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As I am working A Course in Miracles through Chris Cade, I’ve found this intriguing idea: “Forgiveness is our only function.”  This is a powerful notion and something that could change a person’s life forever.  The Course is saying that we all hold the power of salvation in us through our forgiveness.  Is this really all we have to do?  To find out, I thought it would pay to take a deeper look at forgiveness.  What is it anyway?

There are a lot of ways to look at it.  One way is to see it as letting go of the past. Marianne Williamson called it, “a discernment between what is real and what is not real.” In legal terms it means releasing, giving up rights.  Yes, I can see that: releasing the right to hold onto this thing that happened in the past.  Forgiveness is about: healing, renouncing, and setting free – both you and the person or circumstance that harmed you.

It is most assuredly tied to surrender and faith. Forgiveness is a surrendering and acceptance of what happened.  It asks you to surrender, or give up of all the stories you’ve been telling about it over and over.  Releasing your need to be right or justified in your actions.

Forgiveness asks you to have faith that the other is far more than all the things she thinks she is.  Because you know she is more than she thinks she was capable of being when she hurt you.  It’s a leap of faith to say I believe there is innocence in all people.  No matter what they’ve done. To be willing to see through what is apparent to what all of us are at our core: innocent. In many cases it takes faith to see beyond all a person’s stuff to who he really is. To see beyond the offence.

I like thinking of forgiveness as seeing through misunderstanding to innocence or at least understanding. I’ve been tossing around this notion of doubt around forgiveness.  That if you understood that you never need doubt the other’s completeness, worthiness, and innocence, you wouldn’t need to forgive. So it becomes a matter of seeing more clearly, the innocent person beyond, who is just scared, hurt or unknowing.  Just another soul – made of the same stuff as me and the entire Universe.

Neale Donald Walsch warned us that God will never forgive us for anything.  No matter what we’ve done, how we plead and cry and moan.  Because in God’s eyes we have never done anything to forgive.  We, on the other hand, have plenty of work to do in forgiving ourselves and others.  A Course in Miracles talks of  “grievances.”  Our unforgivens are loaded with them.

Maybe this is how God wants to use us: As instruments of forgiveness. What amazing things that can do us and the rest of the world!

Forgiveness lightens our burdens.  Whenever we forgive, ourselves or others, we lose some weight off our shoulders. Life becomes easier.  We can feel safer, more at ease.  Protected.

Forgiveness is extremely healing to the body.  There are those in the healing profession  who say that all illness, of all kinds, is linked to an unforgiven. It’s damaging to our physical bodies to hold onto stuff that should long ago have been released.  There are science-backed reports of those who have been cured by forgiving. Forgiveness is powerful stuff. Anyone who has let go of a big one will testify how healing it can be to forgive.  Perhaps forgiveness is our best medicine.

What a concept that forgiveness is our only function! Something the Dalai Llama expresses so beautifully in everything His Holiness does, no matter what has happened.

I have always fancied the notion that our function is to expand our capacity to love.  I liked that idea.  But isn’t that what forgiving is all about?  Expanding our capacity to love and accept?  And in the process, gaining more clarity.  I feel the best thing you can do for someone else, the way to give them the most love is to accept them for exactly who they are, at this moment. That feeling of being accepted for who you are, not judged for anything, is a pretty groovy way to feel.  Forgiveness does that.  It’s a perfect vehicle for spreading love.

Many people bristle at the notion of forgiveness.  As if it means to condone actions that are hurtful and are otherwise inappropriate behavior.  Maybe they could see it simply as a release of something from your own heart. It is something that happened in the past.  It comes nowhere near saying that it was okay.  (There is a wide gap between forgiveness and trust.)  Just that you are choosing to put it down. To stop telling stories about it.  To stop letting it affect your present moment. Refusing to forgive is all about the other person or thing and what it did or didn’t do to you.  (Or the horrible thing you did or didn’t do.)

Forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person. (Save for the incident that triggered it.)  The person need not be in front of you, on this planet, or by all means even “worthy” of it. You are simply releasing the guilt, ceasing to tell about how you were wronged.  Giving it up. You can’t change what’s happened.  And no amount of clinging to your hurt feelings will erase it.  In the case of a loved one, it’s likely that whatever they’ve done, you’ve probably done yourself.

