the painful emotion.
- Continue with this practice until you feel something change – perhaps the emotion shifts to something else, maybe you begin to weep.
Embodiment is a practice that I discovered while struggling with an overactive and fretful mind. The intention of this practice is to REMEMBER that we are here to have a HUMAN experience – no matter what we remember about our “heaven home” or our true nature as spiritual beings. Embodiment allows us to set aside the false belief that spiritual is better than human and gives us the tools for bringing our, already perfect, Divine selves FULLY into the human experience. When our spirit is fully incarnate in our bodies, we feel safe and secure and are less likely to be tempted to FLEE. It is not, however, until we INCARNATE that we feel safe in our human selves, so let’s get to incarnating, shall we???
- Close your eyes and draw your awareness deep into your body.
- See if you can identify the distinction between your spiritual and human self. (Note, the spiritual self, until we are incarnate, tends to hang out in the upper chakras, especially our head, or even somewhere outside and above us.)
- Conscious of the distinction between your spiritual and human self, bring your consciousness deep into your body.
- Imagine the Earth beneath you as hands reaching up to hold, support, protect, and nourish you.
- Feel the sense of safety in resting in this supportive space.
- Imagine your HUMAN self as supported by the Earth and receiving its nourishment from the Earth.
- As you begin to feel the safety of humanness, imagine that your human self is like a chalice – an empty vessel waiting for your Spirit to be poured into it.
- From this place of security, observe as your Spirit willingly pours itself into the safe home of your human chalice. You are not pushing, forcing or pulling it in, it willingly enters in the knowledge that the Human form is safe.
- Returning to the awareness of your human form, FEEL the sensation of being fully human and safe in this experience, while completely filled by your Divine Spiritual nature. Feel the wholeness and completeness of this experience. As you sit in this feeling of safety, you become aware of all illusions of separation melting away. Your Spirit and your Human natures are now one – no longer separate or distinct from each other, but ONE.
Embodiment eliminates the temptation to FLEE because when we INCARNATE, we find that WE ARE HOME and that there is a home for us in the human condition and that with our embodiment, it looks a whole lot like the heaven we remember and the heaven we were sent to make real upon this earth. 🙂 In this experience, we know that HEAVEN IS REAL and it is right here, within and among us.
Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come,
Jesus said in reply, “The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed,
And no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or ‘ look, there it is.’
For behold, the kingdom of God is within (and among) you.”
Luke 17: 20-21
Today’s blog is targeted for those of you (us), who have often felt a misfit in this world. Freaks, geeks, dweebs, artists, creative geniuses, rightbrain thinkers, lightworkers, healers, Indigo’s, Crystals, Rainbows, Starseeds, lightwarriors, children of light. Whatever name we have called ourselves, we have always felt as if we stand outside the norm, as if we do not fit in, and that no matter how hard we try, we cannot embrace the lifestyle, expectations, and values of the hierarchical, patriarchal, materialistic, consumeristic, Western world. Instead, we find ourselves embracing what many would consider countercultural values and lifestyles and either working seventeen jobs or becoming (as one friend recently observed about me) “chronically self-employed,” in order to live our truth and follow our dreams. Some, familiar with the Matrix movies might suggest that we have taken “the red pill.” Others, might just shake their head in disgust as we continue to rock the boat of “normal,” challenge perceived authority, and shake the foundations of status quo, even though the work that we do is ALWAYS geared toward making the world a more loving, harmonious, peaceful and beautiful place. But, people don’t like change and they don’t appreciate different, so we are often cast out as weird or condemned as shit-disturbers. If any of this sounds familiar to you, keep reading because I am about to offer you the ONE CURE for all your frustration and impatience over simply trying to be who God/dess made you to be and the ONE CURE for any obstacle you might be facing in living your truth freely and enjoying the abundant fruits of sharing your amazing gifts.
THE ONE CAUSE
The ONE CURE came to me in my own struggle to live my truth and trying to find my place in the world. I have to thank my friend who first called me “chronically self-employed,” and the completely disproportionate reaction I had to these words as it gave me an opportunity to identify THE ONE CAUSE of my history of paralysis, lack of confidence, immobility, perceived failure, financial lack, vocational and relational struggles. The ONE CAUSE, I discovered, was shame. “What is wrong with me that I cannot work in the real world and have a real job?” I moaned. “What was wrong with me that I couldn’t be content in an unhappy marriage?” (millions of other people find a way to be). “Why doesn’t anybody get what I do or understand who I am?” I realized at the root of all these questions was ONE emotion, and that emotion was SHAME. I felt shame for being different and for seemingly not fitting in and for feeling driven to live a life outside the norm by naming, claiming, cultivating and living my gifts and my dreams.
