In the exercises for week 4 of the Artist’s Way (by Julia Cameron) one of the tasks is to write your own Artist’s Prayer.
AN ARTIST’S PRAYER
O Great Creator, We are gathered together in your name That we may be of greater service to you And to our fellows. We offer ourselves to you as instruments. We open ourselves to your creativity in our lives. We surrender to you our old ideas. We welcome your new and more expansive ideas. We trust that you will lead us. We trust that it is safe to follow you. We know you created us and that creativity Is your nature and our own. We ask you to unfold our lives According to your plan, not our low self-worth. Help us to believe that it is not too late And that we are not too small or too flawed To be healed— By you and through each other—and made whole. Help us to love one another, To nurture each other’s unfolding, To encourage each other’s growth, And understand each other’s fears. Help us to know that we are not alone, That we are loved and lovable. Help us to create as an act of worship to you.
Of course, we’re now in Week 8, and I haven’t done it yet.
So, perhaps it’s time to really look at how I wish to co-create with the Creator.
Great Creator and Spirit within, I rest easy knowing that my purpose is to share my learnings and that when I lean into you, I know enough. I acknowledge and accept that all my creative urges and yearnings are Divine, So today, I offer myself into the flow of your creative energy. I open myself to co-create with Divine Love, welcoming new ideas and new ways of connecting and working with old ideas. I am willing to let go of the need to know it all now before I get started. I trust that it is safe to explore my creative yearnings, trying new methods and ways. I dare to ask that you supply all my needs: emotional, mental, creative, health, and even financial. I am learning to trust and surrender. I am perfectly made and created; I am healthy and whole. Allow me to be a vessel for your Divine and Creative love to flow to others, accepting Divine Love to fill me and overflow. Let my creativity be my act of worship. And so it is.
I took a moment today to reread one of my posts from ten years ago: The Lord is my shepherd. It was a collection of thoughts about Psalm 23 and what it means to feel safe in the presence of God.
For these last ten years, I’ve come to understand that our English Bible translation uses “the Lord” as the standard translation wherever the original used YHWH. I’ve distanced myself from the idea of God being a man sitting Santa-like on his sky-throne.
Somehow distant and looking down on us all – rather than Spirit and in each and every one of us. Over these past 22 months, I realise that what has kept me going strong is the Divine presence of inner peace, abundance, and compassion, despite living in a time of turmoil.
So, today I want to share my thoughts on what it means to allow the Infinite to flow through us as Divine Wisdom, peace and love, taking thoughts and ideas from Psalm 23.
Divine Wisdom shepherds me
One of the things about sheep and shepherds is that the sheep get used to the shepherd because the shepherd lives with them twenty-four hours a day. They recognise the shepherd by the sound of their voice and the scent.
And so, as I learn to live in the presence of the Divine, I learn to listen to that still, small voice of Divine Wisdom. It’s often hushed, although occasionally, I get a brutal shake or prod!
Shepherding is about being led, surrendering to the path of Divine Will, rather than what my ego would have me do. And when I listen and surrender, I recognise that I have everything I need.
Everything I need: all the time I could possibly need to get things done, all the love and affection that my heart desires, and all the resources that I need at this moment.
In fact, when I sit with my God Box, which I made at the beginning of this year, I am in awe! All the worries and concerns that I put in my God Box were taken care of. All of them. Not a single one of those worries came to pass this year! I took all those things that were beyond my control and simply said, “you handle this for now, and when I’m ready, gently place it on my plate to take care of”.
Resting in the presence of the Divine
Most of us remember that the shepherd makes us lie down in green pastures; there’s a lushness to this imagery. In addition to having our fill – an all you can eat banquet – do you experience the softness and gentleness of lying down and resting?
How have you rested in 2021?
Are you resting gently and deeply, or do you stay up at night with worries?
To quote my previous post on Psalm 23:
“We have found both provender and peace, rest and refreshment, serenity and satisfaction.”
In addition to surrendering to rest and relaxation, we are offered our fill of living water – to be cleansed, refreshed and revitalised.
Can you allow the Infinite to flow through you?
My soul is restored and renewed
I wear myself out trying to do it all from my own strength and under my own steam. I forget – regularly – to allow Divine Presence to flow through me and empower me. But, as I let it, my soul and spirit are restored and renewed.
All I have to do is step away from staying business – holding and grasping desperately to doing it all myself.
When I’m doing it all alone, it’s empty and incomplete. My ego’s happy – for a while until it falls and fails. Then it throws a tantrum when I realise that I am not perfect and complete unless I am open to the presence of the Divine.
I am complete when I am One with Spirit. But when I allow myself to be guided by Divine Wisdom, I find myself facing anything and everything. The path takes me back to wholeness.
But it is a soft allowing and opening up. It is surrender and trusting, which I still find challenging.
How are you allowing the Divine Creator to complete you?
A time of turmoil in the world
Walking through the valley of the shadow of death
These two years have felt like a walk through the valley of the shadow of death. The foreboding of “it’s out there” could be terrifying, and yet I have discovered this fantastic, deep well within me of inner peace. One that genuinely has surpassed all my understanding.
I know, without a doubt, that we are walking through this valley. That means that there is a light at the end: there will be a moment when we are no longer under the shadow of death.
But I feel an intense peace and calm within me. I haven’t feared for myself or those I love in these two years of uncertainty. I have felt deeply protected and shielded despite all the turmoil.
Some of the changes have been harrowing – as an introvert with a slightly extroverted child, I cannot begin to explain the challenges of two years of home-schooling while working from home. And yet, this too shall pass.
And every time she says that these have been the best two years of her life, I am blown away. In my mind, I have focused on my shortcomings rather than how resilient we have both been!
We have been abundantly protected and shielded. We’ve grown and changed with the changing times.
And in so many ways, I have been miraculously comforted and found safety.
Making time for self-care
Despite the challenges of these times – the enemies that surround us – Divine Wisdom reminds me to take time out. To sit quietly and eat calmly. To enjoy the food before me.
These past two years have been about re-encountering a relationship with gratitude and pausing, especially around food. I’ve made more time cooking and sitting down to eat, with grace before meals, rather than eating on the run.
And what I’ve realised is that this has a very practical application in our digestive system: as we switch over from “fight & flight mode” to “rest and digest”. It’s a crucial physiological distinction. Divine Wisdom reminds me regularly: stop what you’re doing and just eat. It’s okay to take time for nourishing your body without multi-tasking.
I am also reminded that I have a purpose and calling – and that does not require multi-tasking either! It’s becoming more single-minded about “the one thing” and focusing my energy and attention on what I am called to be and do.
The more I follow this, I count my many blessings! My cup indeed does run over!
Guided by Divine Wisdom, with goodness & mercy watching my back
Who has your back?
We’re promised that both goodness and mercy will follow us wherever we go. Mercy sweeps along behind me, forgiving my mistakes and weaknesses, allowing me to forgive myself.
Can I let go of the guilt and shame that I’ve carried and allow it to be swept away by goodness and mercy?
The final part of Psalm 23 reminds us that we dwell forever with Divine Presence, finally reaching that place of complete Oneness with Spirit.
I belong. I am loved and cherished, with an everlasting love.
This is what it means for Divine Wisdom to be omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent.
Will you allow the Infinite to flow through you until you are One with Spirit?
I recently saw an image posted on social media: “Worry is worshipping the problem”. And without a doubt, I believe that where attention goes, energy flows. I have to regularly stop myself and ask: “Where are you focussing your attention – on the problem or the solution?”
More than this, however, I bring myself back to the reminder that I live in the presence of the Divine. And if I claim to be practising Divine Presence in my life, how is it expressed when faced with problems or challenges?
Am I keeping my attention and focus on the Great Creator, allowing creative solutions to flow to me?