Forgiveness is seeing through to the person who did the best they could with what they had to work with – what they knew, how they felt about themselves, what fears or wounds they carried.  (That doesn’t mean you have to let the person back in your life or your house.) It merely clears the way between you. It allows you to release the burden you’ve been carrying in that unforgiven. It’s a heavy load. You realize that if that person had been connected to his or her true self, neither of them would’ve done that hurtful thing.

I, personally, find it easier to forgive others than myself. Being my constant companion, I have borne witness to all my misdeeds, missteps and betrayals.  Often times judging myself harsher in the situation than the wronged party. There’s a lot more on my ledger sheet!  It boggles the mind what I could do if I let go of all those grievances!

Maybe something this Big could be our only function.

Please let me know your thoughts on forgiveness.

I am a huge Harry Potter fan.  And I believe there is much to be learned about spiritual growth in its pages.

In “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,” Harry scores high marks in Potions class one day, with the help of the Half Blood Prince’s text book. His reward is a golden potion called “Felix Felicis.”  It’s a neat little elixir often referred to as “liquid luck.”  It takes six months to brew, is tricky to make right and is banned from using for competition or testing. It comes with a warning that too much can cause giddiness and reckless behavior.

Felix Felicis fills the taker with confidence.  When Harry takes a few drops to help him retrieve a memory from Horace Slughorn, he feels confident in the urges he feels from “Felix.”  Coincidences happen and synchronicity opens his path.  He seems to just know what to do. He listens to what the potion tells him to do and everything goes his way.  The confidence allows him to use his own talents with more expertise than he would without.

Readers of this Blog have heard me talk about the Spells of Doing.  I feel we all come equipped with certain magical spells, always at our disposal.  Confidence is certainly one of them.  It can be conjured up no matter what is going on outside.  Confidence is built-in and only needs your choice to use.  Anyone with a brain that functions normally is capable of trusting, using imagination, generating forgiveness.  These magic spells are within us all. If we try, it is not impossible to listen to what we’re telling ourselves.

So maybe we could make your own Felix Felicis. If so you would always know you could handle anything.  With that confidence flowing, you might trust more easily, listen more carefully and allow yourself to be led to just the right things, people, events, coincidences. If you are generating your own potion, maybe you could control it, as well.

Perhaps it is possible, with practice, to mix our own golden elixir of Felix Felicis.  Creating our own ethereal luck!

Okay, so we’ve progressed far enough along the path to know that it is NEVER anyone else’s fault. We know that we create our own reality.  Whatever you’ve just done to me, I’ve done something to call it forth. (This is NOT about “legitimate” or “illegitimate” rape.  The Justice System is another matter entirely.  This is about personal growth.)  We have learned to take responsibility for our own actions.  And forgive others, quickly.

If you’re not getting where you wish to go, not evolving into the person (or circumstance) you wish, that’s all coming from you.  Your intentions and willingness.  It’s not often easy to spot our true intentions, but when we discover them (and take the time to search) we know why.  Forgiveness of others can wash over us, easily.

The problem is that if you know this, it puts the blame for everything, the fault back on you, no matter what.  In the end, that’s freeing.  If you created it, you can fix it.  You are not a bad person you’re just misinformed or made a mistake – which is growth.  You made a choice that brought you here, where you need to be.  Simple as that.

But that’s not always how it feels.  It’s very easy to get caught up in, “I did this. It’s my fault. Why can’t I get things right?”  When you’ve been working a long time on your personal growth, how can you allow yourself to sink back into that guilt?  And yet it is as easy as slipping into sleep.

So, how do you turn this back around?  Self forgiveness is the only way. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  We have practiced long and hard to forgive others.  When we reach a certain point that comes naturally.   Now, it’s time to apply the same tactics to ourselves.  We can learn to let it go, to clear out the blame and guilt.  We can make a choice not to look back. Then we can come back to the business of making new choices.

It’s odd how we do this.  But I guess, with no other place to put the blame, it quite easily falls back on us.  I’m going to practice forgiving myself as quickly as I forgive others.

In observing my thoughts lately, what I’ve discovered is that they are not so much negative, as they are a constant stream of commentary.  Though it may not be all negative, it is rampant with judgments.

When I’m judging, I’m not accepting.  Without acceptance, it’s harder to change.  You don’t have to judge something “wrong” in order to change it.  It works far better to tell the truth about who you choose to be in relation to this thing you would like to judge.  Telling the truth, as you see it, without the judgment, gives you a broader perspective, a wider berth from which to make any necessary changes.  Acceptance is a far more solid and powerful place.  You can make more conscious and caring choices which reflect who you really are.  Rather than stirring up someone’s ire to fight back.  This allows you to choose what you want, rather than what you do not.

