Forgiveness

So thanks to my conscious connection group and reading the books, Ask Yourself This and Writing Down Your Soul, I have been posing some serious questions to myself.  Once I decided to do this answers have arrived as well as more questions.

I believe in the Law of Attraction and that if you make requests of The Universe, or Spirit, or God and you truly believe it is yours to do or yours to have, it will arrive in your life.  This is, however, easier said than done.  I have believed for several years now that I am meant to help people through sharing messages and stories.  I dream of a career as an author who also speaks and leads workshops.  This is a vision I created for myself shortly after I read The Secret.  Three years later, I have written two novels and over 100,000 words worth of blog posts and planned a workshop integrating some spiritual practices. I have made great strides towards my vision, but I haven’t reached the pivotal point where the vision becomes my career and life’s work.  After too many rejections from literary agents, I shelved the two novels, and the workshop, back in 08 I scheduled it to be held at my church and then canceled it a month later in response to a fear I couldn’t quite overcome.

Lately, I’ve been working on a new project.  I’m almost to the “take action” part of the plan and I am terrified.  So, I have been asking why?  What do I need to do to be ready?  What I am finding is that old memories are popping into my head.  Most of the stuff I am remembering is not pleasant.  I am reliving embarrassing moments, careless decisions, and times when I was downright hurtful.  Most of the stuff that’s invading my thoughts happened years and years ago.  It’s stuff that I should have moved on from and let go of, but instead I am finding that it is all still there within me.  Then there are the words that were either said or implied about me growing up as “the baby” in the family.  Spoiled and selfish.

I have been journaling about these memories.  I’ve given a voice to my guilt and anger.  In soul-writing you put down your thoughts and wait for spirit or “the voice” (as Janet Conner calls it) to answer you back.  On Thursday evening, I frantically wrote what came into my mind.  I was told that I was loved, that I needed to let go of the past, stop worrying about the future, and that I had work to do and people that needed me.  The messages went on for 3 pages and at one point my writing got so large it was as if Spirit was shaking sense into me.

In the days that have passed since that message, it has become clear to me, that what is blocking my vision is lack of forgiveness.  Today in church, someone was talking about a book on the importance of forgiveness.  The author of this book had led workshops on the Law of Attraction for years and what she discovered was that the people who had the least amount of “baggage” were the most successful at manifesting their dreams.  It is vital that we let go of guilt, shame, and regret in order to become the best we can be.

Yesterday I posted a great quote from Carol Burnett.  It mentioned blessing, praising, and letting your foes go.  My foes are those voices and memories that play like broken records in my mind.  They do not define who I am in this moment.  Without even realizing it I’ve carried them with me.  My goal is to forgive myself and those who have judged or mis-judged me.  I’ve already succeeded in leaving a couple of bags behind, but I will probably discover more down there in the basement.  As I find them I will forgive them, bless them, and gently send them on their way.

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Ask Yourself This (4)

I skipped a week of writing about my book group because last week’s topic didn’t bring forth anything I felt that I could really write about.  Over the past few days I started reading the book “Writing Down Your Soul” and can now answer  one of those questions  we discussed from “Ask Yourself This” differently.

The question was:

Who am I trying to change?

When I answered it with my group I admitted that yes there are people that I would like to see change.  I would love to be able to find more common ground and be better understood by some that are most important to me.  Currently though, I am not actively trying to change them.  In fact, I’d say I’m so focused on our differences that I am as emotionally far away from them as I have ever been.  And that, of course, is something I’d like to change about myself…but not the point of this post.

So, confident in the idea that I’m not trying to change anyone else, I sat down and began reading Janet Conner’s book.  After only reading the introduction I was thinking oh my, I should really buy this book for X and I must tell Y about it and surely it would change Z’s life completely. Instead of thinking about how much the book and suggested exercises would help me, I was making a list of other people that it could “save.”  Books have been my way of trying to change people.  I am SO excited about all that I have learned and the ways in which I’ve grown over the past few years that I want to share it with others.  I read something wonderful and send it on to friends.  I insist if they read it their life will change.  What I forget is that everyone is right where they are supposed to be.  If they need my assistance they will ask for it.  If they want to read something new, they can request a recommendation from me.

Change must come from the inside out.  I can be heart felt about my beliefs but I can not force someone else to embrace them.  I can discover freedom through meditation, journaling, and reading spiritual books but I can not demand that anyone else does any of those things.  Everyone has their own paths and destinies.  I can teach by my example and perhaps even plant seeds, but I can’t expect anything to happen.  The most important thing I can do is change the way I view the world and have an open and accepting heart.

There was a quote that was mentioned during our meeting and I’m not sure who said it and where it is printed, but it goes something like this:

“Change happens when the pain of staying the same outweighs the fear of doing things differently.”

This is an actual quote I found and I still don’t think it was the one that we talked about in group but close:

“Change happens when the pain of holding on becomes greater than the fear of letting go.” -Spencer Johnson

Ask Yourself This (3)

Last week in my book group, we discussed chapter three in this book.  It was the “Ask yourself this to grow personally” chapter.  The last question in that chapter was:

Am I willing to let go of the size of the life I’ve known to have a bigger life?

