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Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’


For three years I attended Jean Houston’s “Mystery School” in New York.  One weekend Jean was gone and our substitute teacher was Marianne Williamson, the writer and peace activist who has popularized “A Course in Miracles” in her books, such as “A Return to Love” and “Everyday Grace

Marianne said something I’ve not forgotten.  The context was powerful – and I’ll write about that event another time, as it is worthy of reflection.  But for now, just the quote:

“Forgive yourselves and get back to work.”

I remembered that last night as I was talking to friend.  I am blessed to be in a sort of ‘big sister’/mentor role in her life and she had called me for advice.  She had three instances of late in which she found herself enraged at people who were not pulling their own weight, not working, not being self-supporting.  She has done enough personal growth work to know that the degree to  which she was upset was indicative that this wasn’t just about ‘them’ – it was about her.

It wasn’t the obvious (it rarely is).  She has worked hard since she was young, is working now, and is financially pulling her weight in her marriage.

But as she delved deeper she realized that she still had some deep shame about some financial decisions she and her husband made a few years ago.

She’s made a lot of financial changes – has ‘amended her ways’ – as a result of that hard decision.

But what she had NOT done was to forgive herself.

I congratulated my friend on the “getting back to work” part (i.e., ‘doing the next right thing’).  And I encouraged her to now turn towards forgiving herself.

So imagine my surprise this morning when I awakened, just barely conscious, and began berating myself for wasting the rest of the evening last night.  Oh, my time with my friend felt like a gift, worthy of my attention – but it was the hours of playing games and checking Facebook rather than ‘being productive’ about which I had an opinion.

I can see, too, what a habit this can be.  NOT ‘doing the next right thing’ and then, rather than observing and changing, acting like just beating up on myself will change things.

It doesn’t.

In fact, it makes it worse.

For one, it stops a deeper inquiry.  And, it gives the false illusion of having made amends – when the real amend is, as any dictionary will tell us, ‘to change.’

I’m grateful to Marianne Williamson for giving me a memorable quote for this concept. And to my friend for serving as a mirror.

And now?  I forgive myself for loafing (not such a bad thing at all!) and I have a plan for tonight that includes both some productive activities and some RELAXATION (which is not ‘bad’!).

How about you?  Do you ‘forgive yourself and get back to work’?  Or do you need to retake that class as I do?  I’d really like to know!

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Sundays are Spirituality Day here at Taking it to the Streets

Did you see the article about a study in the Netherlands showing that people make better decisions when they have to pee?  The article was interesting (about how impulse control over motor/physical impulses also gates impulsive decision-making) but the gist of it – something seemingly bad and awkward (“I gotta pee!”) can lead to something good (“I didn’t quit my job and fly to Paris”).

That brought to mind the title of a book I read in 2004 (yes, I track my books!) called “The Spirituality of Imperfection”.  Because when I’m rushing in the house, dropping my coat and trying to get my wet boots off so I can quickly get to the bathroom – well, those are NOT elegant, composed or spiritual seeming moments.

My life has had a lot of inelegant, “I don’t know how to do this” moments the last five months.  But then – all of us have that, all the time – just in varying degrees, I think.  When I was in my 30s and 40s I actually thought I could “get it together” and “get it right” – in terms of seeking perfection.  A theme song of mine then – and I thought of it that way – was one by Emmylou Harris that said:

“I was born to run
Stay ahead of the rest
And all that I’ve wanted
was to be the best….”

Feels good to be the best, ya know? 

So all this musing led me to pick up “The Spirituality of Imperfection” by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketchum once again.  I’m remembering how much I LOVED reading this book back in 2004 and thinking it may be time for a re-read.  It’s rich, deep and full of both wisdom and “sound bites”.    Bringing together wisdom teachings from several world religions as well as from my primary spiritual path of the 12 steps, it reminds us over and over again that it is in our common humanity – our dropping our coats on the floor so we can rush off to pee; our inadvertently offending our friends; that stupid remark we made to a stranger – our brokenness, in short, that connects us – we are ALL imperfect creatures.  We’re trying to do our best.  Stumbling into grace and hopefully into growth. 

Like watching a toddler learn to eat.  One minute they are eating like true little barbarians (for those of us of the tidy persuasion eating with toddlers is a true growth experience!) and the next minute doing some awkward dance with those weird little utensils children get – and then, voila! eating with Big Girl/Boy forks at the table just like you and me.  It’s a process. 

And our movement from asshole to saint is pretty similar I think. 

This book might be a good one for me right now.  I struggle not only with my own VAST imperfections but with those of people I love.  During this Dark.Journey.Into.Grief in which I had 5 deaths in 14 weeks one of my closest friends told me I was “too intense” and a “drama queen” as I grieved.  I’ve had such a hard time forgiving her for that and for saying she “couldn’t” (I say “Wouldn’t”) be around me (what? like death is catching?).  So that brings up the rich, fertile spiritual turf of acceptance.  And the emotional work of “forgiving people, but not having to pet the rattlesnake”.

We’re all, every one of us, doing the best we can at the time we’re doing it.  But we all also get to pick (at least to some degree) our fellow travelers on the journey.  Though I do know that one of the popular teaching modalities here in Earth School is learning through adversity.

Yesterday I spent the day at home alone, sick (flu-ish) and sad (grieving the death of my 46-year-old friend a month ago).  It wasn’t very much fun.  But it seems to have done a bit of a reset. And that, like making good decisions when you need to pee, is one of those oxymorons in life that would be enormously helpful to remember whilst in the midst of it – that what SEEMS so, well, “sucky”, can be just the fertile compost out of which we can be reborn.  Now I’ll go reread Lazarus Kisses the Stars (a poem I wrote last year about just such rebirth) and greet the new day – in all my glorious imperfection.

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