The Power of Forgiveness

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”
― Anne Lamott

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Really exciting news – Arianna Huffington, renowned founder of Huffington Post, has launched a new venture called Thrive Global!

Thrive Global’s mission is to end the epidemic of stress and burnout by offering companies and individuals sustainable, science-based solutions to enhance both well-being and performance.

Recent science has shown that the pervasive belief that burnout is the price we must pay for success is a delusion. We know, instead, that when we prioritize our well-being, our decision-making, creativity and productivity improve dramatically.

Thrive Global’s three interconnected core components are: corporate trainings and workshops that bring the latest strategies and tools around health and well-being to organizations; a media platform that serves as the global hub for the conversation about well-being and performance with an emphasis on action; and, an e-commerce platform that offers a curated selection of the best technology and products for well-being. Together, the three components create an integrated platform that empowers people to make sustainable changes to their daily lives, going from knowing what to do to actually doing it.

Thrive Global is committed to accelerating the culture shift that allows people to reclaim their lives and move from surviving to thriving.

It is an amazing site and I urge you to check it out and if you are so inclined, sign up for their newsletter.  It’s helpful and healing.

I was honored to have an article about Forgiveness in their inaugural edition. And I’d like to share it here:

As we enter the holiday season, many of us will be joining family members and friends that we may not have seen in awhile. Time with family often dredges up old resentment and anger for a lot of us. And especially with the divisiveness of the past election, this holiday season may be rife with tension for many. When I think about the resentments I still carry around, I try to remember that forgiving those people I’m still angry at helps me, it’s for my own healing.

But I believe 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.

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.

Ok so forgiveness is for the forgiver, but why should we do it in the first place? What’s in it for me? Here are a few great reasons. The Mayo Clinicexplains that letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for happiness, health and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • Stronger immune system
  • Improved heart health
  • Higher self-esteem

We may accept that forgiveness is a good thing to practice in general, and can actually be good for our health, but how do we go about it? What exactly do we do? 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.

So if old resentment and anger is dredged up this holiday season, or if new frustrations and resentments emerge, remember letting go of the anger and practicing forgiveness is for your own peace of mind. Try taking a deep breath and walking away. It’s for your own good.

I’d like to close with a video that I love. It is worth watching again and again. A video by Jack Kornfield called The Ancient Heart of Forgiveness.

I hope you’ll take some time to watch this powerful video. I’d love to hear your thoughts about forgiveness, and how you manage to forgive those who have hurt you.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

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It’s here at last – Publication Day!

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”
– Anne Lamott

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope …

My book is published today, April 26th 2016!  My book, This Way Up: Seven Tools for Unleashing Your Creative Self and Transforming Your Life, my very own book!  This Way Up took ten years to write, 10 years.  There were plenty of times when I was in the dark and all I had left of this dream of publication was stubborn hope.  It was not an easy journey.  I began the book because my son Lukas, at age 12 challenged me to.  I felt backed into a corner, I knew I had to put my money where my mouth was or I would feel like everything I had been saying to my sons for years was a lie.  So I started writing.

I started writing and deleting; and feeling not good enough to write a book and feeling like a fraud.  When I finally finished my first draft about 5 years later, I started looking for an agent.  Oh my God – talk about sitting in the dark with nothing but hope! I had months and months of rejection letters, too many to count, the darkness got darker, the hope fainter.

Then finally I found an agent in London, I signed a contract and I was over the moon!  Now, I thought, now the hard work is over, I have someone else to do my work and get my book out there. It took over a year, lots of frustration and more darkness, but finally my agent was able to land a publication deal with a small publisher in London.  I was thrilled. I celebrated and believed the time had come.

About a year later, after jumping through hoops, working with an editor and inching closer, my agent decided he didn’t want to be an agent anymore, that the publishing landscape had changed too much and was not working for him anymore, so I lost my agent and lost the deal with the publishing company that he had handled.  I was back to square one, and decided I couldn’t do it anymore.