I grew up in a very average middle class family.  My father was a mail carrier and my mom worked for years at a place that prepared movie reels to be shown in the theatres.  We lived in a 3-bedroom house with 3 kids.  I shared a room with my sister up until I was 10, when my oldest sister got married and moved out of our house.  When I was little we went on one vacation a year, almost always to Myrtle Beach.  By the time I was a teen, we had a little trailer in Garden City (outside of Myrtle Beach) and were able to go for weekend get-a-ways more often.  I had everything I needed and wanted.  The size of my life was perfect.

So when I went to college, I imagined my life just as I’d always known it.  I got a degree in Elementary Education because teaching children was something I knew I would be able to do quite easily.  I didn’t care about the money, I liked the idea of the schedule and busyness involved in that career.  I also went in with the mindset that I would get married and my teacher’s salary would ultimately be the supplementary salary in my family.

Mark and I have been married now for 11 years.  Despite how much has changed over the years, I still live a life that is the same size as I’ve always known.  In a lot of areas, this is good.  We live very simply and I appreciate that.  What I don’t appreciate is that for too long I have categorized myself as “average.”  I put myself into a mold that doesn’t exactly match with my progressive mind set.  In a lot of ways you could call me a feminist, yet all my life I only ever imagined myself in stereotypical roles that women are famous for.  Wife, teacher, mother.  Of service to my students and my family, but unable to make a difference beyond that small world.

Over the past few years I have learned so much about what we humans are capable of.  I’ve learned a lot about what I am capable of.  I’ve expanded from a college student to an unemployed wife, from a wife to a daycare employee, from a daycare employee to an elementary school teacher, from a teacher to a stay-at-home-mother, from a mother to a writer, from a writer to a novelist, from a novelist to a blogger.  I am still expanding and as I grow, all those roles remain within me and in some cases are a huge part of my daily routine.  My life is getting bigger and I am willing to let it.  I am willing to go with the flow and see where inspiration leads me.  I am willing to scale the walls, face the dragons, and overcome the challenges.  Believing is seeing and I can do anything I set my mind to.  So YES God, Universe, Spirit, and friends, I AM WILLING to let go of the size of the life I have always known to have a bigger life!!!

What about you??

Complacency

This week, Mark and I watched the movie “The Cove.”  It was an incredibly eye-opening documentary about dolphins and what is happening to them in a town in Japan.  Every year, from March to September, thousands of dolphins are forced into this particular cove where (with the exception of the few that are sold to aquariums and “sea” parks) they are slaughtered.   Not only is it horrifying that they are killed at all, but they are also sold in fish markets for consumption.  In some cases the meat is purchased by people who know they will be eating dolphin, but in other instances it is labeled as fish such as Tuna.  And if that is not enough, the levels of mercury that are found in dolphin meat is off the charts.  It is a tragedy at many levels and for the most part people don’t know or don’t care that it is happening.

When the movie was over, I was all fired up.  I wanted to DO something.  The thought that followed that passionate feeling was yes, but are you going to do something this time? It was then that I was made ever aware of my own complacency.  I’ve watched many of these types of documentaries and it is always followed by that same feeling.  Initially, I want to change and make a difference, but rarely do I follow through.  I’ve watched movies like “Food Inc.” and “The Future of Food” and inwardly vowed to buy fresh food from the co-op or farmer’s market.  Always it is short-lived.  Lack of time coupled with mine and my family’s pickyness always seems to get the better of me, despite the frightening realities of the food industry.  I have made changes over the years, but there is still so much I know that I choose to ignore because it is simply easier to do so.

Today at church the theme of the service was “the courage to change.”  The guest speaker talked about the book “Ask Yourself This” and the various questions it challenges the reader to pose to themselves.  Part of the inward interrogation involves taking a look at what we are resisting.  For me, complacency is just another way that I avoid rocking the boat.  If I just nod my head and smile, I don’t have to face criticism.  Complacency is a way that the lazy side of me wins.  Assuming that the government and corporations only have my best interest at heart is much easier than taking the extra time, energy, and money to research and buy only the safest products for my family.

I want to step out of the comfort zone that is complacency and do something when I feel drawn to do it.  It only takes small steps to make a difference, and I want to take more of those steps.  Over the past couple of weeks I have been so inspired by a friend named Jenny (@IHavDefx) that I met through Twitter and this blog.  She was touched by the story of a family dealing with childhood cancer and instead of being complacent she decided to do something.  She signed up to participate in a charity fund-raising event, tweeted about it, and blogged about it.  Within a few weeks, Jenny raised $1500 for the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation.  She sent me a message the other day telling me that to honor a friend who was diagnosed with MS, she is going to run in a half-marathon that will raise money for research to find a cure.  So despite the fact that Jenny tells me I inspire her, she is the one who has become an inspiration to me.