When my mind is focused and stayed on the Divine, perfect peace holds me. I trust in both the process and the outcome.
The effects of worry
When we stay worried – in a stressed state – this impacts us on several levels. One of the primary organs hit by stress and worry is your heart, including your arteries and blood vessels. Consequently, your heart beats faster and harder, resulting in inflamed arterial walls. This inflammation impacts your health:
hardening of the arteries
unhealthy cholesterol levels
high blood pressure
Even in the Bible, we read:
Anxiety weighs down the heart
So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body
Other impacts of anxiety:
When we are anxious and worrying, it’s more than just our heart that gets hit. Blood sugar levels also rise, with the need for more energy caused by adrenaline and then cortisol. We don’t burn off this extra energy; we have passive worry and anxiety. So, those high blood sugar levels, intended to help us escape danger, stay in the body without being burned up for energy.
Our worry also impacts our immune system, weakening it. Our bodies struggle to defend against illness and disease. Additionally, we contend with gut and digestive issues. That knot in your stomach becomes an ulcer or indigestion. Your worries might even impact bowel motility.
We hold this worry and anxiety in our bodies, as well as impacting the central nervous system. To cope, we create:
eating disorders – not eating or over-eating;
bad habits & addictions, and
insomnia and disturbed sleep patterns.
Worry also impacts our relationships, job performance and the ability to make decisions.
Despite knowing all this: we continue to worry and focus on the problem, not the solutions.
The problem with staying anxious & worried:
Anxiety is a state of distraction and prolonged suffering. Our worrying creates a physical and emotional response, in the present moment, regarding a future possibility. It is not an inevitable future outcome but uncertain. You are trying to predict the future and possibly are catastrophising. It may not turn out as you create it in your imagination. And it is indeed not happening right now.
Worry stems from fear. Typically, this is our fear of not being enough or having enough talent, resources, or abilities to face life’s challenges.
This anxiety creates less focus, where you can no longer concentrate on the task at hand. You might become irritable and easily thrown off balance. It’s easy to become disengaged, showing up either as fight and flight or being withdrawn.
Worry reduces your ability to weed out distractions, making it easy to fall into:
a train of worrying thoughts
meaningless tasks & chores that could wait
All of this comes together to impair decision-making.
Unfortunately, part of your brain got unplugged and disengaged by worry! Worry and anxiety lead you towards what might seem (from a limited perspective) the safest choice. But the safest option is not always the best solution.
Good decision-making requires flexibility in your thinking and looking at the problem and solutions from various perspectives. Do you have the ability to look above and beyond the present moment and conditions?
Weigh up the consequences
Plan for the future
Use logical processing
Another challenge when you are worried is that you might not talk about your fears. It’s more than asking for Divine help and guidance. Sometimes you need to talk to people. Perhaps you ask the Divine to get the right people to show up for you.
Finally, when we are worried and overwhelmed, we respond in two opposing ways:
We consider too few options and become fixated.
We overthink all the available options under the sun, a scattered mind that is unable to focus. Because there are too many options, we get overwhelmed.
In both cases, we procrastinate. Then, as we run out of time, we pick the first solution because we want to escape the overwhelming feelings. Of course, if we had proactively studied the options earlier, a different outcome would emerge.
Where are you focused when times are hard?
The Divine invites us to trust: to set a divine intention and then hold that intention as being true. Perhaps the intention is as simple as:
I am capable of making good decisions, guided by Spirit.
We challenge the worry and anxiety and get present in this moment – here and now. Right now, I am safe and secure.
The purpose of doing this is to focus our energy and attention on the direction we should go. Worry tricks us into avoiding what we don’t want: any direction is a good direction, as long as it takes me away from ____. A good decision, on the other hand, takes us in the bearing we want to go. We have a purpose, and we turn towards our goal.
Watch your heart with all diligence: from your heart flows the spring of life.
It’s easy to get caught up worrying about all the things that are beyond our control. But it is when we focus our attention on what we can control that we get anything done.
Things I can control:
my choice to get organised
where to spend and invest my time and energy
how I respond to the challenge before me
how I communicate with others
whether or not I choose to share with others and ask for help
You control whether or not you make a plan, getting specific about which steps to take in the coming days. You put time and energy into this and what you can do and who you can talk to.
Alternatively, sometimes the best choice is to take a break:
The God Box
Everything else – beyond your control – where do you put that?
I put those things in my “God Box”. The God Box is a little cardboard box, hand painted and decorated on the shelf above my desk. All my worries get written on a bit of paper, folded up, and placed in the box.
I place those worries out of sight and mind. At the end of the year, as part of my end of year routine, I’ll paint a new one for 2022 with little miss and we’ll burn the 2021 box and say farewell to the worries we put away.
The power of holding an intention with faith
As a child, my prayers to God were much like asking Santa Claus at Christmas. There was wishing as well as negotiation. As an adult, however, I believe in personal responsibility and accountability for an outcome. And yet, I believe in miracles.
I believe in “be anxious for nothing”. And so, in every situation, I hold an intention and gratitude in my heart. I present every request for my highest good to the Divine Creator. And as a result, my heart is flooded with a peace that I cannot begin to comprehend.
It’s more than a helpless prayer.
It is a proactive prayer, one in which I believe that what I have asked for will come to pass, and therefore it is safe to take steps forward on that path!
Believe that you have received it and it will be yours!
But it is asking with single-mindedness, without a shadow of a doubt. Can you believe that Divine Love cradles you? Are you confident that when you hold an intention for the highest good and possible outcome – daring to pour your time and energy into achieving this – it will come to pass?
It’s more than just faith: aligned action.
They say that if you want to walk on water, you’ve got to start by hopping out of the boat! While that might take the example to an extreme, for me, that is the definition of faith and believing: your actions fully align with what you profess to believe.
My biggest mistakes have been made in blind faith: the faith of sitting waiting without any corresponding action.
My definition of blind faith: I expect a perfect crop without having planted any seeds, watered or weeded. Unless I have grounds to believe that someone else actually planted, watered and weeded, that’s merely blindness. It’s not faith.
Faith is stepping out and putting my plan into effect.
Faith believes that the Divine accompanies me on every step of my path. It allows me to trust that I can listen to the still, small voice of Spirit, make a plan, and then take action.
Keeping the faith that what you’ve planted will grow
Sometimes, faith shows up in patience. Trust is waiting for results without growing anxious. It is confidence in the results that I hope for, resting in the assurance of what I cannot yet see.
Having faith means I am filled with joy and peace as I sit trusting in the Divine. It is overflowing with hope, knowing that the power of Spirit fuels me.
My attention, time, and energy focus on doing what I can. I let go of all aspects beyond my control. I focus on the peace that passes understanding because I place my attention on Divine Love.
I began a personal healing journey in 2017, with no idea where it would take me. I certainly never expected all the spiritual and life lessons that I’ve learned along the way!
If I had known that I would be in 2021 and the journey would still be underway, would I have had the courage to even take the first steps?
I thought I would get the miraculous healing that when I reached a certain point it would be instantaneous. Instead, it has been a journey of a thousand steps, sometimes on spiralling stairs, rather than giant leaps forward.
Gut health challenges
Since about 2001, my health has been centred around my gut and immune system, with challenges of:
IBS (irritable bowel syndrome – i.e. we have no idea what’s wrong)
Diverticulitis (caused by the Coeliac disease going undiagnosed for 10+ years)
SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)
All of these are gut issues and are closely tied with the immune system – that part of you that is able to easily mount defences to defend “self” against “not self”.
