|A Special Invitation to all of my This Way Up Readers . . .
The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.
― Oprah Winfrey
“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. And we need to learn to love ourselves first.”
― John Lennon
This post was from 2017 – but it was so relevant that I decided to repost it . . .
Self-Love. Why do so many of us find that concept so difficult? One of the most common things that I hear from women in workshops is that they think the worst of themselves and usually have difficulty prioritizing themselves.
Why is it that some people, the Donald Trumps of the world, seem to believe only the best about themselves, while others—perhaps especially women —seize on the most self-critical thoughts they can come up with? “It turns out there’s an area of your brain that’s assigned the task of negative thinking,” says Louann Brizendine, MD, a neuropsychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, and the author of The Female Brain. “It’s judgmental. It says ‘I’m too fat’ or ‘I’m too old.’ It’s a barometer of every social interaction you have. It goes on red alert when the feedback you’re getting from other people isn’t going well.” This worrywart part of the brain is the anterior cingulate cortex. In women, it’s actually larger and more influential, as is the brain circuitry for observing emotions in others. “The reason we think females have more emotional sensitivity,” says Brizendine, “is that we’ve been built to be immediately responsive to the needs of a nonverbal infant. That can be both a good thing and a bad thing.”
Interesting that this article was from the August 2008 O Magazine. The comparison to the Donald Trumps of the world is more apt than ever! (Although I would like to point out that there is a huge distinction between narcissism and self-love!) And in these dark and difficult times, when there is a constant reminder of how much is at stake, fear is rampant. So self-love is more important than ever. We need love to conquer the fear that many of us are feeling in response to the political insanity that has gripped the world at the moment.
In an article that I recently published in Thrive Global, I wrote about just this phenomenon – Why Self-Love is So Important During Difficult Times. In this article I quote an important point by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross:
“There are only two emotions: love and fear. All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear. From love flows happiness, contentment, peace, and joy. From fear comes anger, hate, anxiety and guilt. It’s true that there are only two primary emotions, love and fear. But it’s more accurate to say that there is only love or fear, for we cannot feel these two emotions together, at exactly the same time. They’re opposites. If we’re in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we’re in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear.”
So if we want to stay in a place of love instead of a place of fear, we have to learn to love ourselves first. We cannot pour from an empty cup, we must be filled up. And one way to fill your cup is to prioritize yourself, pamper yourself!
So if you have the time and the inclination, may I suggest a lovely retreat to Bali! Rejuvenate Spa Retreats is offering a stunning 9 day retreat in
Bali! You can read all about it here. This is the Third annual Bali Retreat my business partner Deb and I have run. It is a phenomenal way to refresh and rejuvenate yourself. And a wonderful way to show yourself the self-love your deserve!
I’ll close with a short sweet video of Oprah Winfrey as she talks about self-love and taking care of yourself.
I’d love to hear how you take care of yourself and practice self-love. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it. And please let me know if you want more information about our retreat to Bali in July!
“I believe we’re all put on this planet for a purpose, and we all have a different purpose… When you connect with that purpose, and move forward with love and compassion, that’s when everything unfolds.“
― Ellen DeGeneres
This year I choose to be the mountain, not the grain of sand!
I don’t know about you, but with the new year, my email was bombarded with suggestions about how to gain clarity this year and what to do to ‘unclutter’ and find peace. So as I meditated on what I want to focus on for 2019, what became clear for me was that it wasn’t how to unclutter or which new app I could buy to find peace, but instead I wanted to hone in on my purpose for this year. That sounds grandiose and overwhelming as I write it, but with so much ‘stuff’ out there, so much info and paths that I could take, I need to narrow my focus and check in with what really resonates for me.
Buddha has been quoted as saying:
Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.
And this has been adapted and misquoted as:
Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it.
I don’t think there would be many people who disagree that finding one’s purpose is essential in one’s life. And I think finding purpose in my mid to later life is much different than when I was younger. In youth, there was a sense of spaciousness, a sense that I could trial different pathways and see what I liked, what made me feel alive. These days, there is much less time to waste. I’m 61 (still young enough… but don’t want to waste the time I do have) and I feel more of a sense of urgency. As Bonnie Raitt so succinctly puts it:
Life gets mighty precious
When there’s less of it to waste
It’s not just that having a sense of purpose adds to one’s well being, although research shows that that is true. It’s more than that. Having a sense of purpose improves health, fulfilment, and can even help you live longer. In a nutshell, finding your sense of purpose has the potential to change everything!
