Spiritual Practice – F

F – Faith & Forgivenesscoexist

FAITH

Talking to God ~ God box ~ Prostration and Surrender ~ Trust Exercises ~ Personal creeds ~ Examen of consciousness ~ Participation in a Religious Community ~ Sacraments ~ Sharing Sacred Stories

Faith is about your sharing your soul/self/consciousness with a larger entity.  That larger entity could be a God, nature, unseen forces or the collective peoples of the world. However you choose to nurture your spirituality aides in your sense of connectedness to the world around you. People come together with like values, morals and believes in faith. There many ways to believe and worship. Those many options listed above are about the connection, feeling comradery and support while allowing others and your entity to take on some of your strife. If you are not religious or feel a sense of spirituality, you could find a place or activity that gives you peace and sense of safety.

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FORGIVENESS

Letting go ~ confession of sins ~ repentance ~ reconciliation ~ Passing the Peace

Forgiveness is very powerful! It is also quite difficult for some people. Forgiveness includes other people who may have wronged you, grief for unmet needs and your personal transgressions. Yes! We need to forgive ourselves as much as others.

We usually relate forgiveness to “forgive and forget” when you have been hurt be others. This does not help you or them. If you have been wronged, you need to examine that instance, take responsibility for your portion, adjust your expectations and boundaries and let the anger and sadness about it go. It does not have to even involve the other person. Forgiveness of others is about YOU. You need to make peace with a wrong doing and release the power it has over you. This can be simple or complex. Letting go may need outside help in complex cases like abuse. When others ask for forgiveness, they are asking you to make them feel better about what they did. You are NOT condoning behavior or words with forgiveness. You are freeing yourself of the negative impact on you. I have written on this in more detail here.

Identifying unmet needs is tricky and can harbor some really negative feelings. People let us down. It is usually no fault of their own. Just our expectations. We can harbor some pretty negative feelings about those unmet needs. For example, if your mother suffered from severe depression and was not capable of being affectionate or even emotionally available when you were a child, you may have some anger about that as an adult. Forgiving her will allow you to let go of those painful feelings. This would entail understanding her situation from an adult perspective and accepting her limitations. Writing a letter to people you have negative feelings about (even if you never send it) can help you sort and understand those unmet needs.

Forgiveness of yourself is allowing you to see your mistakes, sins, bad choices, wrong turns, etc and letting them go. You can’t just dismiss those things from your life. All those choices are part of you and who are you today. Your personal forgiveness is about looking at those choices, what have learned from them, what might you do differently and how you can grow from that experience. Once you really understand them, you can let them go. You can allow yourself the freedom to not feel the guilt and remorse of your sins. Saying “I’m sorry”means you understand what you have done and will not do it again.

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Gratitude

I have written quite a bit about gratitude. It is one of the main characteristics of happy people! What is so important about being grateful and thankful?gratitude2

 

Sometimes, we think of things we don’t have rather than the blessings and gifts we do have. That can cause us to feel insecure, sad, anxious, discontented, jealous, and lacking. Our society advertises to the part of us that is insecure. We need a certain car, make-up, shoe, vitamin, exercise machine, etc to be who we should be, ought to be, to be more. Well, that kind of scrutiny should come from within. Those people who want to sell us some stuff, even magazines about how to be better at… everything, don’t know you. They just know people and how to hit insecurity buttons.

You know you, what you need, want and “should” be. Gratitude is about recognizing what you are starting with, what your power and tools are to move forward. I work with many people who feel worthless and hopeless with no future. They have tremendous difficulty seeing what they are blessed with, even the small things. One of the tricks with gratitude is to not belittle or demean the blessings. No, “yeah, but,” “so what,” “who cares,” “not really” or any other follow up comment that may totally erase the good thing. It’s still there!

A grateful heart will open you up to new wonderful feelings, ways of seeing the world and relationships. How do you get a grateful heart? How do you find the silver lining? Start with saying Thank You, for anything, and really meaning it.

TRY THIS

Gratitude journal: Get a notebook. Everyday, yes, every single one, write down 3 things you are grateful for. They should be different things that you have to think about. Write down why you are grateful for those things. Do this for at least one month. You can continue as long as you would like or just when you need a pick-me-up.

Thank you notes: Write a heart felt thank you note to one person in your life. I would suggest one a day, everyday for 2 weeks or once a week for a year! You can email it, mail it, message it, put it in their lunch box. Make sure they get it, even if it’s on their gravestone.

Practice Gratitude and being Thankful.

Life Rocks

I, like many others who work in the therapeutic world, liken life to a journey. The “experience” of life can teach you many things and take you many places. You have opportunities to make major decisions which would change your path. One particular analogy I work with is what happens while strolling on your particular path in life.