Then about two weeks later I heard a small, still voice in my head while I was meditating; the voice instructed me to ask an old college friend who lived in LA for help.  I wasn’t that close to her, and had not been in close contact with her for years.  But we were friends on Facebook, and I have learned to trust that small voice, it rarely leads me astray.  So I messaged her and she messaged back the next day.  She recommended She Writes Press.  I had never heard of them, but when I read about them, my pulse quickened.  They sounded perfect –  the website describes SWP as: A publisher of books – for, by and about women!  I contacted Brooke Warner, one of the founders of SWP, and we scheduled a Skype.  She said my book sounded like a good fit for SWP.  I signed a contract and I started working with the amazing women at She Writes.

I still had a steep climb though, luckily the climb was accompanied by some truly magnificent women:  Brooke Warner, a power house and visionary; Annie Tucker, editor extraordinaire; and a host of truly talented authors.  The fellowship of authors at SWP is fantastic, they are generous of spirit, freely give advice and tips and we cheer each other on every step of the way.  I am grateful beyond measure that I ended up with such a wonderful publishing house.

And now, today April 26, 2016, my book is here.  It is truly a labor of love; and an extreme act of faith that kept me going.  I believed that if I just kept showing up and kept moving in the direction of my dream that the dawn would come. And it did. So I am here to tell all of you – Don’t give up!  Keep moving in the direction of your dreams, whatever they are.

I’d like to close with a video that is very close to my heart. My very first video that I’ve ever uploaded on to You Tube.  It continues to be a steep learning curve!

 

I’d love to hear about your dreams and what helps you to keep moving forward.  And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

 

Jumping Outside Your Comfort Zone

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

– Neale Donald Walsch

I know that real change only occurs outside of one’s comfort zone, but sometimes I wish I weren’t so committed to real change! My whole life seems to be happening outside of my comfort zone at the moment.  I really feel like I’m making it up as I go.  The best analogy I can come up with is a game we play in the workshops that I facilitate for teens; the game is called ‘hot lava river’ – the object of the game is to get your whole team across the ‘hot lava river’ using only a few ‘magic stones.’   The magic stones are carpet squares, and the river is a section of grass cordoned off for the game.  In the game, if a foot or any part of the body of anyone on the team touches the river, then that team loses.  You can only cross the river by using the carpet sqares – throwing out the limited squares one by one; each square must be used strategically, and as you jump to each new sqare, you move forward, not exactly sure where the next one will go.  I feel like I’m tossing out the squares as quickly as I can, jumping to each new square and hoping I’m going in the right direction, and hoping I’m not going to run out of squares before I get to the other side.

Almost everything I’m doing at the moment is new to me and way outside my comfort zone. I’m planning book events that I’ve never done before, marketing myself and my book in ways I’ve never had to do before; but I keep moving forward, pushing against the next barrier, toward my ultimate goal of getting my book out there.

For me, it’s getting my book out there, but I believe we all have our our defining moments that exist outside of our own comfort zones.  Michael Johnson suggests that:

A defining moment requires a breakthrough insight and a commitment to action and it only occurs when you’re outside your comfort zone.  Without action, this defining moment fades in your memory, only to be pulled up sometime in the future as regret;  great opportunities are so often abandoned because they are not coupled with action. A defining moment must have a commitment to action.

So I have made my commitment to action. I am throwing out my ‘magic stones’ as fast as I can, and jumping to the next stone with the belief that I will get to the other side of this scary hot lava river.  Yes I’m living way outside my comfort zone at the moment, but as Neale Donald Walsch says, life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

I’d like to close with a TED Talk aptly named, Getting Comfortable Outside Your Comfort Zone.

I’d love to hear about how you deal with living outside your comfort zone. And as always, thanks for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

What is ‘Wrong’

“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.”

– Leo Tolstoy


When I watch the news or read the paper, I think I can be forgiven for becoming somewhat distraught. The world is in such a fragile, sad place at the moment.  And after discussing this with my sister Karin, we both agreed that being “sensitive” women, open to the energy of the world around us, can be heart-breaking.  What are we doing to this planet? What are we doing to one another? Why is this happening?