So Ok, we can all agree, it’s an important mission. But it’s huge! How do we even start? Is there a signpost or light to follow?
The best advice I’ve ever gotten in my life is to follow my heart. I think of it like, there’s a guiding compass inside of me that always knows which direction to go. An inner voice that knows what’s right. I just need to tune into it and trust it.
I agree, that is great advice . . . but how exactly do we do that? I researched this and came across a lot of articles so tried to synthesise the info into the top 3 suggestions:
READ – The most common suggestion that came through is to read. Read as much as you can about as many things that interest you as you can. Read books by people that you admire, read about things that you are curious about. Books are so readily available; choose reading over digital distraction.
SERVE – So many studies suggest that service to others is one of the best ways to find a sense of purpose. Helping others is associated with a meaningful, purposeful life. In one study, Daryl Van Tongeren et al found that people, who volunteer and/or donate money, tend to have a greater sense of purpose in their lives. Professor Anne Colby has researched and written about purpose and well being for many years. And she has found that one’s well being increases when one is purposeful beyond oneself.
There is significantly higher well being in people who were involved in pursuing beyond-the-self goals, compared to those who were pursuing other types of goals. In other words, engaging in prosocial goals had more impact on well being than engaging in non-prosocial goals.
CULTIVATE awe and gratitude. The research is clear, cultivating awe, and gratitude absolutely connects us to our sense of purpose. Several studies conducted by the Greater Good Science Center’s Dacher Keltner have shown that the experience of awe makes us feel connected to something larger than ourselves—and so can provide the emotional foundation for a sense of purpose. And research on gratitude consistently shows a correlation between feeling grateful and well-being and a stronger sense of purpose.
But it’s important that we don’t just plan and think about it, but to focus and take action!
“The dynamic process of aligning yourself with your life purpose requires energy and willpower: wind in your sails to move you forward, and a strong rudder to prevent being blown off course.”
I believe as Og Mandino puts it:
I am here for a purpose and that purpose is to grow into a mountain, not to shrink to a grain of sand.
So taking action . . . I decided that 2019 is my year to start and to focus on my next book. The idea scares me; I know how much energy the process of writing takes, and even more, the energy and work that is required getting the book out there. It is daunting, but I know it is a huge part of my purpose – to write and connect with others. And so I am committed to grow into that mountain, not shrink to a grain of sand, so I shall commit to this focus for this year.
I am curious, how shall you move toward your sense of purpose this year? What are you doing to grow into the mountain you are meant to be?
I’ll close with a powerful interview between Oprah and Eckhart Tolle – Life Purpose
I’d love to hear about your purpose for 2019. I really am curious – What are you doing to grow into the mountain you are meant to be?
And as always, thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it.
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Thanksgiving is upon us. And although I live in New Zealand, where Thanksgiving itself is not celebrated, I acknowledge the day anyway as a day to cultivate gratitude. Daily I have so much to be grateful for… my Gratitude Journal today reflected:
Today I am Grateful for:
My beautiful sons – so grateful for the delicious relationship I have with both of them and the close relationship they have with one another
My husband – we’ve been together for so many years, seen so many ups and downs and grown together. So grateful for our bond.
My friends – people to share my life with
My sister – such a gift to have a sister in life
My wonderful home – warm in the winter, cool in the summer, a deck with a view of the sea and a stream in the backyard. Incredible sunsets over the water from my bedroom, a walk to the beach to swim when it’s hot. I love my home!
My work – I love the work I do and the people I meet doing it.
My health – at 60 still feeling fit and healthy
Yoga – I love my yoga practice
Books – I get such joy from reading! And there are still so many books that I look forward to reading. It’s so soothing for an addict to know that I’ll never run out!
My spiritual practice – so grateful for my relationship with my higher power and the soothing response I get from meditation
Writing – I love to write and journal. So grateful I have found a creative outlet where I can play.
My Recovery and Sobriety – without which so much of my life would not be as it is.
If you are looking for ways to actively practice more gratitude, here are a few ideas. There is a great Gratitude Journal Research Project you can join: – Thnx4:
Thnx4 is a sharable gratitude journal. Take the 14-day gratitude challenge, learn more about yourself, and add to the growing body of research on the benefits of saying thanks!