If I look at this from an mBraining perspective, the gut has the prime functions not only of digesting and processing food, but also influences:
Our sense of identity: “this is who I am”. My lack of authenticity – trying to please other people – broke down my ability to identify “self”;
Our processes of safety and security. This is our self-preservation. It begins physiologically as the immune system, but there’s also an element in there of the autonomic nervous system, which I failed to recognise, leading to an immune system in overdrive and hyper-drive, as I strove to keep myself safe psychologically and emotionally.
Movement and motivation. We know physiologically of “bowel movement”, but if you listen to our language, we clearly speak about the fire in our belly that moves us forward. My trauma-informed dorsal vagal, however, was trained to sedation and hibernation in the face of danger, and while scientists know that this impacts the immune system, they are not quite yet sure of the exact effects.
A personal journey to healing: lifestyle changes
In order to heal my gut, I’ve had to recognise that every aspect of my life impacts how well this heals.
All of this requires lifestyle changes: because it’s impossible to solve a problem with the same thinking, habits and lifestyle that created the problem.
“The necessity of change makes healing a terrifying experience for many people.”
He who knows to do right and does it not, to him it is sin
There were so many pieces to the healing journey and changes that needed to be made. Doctors glaze over quickly the role that stress plays, saying platitudes such as “you need to manage stress better”.
Who doesn’t know that?
The question is: what do we do about it?
Most of us – do nothing.
We ask for the pills that soften the blow of the symptoms, so that we can get back on with life, exactly as it already was. But we don’t make the fundamental changes that are required in order for health and healing to happen.
If we did, the pharmaceutical industry would be out of business. Imagine how many blood pressure medications would be taken off the market if patients would actually follow doctor’s instructions about making changes to their lifestyle.
It’s not that I didn’t know ways of dealing with stress!
Meditation & Silence
Trusting the Divine
Dealing with the root causes of anxiety & depression
Part of me was refusing to look at diet, beyond the obvious factors of avoiding gluten (wheat, barley, malt & rye). But I could do more, like accepting that corn totally irritated me, as well as rice making me feel bloated, and that I needed to adjust my diet to accommodate inflammation and SIBO.
I have been physically active since my early twenties and am no stranger to the multiple benefits of exercise, even when you don’t have energy. I know how good it is for the digestive system (just getting out for a walk helps your gut digest more easily), as well as helping to regulate stress.
Perhaps most importantly, I know the role and importance of forgiveness, letting go and release. What I didn’t know was the depth of work I would need to do, and how much I have buried and hidden away (even from myself), in order to be able to survive.
Part of the healing journey has been accepting that sometimes it feels like I’m stuck in a loop, when I am really on a spiral stairway that keeps coming round to the same issues, just at a different level. It might feel, at times, that I am just going around in circles, but progress is not always in a straight line.
Bad habits are decisions we refuse to make
Take a moment to write down, for yourself, three habits that you have right now that are impacting your health and wellness, and that you are making no attempt or haphazard attempts to change. How would healing be possible if you made these changes?
I’m going to mention a few habits that most of us have (at some level) and that we know better, and yet it’s easier to continue doing it, than to change. We give ourselves all kinds of excuses.
Eating on the go
Who doesn’t know that eating-on-the-run is bad for their health? This might be that you are eating:
fast food while driving your car
standing in your kitchen while fixing food for others or doing some chores, or perhaps
sitting at your desk or computer, working.
There’s the risk of falling into a fast-food trap – with unhealthy ingredients, high sugar and high sodium. But it’s not just the ingredients, it’s the very fact that we are not allowing the body to go into “rest and digest” while we eat, but rather we are still eating while in motion (and quite possibly under stress).
All of these habits lead to:
increased risk of cancer;
risk of heart disease
high blood pressure
issues in the immune system
and even memory loss.
Our bodies were created to rest and relax while eating, to enjoy the aroma and visual appeal – so that we get the digestive juices flowing. We allow ourselves the time and space to savour and chew. And to notice what we are doing, rather than having our attention focused somewhere else.
A lot of problems can be solved just by removing some people, some food, and some habits from your life.
Our sedentary lifestyles
We’re warned enough about laziness and sitting around in Proverbs, but more than just being couch potatoes, it’s even the way we travel to work and the conditions in which we’re working that create challenges.
Sitting for so many hours a day, whether it be in a bus, on a train, in the car, at your desk is exhausting mentally, leaving us wanting to stay sedentary when we finally get home.
What does this create?
high blood pressure
type 2 diabetes
Exercise – or more importantly regular movement – helps us with our digestion as well as improving the blood flow to the brain. It naturally helps our body keep our blood sugar under control, and possibly most importantly helps produce oxytocin – our “happy hormone” that is produced naturally in the body.
Do you really need me to tell you all the ways that this shows up? Perhaps you snack when you’re not actually hungry, you give into cravings, or you are just eating too much generally. Eventually, your body stops sending you the hunger signals (since you ignore them anyway) and just lets you know the cravings.
We create our own health challenges through over-eating:
These are just a few.
It could be as simple as wolfing down your food too quickly, so that you fail to notice the message that you are full. This, unfortunately, can lead to bloating, gas and acid-reflux.
If you’re eating too late, it may be interfering with your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Not drinking enough water
Our bad habits are as simple as failing to drink water, and instead replacing it with energy drinks, soft drinks or coffee. But your body is 60% water, and we need the water for regular bowel function, optimal muscle performance and even for our skin.
When we fail to drink enough water, we run into:
risk of stroke
moodiness & irritability
All because we haven’t built a habit of drinking water.
Skimping on sleep
I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
Yes, I have said that. I would burn the candle at both ends and then drink coffee (not water) to keep going. Skimping on sleep does more than just impair our judgement and compromise clear-headedness in decision-making.
It also causes:
heart disease, heart failure & contributes to heart attacks
high blood pressure
weakens immunity and the immune system
increases stress and cortisol levels
causes weight gain
increases the risk of diabetes
I justified to myself the choices of burning the candle both ends and continuing with my lifestyle choices, even daring to suggest that this was Biblical (Proverbs 31 – the Virtuous Woman). She gets up while it’s still dark, her lamp does not go out at night, and she does not eat the bread of idleness. But I’m pretty sure that she didn’t drive herself into the ground either!
My personal healing journey: lifestyle changes
All five of these issues came up for me in my healing journey, to different degrees. But when we talk about “go and sin no more” – what we each have to address our the habits we have that are holding us back.
Each one of us has strengths and weaknesses (and for many our strengths are also our weaknesses), and it’s a personal journey of discovery and transformation.
In my personal journey, there were four principal areas that I had to address, most of them more than once and in different areas of my life:
gluttony and over-eating
murmuring & complaining
laziness & failure to take responsibility, and
holding onto anger, resentment and bitterness, rather than letting it go with complete forgiveness.
Gluttony & over-eating
I’m not going into sharing a rift of Bible verses on gluttony. It’s the internet – you can look them up for yourself.
My personal definition of Gluttony is slightly different, although it is certainly an excess of eating.
But what I consider an excess might be much more strict that what you are accustomed to seeing or hearing as “excess”.
So, I invite you to consider what your definition of excess might be.
the power of suggestion – “I see food, so I eat it”
When I’m hungry, it’s perfectly possible to postpone eating for thirty minutes or more without getting hangry. Cravings and emotional eating, on the other hand, demand to be attended immediately. The question is “how do I choose to attend to these demands?”.
If I acknowledge that my body is a temple, how am I maintaining it with discipline?
If I’m not hungry, am I willing to deal with the root issues and causes that lead me to the fridge, rather than eating and stuffing all my emotional and mental issues right back down again, swallowing my tears, and refusing to sit in the discomfort of what I am experiencing?
Stress, especially chronic and ongoing stress, causes our body to produce cortisol. In a healthy situation of stress (i.e. where you literally ran away from danger), cortisol will make you hungry, so that you refuel your body. Unfortunately, my stress is not the result of running away from a tiger! The hunger signals are false, and I know this if I actually check in with my stomach.
