Each new year brings new energy and a renewed desire for change! How are your New Year’s Resolutions going at this point in our new year?
Often when we have something we want to change in ourselves, the first response we have is excitement and zeal for our changes! But when change doesn’t come as easily as we wanted it to, anger, frustration, and apathy can seep in. We then try to go about our desired change with a hammer over our heads (if we don’t give up on it altogether)!
How many of us do well while getting bossed around, criticized and rejected? It might work for a little while—or a long while, if we are over-tolerant—but after a time, we stop trying so hard, or try to get away from the hammer, thus avoiding the project at hand altogether.
We are better at changing when we have encouragement, acceptance and a caring eye guiding us in the new behavior.
Who is the best person to do that for you? Maybe you have a supportive friend, or an encouraging therapist or group you attend. But you are with you all the time! You are the one who will walk with you through all of the ups and downs of life—which includes those internal conversations!
Here are a few ways to encourage yourself through any change you want to make:
Love first: Ask yourself, “What is there to love about the situation as it is?”
Take one change at a time. Too many changes too fast wear us out! This is why so many New Year’s resolutions are abandoned.
Visualize yourself already changed. What does that look like? See yourself happy and enjoying the results of your efforts! Spend five minutes each day with this exercise. Take notes on how it feels. You will likely come up with new steps toward your goal!
Use lovingkindness. Imagine what you would say to your best friend who was going through a change. Is your self-talk matching what you would say to someone else? If not, write down encourage statements, affirmations or mantras, and place them around your home, car and work.
Exemplify patience. Remember these kindnesses when you are working with others during changes. Patience with others helps us have more patience with ourselves.
A little love goes a long way to melt raw materials and create a masterpiece. Take a best friend with you throughout 2023…YOU!
You may be familiar with the concept of “FOMO”, “Fear of Missing Out”—an external pull towards doing everything—or as much as we possibly can—out of a fear of missing an event or activity in which others are partaking. It’s the ultimate “Keeping up with the Joneses” drive.
Pre-pandemic, FOMO kept us busy and disengaged from our wise, quiet centers; and from being connected more presently with others. We were compelled to do, do, do. Do for our kids and their overbooked schedules. Do for work just a little more every day. Do on the weekends so we don’t miss out on the “time off”. Do whatever else, just so we can cross it off a list of some sort.
Then came the pandemic that reintroduced staying home and re-learning how to occupy ourselves. The pandemic did, of course, have its own FOMO issues, such as the (made-up) social pressure to become the best gardener/baker/crafter/closet organizer/home remodeler/ and so forth. Not that there is anything wrong with being active, crafty, or handy! However, activity—going out all the time to restaurants and more restaurants, concerts, and other various activities, kept us from remembering what is important: Real connection.
FOMO is when we use those activities to forget our inner life, believing that what’s on the outside is more important than what’s on the inside—while at the same time trying to feel fulfilled. It isn’t fulfilling, but, darn it, we sure do keep on trying with gusto!
As our country and world begin to reopen (some places sooner than others), let’s remember a few important lessons we learned from our time of sheltering in place:
1. Quiet is the way we listen to and strengthen our intuition. When we are too busy, that still, small voice within is drowned by noises, worry, rushing, and over-scheduling. Plan your daily quiet time. There is nothing more important than that.
2. Remember JOMO, the Joy Of Missing Out. Did you really miss all that activity? Or, was it refreshing not to have to be on the go all the time? What are you glad you were able to stop doing during our shelter-in-place time? Don’t feel obligated to recommence everything. Pick the ones that fit the lifestyle you want, and leave the rest for the FOMOists!
3. Remember the importance of connection. When we couldn’t gather with our loved ones, remember how important that became. Remember how we longed for human touch and togetherness. A crowded concert is not the same as a quiet gathering with family or close friends.
4. Remember the nature that flourished while the humans were quiet. Remember how a walk outside was a unique experience filled with wonder and deeply refreshing to our concerned minds and hearts. Appreciate those moments of breathing in the quiet stirrings of nature.