And going a step further, what can we do about it?  On a large scale, it feels as though one small, insignificant person can do very little.  It all feels too big.  But that feels ‘wrong’ – I have to do something, even on a small scale.  One thing that may not seem significant on the bigger scale, but I feel is very significant, is too keep “cleaning up my side of the street.”  To stay clear and communicate through my own trials and tribulations to come out the other side.  I had a confrontation with a good friend.  It felt awkward and hard and it brought up a lot of old stuff for me, old childhood shame and feelings of being ‘wrong’ and bad.  My immediate instinct was to lash out at her, but I knew after years of therapy and my own work, that that was ‘wrong’. So luckily, this friend has also done a lot of her own work, so we talked, we communicated through it.  It was not easy or comfortable or fun, but it worked.  We worked through it, dug below the incident to what it brought up, in both of us, and got through it.  I still have some work to do around my own behaviour, but the communication through the difficulty, shattered the small prison of shame that I was sitting in.

This one small incident may not seem significant, and maybe it’s not, in the big picture.  But it was huge for me for a couple of days. And no I’m not saying that if we could all communicate better then everything would be peachy keen, but on a smaller scale, if people communicated better with each other, and were willing to be real with one another, I think the world would be in a lot healthier state.  But then again, I always have been accused of being a Pollyanna.

The short clip I want to close with may not seem to fit with this post, but I feel like it does, and I really liked it.  A short TED talk about Philosophy in Prison. I enjoyed the construct of ‘wrong’ – and more importantly it reminded me of my son Lukas who is studying PPE (Philosopy, Politics and Economics) and who has been away in Edinburgh studying for the past 10 months, and I miss him terribly.  So when I saw this clip, and I thought of Lukas, I smiled. So I wanted to include it here. After all in this very small universe that is my blog, I get to make the rules!

“The great thing about being the only species that makes a distinction between right and wrong is that we can make up the rules for ourselves as we go along.”
― Douglas Adams

 

 

I’d love to hear from you about how you handle ‘wrong’ in your life.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

Be Kind Now!

”Our lives are not our own.  We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness we birth our future.”

– David Mitchell (Cloud Atas)


I watched an amazing movie last night with my sons, Lukas and Devin.  The movie is called Cloud Atlas – if you get a chance, it is well worth watching.  It’s a long, ambitious film – it has to be – since it’s based on the tome by David Mitchell.  Check out the trailer, even that is pretty epic!  At times it is confusing, but the main point comes through loud and clear – as our lives intersect, karma prevails, and one way or another our kindnesses or our cruelty come back to us. It is a bold and creative book/movie about karma, unity and connection.

I love the concept to Pay it Forward (another wonderful movie if you haven’t already seen it.) Practicing random acts of kindness makes such perfect sense to me. And even if we really don’t reincarnate, and even if karma does not prevail, paying it forward and being kind just feels good.  So how about we all just Be Kind Now! And with that in mind, I want to close with a wonderful video clip about paying it forward.  Enjoy!

I’d love to hear any stories of how you’ve experienced kindness being paid forward.  And as always, thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it.

If you cannot see anything beautiful about yourself – get a better mirror . . .

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

– Dalai Lama


I still have tears in my eyes as I write this – having just read an article about another teen in NZ who committed suicide due to bullying.  The suicide rate among young males in New Zealand is the highest in the OECD.  It’s appalling! Where is the compassion? Is compassion among young people diminishing?  Can it be brought back?  Can it be taught? Some say that compassion cannot be taught, but I believe it can.  Recent studies seem to suggest that it can.

At the University of Virginia, Compassionate Care and Empathic Leadership Initiative — a lengthy, fancy name for a simple, purposeful way to teach kindness, usher resilience and nurture compassion — is seeding change in fertile ground.

It appears that compassion can be taught, according to an article in Huffington Post.

Voluteerism can lead to compassion, and educational institutions are a central pillar in fostering volunteerism among youth. Indeed, it appears that compassion can be taught, which means that today’s educational institutions carry greater social responsibility than ever.