Keeping a Gratitude Journal is one of the “Ten Ways to Become More Grateful.” This is a wonderful article by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. – the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. He is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology.
Today I’m also grateful for the amazing master class that my friend Alexis Cohen is running:
AWAKENING THROUGH ART
There is no doubt about it, we’re going through a transformational time on the planet. We’re waking up to our awesome ability to create our reality and a new vision of the planet is emerging.
That’s why Alexis, visionary artist, creativity mentor, and shamanic practitioner has created Awakening Through Art Online Masterclass. It’s a Free interview series, starting December 3rd 2018.
It brings together more than 25 artists, healers, teachers and visionaries, including me! We will share our creative wisdom, tools and hand-on-techniques to activate healing, inspire connection and amplify love all around the world.
To close, I want to share one of the videos by Robert Emmons from The Greater Good Site, The Benefits of Gratitude.
Please share some of your recent Gratitude Stories, I always love to hear them.
And as always, thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it.
“The ultimate end of all revolutionary social change is to establish the sanctity of human life, the dignity of man, the right of every human being to liberty and well-being.”
– Emma Goldman
What do you want? No honestly, what do you really truly want in your one wild and precious life? to mis-quote Mary Oliver. Most studies show that happiness and well-being are at the top of this list. But that is often immediately followed by but I don’t know what to do to get there. The good news is that there is a path to well-being, and you can start travelling this path today.
Well-being is actually a skill that can be learned and practiced and improved. Well-being can be achieved by focusing on four main keys. One of my heroes that I’ve written about is Dr. Richard Davidson. Dr. Davidson is the founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and he has studied and discovered the four science-based keys to well-being.
Davidson explains that well-being is a skill and it boils down to four main attributes:
Resilience, Outlook, Attention and Generosity.
From his research, he and his colleagues have learned that:
Each of these four is rooted in neural circuits, and each of these neural circuits exhibits plasticity—so we know that if we exercise these circuits, they will strengthen. Practicing these four skills can provide the substrate for enduring change, which can help to promote higher levels of well-being in our lives.
Yes it’s true ‘Shit Happens.’ It happens to all of us and we can’t always stop it or avoid it, but we can change the way we react to it. Davidson explains that:
Resilience is the rapidity with which we recover from adversity; some people recover slowly and other people recover more quickly. We know that individuals who show a more rapid recovery in certain key neural circuits have higher levels of well-being. They are protected in many ways from the adverse consequences of life’s slings and arrows.
Recent research that Davidson conducted at UW Madison asked whether resilience could be improved and if so, how. The good news is that answer is yes; resilience can be improved by regular practice of mindfulness meditation. … The bad news is that it takes thousands of hours of practice before you see real change. But hey, it can be done.
The second key to well-being is one’s outlook on life. Davidson explains:
Outlook refers to the ability to see the positive in others, the ability to savor positive experiences, the ability to see another human being as a human being who has innate basic goodness.
The good news regarding outlook is that unlike resilience, research indicates that simple practices of lovingkindness and / or compassion meditation may alter this circuitry quite quickly.
There was a study done in 2013 where individuals who had never meditated before were randomly assigned to one of two groups.
One group received a secular form of compassion training and the other received cognitive reappraisal training, an emotion-regulation strategy that comes from cognitive therapy. We scanned people’s brains before and after two weeks of training, and we found that in the compassion group, brain circuits that are important for this positive outlook were strengthened. After just seven hours—30 minutes of practice a day for two weeks—we not only saw changes in the brain, but these changes also predicted kind and helpful behavior.
The third key to well-being is paying attention. Research has shown that most people do not pay close attention to what they’re doing about forty-seven percent of the time. The quality of attention that you pay to what you are doing is vital.
William James in The Principals of Psychology explains that:
The ability to voluntarily bring back a wandering attention over and over again is the very root of judgment, character, and will. An education that sharpens attention would be education par excellence.
Davidson explains that educating attention can be done through a contemplative practice.
It is well known now that when individuals engage in generous and altruistic behavior, they actually activate circuits in the brain that are key to fostering well-being. Davidson believes that:
Human beings come into the world with innate, basic goodness. When we engage in practices that are designed to cultivate kindness and compassion, we’re not actually creating something de novo—we’re not actually creating something that didn’t already exist. What we’re doing is recognizing, strengthening, and nurturing a quality that was there from the outset.
