|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.
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. Wishing you happiness.”
– Helen Keller
Wishing you happiness this holiday season!
May 2019 bring peace and joy to the world.
Sending out a warm thanks to all of you who have read or followed my blog this year.
Gratitude to each and every one of you.
“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.
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr
It’s true that we are hard-wired toward negativity, that we have a ‘built-in negativity bias.’ Rick Hanson explains that as we evolved over millions of years, dodging sticks and chasing carrots, it was a lot more important to notice, react to, and remember sticks than it was for carrots. That’s because — in the tough environments in which our ancestors lived — if they missed out on a carrot, they usually had a shot at another one later on. But if they failed to avoid a stick — a predator, a natural hazard, or aggression from others of their species — then there may be no more chances to pass on their genes.
However, studies have also shown that we are hard-wired for empathy and altruism as well. This is because cooperative behaviour worked on our behalf and helped our ancestors to survive under harsh conditions. So we reap psychological and physiological benefits when we practice altruism, when we do good things for others. In other words, doing good is good for you.
First of all, what exactly is altruism? It is defined as:
A voluntary, sometimes costly behaviour motivated by the desire to help another individual; a selfless act intended to benefit only the other.
So why would we do something that is of no benefit to ourselves?
Karen Salmansohn explains it like this:
Altruism raises your mood because it raises your self-esteem, which increases happiness. Plus, giving to others gets you outside of yourself and distracts you from your problems.
Here are a few good reasons to practice altruism:
Giving to and helping other people releases endorphins, which then activate parts of our brain that are associated with trust, pleasure and social connection. This chemical reaction in the brain increases the chance that we will be altruistic and do good deeds in the future, thus creating a positive feedback loop of generosity and happiness.
Being a part of a positive charitable social network leads to feelings of belonging and lessens isolation.
Helping others, especially those who are less fortunate, can provide a sense of perspective, enabling us to stop focusing on what we may feel is missing in our own life.
Evidence suggests that helping others can boost our health. Compassion has been shown to help stabilise the immune system against immunosuppressing effects of stress. Altruistic acts may also stimulate the brain to release endorphins, which are powerful natural painkillers. One study found that participating in charitable activities can be better for our health than lowering cholesterol or stopping smoking
People who are altruistic tend to see life as more meaningful. Altruism is associated with better marital relationships, increased physical health, and enhanced self-esteem. Acts of altruism decrease feelings of hopelessness and decrease depression. It may also neutralise negative emotions that affect immune, endocrine and cardiovascular function.
Helping others has actually been shown to increase our life span. Studies on older people show that those who give support to others live longer than those who don’t.
Quite simply, altruism feels good and is good for you. When you help others, it promotes positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness. So although it is true that we are hard-wired to notice the negative, we are also hard-wired toward compassion and altruism. So the next time you have a choice between acting from fear or acting from caring and compassion, choose the latter, it’s better for you in every way.
I’ll close with a wonderful TED Talk by Abigail Marsh entitled: Why Some People Are More Altruistic Than Others.
I’d love to hear about how you practice Altruism.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love.”
– Dorothy Day
What can we do when loneliness, anxiety and depression take hold. We can hold on to hope.
I explored the Crisis of the Heart that is overtaking so many of us in my latest article on Thrive Global.
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..”
The numbers of people suffering are staggering. In the United States, depression affects 16.2 million adults, and anxiety about 18.7 million. In New Zealand, it is estimated that one in five women suffers from depression, and about one in 10 men; with about one in six people suffering from anxiety.
Gazzaley describes a sharp increase in the number of teens impacted. American teens have experienced a 33% increase in depressive symptoms, with 31% more having died by suicide between 2010 and 2015. And in New Zealand, the percentage of 15- to 24-year-olds struggling with mental health has been steadily increasing, affecting
11.8 per cent in the past year. The estimated number of youth in NZ experiencing psychological distress has gone up from 58,000 to 79,000 in the past year. And tragically, NZ has the highest youth suicide rate among teenagers between 15 and 19 in the OECD.
What is causing this horrific increase, this crisis spiralling out of control? Grazzaley and many others argue that we just cannot keep up with the rapid rise of technology and it is impacting our brains and our well-being.
“Our brains simply have not kept pace with the dramatic and rapid changes in our environment — specifically the introduction and ubiquity of information technology.”
But it’s not only our brains that are impacted; it’s also affecting our emotions and our hearts. Jack Kornfield describes this crisis as:
Our Crisis of Heart.