What needs to change? When I’m honest with myself, this is about lifestyle, beliefs and choices that are keeping me in a state of stress.
Where’s the inner peace that passes understanding?
What happened to the faith that allows me to trust that things are truly working out for my good?
If I eat, I can ignore these questions, rather than addressing the root problem: one of faith. It’s very similar to eating when anxious. If I eat, I can focus on something away from the anxiety.
But aren’t I supposed to be “anxious for nothing” and instead to turn my requests over to the Divine and surrender? Eating bypasses the anxiety, rather than addressing the beliefs and faith issues. How do I expect physical healing when I am not addressing the spiritual?
Fatigue and being tired:
Another chemical process happens in our body when we’re tired:
Our gherlin goes up (produced to let us know we’re hungry) and
Our leptin goes down (produced by our fat cells to let us know we don’t need to eat – as it decreases our feelings of hunger).
So, when we’re tired, no matter the cause of our fatigue, our body asks for either rest or more fuel.
But what if the reason that we’re tired is because of bad sleep habits? It my case, it was caused in part by gut problems (bloating and discomfort, which lead to light and interrupted sleep). One habit that was effective in fixing this: eat before 6 pm, so that I sleep better. But do I change my habits and honour health?
We can feel the difference once again in our stomach between tired and hungry. If I really am tired, is what my body really needs healing rest?
Comfort eating and sweets:
Perhaps we eat comfort foods because they remind us of “being loved”. Or we need more sweetness in our lives, so we give into our sweet tooth.
But if what we need is comfort and connection, perhaps what we need to do is hop on the phone and call home. Are we hungering for a spiritual connection?
Whatever the reason for our cravings, when we eat, we block the request. The request has been attended to, but the underlying need remains unsatisfied.
Eating past the point of hunger into fullness
The challenge is not just to eat when hungry, but to stop at the right moment: when I am no longer hungry. There’s no need to eat into “crowded” or “full”, much less “stuffed”.
So why do we eat more than our body asked for?
I’m enjoying this too much – we have scarcity and deprivation thoughts related to food or enjoyment
procrastination – I don’t want this to end, because then I will have to go and take care of… On a more subconscious level we know: if I eat too much, I’ll be sluggish and tired, and have the perfect excuse.
I was told to clean my plate as a kid, and I’ve never adjusted this belief around being able to leave something on the plate
I feel the pressure of friends or family to “eat up”, especially when they want to offer a second helping.
But what if, instead, we chose to:
Deal with what I’ve been avoiding?
Accepted that there is abundance and I can have more enjoyment at another moment.
I give generously to those in need and don’t have to prove it by clearing my plate.
I serve myself smaller portions, so that I can finish with nothing left on the plate, and
I told the people that I love how I feel about them and how I appreciate them, so it’s not necessary to show this by eating more.
Unmet needs, desires & wants:
All of these examples simply go to show that we have unmet needs, desires, fears and wants. These may be mental, emotional or even spiritual.
The lifestyle change that was required for me is being willing to tackle them, rather than choosing to stuff them down with food.
It is so easy, especially when your illness comes with physical pain, to allow our grief and pain to turn into bitterness, anger, reproach and despair.
We are told to bless those that curse you. How about blessing your body and your pain? If you feel cursed, because you are carrying an illness or disease – are you blessing it?
Are you cursing your body or that part of your body that appears to be letting you down?
Is your heart raging against the Divine because of this cross that you have to bear? Are you raging against yourself for all the life choices you’ve made that lead to this point?
Perhaps complaining feels easier!
Ask and you will receive
In her book, “Unbound: A woman’s guide to power“, Kasia Urbanjiak talks about how behind every complaint is an unspoken request. We complain because it feels more acceptable than asking for what we really want.
Where is my faith in
“ask and you will receive”
“making your requests known”
“asking according to Divine will, because the Divine hears” and
“you do not have, because you do not ask”?
Of course… perhaps I’m not willing to take up my bed and walk! Maybe I’m too scared to get out of the boat, in order to walk on water.
It’s so much easier to murmur and complain, rather than to ask and then be responsible for my actions.
Let’s be honest – complaining is socially acceptable!
“Nothing unites people more strongly than a common dislike. The easiest way to build friendship and communicate is through something negative.”
Complaining impacts your health!
Health impacts of complaining:
creates more stress
worsens anxiety & depression
it rewires your brain – in a bad way! The habit of complaining reduces the number of neurons in the hippocampus, the part of the brain used for problem-solving and cognitive function. Actual shrinkage!
Neurons that fire together, wire together – and you are creating a habit of complaining. So, you are likely to be creating new things to complain about and attracting to you people who like to complain!
And so, you find yourself in a place – that you have built – clinging to resentment, pain & trauma. You have become what you have focused on.
What would you like to focus on?
But as I said, you don’t receive, because you don’t ask. Complaining reinforces the idea “I’m a victim and there’s nothing I can do to change this situation.”
“Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.”
Professor Randy Pausch
I finally reached a point where I had to ask myself:
What if this disease is happening for me, not to me?
Can I search for the blessing, strengths and lessons that it has to teach me? What might I be grateful for in this journey? How does Divine Presence show up in my life through this illness?
And this takes me into the third thing I had to address: being willing to take small steps forward.
Synonyms for laziness are indolence and sloth. Indolence derives from the Latin indolentia, ‘without pain’ or ‘without taking trouble’. Sloth has more moral and spiritual overtones than laziness or indolence.
Anyone who’s taken time to read Proverbs or Ecclesiastes knows what they say about getting stuck under the covers! But sometimes, with chronic illness, there’s more than laziness to deal with.
Allow me to clarify, that when I talk about the desire to stay as a couch potato and be lazy, I am not referring to:
Chronic fatigue and the need to rest
Clinical depression and how it drives you to inactivity
Shutdown caused by the dorsal vagus nerve
Resting to recover from illness
While I mention that my healing journey has required that I face my personal laziness, it would be unfair to myself and others to write everything off as laziness.
Most people with chronic illness deal at some point in time with chronic fatigue. I’m not talking about ME, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, although I can identify with every one of the symptoms listed for it:
brain fog, problems with clear thinking, memory loss, and even muscle twitching
Being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and Coeliac disease, these are all part of the fatigue I’ve had.
Another symptom (commonly found with other chronic illnesses also) of Coeliac disease and ulcerative colitis is depression. For me, this was caused by two things:
a natural side effect of having a disease in the gut that affects the ANS, immune system and gut microbiome.
ignoring my grief and sorrow, trying to soldier on, without allowing myself to acknowledge what I felt I had lost.
For many years, I attempted to fore happiness and pretend nothing was wrong. “I’ve got this”. I was pretending to be strong, rather than finding inner strength. And if you’re any good at this, you can do it for years.
During this time, I failed to acknowledge all the sources of my depression: gut health & microbiome, emotions, mental, chemical and even the dis-regulation of my ANS.
Shutdown & avoidance as self-preservation
Until recently I didn’t even know that one of my primary survival instincts (those habits you create to survive, that later become your Achilles heel), was shutdown and avoidance. The body is an amazing thing – survival first.
While some people go into fight-flight when faced with danger, I learnt as a child that those were not options. The safest option was to be neither seen nor heard. It’s freezing like a possum that plays dead or the turtle that hides safely in its shell.
So why on earth, if I’m battling these three challenges, would I even mention laziness as a habit to be overcome?
Being lazy: disinclined to activity or exertion
It’s so easy when life is overwhelming to get stuck in “there’s nothing I can do about this”. As I said before, if I had known that returning to a healthy life would take so long, would I have even tried?