In addition to the four keys that Davidson outlines, science has also shown that gratitude hugely increases our feelings of well-being. Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. It magnifies positive emotions. With gratitude, we become greater participants in our lives as opposed to spectators. You can become more responsible for creating more well-being in your life by the simple act of being grateful for what you are experiencing in this present moment.
By practicing gratitude and focusing on these four keys, Davidson assures us that:
Our brains are constantly being shaped wittingly or unwittingly—most of the time unwittingly. Through the intentional shaping of our minds, we can shape our brains in ways that would enable these four fundamental constituents of well-being to be strengthened. In that way, we can take responsibility for our own minds.
If you are interested in learning more about this topic, no one explains it better than Dr. Richie Davidson himself!
I’d love to know if you have found that a meditation practice impacts your well-being.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.
““Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
— George Bernard Shaw
There are still a few spaces left for the This Way Up Six Week Online Live Interactive Workshop.
The six-week series begins on Tuesday 23 October at 5pm PDT and runs for six weeks:
Tuesday 23 October – Tuesday 27 November.
Here is some info about the workshop:
The workshop is completely free. There is no set fee at all. At the end of the six weeks, if you decide you want to donate something, you are welcome, but there is no expectation.
Each workshop is live, and videoed. If you miss a day in the series, you can go to our private You Tube page and watch what you’ve missed and do the day’s visualization. There is time for questions and discussions during each workshop. The shared community of women from around the world is wonderful!
This video will answer some questions for you, and if you have any other question, you can contact me at
I hope to see you there!
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
– Desmond Tutu
For those of you who missed my September Newsletter …
If you are not signed up to received my newsletter and are interested in being on my mailing list, just message me below, or email me at email@example.com
Please keep reading to find out how to sign up for 2 really exciting upcoming online summits.
If you are interested in learning more about the next This Way Up Online Workshop, watch the video below. Or if you are ready to sign up, you can click here. I’d love to see you there!
Welcome to This Way Up!
Thank you for being part of this community! Keep reading for more information about dealing with A Crisis of the Heart and finding well-being; news about the upcoming This Way Up Online Interactive Workshop starting in October; and info about two upcoming events that you are invited to attend. You can always find me at ThisWayUpBook.com.
Dealing with A Crisis of the Heart and Finding Well-Being
Surviving in the age of technical overwhelm
“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love.”
~ Dorothy Day
There is a crisis of the heart impacting us at the moment. It’s showing up as depression, anxiety, and attention disorders. These are also symptomatic of a cognition crisis. Adam Gazzaley, PhD explains it as “a crisis at the core of what makes us human: the dynamic interplay between our brain and our environment—the ever-present cycle between how we perceive our surroundings, integrate this information, and act upon it.”
I explored this crisis in my recent article on Thrive Global.
The cause of this crisis is linked to the fact that we just cannot keep up with the rapid rise of technology and it is impacting our brains and our well-being. As Gazzaley put it: “Our brains simply have not kept pace with the dramatic and rapid changes in our environment—specifically the introduction and ubiquity of information technology.”
Some researchers explain that “the increasing complexity, speed, and multitasking of our modern environment has overtaken our capacities, and we live disconnected from our own self and from one another.” This disconnect from our self and from one another is perpetuating the crisis, and the crisis is spiralling out of control.
I discuss how Jack Kornfield describes reengaging the heart. There is hope! If you’re interested in reading more about this and watching Kornfield discuss wisdom, compassion and courage in uncertain times, visit patticlark.com.
It’s Here! This Way Up Is Now Available as an Audio Book!
Please let me know your thoughts if you listen to it. I’d love to hear from you.
This Way Up Online Interactive Live Workshops!
In May, I hosted the first This Way Up Interactive Live Workshop. There were ten women from four different countries taking part and it was amazing – exhilarating and uplifting! We explored many of the topics I write about in my book. But with the unity of sharing our common experience, it was so much richer than doing it alone.
Here’s what a few of the women said about the workshop:
“I really liked getting to know all the lovely ladies and the fact that we were all over the globe! And finding that other women have the same doubts and concerns about themselves that I do. It was fabulous! Keep me posted on next workshop, I want to share this.”