Often while we walk, in the life analogy and in reality, we encounter obstacles, small and large. Many are small pebbles, daily decisions, which can be easily tread past. Sometimes the life decisions are larger, likes stones or even boulders. When we encounter a stone, we must decide how we will navigate it. Do we toss it aside or behind us, try to work around or over it, which many require some effort. The stones require some mental effort. Generally if you ignore such a stone and skirt it, you may find yourself facing the same stone later in life.  So, stones, boulders, and rocks of various size will fall into your path. You will be required to ponder them and how to manage them in your way.

Many people do not know how to manage such stones, especially younger in life, and just pick them up to move on with life. These stones stay with you. You put them in a kind of “back pack,” I call it. It represents the things that you choose not to see in your past. If you just keep putting stones in there, it gets heavy, really heavy, the longer you carry it around. At some time you will have to take off the pack and go through those stones. Some might go right back in there (Nope, can’t face that now). Others, like resentment about a childhood wrong, an angry parent, bad breakup in high school, divorce, rape, abuse… They need to be addressed. Those stones get heavier with time, especially when you are trying to pretend they are not there. They impact you, physically, emotionally, spiritually.

TRY THIS:

Write a time line. This is a list of events in your life starting from birth. They should be anything big that has happened to you, good or bad. Moving, birth of sibling, parent divorce/death, new school, abuse by neighbor, graduate, married, first full time job, house fire. Get it? Write it all down, as close to chronological order as you can. Now, go back and read it, maybe the next day after you had some time to reflect.

Did you miss anything? Are you intentionally leaving events out? What things cause an emotional response (anger, sadness, irritation)? Maybe some of those things are your rocks. Now, what do you do with that stone?

Here’s are some other posts that would relate to the reflection of your stone collection:  Self talk can be a key to your belief about yourself,  past trauma and how it impacts you, and the basic of only knowing what you know.

Increase your happiness

I attended an amazing seminar on how to integrate positive thought and increase happiness. The first few hours were about the brain and it’s chemicals that “create” happiness, or lack thereof. Apparently, I need to learn more about the limbic system.

The presenter then cited several studies which demonstrated how particular behaviors can help one achieve happiness. For example, just proximity to happy people can impact your own happiness by about 5%. That would go up by how many people and how close a relationship you have with them.flower_smiley_face

Cool! Hang out with happy people! 

Toward the end he got to some good stuff about what kind of behaviors, thoughts and practices you can incorporate in your life to increase happiness. I thought I might share some with you.

 

 

Gratitude journal (Try This):

This includes a daily recount of good things that have happened to you that day. It might be easy to list things you are grateful for in general. Much like thoughtful and intentional prayer, you might recite those things you are glad for in your life, but have to think about particulars that day that are meaningful and brought you some joy. If you do pray, you can just write those things down in your gratitude journal after. If not, spend some serious time considering some events that brought you some joy that day, everyday. You can think of at least THREE. These should be things that are positive and specific to you. Not, “I did not die today” unless you were in a horrible accident and might have actually died, then you might say “I lived!” (see, positive).

Optimism:

Hey, I just covered this! He was talking about not only being positive about your personal possible future, seeing a good long term outcome, but other people too.  This optimism is about looking at your life in stages, seeing what good will come ahead, that things will always improve. You can also see that for others. Forgive them of their minor transgressions, like rudeness, forgetfulness or disregard. It will not hurt you, but only them, in the long run. Hold onto those things that will increase your happiness over time, like good friends, family, happy moments, health. Let go of those things that cause you pain, like anger, resentment and grief.  

Happiness is about finding those things in life that already make you happy, content and peaceful, holding onto them and searching them out. Let the good things rule over the bad. It is a matter of mind.

Fake it ’till you Make it

This post goes right along with my Affirmations post. Affirmations are about creating a road map to where and who you want to be. Start where ever you are and figure out where you want to go. Then you can act that part until it sticks. That may sound easy. It’s not really.

A trainer at my gym talks non-stop about how we create who we are, we have to believe in ourselves to make it work, our minds make our bodies…. He is trying to affirm that we have control of who we are, what we look like, how we act, think, LIVE! It’s true and frustrating. It is easier if it’s everyone else’s fault, or in our genes. Then we don’t have to change. We can just wallow.

His challenge this week was to continue to repeat to yourself, over and over (affirm), that “I am beautiful. I am strong. I am capable.” Even if you don’t believe it. Just keep saying it until you do. I call this

Fake it ’till you Make it

Sometimes, when you really want something to be true, you have to make it so. That means hard work, determination, and a positive mind set. The positive mind set is the push behind it all. If you don’t believe it will happen, it really won’t. Sometimes, you just have to fake like you really believe it, until you really, really do. You have to repeat it over and over and over until it sticks. Much like how you learned everything else in your life, it was repeated to you until it became a part of you.

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?  What do you want to see?