In most cases, it is deemed painful to expend effort on long-term goals that do not provide immediate gratification. For a person to embark on a project, he has to value the return on his labour more than his loss of comfort.
I was not completely helpless. There were things I could do that would make a difference, but that required some effort on my part.
Intentionally resting: rather than watching TV or playing computer games or mindlessly scrolling social media, I needed to sleep deeply, giving my body a chance to heal. To do this, I had to remove foods that interfered with deep sleep, remove caffeine and add in magnesium.
Find out which supplements, vitamins & minerals would restore health. Some of these tackle inflammation, while others support the nervous system and neuro-processes, giving me clearer thinking and raising my energy levels.
Build my own personal support network and groups.
I wanted people around me that were positive and believed restored health was possible. I needed accountability, not people that would listen to me complaining. Most importantly, I wanted to be surrounded by those interested in “being healthy“, rather than those whose mindset was “how do I live with this illness?”
I want to be healthy in spite of this illness
It takes exertion, motivation & discipline to make the changes (habits & lifestyle) that restore health & wellbeing. I constantly battle my innate survival mode of withdrawal and hibernation.
“I’ll deal with the mental, emotional and physical issues later – right now I’m just going to finish binge-watching this series on Netflix.”
“I’m sick. There’s nothing I can do about it.”
“I can’t run, so there’s no point in going for a 5-minute walk.”
“My joints & muscles hurt, so I’m just going to stay here.”
If I listen to that, I don’t even bother going to the kitchen to take the supplements that help relieve the inflammation & pain.
Laziness doesn’t just refer to being “a couch potato” – but it’s the state of mind of being stuck, unable to even move a single rung up the ladder.
Yes, I still want the magic pill of miraculous healing that allows me to bypass all this work and all these individual steps! But would I really have made the changes and addressed all these issues any other way?
Change the habits & lifestyle, so that the miracle can happen!
Medically speaking, it’s impossible to heal Coeliac Disease and ulcerative colitis. So far, they are vastly improved, but not healed. I’m not sure if it will be possible, or whether my personal healing journey will simply be one of discipline & habits.
But I finally reached a point where I am willing to continue the journey, irrespective of the final outcome.
And so I come to the last healing lesson I want to share with you: forgiving myself and others.
Learning to Forgive: letting go of anger, resentment & bitterness
Forgiveness and reconciliation are two entirely different concepts. Unfortunately, as a child I learnt a very skewed example of forgiveness and reconciliation.
We were made to say “I’m sorry“, with the threat of punishment hanging over our headif we didn’t. And if we received this unrepentant sorry, we were equally forced to say “I forgive you“, with that very same threat of punishment. At least we were equally afraid of the punishment that would be meted out if we failed to say sorry or I forgive you.
What lesson was that really in forgiveness?
There was not open-heartedness or vulnerability. There was no true desire to repair the relationship. We merely feared the greater punishment that awaited if we failed to say those words, no matter how meaningless.
I grew within myself a heart of stone, because it wasn’t safe to be vulnerable and open. Feelings were not safe and were certainly not to be expressed.
I’ve had to come a long way in my own journey of forgiveness, leaving meaningless words behind and delving for myself into the heart of the matter. I no longer rush to forgive (going through the motion) or minimising my emotions and feelings. And I don’t need the other person to even be aware that I am forgiving them.
In order to truly forgive another, you have to acknowledge what you’re feeling. And those feelings might no be pretty. They might be more than pain and hurt or disappointment. Perhaps you feel angry and resentful. Worse yet, you might have allowed it to fester and turn into bitterness.
But until you can actually unpack your emotional baggage, and hang it in the sun to air and for you to see clearly, you won’t truly forgive. All of the feelings that you stuffed down, stowed away, and hid in the darkest corners of your memory have to be released and let go.
Forgiveness isn’t just spiritual, it’s also physical:
If we want to heal physically, we have to practice forgiveness – of ourselves and others. Whatever it is that we are holding onto.
…unresolved conflict can go deeper than you may realize—it may be affecting your physical health. The good news: Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression and stress. ,,, Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, … changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.
When we hold a grudge, our attention stays focused on the past and it plays a role in the present moment, even in depression. This anger or resentment, when stored for long enough in our body, can even show up as pain or more illness.
Studies show how suppressed anger – that which we haven’t been willing to even acknowledge, much less vent – is showing up in cases of patients with cancer. Suppression takes a toll on our bodies, as we pretend that we aren’t hurt and angry. (Anger and Cancer: Is There a Relationship?)
On the other hand, when we hold a grudge, we create the feelings each time I mind replays the situation. So, now when I think of “forgive and forget”, I am turning off the “replay” switch in my mind. It’s not that I completely forget the situation, as if it never existed, but rather that I refuse to give the reruns “air time” in my mind.
I refuse to relive the stress of the memory over and over again in my body. I will not rehash – in this present moment – an event from the past. That is simply poisoning the present.
Among the many harmful effects that this loop has on your health is cognitive decline, dumping cortisol (the stress hormone) back into your blood stream, and affecting once again appetite, sleep patterns, heart rate and blood pressure.
“Living in a chronic state of tension disables your body’s repair mechanisms, increasing inflammation and the stress hormone cortisol in the body.” “Forgiveness engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps your immune system function more efficiently and makes room for feel-good hormones like serotonin and oxytocin.”
I recognise that I’m still not done with the this process. But I’m finally willing to sit with emotions as they arise. I’m finally able to see how the spiral works in healing, no matter how long the journey.
And the truth will set you free
Not just knowing it… but truly living it! I started off with a video by Stephen Levine, where he talks about healing, not just physically but also emotionally.
Over these past four years, as I’ve worked on restoring my physical health, I’ve had to admit to the truth of where I am at and what changes and habits I have not been willing to change that have delayed the healing process.
I finally have begun to understand Jesus’ admonition to the man he healed “go and sin no more” – because I realise the effects that my lifestyle had (emotionally, physically, mentally & spiritually) on my health & well-being.
This has been the greatest gift of this illness: recognising that I have choice about how I choose to live in the presence of the Divine and how I choose to let it shine for and through me.
Wisdom comes when we apply creative compassion to creative action. In fact:
Generative wisdom is far more than just having wise insights from your life experiences.
Soosalu & Oka, “mBraining”
It is not an end state of being wise, but rather an ongoing process, one that continually transforms who you are.
I cannot stress this enough: wisdom must be embodied in pragmatic action. The same way that we show our faith by our works and deeds, we embody our wisdom in action and the decisions that we make each and every day.
Most of us that were brought up in churches can easily recite that to love God is to love our neighbour and to love our brother, no matter who they might be. We are likewise challenged to bless those who curse us.
It’s easy to be at peace and in harmony with God and others when you are sitting quietly, meditating and in prayer. But true wisdom is being able to hold that same inner peace in the midst of the unrest of every day triggers and people who would typically anger us or make us feel fearful.
I’ll show you my faith by my works is not simply about doing good deeds: but rather it is living that life of faith and Divine Wisdom in all moments of challenge.
The process of acquiring true wisdom is not one of studying and memorisation (although that is no doubt where it begins): it is in changing our responses and choosing a new way of acting and reacting in the world.
The beginning of wisdom
This journey for me, into transformation and change, began with the search to understand “the fear of the Lord”. As a child, I had it hammered into me that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Unfortunately, my understanding of “fear of the Lord” was heavily tainted by my understanding of the word “fear”. And my understanding of “the Lord” was much influenced by the descriptions of a terrible God sitting on a throne “in heaven” surrounded by “a host of angels” that were ready to send anyone and everyone to hell.