Please take the time to watch this amazing video by a young man who was bullied.  Shane Koyczan took his pain and created something mesmerizing.

To This Day,” is his spoken-word poem about bullying.

 

 

I’d love to hear what you thought about this YouTube video.  And as always, thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it.

 

 

 

What would you regret?

“Remorse is the poison of life.”

– CHARLOTTE BRONTE


I was having a rich conversation the other night with a friend about regret.  She asked me, if you died right now, what would you regret most? And honestly, I don’t think I would have many regrets.  I did some stupid things in my life, but nothing horrific, and most of the stupid stuff actually made me who I am.  And now at 55 years old, I like my life and I feel like I’m pretty much living according to my values.  And that feels really good. The most important thing to me is my connection to people – to my sons, to my husband, to my sister and my niece, to my friends. And I feel like I work hard to keep those connections.  I feel like I’ve worked hard to connect with my authentic self, and to not give myself away anymore.

And in terms of regrets for what I haven’t done yet – well I have done most of the things that I have really wanted to do in this lifetime – I have a wonderful family and two amazing children, I have a home that I love, I have travelled a lot – I feel very blessed . . . although sigh, to be honest if I was dying before my book got published, that would be a regret.

We were having the conversation after she had sent me this article in The Guardian:

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

The top regrets seem to reflect remorse over a life where people did not honor their authentic selves, where they let the pressure of others and of expectations rule how they lived. I think it is a good question to ask a friend, or oneself – If this were your last day of life, what would you regret? Am I living my life in line with my authentic self?  Do I have the courage to truly be myself and live my life according to my highest values?

The same day that I had that conversation with my friend, another friend sent me an email with this link for THE OVERVIEW EFFECT.  And although at first it seemed unrelated to the conversation about regrets, after watching it, I realized it is deeply connected.  It is about unity and compassion and caring.  And what greater regret could any of us have than to regret destroying our home, this beautiful planet.

What would you regret?  Are you living a life true to yourself?  Thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it.

 

 

 

Right or Happy . . . or Facing Conflict . . . isn’t that a Contradiction?

“I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions . . .”

– Joni Mitchell


As I said in my last post, being willing to disagree, facing conflict squarely and not hiding is a difficult thing to do for most of us.  But as Maddie pointed out in a comment from my last post:  You have blogged in the past – “Would you rather be right or happy?” This post seems to contradict that. Does it?

I don’t see the two as being contradictory or exclusive.  I have learned to stand up for myself, learned to be willing to disagree, to not just “paper-over the conflicts as I used to in my old ‘peace-maker’ days” as Rosalie so aptly put it. But I have also learned that it is sometimes ok to let things go and not push doggedly to be RIGHT above all else, at the expense of harmony in a relationship. I think of that kind of right as the “Ego Right.”

The idea of being right or happy comes from A Course in Miracles.

The main benefit I see in correctly interpreting “Do you prefer that you be right or happy?” is that it allows the line to be a challenge to our egoic insistence on being right at the expense of real rightness and of our happiness. Stubbornly clinging to a wrong position no matter how much pain it causes us is a virtually universal human phenomenon. This line is both a challenge to us to seriously question our way of seeing things and an invitation to accept a new way of seeing things that is both right and happy.

This also reminds me a bit of The Serenity Prayer –

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;  courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

I don’t see that as a Christian prayer so much as asking that part of me that is beyond my Ego, to have courage to face conflict, be willing to disagree, but to also accept some things and some people and not try to change them so I can be right.  It is subtle sometimes, but not a contradiction in my opinion,  just perhaps seeing things from Both Sides Now!

 

 

Thank you Maddie and Rosalie for taking the time to comment on my last post, it prompted me to think through this and clarify it for myself. Please tell me about how you have learned to balance this subtle difference.  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

Willing to Disagree and Facing Conflict

“The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know.”