Self-Reflect-762x360

Try this

Write what ever pops into you head, without hesitation. Don’t think, just write. Keep going until you hesitate:

I AM _____________

Yikes, what happened? Did you know you thought all those things about yourself? How many are positive and how many are negative?

Now, write down what you want people to believe about you. What you want to believe about yourself. Be as specific as possible. You can think about this one.

How can you remind yourself to be that person, the future you, every day? I recommend the affirmation. Kick out the old and in with the new.

Forgiving is not condoning

I talk about Forgiveness a lot, to anyone who needs it. There are many misunderstood ideas about forgiveness. Many religious organizations teach forgiveness as a godly act; to forgive others of wrong doing so that they may learn and grow in spirit. Though, many people do not truly forgive, but say they do in order to follow doctrine or “do what is right.”  True forgiveness is hard to do.

It is difficult to forgive others of wrong doing, especially if we, personally, have been injured in some way. We believe that if we forgive, we are condoning their behavior. If we let go of our own anger about the wrong doing, we are saying that it is some how okay. We like to hold onto our bitterness as proof that we have been wronged and help us avoid that wrong again. That is not true. Not forgiving others is just holding onto bad feelings that hurt us.

Forgiving others is NOT condoning their behavior.

It is letting go of our negative feelings toward others. Releasing the toxic anger and bitterness that eats at our happiness. Whether or not you choose to forgive another person does not change the other person. They will continue to choose their own behavior.

Forgiveness only changes you.

Anger, sorrow, regret, humiliation, shame, guilt are just a few negative side effects of holding a grudge. When we are done wrong, abused, hurt, used, or taken advantage of in some way, we react with self preservation. Those feelings are a means to protect ourselves from harm. We hold onto our trust, refusing to allow others in or push others away. Depending on the level of wrongdoing, we can react in many different ways.

These reactions can serve to protect us from the original person who does the wrong doing. However, they do not continue to serve us. By allowing yourself to not forgive, you may let those feeling fester and become toxic in your psyche. It damages all relationships forward.

TRY THIS

How do you let go? How do you forgive?

Think of it in terms of not allowing the wrong doer any more power over you. If you are angry at another person, you are allowing them the power to control your feelings. If you want to release them from your life, you have to forgive.

Forgiveness is letting go of the anger, resentment and bad feelings about the wrong doing; Being at peace with your self and your past.

Write a letter to the wrong doer(s). Tell them how you feel and how it still impacts you. Forgive them of the wrong doing and hurt. Tell them that what they did was not okay, nor should others be hurt by them. Tell them that you are letting go of the anger and not allowing them power in your life. Tell them what you have learned from the hurtful experience.

Then, burn it. Let it go to ash and wind. You may have to do this more than once.

Visualize your Goal

I have heard in many different ways and in many different forms that you must know where you are going in order to get there. Huh? You must visualize the end result to accomplish your goal. 

For example, my neighbor is 22. He was going to college, but dropped out to work because he had no clue what he wanted to do. He can easily get stuck in his current job, working at a tire store, for a very long time, trying to figure out what he wants to do or just sustaining life (barely). He can also take some action. He needs to look at a “map,” talk with an academic advisor or take some career tests. He won’t get where he wants to go unless he knows where he is going.

I know a lot of people who want to lose weight. I recently saw a new “program” for weight loss that included “brain training.”  The idea was that we do better with goals if we can visualize what we would look like at the end. I like the idea of visualizing your end result. Buying a program for it, not so much. If you want to get fit and healthy, what does that look like? Are you thin, tone, a certain size, lower blood pressure, healthy eat habits? There are so many ways to look at it! Any way you do it, you have know what the end result looks like or you will never get there.

With my clients I ask what they would like to accomplish in therapy. The answer is often the absence of something negative, like depression, anxiety, troubled past or relationship. Very few people have a good understanding of what they would like their happier alternative life to be. I often ask “what would that look like?” What is your end game? When it is said and done, what would your life, as a movie, look like? If you don’t know, you will never get there.

TRY THIS

CREATING YOUR VISUALIZATION

Do you have a goal in your life? Anything, lose weight, clean out the closet, finish school, eat healthier, learn gardening.

You can start with an easy one. Let’s choose organizing a space (ok, easy for some).

  1. GOAL: Organize desk (yep, that is what I am looking at)
  2. What do I want: Clean, less cluttered, easy to find things, more work space
  3. What does that look like: Organized files, colorful folders, shelves…    create a mental picture here. You can research spaces you are interested in for inspiration.

Research is your friend. Once you choose your goal, you will need to create a map. That map will show you how to get to that goal. Often times you will need some professional help to get there, like school, books, nutritionist or doctor. When you can see what that end result looks like, you can put one foot in front of the other to get there. Remember the Reward and keep the visualization in your mind (or pinned to your bathroom mirror).