It was much more of a Machiavellian description of “tis better to be feared than loved”, than an understanding of awe, presence and communion. I certainly viewed God as being dangerous and painful. While I was perfectly capable of saying “God loves you”, it had quite the “domestic violence kind of love” written all over it. Unfortunately, I experienced a traumatic view of authority, which clouded and overwrote my views on God.
It has been hard for me to change and learn a new definition of Divine Love. One of the many reasons that you will find me referring more to “Divine” and “Source” rather than “God” and “the Lord” in this blog is that I am aware that I am not the only one that still has wounds to heal. I am perfectly clear in my mind that these are man-made wounds, by men (and women) who purported to be godly and “loving”. And horridly, wretchedly human.
It is so much easier to say “God did this” than to take the time to separate the humanity of (mostly) well-intentioned, badly misguided men and women, and simply turn your back on the Divine.
Finding my way back to accepting Divine Love and living in that Presence has been a challenge: one in which I have had to be open and vulnerable to healing and change over these past ten years.
Forgiveness and learning to love and accept myself have been difficult lessons to live by.
A peace that passes understanding
And yet, in 2020, I had a year in which to come to grips with “how far I’ve come”. You might notice that there has been a hiatus in posting (for months on end).
Part of this was overwhelm with all that was happening in the world. Another part was being drawn into the shadows of “This is where you need to shine more light in your life and allow healing to take place. This is what you are holding onto and it’s time to let go of.”
The beauty of 2020, for me, was that I discovered that somehow, over the last decade, I had discovered “a peace that passes all understanding”. Accidentally tripped over it in the midst of chaos.
While I contemplated questions like:
What is truly important?
How does the way I am living my life reflect my values?
What do I trust in and where is my faith place?
I discovered that I had come to a deeper understanding of the simplicity of Source versus channel.
The Source of abundance, health and well-being is the Divine. The channels through which I may receive abundance can be a job, independent contracting or even gifts.
When I found my channels placed in jeopardy by the chaos of 2020, I suddenly discovered the my faith and trust had moved. I was no longer trusting in myself and my ability to create income: I had an inner peace I had never experienced before of “my Source” will provide a new channel.
Likewise, I’ve had to face thoughts and challenges regarding my attitudes towards health and wellness. I live from a place of responsibility: I am 100% responsible for my health and wellness and taking care of myself.
Nonetheless, the question arose: but where am I putting my faith?
Is my faith limited to what I can control and what I am able to do for myself? Or is it in something bigger than me? Can I trust in my Creator that I am wonderfully made and that all my cells and organs respond and vibrate to a Divine vibration of health and wellness?
Letting go: moving with inspiration
For most of us, 2020 gave us the challenge and opportunity to let go of life as we knew it (and planned it), and to turn our trust into Divine purpose and process.
Most of can quote many a verse that reminds us that everything that is happening is for us. But what does wisdom really look and feel like in the face of uncertainty?
In part, we have to be willing to let go of what was in order to step into what could be. This requires changes at so many levels:
from the heart: starting with love and compassion for ourselves and for others around us;
in our heads: minding our thoughts, especially the doubts, awfulisations and catastrofising that we do;
and in our guts: being willing to gently release the tight grip we have on our identity “this is who I am” and grow into a new creation.
On a spiritual level, it requires that we be reminded that we are souls having a human experience. Our spirits are searching for Oneness with the Divine – living constantly in that Divine Presence, rather than separated from. And yet the human experience teaches us that we are individual and separate from each other and from God. We are constantly trying to get back to God.
Divine Love, especially in moments like these, invites us to get in touch with God’s plan and purpose in our lives. Each one of us has been given unique talents and gifts that are not shared by others.
Likewise, most of us have passed through levels of preparation. What life lessons have you learned that have moulded you into the person you are today?
Creative compassion invites us to have a look at everything we have to offer, as well as our heart’s desires, and ask:
This might include questions or thoughts of the following nature:
What might it be like to live in alignment with Divine Will?
How can I use all the gifts, talents and experiences I have been given to serve others?
Who am I drawn to serving?
Many of us, don’t have immediate clarity. Some, of course, get called similar to what we’ve read in the Bible:
Jonah – told exactly who to go to and what to say to them;
Jeremiah – given visions and messages
Peter – called by Jesus to leave his nets
Some of us might end up with an experience like Esther, put in a position where we only discover it’s purpose when there is a crisis “I was put here for such a time as this”. Others might experience hardship like Joseph, only to be called “when it’s time”.
Most of us, on the other hand, have nothing quite so concise. Life is much more mundane and subtle.
Are we listening for those callings?
Perhaps, like the Good Samaritan, we are simply called to go about our business and just help others anonymously when they are put in our path.
The only questions we have to ask ourselves is: am I living this life from a place of compassion for myself & others? Do I allow Divine Love to flow through me as a conduit and channel for others?
Sometimes the calling is simply to follow a new line of study or preparation, without knowing the end purpose. Can you trust the Divine to take that step without being able to see the full path ahead?
It takes courage to act when called:
As James said, it is not simply about hearing “the Word” or memorising it. It’s no good to spout it out to others or recite it.
The true change happens when we allow it to change our heart: to give up our heart of stone and allow it to be replace with a heart of flesh. A hear that is vulnerable, open, soft and gentle.
When this happens, we learn to think in new ways. And as we begin to think in new ways, we learn to talk differently. We see through new eyes, with compassion and empathy.
It takes courage to allow Divine Love to change and transform our lives. In many cases, this means letting go of any hatred or fear that we have been harbouring. To start to let go of fear, we have to acknowledge and accept that we are afraid.
When I’m honest with myself: fear is usually about situations beyond my control. Like most of the things that happened in 2020. Letting go of that fear requires that I learn “fear of the Lord” in a new way: trust in the invisible.
And only now am I discovering that level of courage to have faith. I haven’t figured out my “calling”, but for now, I’m willing just to take the one next step that is clear on the path ahead and trust that the rest will be revealed when I’m ready.
The fear of I AM THAT I AM is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Divine One is understanding. For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.
Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.
5 Trust in I AM THAT I AM with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
Proverbs 3: 5-6
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
So get rid of your feelings of hatred. Don’t just pretend to be good! Be done with dishonesty and jealousy and talking about others behind their backs.
Today, as I look with great sadness at the anger erupting in communities in the United States, I realise that Christian leaders need to stand up and overturn a few more tables within the temple! Obviously, we haven’t overturned the tables of oppression!
Oppression can take so many forms: whether it’s the orphans (or children who are being trafficked), the widows (or human trafficking), the poor, the sojourners/immigrants/foreigners, or someone who you haven’t even recognised as your equal (race, education or any other standard).
The first table that needs to be overturned is the alter on which our individual egos sit.
Ego – that part of us that fails to understand that illness would become wellness if we would replace “I” with “WE”.
The illness of division could be the wellness of unity and cooperation, if we are willing to start within: with an awareness of our own feelings, anger, hatred and division. It is my ego that tells me that I am separate from those in pain.
When I saw the first posts about the events, questions came to mind – even along the lines of “is this another false flag operation” to get people to focus their attention onto something divisive, rather than awakening to creating the world and society in which we wish to live.
But the reality is that these events show the brokenness of the “normal” to which we wish to return.
How is it possibly okay for a white man (just because he has a uniform) to kneel on the neck of another man, already cuffed and in custody, until he stops breathing? Even if this was “created” to divert attention from something else: this requires our collective attention and healing! It is no less oppression, irrespective of the purpose which it serves.
My arrogance: daring to think that I am somehow above these events, says “not my problem”. But that’s not true.
It is exactly my privilege that is the problem!
It’s the fact that this would NOT happen to me that makes me the ideal person to say “something needs to change”. Deep within, I know that it’s time to heal within me the coldness and apathy that say “not my injustice”!
The collective pain
What springs to view with these events is the pain that many are suffering, sight unseen.