“Thank you so much for the course. I really enjoyed it, as well as getting to know you and the group.”
“I enjoyed it all, but I think I enjoyed the interactive format the most. It was nice to feel the support and genuine caring from both you and the other participants. It was a very safe and supportive environment. It was very helpful to be guided through the visualizations directly, by someone I had built trust in. It was also helpful to hear the other participants’ experiences. It gave me hope, that doing the hard work and learning the tools will be worth it. I also enjoyed that we received helpful links after the session which enabled me to dive deeper into areas I wanted to work on. Your help was invaluable.”
Check out the video below to learn more about the workshop.
The next six-week series begins on Tuesday, 23 October at 5 p.m. PDT. The workshop series runs for six weeks: Tuesday, 23 Oct – Tuesday, 27 November.
Here is some information about the workshops:
If you want more information about the workshops, or you are interested in signing up for the next series of workshops, you can sign up here!
You’re invited to this wonderful series:
Finding Yourself Master Class Series with the uplifting Clarissa Findlay
This event will launch on October 9.
You can sign up for this transformative Master Class here.
You are also invited to this fabulous summit:
The Unstoppable Artist Formula:
How to Claim Your Full Power as an Artist, Make Great Money, and Attract Your Perfect Audience
Hosted by the Incomparable Nikol Peterman
The Unstoppable Artist Formula launches October 29 and will run through November 8.
You can learn more about Nikol and the online event here.
“Author Patti Clark is a cross between Elizabeth Gilbert and Julia Cameron.”
This Way Up is a story of healing for women who yearn to lead a fuller life, accompanied by a workbook to help readers work through personal challenges, discover new inspiration, and harness their creative power. . .
Women spend so much of life nurturing and giving to others that when they find themselves alone—because of an empty nest, the end of a marriage, or the death of a partner—they often struggle with feeling purposeless. This Way Up provides a step-by-step way out of this sense of loss and into a life filled with enthusiasm, creativity, and joy.
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
~ Helen Keller
Thank you for being part of this movement. Watch this space for more in the months ahead.
“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”
– Jack Kornfield.”
There is a trance that is overtaking many of us these days. It seems to be present in most women I talk to. It is the Trance of Unworthiness. We seem to be champions at berating ourselves for our perceived failures – for not being good enough at our jobs or at parenting, for not exercising enough or for eating too much. We have convinced ourselves that we are unworthy of the kindness that we show most other people. And that unkindness and self-criticism is making us sick!
Research shows that accepting our imperfections and being kinder to ourselves can lessen feelings of depression and anxiety, and can also lessen feelings of shame and fear of failure.
People who have greater self-compassion also tend to be happier and more optimistic.
Quieting the nagging self-critic and practicing self-compassion can lead to a healthier immune system and a much better sense of well-being.
Psychologist Kristin Neff describes self-compassion as kindness toward the self, which entails being gentle and supportive. “Rather than harshly judging oneself for personal shortcomings, the self is offered warmth and unconditional acceptance.”
But after years of relentless negative self-talk, how can we break out of this trance of unworthiness? How can we cultivate more self-compassion?
It needs to be intentional – set the intention daily to be kinder to yourself.
Here are some guidelines:
1. Practice Imperfection:
Self-compassion means that we give ourselves the space to be human. And that means we can be flawed sometimes, but we don’t have to define ourselves as being ‘completely flawed and a hopeless case.’ We get to practice imperfection sometimes and not lose sight of our own potential.
2. Practice Mindfulness:
Jon Kabat-Zinn explains that mindfulness has been found to have a positive impact on self-compassion because it has the tendency to lessen self-judgement. When we are stuck in a negative spiral of self-criticism, it’s quite often because we are engaged in ‘negative story-lines’ —stories that we repeat in our heads, criticizing self about past mistakes and failures. This playground of our internal critic, plays on repeat and creates a negative spiral that we can easily get stuck in. Mindfulness, or the state of non-judgmental awareness, can be the antidote.
3. Practice Forgiveness
Refer back to number one, being human means that you sometimes make mistakes. Shit happens. We don’t have to punish ourselves for making mistakes. We get to accept that we’re not perfect and move on. Remember what Anne Lamott says:
“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”
That goes for self-forgiveness as well.