Let’s not go back to busyness at all costs! Remember what is important: connection with our loved ones, connection with nature, connection within.
You are a soul in evolution, awakening over time to who you are as a human being, and who you are in your divinity.
Our friends at Mirriam Webster define evolution in this way: “To develop by evolutionary processes from a primitive to a more highly organized form.”
Soul Evolution, then, is the process each soul goes trhough to develop from lesser to greater awareness of itself as Pure Energy, part of the Infinite Presence of the Universe.
We are all in this process together; so, you might be a Soul Evolutionist if…
You want to be connected to that Infinite Presence, and want to develop that connection even more.
You have a desire and longing to feel your connection to something greater than yourself, and feel that longing in your heart and whole being.
When I was 19 years old, I had just completed my term as International President of the Youth of Unity (Y.O.U.), the youth group of my denomination. It was a fantastic year, filled with joy and loving connections across the country. I felt satisfied as I entered my sophomore year in college. Over the second weekend, my roommmate had gone home, and I decided to clean our room (primarily my mess!). I put in a cassette tape (eek) of some of my favorite spiritual chants to listen to while I was cleaning. My favorite one came on, so I sang along with the words: “I surrender to the Love of God, flowing through my life.”
I sang these words over and over again as I moved around the room picking things up. Suddenly, I started crying and dropped to my knees. As I watched myself cry from the inside, I wondered, “Why am I crying? Everything is going well; I have no reason to cry.”
I then “heard” a loud, booming voice. I turned to see if someone was in the room with me, but knew it was coming from inside of myself.
“Don’t be done with God, just because you’re done with Y.O.U.”
A montage of images flashed through my mind, showing me how one part of me thought I was doing my spiritual service for the accolades from family and friends. What this “voice” was showing me was that I was acting out of the deepest desire of my heart. MY heart; not anyone else’s. I adjusted my life plans to align with this desire from that day forward.
What is your deepest desire, and how do your actions align with that?
You might be a soul evolutionist if…
You know there is a “morfe” to life than what you experience with your five physical senses.
We call this intution, and it is an innate appendage to who you are. The more you use it, the better it works for you. Call on it. Ask for guidance in the little things to help hone and strengthen your awareness of and trust in your intuitive promptings. The Soul Evolutionist knows to turn to that inner resource in life circumstances, big and small.
You might be a Soul Evolutionist if…
You want to understand why things are happening inside and outside of you.
You see the injustices of the world and wonder why they exist. Why is my son a natural musician and I fizzled out of my piano lessons when I was ten years old? Does God love him more than me? Is he special and I’m chopped liver? Or, did he work hard to deveolp that talent before he came into this world?
There are answers to these questions, and the Soul Evolutionist is no longer satisfied with the mystery. You ask “Why?” and forge your way deeper into learning the workings of the Universe, while at the same time beginning to understand your own inner workings.
You might be a Soul Evolutionist if…
You know that you are responsible for taking part in the awakening of yourself to your Self, and you embrace that active participation.
It’s not just about knowing a little bit about meditaiton, or forgiveness, or intuition; it’s about realinzing that with that knowledge comes a palpable responsibility to do something about it–to put your spiritual understandings into everyday practice. How do you use meditaiton to support your awareness? How do you use forgiveness when up against someone who is really pushing your buttons? How do you incorporate your intuition in every area of your life?
How do you consciously, willingly, triumphantly support your soul’s evolution?
How do you hear your inner authority? How does your inside speak to you?
And most importantly, do you listen? Do you follow the inner promptings of your soul? Do you pay attention to what is going on on the inside of you, as much as you are paying attention to the outside?
Just like all the social media, politics, or cell phone games that you might keep track of, your inner Voice is speaking to you, wanting your attention. The wonderful difference is that your inner Authority will give you useful information!