It is time for me to get off my complacent ass…I’ll start by telling everyone to watch The Cove.  (If it helps, I just found out it won the academy award for best documentary.) Also, want to link up to Mama Kat’s blog post about The Cove, it’s excellent.  Read it here.

Ask Yourself This (2)

This week our group met to discuss Chapter 2 in the book “Ask Yourself This” by Wendy Craig-Purcell.  This chapter was a tough one because it required you to take a good look at who you are right now.  The first question was:

Who do I think I am? (Do I focus on my light or do I dwell upon my shadow?)

I realize the effectiveness of positive thinking.  I like to think that I have become a glass-half-full kind of person, but when I answered this question I saw something different.  Despite all the books I’ve read and the stuff I’ve written about the importance of accepting, embracing, and loving yourself fully, I still struggle.  When I answered the question “Who do I think I am?’ a list of negative traits came up and onto the page: forgetful, disorganized, flakey, not good at balancing relationships…  I didn’t let myself go further and tried to think of some positives: kind, generous, smart, creative… But even as I was writing those that shady voice was piping in you’re not generous, you didn’t even send your dad a birthday present… you’re not creative, you can’t even follow through on that idea you have…you forget things and you…

So there it was staring back at me.  I do in fact dwell upon my shadow.  When I was young I pegged every positive person as conceited.  If anyone complimented me, instead of saying thanks, I’d argue they were wrong.  That was somehow noble, I guess.  If I was average, I would be a threat to no one.  If no one was threatened by me, then there would be no reason for them not to like me.  For the most part it worked.  I think everyone either liked me or had a totally neutral opinion of me. I was quiet, friendly, and went along with the crowd.

I’ve taken a big step in the past year by starting this blog and putting myself out here in an honest way.  In this place I can say all the things I think and believe without having to see the reaction because most of the time people decide not to comment.  There are a number of people who I think read that I would never have the courage to state my ideas to in person.  I think there are people who have stopped reading my blog because they don’t want to know the truth about me.  I very often feel huge amounts of fear as I am about to publish a post.  I fear the rejection.  My thoughts are not average.  People who thought I was “one of them” are discovering that either I am not, or they have to redefine what “one of them” means.

So who am I right now:

I am a person on a journey, questioning everything.  I am kind and generous with bouts of forgetfulness.  I’m creative, but disorganized.  Common sense is my most valuable attribute.  I say yes to being the best mother and wife I can be, learning, spiritual growth, creating,and connecting with others.   I am looking for ways that I can contribute to the greater good and see where I fit into the puzzle.

Ask Yourself This (1)

Tomorrow I start a 6-week book study with 3 amazing ladies at church. I can’t say enough about these women and what models they are for me in my spiritual life. It is purely coincidental that I find myself in a book group with them (although I’d venture to say it is not coincidental at all). I am looking so forward to the group that the thought of it brings on as much excitement as does the thought of the mini-vacation we are embarking on this weekend. I’m serious these ladies are as awesome as Disneyworld!!

The book we are reading is Ask Yourself This: Questions to Open the Heart, Expand the Mind, and Awaken the Soul by Wendy Craig-Purcell.  Each chapter of the book contains questions for you to reflect on and by searching for the answers within your own being you will presumably open up and discover what lies within you.  In honor of this book study I thought I’d post a question from the book each week as well as my answer.  Then, of course, I will invite you to answer the question for yourself (and if it suits you, share it in a comment).

The first two questions the book asks is “How do I define spirituality?  How do I define religion?”

When I first got on Facebook, I included “Spirituality”  in my list of  “interests.”  I’d caught up with a friend from High School who proceeded to pop up in my chat window one night and ask me what church I went to.  After a bit of awkward back and forth she finally said, “well, your information page says you’re interested in Religion.”  I don’t know how I weaseled out of the conversation but I did, and all I could think was Religion?  I didn’t say Religion.  In my opinion Religion and Spirituality are two very different things.  I do believe that it is possible for a person to be both.  I have several friends who I’d describe as Catholic, but I also know that they would agree with me on many of my “spiritual” beliefs.  I also have an atheist friend that I’d venture to call “spiritual,” although I’m not sure he’d agree.  Me though, I’m 100% spiritual (or at least I try to be).

So here is how I define spirituality.  Spirituality is about asking questions and going within for the answers.  It is an awareness of the divine force that is always present and connects all of us to each other.  It demonstrates love, compassion, empathy, and togetherness.  A spiritual person seeks to align themselves with the divine energy for the highest good.

And here are my thoughts on Religion.  Religion is a set of beliefs and rules that are established by human beings on behalf of God.  It requires it’s members to accept the beliefs and rules.  More often than not the God of religion is a humanized figure that judges and rewards.  A religious person may pray by asking or begging this Santa Clause type figure to do something or change something on their behalf.  And the big key with Religion is that they believe that their way is RIGHT and everyone else’s is WRONG so the emphasis seems to be put on seeing the differences.

So now it’s your turn.  How do you define Spirituality and Religion?