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Archive for March, 2009

Resting in Radical Forgiveness

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

I have been reflecting on the notion of resting in radical forgiveness. It has come up as a theme as a student and teacher. Right at this time, my friend Joe Monkman recommended the book Radical Forgiveness by Colin C. Tipping. I thought it could help me understand on a high level about forgiveness. I wasn’t ready for the punch in the stomach when I began reading and realized all the ways I had not forgiven myself or others. Tipping says, “Radical Forgiveness occurs simply as a consequence of our opening up to the possibility that everything happens for a reason, and there are no mistakes. If we could see the spiritual big picture (which we cannot), we would understand that the situation was divinely guided and happened not TO us but FOR us.”

Tipping goes on to explain that our Spiritual Intelligence can actually call forth the experiences and people for our healing and our spiritual growth. It is one of those lessons about people being in our life for a reason, season, or lifetime. People come in and out of our lives to heal us, to hurt us, to open us, to challenge us, to teach us, but ultimately, to provide us with a lesson to learn.

When people annoy me, I find myself singing, “There’s a lesson to be learned.” I don’t always get the lesson right away and often have to sit in the emotional turmoil before the insight occurs. Part of that sitting is the art of resting in radical forgiveness. It isn’t just the act of forgiving; it’s getting to that place and resting. I have learned this personally and professionally.

About a year ago, I had a ticket booked to the Virgin Islands. I was hired to facilitate drumming and healing circles with young men in a juvenile facility and women and families in a battered women’s program. I had put a lot of time and attention into creating a safe and fun program. Plus, I was going to hang out with a good friend and hit the beaches. Then, the call came. One week before my trip, my sister called to say my father collapsed in Ireland. He had traveled there to attend his sister’s funeral, became ill, and was taken to Cork County Hospital. Someone needed to go check on him and travel with him back to New Jersey. “Do you want me to cancel my trip to the Virgin Islands and go get Dad?” I asked. The answer was yes as my sisters have children and couldn’t rearrange their schedules. I already had the vacation time planned so off I went to reschedule my workshops and re-book a ticket from the Virgin Islands to Ireland.

As I prepared for this emotional trip, I wasn’t really sure how ill my dad was and if he would be strong enough to fly home. I repacked my bags and took out all the shorts and t-shirts and packed wool sweaters and gloves. I arrived at the hospital seven days later, walking into a room that read “Men’s Ward.” I looked down the long corridor, pushed the double door open, and there before me I saw rows of cots. Irish men looked up and smiled at me; a few even gave a wink my way. There on the left hand side was my father lying in the bed in red and white pajamas, pale faced, coughing up a lung. He gave me a big hello, hugged me, and thanked me for coming.

A few days later, we took him back to my uncle’s house for rest before our journey back to New Jersey. That’s when it all went downhill. When we arrived at my uncle’s house, my father could barely hold himself up. He started making calls about going out to the pubs. The second night home from the hospital, he went to my aunt’s house for a family mass and said I couldn’t go, and to “mind the house.” What? I flew 3,000 miles and cancelled a trip to the Virgin Islands to help him and he wanted me to mind the house? It wasn’t until he returned at nearly 4am that morning that I became the angriest.

My father awoke the next morning looking worse than ever, skipped breakfast, despite that his medications are scheduled with his meals. When I saw him, I explained how angry I was at what he was doing. He laughed at me and said he was fine and would be going out to the pub that night. Needless to say, the hurt and rage running through me hit a boiling point and I told him if he kept abusing his body, then he could take care of himself. The rest of the trip was painful and all I wanted was to return to my house in New York City. I had enough emotional and verbal abuse and I began to count the days until I arrived home.

I tell this story because it has taken me almost a full year to realize the impact it has had on me, how it has affected my relationship with my father, and how I have not fully forgiven him. I realize I need to rest in the place of radical forgiveness. I need to really be in that place of non-attachment and listening deeply for the lesson.

I have learned that my father couldn’t really be present and wanted to socialize and that I wanted a father to see his daughter give up everything to be there for him. The lesson for me became an understanding of how to be more present when I am with people. My father gave me the lesson of learning how to be aware of kindness and really appreciate it. I realize that my father has never invested the time or energy to really know me and what I am about and that I cannot change that. I can only change how it affects me. I no longer seek his approval. The big spiritual picture that Tipping refers to was coming to the realization that I am enough just the way I am.

So, for now, I am moving towards radically forgiving my father for his inability to be present and consciously aware of the hurt he caused. Forgiveness is not an act; it’s a process. In order to forgive, there must be a journey of going to the place of healing. It’s coming to a place and resting – just resting.

What will it take for you to rest in radical forgiveness? I would love to hear your ideas and/or experiences of resting in radical forgiveness.

For more information on Radical Forgiveness, please go to https://www.radicalforgiveness.com/

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A New “Once Upon a Time”…

Friday, March 13th, 2009

“Once upon a time…”

How often have I heard those words? The expression is more about where we were at one point in our lives then where we are now. The implicit meaning is – this is how we did things – once upon a time.

As I listen to my story said aloud or the telling of other stories, I can usually find the place of “once upon a time.” What we believe about our once upon a time will often be played out. We usually go for the familiar or comfort even in the simplest of things, like, that favorite sweatshirt or pair of jeans or what I like to call our “old story” (otherwise known as our deep-rooted story we have believed to be true). What if the story had a different ending?

To see this in practice, I tested out a theory about stories. I told famous fairy tales to 1st – 3rd graders and changed the ending. In the Three Little Pigs, I had the wolf huff and puff to blow down the brick house, only to be exhausted. I had the wolf express that he just wanted some good home cooked food and didn’t know how else to get an invitation from the pigs. “No!” the kids would shout at me. “That’s not how it goes.” When I asked what really happened, I would get a summary of the fairy tale. The children would say the ending exactly as it had been read to them repeatedly.

The next part of my experiment would be to tell a story that most of the students had probably never heard of and I would make up an ending. In this case, they sat at the edge of their seats to see what happened next. And, of course, I would always have a happy ending.

Here was my discovery. When the children had no attachment to the stories, they were very excited about the ending. But when the story was known and told over and over, the ending had to be the way they had memorized it.

I also noticed the stories followed a pattern. The characters would leave to find themselves, to find their families, to escape, or to discover fame or fortune. They would often return realizing everything they needed was already in front of them or inside of them.

The power and meaning of our stories can hold us back or set us free. In Jim Loehr’s book, “The Power of Story”, he reveals that your life is the most important story you will ever tell. Loehr says, “Everyone’s got a story. And thank goodness. Because our capacity to tell stories is, I believe, just about our most profoundest gift.”

So, here is the invitation. First, read or think about your favorite fairy tale. Really listen to it. Then change the ending and notice how you feel.

Second, identify your own story. Start with “once upon a time” and continue writing your “old story.” Once completed, re-write one sentence, one piece, one theme, or even the ending. You have the power to tell, to write, and to share an amazing epic – your new story.

If you would like to learn more about the transformative power of stories and how to powerfully identify and release the old ones and call forth the new ones, then join me May 14 – 17, 2009 for a gathering of Women Wisdom-Keepers.

Visit: http://www.toningtheom.com/events.html#cosmic

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