THE ONE CURE
Once I was able to identify SHAME as the cause, I knew I had also found the cure. If shame is what is keeping me small and stuck, then shame needed to be confronted, transformed and released. Intellectually, I knew there was nothing wrong with me and there was no rational reason that I should remain stuck. But shame, as an underlying inner state, trumped all I “knew” in my mind. So, I applied one of my favorite spiritual practices to shame and allowed it to find its release.
If you find that shame is also at the root of your own tendency to remain small, or believing that you are different and in your difference, somehow wrong, then try this practice which I am borrowing from Tibetan Buddhism – Tonglen.
1) Connect with your feelings of being different or not fitting in.
2) Identify the emotion underlying these feelings – perhaps it is shame.
3) Become aware of where you are feeling this emotion in your body.
4) Allow yourself to be present to this emotion. FEEL it, instead of pushing it away.
5) Breathe in this feeling. Breathe it into your heart as you allow yourself to feel the feeling.
6) Breathe out love.
7) Breathe in the feeling and breathe out love until you feel something in you shift. Maybe a new feeling surfaces, or you begin to cry, or you feel yourself growing stronger, more confident, more self-assured. Stay with this practice until you feel it is resolved.
Why This Practice Works
Once you have released the shame, you can no longer remain small or have feelings of being rejected or condemned, or experience failure, because, there is nothing left for these negative experiences to hook on to. Before, shame acted like a cement block that we were tied to with thick, black straps of elastic. Every time we tried to crawl out of our feelings around being different, and every time we tried to “think” ourselves to greatness, all it would take was one crossed eye, or shaking finger of criticism to pull us right back into the pit of our shame. Once shame is released, there is nothing left for the hooks to hang on to…..so we are free. The proof in this practice is that once we release the shame, every door that was previously closed to us miraculously opens because we can no longer be rejected, condemned, ostracized or banished because there is no more shame to hold us hostage within ourselves, and then we are free to be our weird, creative, countercultural, shit-disturbing selves and we are happier (and maybe even richer) for it.
Lauri Lumby provides one-on-one mentoring for those seeking to birth their Soul – the uniquely creative part of themselves through which they were gifted to find meaning, purpose and fulfillment and through which they are called to contribute to the betterment of the world. To learn more call (920) 230-1313 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s talk about forgiveness.
The theme for December, according to the Powerpath School of Shamanism is FORGIVENESS. Whether it is truly through astrological influences or simply through the power of suggestion, I have a hard time denying that this may indeed be the spiritual lesson we are being given an opportunity to practice this month. As all my old demons come home to roost, I am forced to acknowledge that my own forgiveness work is not done yet…..and as my friend Derek reminded me yesterday, “Jesus did tell us to forgive seventy times seven times.” I’m not sure Jesus was as much teaching us to keep on forgiving as he was acknowledging how dang hard forgiveness can be for us! So…..let’s talk about forgiveness.
Forgive and Forget?
Forgive? YES. Forget? NOT! What happens when we forget history? IT REPEATS ITSELF. So….set aside your grandmother’s burdensome mantra about forgetting…..Instead……..forgive….and set new boundaries. Don’t step back into the hornet’s nest knowing that you will only get stung once again. And if you need to….shake the dust off your feet and walk away.
YOU have the Power to Forgive.
Yes and no….but mostly NO! Yes, we have a task in the process of forgiveness. Our job is to intend to forgive, to be present to the process, to own our stuff in whatever the conflict was, to accept responsibility and to apologize and make amends where necessary. The true moment of forgiveness, however, is not ours to ordain. True forgiveness happens in a moment of GRACE and we will recognize it when we are FREE of the inner burdens wrapped around the issue: resentment, anger, sorrow, obsessive thoughts, harbored or cultivated resentment, the need to seek vengeance or to wish harm (or KARMA) on the other person. FORGIVENESS is about your own inner freedom….nothing more. And….forgiveness has NOTHING to do with the other person’s participation or even awareness. They can remain mad as hell at us or ignorant of the hurt we are experiencing and we can still experience the freedom of forgiveness. Which brings me to another point…
Obstacles to Forgiveness
These are the things that stand in the way of our ability to receive the Grace of forgiveness:
- RESENTMENT: Resentment is the armour we gather around ourselves to protect us from the pain of hurt, harm, disappointment, betrayal. Resentment gives us a false sense of strength and allows us to HATE the other person for what they have done to us.
- SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS: I’m right….they are wrong. Again…..provides us with a false sense of strength….armouring us from the hurt.
- ATTACHMENT to THEIR APOLOGY: May or may not happen. As long as we are waiting for the other party to apologize for their role in the conflict, the Grace of forgiveness will not be received. Some will never be able to set down their shield of pride long enough to say, “I’m sorry for having hurt you.” Even if the hurting was unintentional. And some….just don’t know they hurt you in the first place.
- ATTACHMENT to THEM ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY: This kind of goes along with the apology thing. Some will never accept responsibility for their part in the conflict. Some are not interested or capable of doing the deep inner work that is necessary in owning their part in a conflict…..even if the hurt was unintentional.
Forgiveness – Best Practices
At the end of the day….forgiveness is a spiritual thing. It is something that is accomplished beyond us, through us and often in spite of us. To put it in theistic language: The Grace of forgiveness belongs to God. As such, it is ultimately through our spiritual practice that we open to the Grace of forgiveness. I have found two simple practices that make us available to receiving forgiveness:
- Tonglen – I address Tonglen in detail in my blog about TRUTH. (click link to read directions on Tonglen)
- Mantra – Mantra is a form of meditation/prayer by which we repeat a phrase over and over and over, allowing it to bring us to a peaceful and relaxed state. The added benefit to mantra is that it has the power to change us by the sounds and meanings of the sacred phrase we are repeating. My favorite mantra for forgiveness is from the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer: (to hear the whole Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic, click HERE.)
Washboqlan khaubayn (wakhtahayn) aykanna daph khnan shbwoqan l’khayyabayn
Which translated means: Loose the cords of mistakes binding us, as we release the strands we hold of others’ guilt.
The Final Word
At the end of the day, forgiveness is about releasing our judgment of another person’s actions……hence the difficulty of forgiveness. It is our judgment of other’s actions that causes the separation that makes forgiveness necessary in the first place. And…it is through forgiveness that we are re-conciled……restored to our original nature as ONE with each other, with ourselves, with God and with all creation. And it is here that we shall once again know peace.
How are you being invited to enter into a process of forgiveness?
Punished for speaking our truth and what to do with the resulting shame.
The past couple of weeks have provided me with a terrific reminder of how challenging it is to speak our truth and why many of us don’t. When we finally have the courage to defend ourselves, to tell the family secret, the church secret, the institution secret, the rape secret, the abuse secret, to share our political views in a contentious world, etc. etc. etc. the response is most often NOT the liberation and the support that we are hoping for, instead, the response we get for speaking our truth is PUNISHMENT. When someone else does not want to hear our truth, if our truth somehow shatters the illusion of the world they have created in their mind, or if God forbid, our truth challenges another person to BE A GROWN UP the likely response is not just resistance, but defensive attack – either directly or indirectly through passive aggressive behaviors.
Punishment and Shame
The punishment that comes as a result of speaking our truth comes in many forms:
- Defensive attack
- Condescending verbal attack or behavior
- Passive aggressive behavior (behind your back actions that somehow sabatoge, destroy or say “f-you”)
- Denial – the words that say “you’re crazy, you don’t know what you are talking about, so and so wouldn’t do that….”
- Rejection, banishment, withholding of approval, love, etc.
Whatever the form of the punishment, the desired result is the same – to make us feel as if we have done something wrong and to make us feel ashamed. For many of us, feeling this shame is unbearable and we are compelled to apologize, retract, back pedal, take back or repress our truth. Taking back our truth might feel like the easiest response and the best way to restore the harmony that we all desire. In the long run, however, this pattern of repression and denial has devastating effects on our individual person and on society as a whole and on some level, we all know this to be true.
Choosing Another Response to Punishment and Shame
When we have spoken our truth and know that we have done so rightly, the invitation is to STAND IN OUR TRUTH. When our truth is rejected by another and we are punished for sharing that truth through acts of aggression, witholding, finger pointing, etc. and we feel the resulting shame rise in us, and we are tempted to question, doubt, bargain, retract our truth….DON’T! Put the shame back where it belongs, on the person trying to make you feel that way through their reaction to your truth and recognize the unhealed wound in them that prevents them from acknowledging your truth. The challenge, however, is that even in standing in our truth and refusing to retract, the resulting shame from the rejection of our truth remains. Thankfully, there is a powerful spiritual practice that transforms ANY icky, sticky, negative emotion that makes us feel bad. I learned this practice from one of my teachers, Julie Tallard Johnson in her book, Wheel of Initiation. This practice is called Tonglen.