Just like our streets have limits and guidelines to keep us safe and on track on our automobile journeys, so too does our inner world have its needs, guidelines, instruction that keep us safe and on track on our life journeys!
Two years ago, my dad had part of his esophagus removed due to a growth found at a doctor appointment. I detoured my family vacation to go help out after his surgery.
My inside was telling me that I felt afraid for him. What would happen? What could happen? What if he dies? All these worries went through my mind over and again, and I knew what I had to do. I took the “Seven Steps for Moving through Difficulties” journaling process by Jane Elizabeth Hart, and used it to write my way through my fears. Actually, I had to go through that Seven Step process twice because I didn’t get it all moved through the first time.
As I worked through my fears, I came to realize that his well-being had nothing to do with me or my desire for my dad. His wellness, his life, was between him and his soul; no one else. If he was going to live, awesome! If it was his time to pass on, then ultimately, that was for the best possible outcome for him and his soul awakening.
By the time I arrived at the hospital, my dad was walking around. I was able to be present, aware, mindful, faithful, and strong as I did what was in my power to do to help out. I didn’t drown in my fears, nor did my judgment get foggy because of my emotional attachments to him. I was able to use my love for him in the highest, most useful way possible. Plus, we had a great time laughing at all the food commercials that one doesn’t notice until sitting with someone who can’t take in solid food in that moment!
What if I hadn’t listened to what was going on with me? What if I tried to ignore the feelings that were there, and just tried to listen to my inner Voice? Knowing myself the way I do, I imagine my emotions and fears would have out-shouted my calm, subtle, inner guidance. I imagine I might not have been much help or moral support for anyone during that time. My fear energy might have stressed out everyone around me, especially my dad who was busy working on his visualizations and healing processes.
It was hard to release my dad, to let go of my attachment to him being around for a long time. It was scary. But, it would have been harder to move through that time in fear and despair. I did my “front-end maintenance”, a car term for keep your vehicle tuned up so you can avoid unnecessary problems. I am so glad he and I had that time together for his healing and our closeness.
What is your inside saying? Is it telling you that you have work to do, like I did with my dad? Is it giving you encouragement in a direction that you might not want to listen to? You don’t have to listen, but your life will be much simpler if you do.
Watch the video and learn a few ways to practice listening to your inside!
Let’s talk about how to forgive! In this video, I give you a few specific processes for how to work your forgiveness need, covering the steps from previous videos in this series: Acceptance, Compassion, Release.
In my previous video post, we took a thorough look at what forgiveness is not; this time we are going to look at what forgiveness is, in a way that is healthy and palatable.
Forgiveness is the process of Acceptance, Compassion, and Release.
The first part of forgiveness is the acceptance that something has happened. If someone has hurt me, for example, I can’t do anything about that fact; it is what it is. I don’t have to like it, approve of it, or try to get anyone else to see or understand it.
When we’re dealing with the facts of what has happened, we are willing to be honest about those facts overall, not just the facts about what the other person did, or what the circumstances threw at us. Maybe I lashed out when I was hurt by another person, maybe I withdrew for a while, maybe I stood up for myself in the moment, maybe I was the one who screwed up first. All these are part of the facts that we accept.
Why is acceptance important? If we deny the facts of a situation, we’re not fully able to deal with our responses or the other person’s behavior, or process the forgiveness need. We know what really happened, even if our thoughts—or those of people around us–try to turn it into something else.
For example, if someone was sexually abused, but their family members are giving an alternative reality to that situation, it becomes difficult for the victim of that abuse to make peace with their own internal experience and reaction, which affects the healing process–which in turn has lasting side effects. When our experience is denied, by others or ourselves, we don’t have the clarity necessary to deal with the otherwise heal-able trauma around the event.
We must give ourselves permission to acknowledge facts. That goes back to what forgiveness is not, right? It is not denying ourselves the truth of what happened, or pretending nothing happened. Working with the facts helps us through our own emotional responses more efficiently.
Forgiveness is acknowledging the facts of your experience.