Today I read about the father that goes for a walk with his young daughter and the dog because he’s fearful of walking around his neighbourhood alone. I read about the young man being the only person of colour in his school, and constantly being pulled over by the cops, while his friends never received the same treatment.
And I realise that we are called to overturn the tables that allow some to be down-trodden, while others continue to live with privilege.
I’m not saying that I should “lose” my privileges, but rather that they should be the same privileges afforded to every person, regardless of race, creed, or economic strata.
Perhaps we need to learn a little more about restorative justice: the process where entire communities taking responsibility for restoring balance, harmony and the practice of forgiveness.
I’m talking about Ho’oponopono.
“Restorative justice is a philosophy that embraces a wide range of human emotions including healing, mediation, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, reconciliation as well as sanction when appropriate. It also recognizes a world view that says we are all interconnected and that what we do be it for good or evil has an impact on others.”
— “Restorative Justice – The Pacific Way” Paper presented at the 7th International Conference on Prison Abolition; Barcelona, Spain, 17 – 19 May 1995; by Jim Consedine (see link at the end of this post)
I first learnt about restorative justice in law school in Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand. Thankfully, I was at a very culturally connected law school, where we openly spoke about community justice systems and how the Pākehā system failed to take into account restoration of balance within the community. It simply punished the offender (like a criminal justice system).
But the community continued to suffer and hurt: with the criminal justice system, nothing is actually done to restore balance within the community.
Most people only know Ho’oponopono as 4 lines:
I love you
Please forgive me
But it’s more than just repeating the mantras… It’s opening up our awareness and emotions.
Ho’oponopono Practice: The Practice of Forgiveness
The origins of the Huna practice known as Ho’oponopono are a community reconciliation process. It is very similar to other Pacific Island restorative processes – which involved entire communities taking responsibility for restoring balance, harmony and the practice of forgiveness when harmony in the community has been broken.
Coming to Ho’oponopono from a lawyers perspective of community justice, I knew that it was so much more than simply 4 lines:
I love you
Please forgive me
Not because I knew anything about the Hawaiian Huna practice itself, but simply because I recognized that there was so much more to restoration than simply saying “sorry”! It’s much more than sending the “offender” to jail.
Restorative justice means righting the wrong that allows the crime to be committed in the first place. It addresses the question: “Why would four white men consider that it was okay, under any circumstances, to pin a man down under their knee until he stops breathing?”
True healing happens when we allow ourselves to experience what is happening in the community from every angle and clear the pain from every perspective:
the perpetrator (Can I forgive him and his companions? Do I need to forgive myself for any hatred, anger or other feelings against them?);
the victim (Can I forgive what others did to him? Do I need to forgive myself for any prejudice or feelings against him?)
the bystanders (Is there any judgment in my heart against them? Do I feel that they failed in any way?)
the family members (What forgiveness do I need to practice for the family of the victim or the perpetrators?)
others in the community, including the protestors, police, first responders, or leaders (How do I consider that they have failed?)
It’s literally saying… I understand ALL of the pain and frustration – of every person involved and forgiving for each and every one of them for whatever I hold them at fault for. It is a process and quite possibly not something you can do in a single moment.
It begs the question: why were onlookers too afraid to intervene? It asks: “How did we create officers of the law that were so lacking in empathy and awareness, that they failed to hear this man begging and be moved by any compassion?”
Where do we start?
Forgiveness always starts within.
If you’re a Christian and you are moved to pray, then I invite you to start asking to be shown within yourself everything that needs to come to the surface and be dealt with! Before you go praying for peace in Minnesota or Minneapolis, ask to be shown the plank in your own eye that should be removed!
What are the little ways that you are failing to stand up for justice in your community? Where are you unconsciously supporting “the status quo”, rather than overturning the tables of inequality?
It’s so much easier to think that there’s a problem in Minnesota than to acknowledge that there is a problem in my own heart!
Don’t righteously pray to forgive those who are rioting and angrily violent: pray to understand the underlying emotions of that anger and violence, so that it touches your heart. Pray for empathy and understanding.
Hooponopono practice is the practice of forgiveness based on the knowledge that anything that happens to you or that you perceive — the entire world where you live — is your creation. Whatever you have become aware of that exists in the world, has become your responsibility to set to right.
Everything in your life is entirely your responsibility: 100%. No exceptions.
Please don’t misunderstand what I mean. I did not say it was your fault. I said it’s your responsibility.
You are 100% responsible for:
healing yourself and breaking down the barriers within your beliefs, emotions and fears;
changing the relationship you have with any other person of another race, religion or background that you have not been able to fully understand and relate to; and
changing your perception of the world, making it possible for you to overturn the tables of injustice.
Before you try to put in order what is wrong “out there in the world”, have a deep look within and see what needs to be put right within your heart.
Ho’oponopono practise is a journey to restore inner peace and balance. It begins by changing my inner world in order to effect change in the exterior world.
Three steps PLUS gratitude
How can we heal this pain with Ho’oponopono?
I love you
Start simply reminding yourself, regularly and consistently of Divine Love – “I love you”. “I love you” just as you are today, with mistaken views and perceptions of the world, with perceptions that have not allowed you to grow and change your community, and with all the baggage that you have chosen to carry around. I love you in spite of your fears and weakness. And because I love you, “I recognise that whatever comes to me in this life is my creation.”
Can you expand the circle of “I love you” to your neighbours?
What about to your whole suburb? Or the suburb next to yours? Can you extend that “I love you” to your town or city? How comfortable are you putting a face on “I love you”? What resistance are you feeling when you say “I love you”? Acknowledge it, so that you can forgive yourself fully.
Once you recognise love and even those areas of lack of love, you can tell yourself “Sorry”. Sorry for the errors of thought, words and actions that created those memories and held onto that energy. Sorry for failing to love fully and completely. I’m sorry for not practising unconditional love.
What do you need to forgive yourself for?
What do you need to ask your neighbour forgiveness for? What are you sorry for?
Don’t just say it: allow yourself to connect with the emotions. Perhaps you feel shame as you say “I’m sorry that I looked the other way” or “I’m sorry when I laughed nervously when someone said something rude to you, because I was too weak to stand up to them for you.”
Allow yourself simply to feel what needs to be felt. What you resist, persists in your life. If you fail to acknowledge what you are feeling, you cannot forgive yourself for it.
Please forgive me
It’s not just about asking for forgiveness: the miracle happens when you give yourself permission to release the burden you’ve been carrying. Forgiveness is about letting it go.
It’s impossible to turn over a new leaf unless we are willing to allow the old leaf to fall off the tree, decompose and become dust.
Take a moment to imagine a new relationship with yourself and with your neighbour. How will your view of the world change? How will you change your interaction with them?
And then, of course, the practice of gratitude – gratitude for the freedom that this brings! Gratitude for the change in my way of thinking, speaking and acting. Thank you for the new opportunities this creates. Thank you for the changes that will start happening in my relationships and how I relate to others.
Coming together as a community
Once we have taken care of the sty in our own eyes, maybe we can come together in small community groups and begin to work on this collectively: slowly building the size of the groups that do this together, until we have rebuilt love and trust.
But if we aren’t willing to overturn the tables of the status quo – nothing will change.
I invite you to join me on this journey of discovery – where we can learn together what it means to heal the world and restore balance to hurting communities, by starting within.
In this first letter from Paul to the Corinthians, he reminds them that not only is he designated by the will of God, but rather that all of them are also called.
Leaving aside my personal bones to pick with Paul, I cannot ignore the deep learnings that are available to us from reading this passage. Each of us, even today, has a calling. These verses remind us that we are up to this task – the task of fulfilling our purpose – because the Divine enriches every aspect of our lives.
I want to explore:
What we are invited into?