– Napoleon Bonaparte


Being willing to disagree, facing conflict squarely and not hiding is difficult to do for most of us. I can say for myself, it used to terrify me.  I was the peace-maker in my family, the one who tried to make everything OK when anyone in my family was arguing (and trust me, there was a lot of arguing in my family!)  And when my husband, Jeff and I used to argue, it terrified me.  My fear of abandonment surfaced and I shrank.  The fact that Jeff is about 6′ 2″ and I’m just over 5′ added to the whole paradigm of shrinking back.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t give into every whim, but I didn’t like to face the conflict and sort through the disagreement.  My usual MO was to punish with silence, to walk away and not talk and make him suffer (yes I know, not the most mature approach!)  But as I said, conflict terrified me and I did not like being around people who disagreed with me.

It was only after years of therapy and reading lots of books that I came to value myself enough to not fear standing my ground.  And by realizing that I would survive fine without Jeff,  my fear of abandonment started to dissapate, and I became stronger in my willingness to face conflict head on, and as a result, our relationship grew stronger.

I’m not that afraid of conflict anymore, and this brings a delicious freedom.  I don’t necessarily go looking for an argument, but as a 50+ year old woman, I am pretty good at standing my own ground now!

So it was with great interest that I listened to Margaret Heffernan in this fascinating TED Talk, Dare to Disagree.  She describes constructive conflict as a fantastic model of collaboration: thinking partners who aren’t echo chambers.

“So what does that kind of constructive conflict require? Well, first of all . . . it means we have to resist the neurobiological drive, which means that we really prefer people mostly like ourselves, and it means we have to  find ways to engage with them. That requires a lot of patience and a lot of energy. And the more I’ve thought about this, the more I think, really, that that’s a kind of love. Because you simply won’t commit that kind of energy and time if you don’t really care.”

I love that statement that we have to resist the neurobiological drive, which means that we really prefer people mostly like ourselves.  It’s true, we usually surround ourselves with people who agree with us and show disdain for those who do not.  But in reality, as Heffernan points out, conflict often leads to creativity:

“Yes, there was a lot of conflict and debate and argument, but that allowed everyone around the table to be creative, to solve the problem.”

I agree with Heffernan, we must be willing to disagree with each other, to face conflict and work through it.  In this TED talk she explains the importance of disagreement in organizations and globally. But for me, I can only confirm how liberating it is personally.  As Napoleon points out – the people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know. Daring to disagree takes courage, but in my opinion, it is essential.

 

 

Please tell me about the times you have dared to disagree.  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Music

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”

– Aldous Huxley


My friend Tam sent me a beautiful video recently about the power of music.  It brought tears to my eyes.  I was thinking about it yesterday during a Creative Empowerment Workshop that Deb and I were running – I looked around watching the participants do their art, all listening to music.  Many were listening to the music that we supply, softly playing in the background; a few others had their own music playing on their ipods, but everywhere I looked people were immersed in some sort of music.  Near the end of the workshop, one participant said: “I really like the music you play during the workshop, I feel calm when I listen to it.”

Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “Without music, life would be a mistake.”  Too harsh perhaps?  But reading this article in one of my favorite blogs, Daily Good, I am moved to see Nietzsche point.  The article describes music “bridging life and death.”  It is an interview with the woman who founded  The Threshold Choir, Kate Munger.  In the article Munger describes the beginning of The Threshold Choir.

“In November of 1990 I was invited to spend a day with a friend of mine who was dying of HIV Aids. He was comatose, but very agitated.  I sat down by his bedside and didn’t know what to do. I waited and waited. All I knew to do, to calm myself, was to sing. So I sang one song and I sang it for two hours. I sang it over and over again. I watched his breathing slow, and he got much calmer. And I got much calmer, because it was a song that was really soothing to me personally. So as I got comfortable, he got comfortable and at the end of the experience I felt like I’d touched something very deep.”

Attached is the video that Tam emailed to me.  A lovely representation of the power of music.

Please let me know your thoughts on this video, and I’d love to hear any stories you have about the Power of Music in your life.

And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.