The second part of forgiveness is compassion, being able to look at the whole situation beyond our own emotional experience of it. This is where we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes to try to see what they might have been intending or going through in that moment. We also try to see where we were coming from in the moment. We look above the facts in this step, to try to see the hurtful experience within the context of the time it happened, as honestly as possible.
In this part of the forgiveness process that we can learn what we need to about ourselves, about the other person. We see what we need to about our part in the situation, and what the event triggered in us. We see what we need to about the other person, and learn how to adjust ourselves given the new information we have gathered. (See my video post on Discernment versus Judgment for how to see behavior for what it is without getting all judgy about it.)
I’m not saying this is easy! Often it’s harder to have compassion for ourselves than it is to generate it for others. And sometimes we don’t want to have compassion for the other person; we want to hold on to the anger and resentment. But that’s why forgiveness is a process, right? We work at it until we are ready to rise above our emotional response. We don’t forget what happened, remember? We simply work with forgiveness process so that we can come to this point of compassion, and the next step, release.
Forgiveness is working toward compassion for the other person and yourself.
The third part of forgiveness is release. This is the point at which we are willing to release the emotional pain created by the hurtful experience. That pain is going to come up over and over and over again until we release it, so this is a vital step! We won’t forget to do our work, because life will remind us that our work isn’t done by those little triggers from the past. They poke at the emotional pain like when you poke a bruise on your arm and it hurts a little. That means the bruise hasn’t healed, right? Our emotional body is the same way. It will keep feeling sore until it is healed. But unlike our physical body that heals itself, we have to put conscious effort into the healing of our emotional pain.
When we have done the work of the first two steps, Acceptance and Compassion, the Release step is the action step of being aware when the emotional bruise gets poked at, or triggered, and reminding ourselves, “Oh yes, there it is. I am letting this go now.” And we pull ourselves back to a peaceful state of mind, not indulging in the pain or the story. This is the step where we choose Acceptance and Compassion as our reality moving forward, instead of holding onto resentment and emotional pain as our reality.
Release is the step where we choose acceptance and compassion as our reality instead of resentment and emotional pain.
And that is what forgiveness is.
In my next video, I’m going to talk with you about how to forgive. I have a couple tried and true processes to share with you to help you with your forgiveness work, so stay tuned, and thanks for watching!
Hi, Lynn Barrette here, licensed clinical therapist and spiritual counselor.
I want to talk with you today about forgiveness. Forgiveness can be a heavy topic sometimes, so this is going to be a several part series to help us break down this concept and make it palatable and accessible, because if we can’t forgive, we get stuck, and we don’t want to do that, right? So we’re going to take some time on this one.
Anytime I bring up forgiveness with clients or in workshops or classes, I always like to clarify what forgiveness means because there are so many ideas and misconceptions about what forgiveness is.
When I help someone define forgiveness, I start with what forgiveness is not. And that is what this video is about: What forgiveness is not.
First of all, forgiveness does not mean “forgive and forget”. Our brains aren’t made up to forget things unless we get a severe head injury or some other brain trauma, like a stroke. We are simply not biologically wired to forget things. We have beautiful memories, and whether you are more spiritually-minded or more scientific, we are created like this for a reason: those memories are there to ensure that we learn from our experiences and evolve as a species and in consciousness. So how can we be expected to forgive and forget when we’re not wired to do so?
Forgiveness does NOT mean “forgive and forget!” It means that we learn and grow.
Another misconception that comes up is that forgiveness means everyone gets a fresh start, even the person who did wrong, and we pretend like nothing happened. That’s not it either. If we are learning from our experiences, we take our new understanding with us every moment, and apply that new understanding moving forward. If someone hurts me, I have learned something: Sometimes this person is hurtful, and she certainly has been hurtful to me in this situation, so I need to adjust my mental, emotional, and sometimes physical behavior so that I can either deal with being around her, or make sure I am not around her anymore!