“No marvellous technological developments alone will stop continuing warfare, racism, environmental destruction, and global injustice. The source of these sufferings is in the human heart. Actions based on greed, hatred, disrespect, and ignorance inevitably lead to suffering.”
Gazzaley echoes this sentiment as he notes 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. So how do we get a handle on it, how do we deal with a crisis of the heart? Kornfield asks us to reengage the heart.
If actions based on greed, hatred, disrespect and ignorance lead to suffering, then it makes sense that actions based on their opposites — generosity, love, respect, and wisdom — lead to happiness and well-being.
Numerous studies have shown that there are ways to increase joy, compassion, peace, and gratitude. The benefits of mindfulness and compassion are well researched. The work of Richard Davidson, professor of psychology, is especially interesting. Davidson’s work at Center for Healthy Minds at UW Madison has shown that positive emotions such as loving kindness and compassion can be learned. This is great news; these positive emotions can be learned and nurtured to grow.
But the rapid rise of technology continues, and even as we work to hold on to the positive emotions that we are nurturing, the disconnect that Gazzaley described looms.
But there is hope. Kornfield is working with others to bring principles of heart and compassion into the field of technological development:
“Together with technology leaders, neuroscientists, and contemplatives, I have helped co-found something called the Open Source Compassion to bring principles of heart and compassion into all levels of technological development. We acknowledge that the capacities of modern technology are among the most potent of human creations. We are collaborating with companies and institutions around the world and beginning to formulate a kind of Hippocratic Oath for tech, which reads:
· We will not create technology that causes harm to humans and to life.
· If later we learn that it inadvertently does so, we will change it.
· We will strive to create technology that fosters human well-being and respect.
· We can create technology for profit, but not if it contravenes the first three principles.
· Working at all levels, we will act with professionalism and take these responsibilities as paramount.
Ultimately we must have hope; hope that there can be positive change and that love will prevail. Kornfield implores us:
Let these words be a reminder, a call.
Find your way to quiet yourself and tend your heart.
Promote love and spread the power of compassion in your work and in your community.
I’ll close with a wonderful video of Jack Kornfield entitled: ‘Wisdom, Compassion and Courage in Uncertain Times‘
I’d love to hear about how you deal with a crisis of the heart.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.
“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.
“If you consciously let your body take care of you, it will become your greatest ally and trusted partner.”
– Deepak Chopra
As I age, I need to watch myself, that I don’t start using unhealthy language. Language like, ‘My eye sight just isn’t what it used to be’ or ‘Oh my ageing body doesn’t move as fast as it used it’ or the most common that I hear ‘Growing old is a bitch! Nothing works anymore.’ This kind of talk is training our brains to to be unhealthy.
According to Deepak Chopra, our health is up to us. In a wonderful talk with Hay House President Reid Tracy,Deepak Chopra, M.D. shares his top 6 secrets to great health based on decades of scientific research and study. To hear the entire conversation you need to sign up for the Hay House Summit.
According to Chopra’s new book, The Healing Self, 95% our health is under our control, and he explains that most disease is reversible. His 6 secrets to a healthier life and better health are really simple and something we can all start doing now!
#6 – Connect to Earth and to Nature
Immerse yourself in nature, go for long walks in trees. And he explains that the best way to connect is by walking barefoot outside. Take a walk on the beach barefoot whenever possible. You now have permission to indulge – it’s good for you!
#5 – Nutrition
It’s pretty simple, eat fresh and organic wherever possible.
#4 – Watch your Emotions and Relationships
Negative emotions and relationships can cause illness and disease. Whereas positive relationships and feeling positive emotions help to create health and can actually reduce inflammation naturally. And it’s been proven that loneliness can harm your health. So find positive relationships and nurture them.
#3 – Movement and Yoga
Walking, especially barefoot, is good, but he explains that doing yoga is the best movement for the brain to help in healing your body and in staying healthy.
#2 – Meditate and Manage Your Stress Levels
Meditation not only helps to reduce stress, it has been shown time and again to help you heal.
#1 – Get Good Sleep
And finally, the number one thing that will help you to heal and to stay healthy is a good night’s sleep. Chopra suggests 7 – 8 hours a night is best. This is the absolute best way to heal and to stay healthy.
Arianna Huffington has been saying this for years as well and has written several books about it, including The Sleep Revolution.
This is all within our own control, we can be healthier. So I make a commitment to watch my language about my health and start paying close attention to Deepak Chopra’s 6 secrets to health.
In closing, appropriately here is a video by Chopra called Only You Can Heal Yourself.