Tonglen is a simple breathing and visualization practice that helps us to release powerful, negative feelings and emotions. Instinctively, when we experience a negative feeling or emotion, we are compelled to push the feeling away. Tonglen invites us to do the opposite – to bring the feeling in:
1) First, we FEEL the feeling. We allow ourselves to welcome it instead of pushing it away.
2) We breath in the feeling (here recognized as shame) and as we breathe it in, we imagine that we are drawing it into our hearts.
3) Then we breathe out love.
4) As we breathe out love, we imagine it going out into the world, maybe even to the person who has punished us for speaking our truth.
4) We continue this process of feeling the shame, breathing it into our heart and breathing out love until we either feel a shift, or simply run out of time.
5) If the shame hasn’t been fully released in our first Tonglen practice, return to the practice at another time.
Tonglen is the most powerful spiritual practice I have experienced for releasing these negative emotions. More importantly, Tonglen has the power to transform….ourselves….our human relationships…..and our world. You might be surprised to discover as you engage in this practice that forgiveness arises in you….and miraculous transformation taking place in the people around you….maybe even the one who initially punished you for speaking your truth in the first place. Next time you speak your truth, you might discover that it is more openly received.
Today’s blog revisits the topic of forgiveness and offers tools when even the desire to forgive feels outside of our grasp.
This weekend, grief decided to make a reappearance. The grief that paid me a visit is the grief of loss as is related to perceived betrayal. On the highest and most profound level, I know that betrayal is not really possible. Another person does not have the power to betray me, hurt me or deprive me of love. But, since I have not yet achieved the fullness of enlightenment, Buddhahood, or Christhood, it often feels as if they do. So when I was reminded of what I might perceive as betrayal or harm to me at the hands of another, I found myself wrapped in the cloak of my inner victim, seething with hurt, rage, even hatred. I wanted to lash out in revenge. Scream my rage. “Make them pay.” Fortunately I think I know better…..maybe.
Setting Aside Old Behaviors
In the past, if I felt hurt or betrayed by another, I simply wrapped a cloak of resentment and hatred around me so that I would not have to feel the pain of loss. My first inclination when grief decided to pay me a visit this weekend was to indulge this impulse. But now after 20+ years of inner work, I have come to understand how unproductive and potentially hurtful these defense mechanisms of hatred and resentment have been to me and to my ability to be open to healthy intimate relationships. I knew I needed to set aside my defense mechanisms of hatred and resentment, be present to the pain, grieve the loss and be open to another layer of forgiveness. Ha….my defense mechanisms had other plans it seems.
Calling in Reinforcements
I tried, I really did. I tried to be understanding. I tried to be hospitable. I tried to stand in compassion. I tried to allow myself to grieve. I tried to be forgiving and let go. But when Tuesday came around and I was still being chased by my demons of resentment and hatred I knew I needed to call in some reinforcements. So while being attentive to my yoga practice Tuesday night, seething in anger, I prayed. First I tried a mantra. Then I tried to engage the practice of Tonglen. Then I tried breathing. Then I tried visualization. I tried everything in my arsenal of spiritual practices, but instead of relief, all I felt was more rage. Then somewhere between the in and out breath, in the middle of Sun Salutation A, I heard a tiny voice in my head that said, “Father forgive them, they know not what they are doing.” I immediately recognized this as Jesus’ words on the cross. While Jesus was hanging on the cross, being spit at, harassed, tortured, these were his words for his tormentors. Did Jesus feel betrayed, angry, hurt, disappointed, despairing….YOU BET…..and in the face of this, when he was perhaps incapable of offering forgiveness himself, he asked it of God. I heard these words and realized the powerful healing balm inherent in these words. I immediately embraced these words as my mantra and in doing so, I felt an enormous amount of relief. My hatred and anger subsided and I began to find peace.
Outside our Reach
What I realized is that sometimes (ok, maybe often), forgiveness is totally out of our reach. I wanted to be compassionate, loving, forgiving….but found I could not. I guess I’m still human. And, when forgiveness is outside of my reach, there is a source that I can turn to that can accomplish the forgiveness for me. And, in turning that which needs forgiveness over to this loving Source that I call “God” and Jesus called “Abwoon”, there is relief. So today, I continue to offer these words in regards to the perceived betrayal, “Father forgive them, they know not what they are doing,” and enjoy the relief of knowing that God is taking care of it.
What hurts, losses, betrayals are you still grieving?
Where are you struggling to forgive these losses?
How might Jesus’ words help you to surrender this forgiveness to God, inviting God to help you through that pain?