Forgiveness does not mean to pretend like nothing happened. It means adjust your internal and external behavior to support yourself, your safety.
A final myth I often hear about forgiveness is that if we forgive, we’ll be letting the other person get by with something. That’s not it either. Once we have taken care of our part of an interaction with someone—either by confronting them, adjusting ourselves internally and externally, or staying the heck away from them—our part is done.
There is a law that is scientific both in our physical and spiritual realm that states that whatever energy we put out comes back to us. And that is true at the physical, emotional, and mental levels of our existence. This doesn’t mean we turn that into some kind of superstitious curse on another person, as we often hear that “Karma will get them”! If we are saying that about someone, our forgiveness is not done! When we forgive, we are releasing ourselves from having to be a part of this person learning what they need to be learning. We don’t have to be responsible for seeing that “they get theirs”; we are only responsible for our own behavior, and what we are putting out at those physical, mental, and emotional levels. That’s a big job in itself, isn’t it?!
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that anyone gets by with anything; but it does mean we don’t have to worry about it.
So if all that is what forgiveness is NOT; what is forgiveness? That will be in my next video for you, so hold tight, it’s coming!
The holiday season is upon us, and for all the joy the holiday brings, for some of us it is the time when we gather with people we probably shouldn’t be around. Alas, blood is sometimes thicker than one’s mental health.
Most likely, you know your family members pretty well. You know who is going to get drunk and embarrassing, who will get nasty, who will be emotional and demanding, and who will be enjoyable to be around. Chances are, they haven’t changed all that much since last year!
So, why not proactively enter the holidays with an attitude of forgiveness and resiliency? We are here to evolve into more conscious, responsible individuals. Often, mental health issues arise when we resist what is happening around us and our equilibrium gets out of whack. It is restored as we embrace and adjust to life situations, knowing when to be accepting of others’ less-evolved personalities, and when to get the heck out of their way. A difficult discipline, and a soul-strengthening one!
Having a new experience of the holiday season requires us to examine past decisions and expectations, learn from them, and move on. Uncle Delbert the Drunk will not likely have changed, unless he has successfully gone through treatment. Bringing our old ways of thinking into a situation where we want change can lead to depression: Not clearing the air of our own inefficient and undesirable beliefs and patterns, but expecting new results!
A powerful forgiveness and resilience tool is Jane Elizabeth Hart’s Seven Steps for Successful Life Transitions. Jane Elizabeth created this method for releasing old patterns, beliefs and other life situations, based on her personal experiences of change, loss and spiritual growth. Each of the Seven Steps deals with an aspect of the situation at hand. For holidays, she suggests working with the family system as a whole (rather than each person individually) through each step. Journaling is suggested, tissues should be on hand, and laughter at some point is a must. (http://www.cfenlightenment.org.)
Step one is ‘Gratitude and Acceptance’ and deals with all that we are grateful for in regards to our family gatherings and members thereof. Write down all the aspects of these events that you are grateful for. What joy have these situations brought to you? Don’t worry if you can’t think of anything; simply return to it when you can.
Step two looks at the ‘Good Times.’ Think of specific situations in the past that have been enjoyable for you at these family gatherings. There might be something that keeps bringing you back for more. Again, skip it if you need to.
Step three allows us to look at our ‘Hopes and Dreams.’ What do you hope will happen? What have you dreamt that these gatherings would be like? Who do you hope you don’t have to see when you’re there? Who do you hope will behave differently? Who have you wanted to get to know, but never have approached? Get those thoughts from swimming around in your head, creating unnecessary stress! It doesn’t mean that these hopes and wishes will necessarily come true; this is to help you let them go.
Step four deals with those ‘Disappointments and Difficulties.’ Ah, yes, the confrontations, the embarrassments, the arguments, the losses—everything. Can you see why you have dreaded these events? Can you see any unresolved issues within yourself that are surfacing to be healed?