I wish to forgive others their minor traffic violations, as I forgive my own.  Many of my judgments come into play on the road.  The truth is, sometimes, I’m not sure where I’m going and have to make a quick turn.  Maybe I’m tired and cannot be as conscious or polite as I’d like to be. Why can’t I offer the same leeway to others?  I know it’s okay to make mistakes, after all.  We all do it.  And through mistakes you find acceptance, adjustments, more knowledge, and clearer vision.  I do not need to judge others’ driving ability.

When I find myself judging others, it’s usually in a place where I am unfairly judging myself.  Or feel others are judging me.

Woody Allen once said something like, he heard Commentary and Dissent were merging to form “Dissentary.” When judgments are flowing, like dysentery, you need to find medicine to stop that flow.  Acceptance and forgiveness are good pills to take.  If need be, there’s always the magic potion of gratitude. It’s hard to judge when you’re feeling grateful.

As we approach Thanksgiving, everyone is talking about being grateful.  Anyone who reads this Blog knows I am a strong proponent of Gratitude. Forgiveness is a marvelous key to open the gates of appreciation.

I have had many discussions with those who say complete forgiveness is impossible.  There are just some things which are unforgivable.  How can I forgive someone who is so clearly in the wrong, or has hurt me so deeply? Fiddle faddle!  I don’t know if I can convince the doubters, but maybe my humble treatise on forgiveness may help change the minds of one or two.

When something happens which creates one of those difficult things to forgive, your heart is filled with anger, hurt or disappointment.  And those feelings grip you tightly.  They crowd your mind with thoughts of the incident over and over.

Forgiveness could be another word for release.  What it does is release your heart and mind from its constant churning. That’s all.  It might have some residual benefits for the other person, but only if that person loves or cares for you.  The big and important change is in you.  It is all about bringing more peace to you.

I had an experience recently with someone who hurt me deeply and left a trail of destruction in her wake. She is out of my life now; I made my peace with her.  But I still think of the situation too often, wanting some kind of vindication. Only total forgiveness will free me from this. That forgiveness will not offer her anything and it will never erase what she’s done.  It will, though, lighten my heart and my mind.

With that lightness comes more energy.  Anyone who has not forgiven knows the amount of energy (and time) given when you are in that state. When you can’t get it out of your head. (I’ve also been known to spend a lot of ink on the subject.)  There’s so much you can regain simply by releasing all your angst around the situation.

Acceptance is part of the process of forgiveness.  I am of the belief that Acceptance is a truly powerful gift we have.  The simple act of acceptance can profoundly effect every aspect of your life.  Just think how easy life would be if you accepted everything that happened to you!  Far from making you weak, it keeps you from getting bogged down in trying to change things you can’t and empowers you to change what you can.  The first step to releasing is accepting what happened.

When you get really good at accepting, you negate the need for forgiveness.  You forgive in the next breath and keep moving. Like magic, the need for forgiveness evaporates right before your eyes.  This doesn’t mean you won’t be careful next time. In fact, without the cloud of unforgiveness you are likely to be more aware and avoid the kinds of situation which can cause you to need to forgive.

This acceptance and release gives you much more space for gratitude.

Forgiveness NEVER says it’s okay to harm another.  Nor does it eliminate the possibility of punishment for the other. It has nothing to do with any of that.  Forgiveness offers the forgiver calm, happiness, lightness, clarity and flowing gratitude. Pretty good stuff!

I’ve been asked to write a piece for an e-Newsletter called Follow Your Bliss.  The November issue is going to be about Courage.  So I thought I’d dive in and  explore it a bit.

Courage is an interesting trait.  It’s one of those qualities we come equipped with if we choose to engage it.  Much like imagination or forgiveness.

Many times we are courageous without knowing it. Like young people who can do things older folks wouldn’t.  Maybe too much knowledge and well honed images of what could happen scare some people. I’ve been listening to the Harry Potter books on CD.  Harry does brave things without thinking, “Gee, aren’t I courageous!” He just does what seems to be best to do in the moment.