Consider the tools and gifts we are each given to fulfil our life mission.
Your Divine purpose
Every tree, every blade of grass, each bird fulfils a purpose on this planet. When we take the time to simply sit and notice, we see how each living being on earth, whether plant, animal or human, fits into the bigger scheme of life.
Nonetheless, we also see a lot of confusion – internally and in society – about our purpose and callings. Many of us are merely “staying alive” and struggling to survive.
Growing up in a very evangelical church, I was brought up to believe that my purpose would be “a cross to carry”. I was terrified of discovering my purpose, hoping it would not be a calling to go to Africa as a missionary. In churches, we talk about “knowing the will of God in your life”, but most of the time it’s put on us as “you’re called into missions” or “you’re called to preach the word of God”.
But if we take a look at most of the “heroes” of the Bible, we find that they were ordinary people with ordinary jobs. They simply happened to be in the right place at the right time. And when they were asked to step into doing something “big”, their lives had already prepared them for this.
Consider Deborah, for example. While she was considered a prophet, she was busy doing her day-to-day responsibilities of being the local “judge”. I’m pretty sure that she didn’t see her job, most days, as anything out of the ordinary. Especially if you watch any episodes of traffic courts or have ever spent a couple of hours in your local magistrate’s court, you will see the everyday complaints that people bring. There was nothing remarkable about her calling — until there was.
Knowing your Divine purpose starts with recognising that we were already given the necessary gifts to fulfil our mission. Paul reminds the Corinthians of this:
“you are not ill-equipped or slighted on any necessary gifts”.
If you are unsure what your purpose and mission are, a great place to start is looking at your talents and natural gifts and abilities. You have everything you need to fulfil your purpose in life. Because a bird has wings, it flies (or if it’s a chicken, it tries to).
I doubt cherry trees complain to each other that they wish they were able to produce oranges, and yet we waste so much of our time lamenting the gifts and talents that we don’t have.
Today I want to invite you to do an inventory of your natural gifts and talents, and consider your calling and purpose in this light.
Set apart for service
Think for a moment of when you are arranging a table for dinner: you go to the cupboard, and you pick up the plates. If there are four of you for dinner, you don’t choose six plates, but only four. You set them aside for service: the ones that you need when you need them. The rest of the dishes sit in the cupboard, waiting to be shown when they will be required.
Know this: you have been set aside for service. Perhaps you feel like you are sitting in the cupboard – always on the shelf rather than in the game. I wonder if Deborah thought that she was on the shelf as she worked through listening to all the petty complaints that were brought before her.
But Paul reminds us that our purpose will be revealed.
There are two other callings, apart from our life purpose. We are called to be saints, and we are called into community.
Called to be saints
While Deborah might have been “a saint”, the first description of Deborah was that she was the wife of Lapidoth. I wonder if Lapidoth considered her to be “a saint”; probably not in the way that you and I imagine the word to mean.
So, today I invite you to rewrite your definition of what it means to be a saint!
The calling to be saints is about how we live our day-to-day lives. If I had to sum it up in one word, I would say it’s compassion:
Love for the Divine, with a constant connection that we are overflowing with love and compassion
Love for our neighbour as ourself
Compassion allows us to be kind and patient. It will enable us to live with love in our lives, as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:
not envious, proud or boastful
not self-seeking or dishonouring others
it keeps no record of wrongs and is not easily angered
We are all called to live in this place of being fulling aligned with Divine Love. What is your personal definition of what it means to live as a saint? Make it realistic for you, rather than something so out of reach that you could not aspire to live each day in sainthood!
Called into community
You are also called into community: that we cannot live in isolation. Take a moment and consider what your community looks like:
hobbies and activities that you participate in
volunteering & community activities
your neighbourhood where you live
your spiritual community
What does your community look like?
God is enriching every aspect of your life
You are promised that nothing is lacking because you have all the gifts that you need. Paul describes this as
God is enriching every aspect of your lives.
He then goes on to explain what he means by this.
You are enriched in speech
This means, when you are in touch with the Divine and that deep inner knowing, you will have the right words to say. Enriched in speech is knowing what to say and when to say nothing.
Most of us want to think about what to say. We make up scenarios and speeches in our head, failing to listen to the still small voice of Spirit.
Consider silence and just going within to listen, confident that you are enriched in speech.
You are enriched in knowledge
Everything you need to know, you will know. Can you trust this?
My first “real job” at sixteen was working as a cashier at McDonald’s: “Would you like fries with that?”. Later in life, I have come to cherish what I learned from “would you like fries with that?” – because it is a lesson in upselling. McDonald’s sells millions of fries every year because of this simple phrase. The client is already there, and they have their wallet in their hand, ready to buy something. The cashier doesn’t know what the client wants, and often the result of the question is “no, but I will have…”. While they didn’t sell the fries, they got an additional sale from the client.
This mundane, everyday job taught me a skill that has served me well over the past thirty years. Am I always open to adding more value to someone else’s life?
You, too, are enriched with knowledge. You have life experiences, abilities and life lessons that you possibly haven’t tapped into. You might not be aware of everything you know.
But trust that you know everything that you need to know when you need it. You are enriched with knowledge.
Enriched with God’s grace, peace & faithfulness
Today I want to remind you that you are enriched with grace, peace and faithfulness. I don’t mean that you show others mercy, but instead that you accept grace, be open to a peace that transcends your understanding, and that you experience Divine faithfulness towards you.
“Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.”(John Stott)
It is said that the grace of God is the opposite of karma – it’s receiving the good that you do not deserve because you are a child of God. You are loved and cherished. In my life, I can see where I have blocked grace, continuing to believe that I deserve punishment and the consequences of my decisions and actions. Nonetheless, we are enriched with grace. Are you willing to accept more grace?
We are also enriched with peace: that peace that while we are waiting, we will be sustained emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. It’s the peace that we hold within us, even in the middle of the storm. This inner peace does not depend on what is happening in our environment. While we are aware of the situation and in touch with it – we are present – but we also connect with the Divine. It is that Divine that allows us to say
I am not overcome by the storm, because I am one with the storm.
Sometimes storms clear our path. Can you recognise this inner peace which sustains you while you wait?
Finally, the Divine is faithful, constant and true. When I say we are enriched with faithfulness, I am not referring to your faith in God, but rather how the Divine relates to you! It doesn’t matter how small your faith is, but rather that we know that Divine Love is faithful. We can trust that all things are working for our good and that we are enriched with all good things.
Our response to this is one of gratitude and thanksgiving.
If you are struggling to discover your purpose, consider a daily practice of gratitude, where you each day you focus your attention and thanksgiving on your talents, gifts, strengths and abilities. Start to notice the patterns and what you genuinely enjoy. Be grateful for the desires of your heart and the wisdom and insight that you gain from being present.
Take note of the times when you receive grace: when in spite of the natural consequences of your choices and decisions, you get a second chance! Practice thanksgiving for all those opportunities.
Start to notice when you are filled with peace, in spite of the situations and challenges you are facing. Be grateful for those moments.
Notice the presence of the Divine in your life in each moment of the day. Sit in silence and be thankful.
Before you start any journey, it’s key to know where you are. It would be hard to travel from London to Paris, if you didn’t know that you were in London! You might head west, instead of east – and then where would you end up?
How many times do we run ourselves into the ground with compassion fatigue – burning ourselves out because we are always putting others first? While we were put on this earth to serve others, we also need to establish healthy boundaries in our lives, ones that allow us to love and show compassion to “me” as well as to other human becomings.
I recently discovered some of the works and thoughts of the Russian writer, novelist and philosopher Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He was an Orthodox Christian with a deep faith, a faith which had “a strong emphasis on giving Christian love a social application”. But what I really have treasured have been two quotes that I have found in his writings.