4. Practice Gratitude
By focussing on gratitude, we over-ride our inner critic and can hear a kinder voice in our head. We can then shift the lazar-focus away from all of our perceived shortcomings and instead appreciate what we can contribute to the world. Robert Emmons reminds us that gratitude is powerful and by focusing on gratitude instead of criticism, we can learn to be more self-compassionate.
Remember self-compassion has to be learned for most of us. I have to remember to practice it daily. It has to be intentional and mindful. But it can be done, and I’ve decided that I’m worth it. And I think you are too.
I’d like to close with a beautiful meditation called ‘Awakening Self-Compassion’ by Tara Brach.
She also has a two part meditation on her own site called “The Healing Power of Self-Compassion” which is also wonderful when you have the time.
I’d love to hear about how you manage to overcome the Trance of Unworthiness.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.
“If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
— Shel Silverstein
You are invited to get THIS WAY UP on Audiobook for Free!
“Forgiveness will not be possible until compassion is born in your heart.”
—Thich Nhat Hanh
I recently had a rather intense conversation about forgiveness with a friend. She was adamant that there are some people that do not deserve forgiveness, ever. She went on to say that serial rapists and pedophiles do not deserve forgiveness period. And although there is very compelling evidence that forgiveness is good for the person who forgives, we came to an impasse.
I think a lot of us get stuck on the idea of what forgiveness actually means. Forgiveness is defined as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether you believe they actually deserve your forgiveness. Remember the act of forgiving is for you the forgiver, not the person you are forgiving.
Forgiveness does not mean that you gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offence against you. It does not mean forgetting nor excusing what has been done. It does not mean you have to reconcile with the person or release them from legal accountability.
As Anne Lamott puts it:
“Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person. If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare.”
Forgiveness is for the forgiver. It brings the forgiver peace and hopefully freedom from anger.
It took years of therapy to be able to forgive my mother. I was convinced she did not deserve forgiveness. She chose alcohol over her own children, dying and leaving me motherless at the tender age of 16. But when I finally reached a place of letting it go, it was so liberating! I felt lighter and more energized than I had in my entire life. Forgiveness is so freeing. It loosens the knot in my stomach that comes from resentment and anger at another person.
I love Jack Kornfield’s definition of forgiveness:
“Forgiveness is, in particular, the capacity to let go, to release the suffering, the sorrows, the burdens of the pains and betrayals of the past, and instead to choose the mystery of love. Forgiveness shifts us from the small separate sense of ourselves to a capacity to renew, to let go, to live in love.”
Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for happiness, health and peace. And studies have shown that forgiveness can lead to better relationships; greater psychological well-being; less stress; lower blood pressure; fewer symptoms of depression and a stronger immune system. Just to name a few of the health benefits.
But as we all know, it’s a helluva lot easier said than done. Fred Luskin is a pioneer in the science and practice of forgiveness. He offers us nine steps toward forgiveness:
1. Understand how you feel about what happened and be able to explain why the situation is not OK. Then discuss it with someone you trust.
2. Commit to yourself to feel better; remember forgiveness is for you and no one else.
3. Remember forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to reconcile with the person who upset you; it does not condone the action. In forgiveness you are seeking peace for yourself.
4. Recognize that the distress now is coming from the hurt feelings and physical upset you are currently suffering, not from what offended you or hurt you when it happened.
5. At the moment you feel upset, practice stress management to soothe your body’s fight or flight response. Take a deep breath.
6. Stop expecting things from other people that they do not choose to give you.
7. Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you.
8. Remember that living well is the best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving power over you to the person who caused you pain, look for the love, beauty, and kindness around you. Put more energy into appreciating what you have rather than attending to what you do not have.
9. Amend the way you look at your past so you remind yourself of your heroic choice to forgive.
One of the best ways I can get myself to a place of forgiveness when I’m feeling stuck is to journal. I write pages and pages about why I’m angry and resentful and hurt. I write until it’s all out. And then I usually talk about it, and occasionally even write an article about it about because as Anne Lamott tells us:
Now you get to tell it, because then it will become medicine – that we evolve; that life is stunning, wild, gorgeous, weird, brutal, hilarious and full of grace. That our parents were a bit insane, and that healing from this is taking a little bit longer than we had hoped. Tell it.
I’d like to close with a beautiful meditation on forgiveness with Jack Kornfield.