Perhaps there’s a factor of trust in Courage.  If you trust everything will be okay, you’re more likely to go where others dare not.  There is a point beyond trust even where Courage becomes superfluous.  We might call it Faith.  In that place you have a deep sense that you are protected.  You just know what you’re doing is Right (or you don’t even think about whether or not it’s right or wrong) and that’s enough.

Courage keeps you a safe distance from fear.  A timid person is always afraid of something. Courageous ones lower that number significantly.

“Fear is the little mind killer,” we were taught in Dune.  It’s true.  Nothing shoots down more dreams and great deeds than fear. We might define Courage as the absence of fear.

“Mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty,” Merriam Webster says. The origin of the word is Heart.  I like that.  We might say a person with courage has heart.

Perseverance is an important quality. Julia Cameron wrote a book called “Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance.” What good is anything you do if you give up at the first sign of struggle or fear?

Some may need to wield more courage than others.  But perhaps the more you use it, the less you need it.

I’m going to look for places in my life where I’m courageous without even knowing it. And when I start to feel scared or frustrated, I will engage my courage muscle and see what happens.

What we tell yourselves is powerful! We can convince ourselves of all kinds of things.  Most people cling to these thoughts as if they were written in stone.

As far as I know, the brain is not made of stone. So nothing is set in concrete.  We are the ones who put those thoughts there.  No one else forces us to plant them. Though some may encourage or even urge you to, without your consent (or some serious hypnosis) it’s hard to make you think something you don’t accept.

I think we all get too caught up in what we think. Thoughts are actually quite malleable. They can be changed.   It’s true that once you’ve convinced yourself of something, it can be a chore to replace your thought.  Even when you want to.

But consider the alternative: Changing the outside world to fit what you think. As hard as it may be to change your mind about something, it’s a whole lot harder (if not impossible) to change another person or the situation as it is.

So, if you’re telling yourself that something is awful, say for example the weather, or that you’ve been done wrong by a person or a corporation, it really does little good to try to change that company’s ways (or the chilly wind).  The only place you have a fighting chance of changing anything is through your perception of it. By altering  your thought.

This can certainly lend itself to Forgiveness.  People so often resist this simple and elegant release of unpleasant thoughts.  Un-forgiveness is only a thought which gets stuck.  It has no bearing on the “other” who caused you to not want to forgive.  It is all about you.  The thought that says you can’t forgive is what keeps you in that pain.  Nothing else does.  The other person, probably, couldn’t care less what you think.  It does no harm or benefit to them when you let go of the thought and decide to forgive.  Gone is all the emotional pain and baggage you’ve been carrying. Simply by changing your thought!

I’m not saying it’s always an easy process.  (Especially in the arena of forgiveness.)  But it is possible.  It’s the only thing we have real control over. And the control we have is effective. It can transform situations in an instant.

Thoughts are powerful. They can create pain or joy.  If you want to fill your head with good thoughts, try Wendy Fedan’s class, starting March 10th.  You can check out these two links.  It’s God-based and a really good deal!

To learn more about it from Wendy herself, click here. To register, click here.

Forgiveness is a fascinating and often misunderstood concept.  I wonder how much unforgiveness causes heartache and separation this time of year.

Where forgiveness often runs into brick walls with people is in extreme cases such as rape or murder.  I believe that Forgiveness, when practiced correctly, covers all situations.  But this is the positive slant, so let’s stay with issues of forgiving loved ones.

May I say that Forgiveness has NOTHING to do with the other person.  Forgiveness is not absolution or forgetfulness. Forgiveness is merely an act of letting go on your part.  You have been holding fast to your anger or hurt. This unwillingness to forgive, in actuality, does far more harm to you (and your heart) than the other person involved.  That person may have long forgotten whatever caused you to move into blaming them.  It is you who stay stuck and uncomfortable.

When you forgive you don’t magically forget or heal the wound.  All you do is clear the way for more love to flow into your heart.  You may choose not to associate with this person anymore.  That’s fine.  But if you don’t let go, you make that decision from a place that is a dark, damp cell, deep inside, festering with anger or hurt.  When you forgive you can get in and clear out that room. Use it for something more productive.  The person may not even know you’ve done this.

Maybe through your forgiveness you’ll allow this person back in your life, paving the way for a reconciliation.  Now, that’s cause for celebration!

Most people consider forgiveness weak.  I see it as strong.  Forgiveness puts you back in control.  Without it you are subject to a tumult of emotion.  Your actions (at least in the case of this person and situation) are dictated by the unforgiveness you cling to.