The most important step is the fifth step: ‘Forgiveness.’ This is how we heal. Who or what circumstance is the hardest to forgive? Why? What does it mean for you if you don’t forgive? What does it mean for you if you do? If we can find it in ourselves to forgive obnoxious behavior, we can handle it much better when it greets us with a wet kiss. We are not condoning unacceptable behavior—dealing with that is a whole other article—I’m talking about the annoying and the petty. Forgiveness requires a certain leap of faith—whatever ours may be—into a space of allowing another to be what they choose to be without it throwing us off-center. Forgiveness pulls us out of the mindset that someone can ruin our day by not meeting our expectations, and puts us into a space of compassion and non-resistance toward less-conscious behavior in others (and ourselves!). It’s tough, but if we are willing, it could just save our holiday.
Finally, we ‘Release’ all these in the sixth step, and affirm our ‘Completion’ with the process in step seven. I like having a ritual for my completion process, sometimes burning my journaling notes, or using Hart’s Seven Step meditation.
The most important relationship is the one we have with ourselves; and when we are okay with ourselves, we can be open to better possibilities. If you get stuck on a situation that has happened in your family, be sure to seek professional help.
No matter what has happened in the past, every new year—every day!—opens new doors for us. Our job is to prepare our minds and hearts for those opportunities to come forth, not so Delbert the Drunk will change, but so we can.
One of my favorite sayings of my spiritual mentor, Jane Elizabeth Hart, is “The joy is in the giving.”
It has taken me many years to appreciate this as more than just a pretty platitude–especially moving into the holidays!
Finding joy in giving means to understand that when we are acting only for ourselves, that energy has no where to go but back to ourselves. This is important, to replenish and refresh ourselves sometimes. But when we give freely with joy and loving kindness, that energy ripples out into the far stretches of the universe! For that moment, we have expanded ourselves far outside of where our energy normally resides. It is like an amazing, huge yoga stretch!
Plus, finding joy in giving makes us want to give more—to re-experience that joy, that refreshing stretch beyond ourselves. Once we get out of our box, we don’t want to go back inside that small space!
Recently, I helped some friends pack Christmas gifts for children in other countries. There were several boxes, and as we filled each one, we were silently blessing each toy and piece of candy. I could imagine the love and joy the child would experience as she or he opened the box—an explosion of love and light! I could feel my own energy expanding beyond myself, beyond this country, rippling throughout the planet.
The song I sung in childhood that reminds me of this concept is “Magic Penny”. Do you remember singing that song? Did you ever realize that the magic penny symbolized your own energy, multiplying and supporting you in infinitely greater ways? Here are a few of the lyrics:
Love is something if you give it away; You’ll end up having more. It’s just like a magic penny: Hold it tight and you won’t have any. Lend it, spend it, and you’ll have so many They’ll roll all over the floor.
As you give this coming holiday season, no matter how big or small a gift, put your energy of love and joy into it, and don’t let it stop flowing at your gift’s recipient—see that love and joy rippling out, sending a wave of blessing throughout the planet.
It said to us that there are people who feel angry, left out, disenfranchised, forgotten. It said that people are struggling to feel safe, at peace, secure on a regular basis. It said that people want to be heard, understood, respected.
If those people exist in our country, we have all helped create them and maintain their unhappy existence, even in the midst of our happy one.
So, for those of us who haven’t felt angry, left out, disenfranchised, forgotten, now is the time to reach out, to step out of our comfort zone and lift someone up, lend a hand, notice, listen, love.
For those of us who have felt safe, peaceful, and secure, it is time to spread that peace, to offer safety, and to help secure it for those who haven’t had it.
For those of us with a voice and arbitrary societal respect, it is time to hear the unheard.
Let go of the fear that your clean world is going to hell. We have a family to raise, brothers and sisters whom we have forgotten, ignored, neglected.
Be ready to share. Be ready to give. Be ready to equalize. Be ready to strengthen your insides and help others strengthen theirs.
This is not about now having to protect ourselves. It is about courageous service to humanity.