Authentic Freedom Ministries
Today’s blog focuses on the question posed by a reader: “I understand the concept of forgiveness but have a hard time practicing it. Any suggestions?”
Seven Times Seventy Times
Being a firmly entrenched and committed Irish grudge-holder, I certainly have no idea how to answer the question about the practice of forgiveness. The good news is that my guru and teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, had something to say about it. When asked how often we should forgive, Jesus replied, “Seven times Seventy times.” I don’t believe that this was offered as a commandment but simply as an observation as to how difficult and challenging the whole journey to forgiveness really is for us pea-brained humans. In my own journey, I have found this to be true. The journey toward forgiveness is hard work, challenging, requires sincere intention and discipline. If we really want to forgive and to be freed from the hurts we perceive ourselves to have received from another, we have to want it. In my own practice (and that is exactly what it is….practice, practice, practice) with forgiveness, there are a few tools that I have found to be helpful:
1) Grieve the loss – Allow yourself to FEEL the pain of the loss, the hurt, the betrayal. Be present to all the faces of grief that might show up – sadness, depression, anger, denial, bargaining. Feel it and be present to it. Give yourself permission to wallow in your victimhood…to be the martyr, to be the scorned lover or forgotten friend. But….DON’T STAY THERE!
2) What unhealed fears of your own were triggered in the hurt? Take time to identify the unhealed fears in yourself that were triggered in the loss, hurt or betrayal: The fear that there is not enough, that you have nothing to contribute to the world, that you cannot be your most authentic self, that you are not loved, that you are not free to express your truth, that your needs will not be met, that you do not know your truth or your path, that you are alone.
3) Take time to be present to allowing the unhealed fears/wounds within yourself to be healed….. Seek support through a Spiritual Director, Counselor, bring these unhealed wounds into your meditation and prayer, ask for Divine assistance.
4) Place yourself in the shoes of “the other.” This is the hard part: explore what unhealed fears/wounds in “the other” might have caused them to act in a way that you perceived as being hurtful. Once you think you have identified the unhealed wound or fear, pray for their healing, hold them in loving kindness, circle them with the idea of love.
5) NOW WAIT Another challenging stage…..because this is the stage that reminds us that we ARE NOT in control. The moment in which true forgiveness takes place is God’s alone. It is not something that we can make happen. It is a moment of pure and unmerited GRACE. This is the place where miracles happen, where we suddenly realize we are free of the burden of resentment, grudge-holding, hurt, etc. It is in this place where we can move forward in our journey, freed of the past wounds that would otherwise hold us back or simply repeat the same patterns.
Two Supportive Spiritual Practices for Forgiveness
All that being said, there are two additional tools that I have found to be incredibly helpful in being open to and moving through the practice of forgiveness. One from the Buddhist tradition and the other from the Aramaic Jesus.
1) Tonglen – is a spiritual practice that comes out of Tibetan Buddhism. I have adapted this practice and applied it to the spiritual practice of forgiveness and experienced miraculous results. (for more on this practice, see The Wheel of Initiation by Julie Tallard Johnson pgs 248-250) In regards to forgiveness, we acknowledge the negative feeling we hold against “the other”‘ (anger, hurt, anxiety, resentment) and we breathe that feeling into our heart. Then, we breathe out love toward the person we perceive to have caused us harm. Breathe in pain, breathe out love. It is as simple as that.
2) The Aramaic Lord’s Prayer In the English translation of the Lord’s Prayer, we have a phrase about forgiveness, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This incomplete translation implies our need for Divine forgiveness. In the Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke, this phrase takes on whole new meaning. It reminds us that the need to be freed of our trespasses is ours alone and that God can help us find that inner freedom. From this perspective, it is no longer about sin and retribution, but about our human need for harmony within our intimate relationships and our inherent limitations to achieving this on our own. The phrase in Aramaic is:
Washboqlan khaubayn(wakhtahayn) aykanna daph khnan shbwoqan l’khayyabayn
And can be understood to mean:
I invite the Divine to loose the cords of mistakes binding me, as I release the strands I hold of others’ guilt.
When I really get caught in the journey of forgiveness, I invoke the Aramaic words of this phrase as a mantra and let God do the rest.
One Final Thought:
And one final thought as it applies to forgiveness (my apologies because I cannot remember the source of this quote), a definition that I have found to be helpful:
Forgiveness is releasing our judgment of another’s actions.
Humbling to be sure, as this whole process of forgiveness. In the end, my advice to all of us…..just keep practicing!
Authentic Freedom Ministries