Refusing to forgive does nothing to change the situation, heal the wound or punish the other person.  Unforgiveness only drains your energy and hardens your heart.

I’ve tried to live by the rule that the faster you forgive, the better. If you can do it in stride, as it’s happening, you keep the lines open.  Then, and only then, are you free to make a clear choice about how to handle the situation.

Let’s face it, if someone has done something that requires your forgiveness, the likelihood is there’s a mess of some kind to clean up. Something that needs fixing.  You’re much better able to handle that if you’re not all caught up in blaming.

Stella Resnick, in “The Pleasure Zone,” says what we all seek are those first impressions of pleasure from the womb. It’s a feeling of buoyancy, she says. Suspended comfortably with nourishment and waste handled without thinking. Just being there. All muscles are completely at rest, easily, in the present moment. Aren’t we all in search of that feeling of home?

Buoyancy is an appealing state. Like laying down on a wonderful bed or floating on water. The desire we have to get high, to escape from tension, not a care in the world. The more dare-devil of us may try sky diving or rock climbing to get that feeling. Bouncing on a trampoline, a child’s delight in swinging higher and higher, or getting tossed in the air, reproduces that feeling. I like the repose of a recliner, myself.

When we’re buoyant, there is no tension in the body. The mind is relaxed and ticking, the heart is open and tock-ing, the arms floating wide and awaiting.

It might begin with trust, as you rest into the palm of the Divine. You feel that Someone’s got your back, your front, your sides, ever guiding, ever showing you the way, ever loving you, no matter what. You don’t even need to trust anymore. The baby in the womb has no need to doubt that mother will provide all its needs.

Floating in buoyancy is nothing less than, nothing more than Surrender. Letting go of the grip. Loosening up. Dropping the shoulders. You slide easily into gratitude and before you know it, you go beyond gratitude. Everything just is.

Forgiveness might help you breathe easier, but eventually you don’t even need forgiveness. When you are buoyant and free there is no need for judgements.

You are moving easily, touching lightly. It’s that perfectly supported, completely nourished state. Overflowing with love. Love can go anywhere, travel long distances, through walls and blockades. When you are completely buoyant, you are Love.

So the trick must be to find as many things as you can that make you feel buoyant without negative side effects (or only healthy ones) so you can spend as much time there as you can. Like the healing waters of Bertie Wooster’s time where the gentry would go for the “cure.” May we all have many long baths!

I love Thanksgiving.  Not because of the turkey – I don’t eat turkey.  Not the big meal.  Heaven knows I don’t need that!  Being with family and friends is always a pleasure, but that’s not it either.  I love Thanksgiving because it’s a celebration of Gratitude and I believe in the power of Giving Thanks.

All the spiritual teachers encourage thankfulness. Chellie Campbell plays the “Glad Game.”  Cheryl Richardson, the “Thank You Game.”  They want us to know it’s fun, easy and extremely healthful to regularly recite what you’re grateful for.

There is not one person I know that, given a few moments of peace, couldn’t rattle off a dozen or so things to be grateful for. The air we breathe, the beauty of nature, family and friends.  All that we need.  Pretty good digs to live in.  A song that fills you, a movie that lifts your heart, a book that enriches or delights. Once you get started, it’s hard to stop.

Just think what the world would be like if everyone held gratitude in their heart all the time!  It’s as easy as coming up with 5 things you’re grateful every day.  Watch that quadruple as you open your eyes to see even more. Paying attention to the things you have, rather than the things you don’t, will leave you feeling full and generous.

Look at what thankfulness can do when you’re in the midst of some not-so-glad stuff. Come up with a handful of reasons to be grateful for a person you’re angry at or estranged from, or something you’re not happy about. Then, without saying a word, watch the nature of the situation change to something that’s easier to hold in your heart. Gratitude paves the way for forgiveness. And forgiveness is the ointment that mends all tears. Like magic.

Cheryl Richardson suggests remembering to be grateful for the people who don’t usually hear it.  Any time I can tell these people how thankful I am for the work they do for me.  The staff of my insurance agent’s office who are always so kind and helpful.  The reference librarian who finds exactly the information I need.  The mail lady who brings packages to my door when it’s raining.

I wish for everyone lots of reasons to be grateful this Thanksgiving and every moment of every day thereafter.

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