The other day, the priest at my church said something that caught my attention. He spoke about becoming what he called an “Ambassador of Reconciliation.”
“Are there individuals you have chosen to walk away from?” he asked. “Are there individuals you have chosen not to walk toward?”
If so, he said, then perhaps you should see yourself as an Ambassador of Reconciliation: a person who can bring reconciliation to a person or a situation that needs healing.
This got me thinking. Where can I bring healing to my life? Where can I be an Ambassador of Reconciliation? Who have I walked away from? Who have I not walked toward?
I am a big believer that we all need healing. I believe we are all walking around wounded, and that those wounds play out in all of our relationships.
Whether we care to admit it or not, sometimes we don’t even know why we are so angry, why we are so hurt, or why we have such a strong reaction to a certain person or situation in our lives.
So, how do you put the past behind you?
Here are four tips I’d like to share with you today to help you heal your old wounds and move on to a better and brighter future.
Whether it’s forgiving yourself for a mistake that you made or forgiving someone who you believe harmed you, forgiveness is one of the best possible things you can do to heal yourself from the past.
You may have heard the saying, “Holding onto anger and resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” It’s true. When you continue to be angry and bitter about something that has happened in the past, the only person you end up hurting is yourself.
How can five letters hold such power?
I WANT has the immense and immediate ability to rip you away from the grace and power of the present moment while disconnecting you from the joy, passion, and peace that is your birthright.
In short, these two tiny words equal suffering. Let me show you how.
I wanted to be happy. I wanted to be smart. I wanted to be successful. I wanted financial independence. I wanted to have kids. Lots of them. And I wanted to be loved (for a while I thought by George Clooney!?!) Oh, and I also wanted to have long, thin, beautiful legs. Seriously, Gisele Bundchen legs!
I wanted it all, with all of passion and conviction I could muster.
But my wants remained loftily stubborn. Out of reach. In fact, for the majority of my life, the absence of checkmarks on my ‘want list’ (and my bitchier days, my ‘deserve list’) made me firmly believe that life was against me.
I was a classic victim, sure that I had an oversized bullseye on my back. My life, I felt, was downright unfair, so I took every opportunity to remind the universe of this fact.
All because my wants weren’t showing up.
Ram Dass was one of the first teachers I resonated with when I stepped onto the spiritual path. He is a revered master of bhakti, or devotional yoga. I came across his classic Be Here Now at Russell Library in Middletown, Connecticut, while browsing the religion/spirituality section. My account was in good standing (an unusual state for me at Russell Library, since I was always overdue on something or other), so I took Be Here Now home. Since that day, I’ve considered Ram Dass an inadvertent punk-rock spiritual guide.
For those unfamiliar with Be Here Now, it’s a divine cookbook, divided into three parts. The first covers ex-Harvard professor Richard Alpert’s 1967 voyage to India, where, through a series of incredible events, he met Bhagavan Das, a fellow seeker who introduced him to his guru, Neem Karoli Baba leading Alpert to become Ram Dass. The third section is a series of practices from meditation to yoga (and much more) to help readers as they begin their spiritual adventures.
When I was just beginning to get interested in spirituality and meditation, I stumbled upon Buddhist teacher Tara Brach at my local library. I checked out her book Radical Acceptance during a time when the only thing I was willing to radically accept was deep self-loathing and an overall feeling of discontent with the world. Thanks to Tara’s insights, I began to awaken from what she calls the “trance of unworthiness.” She explained it to me like this:
“We might know we judge ourselves, but we don’t often get how much that squeeze of ‘something’s wrong with me’ is a part of everything, so that in every interaction on some level, we’re not free to be as spontaneous or playful or alive, because we’re afraid we’re not going to be the person who’s accepted by another. Even when it’s not the deep ‘I’m damaged goods,’ there’s still a sense of not enough.”
I’ve been thinking so much lately about what can bring us together and what can bridge our deep divide. All kinds of ideas have come to mind.
Some are so very basic, like “vote! vote! vote!” It’s a gift and it’s our civic duty, so let’s exercise that right on November 6 (which just happens to be my birthday).
I’ve also thought about the importance of seeking out our neighbors. It’s such a simple idea, and yet, it’s an important step in building community, connection and common ground.
So are Sunday dinners. I’ve talked about the power of them before and it’s an idea that I’m really hoping will catch on. Invite people from all different walks of life — people from different races, people who hold different political views, people who have different life experiences than yours. After all, if we want to bring people together, then starting in our own homes is a powerful place to start.
Every evening for many years, I continue with this little ritual that I’d like to share. Although it’s quite simple, I find it’s really powerful to have an intended thought powered by light. The simple act of lighting a candle every night for me reminds me that all thought has power, and keeping a candle lit safely for a while helps me to send and keep positive thoughts on a desired intention.
Candles have been used since the dawn of time for meditations, blessings, spiritual and religious ceremonies, healings, prayers, celebrations, abundance, psychic development, to feel comforted and protected, to hold the memory of a loved one, and yes … even romance! The uses are endless.
Many people choose candles by scent, some choose by color, while others are simply fine with a plain candle, or even a tea light in a votive purchased from a dollar store. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. No matter what you choose, it’s the positive use of the candle that makes it special.
Every day people use candles in a positive way without even knowing it. Ask yourself: “How many times have you blown out a candle on a birthday cake?” What you’re actually doing is that when you close your eyes to make a wish (holding that special thought) and then blowing out the candle, is that you’re actually sending off the wish while bringing your desires to light.
Man is this a tough one for some of us. It sure was for me.
Blame was my go to. It was my only recourse many times. “It’s not my fault or don’t blame me” were common responses when I was in “trouble” both as a child and even as an adult. I found a senses of freedom in blaming someone else… for my bad day or bad mood, my ruined event or experience… It was “easier” to blame someone for the seemingly bad things in my life…
Market studies show that the personal development/self-improvement industry is growing at a rapid pace. More and more people are spending more and more money to help them lose weight, improve relationships, manage stress, attain success, increase productivity, achieve balance, and find fulfillment.
Yet despite the increase of people investing in self-help tools, techniques, technologies, teachers, and coaches, daily I hear from people who are stuck. They feel helpless, resigned, and frustrated after months or years of:
Most people get depressed at times, and many suffer greatly from bouts of major depression. At the heart of the suffering is the experience of severed belonging—of being imprisoned in the pain of separation, unworthiness, unlovability and hopelessness. These two talks explore several meditation practices that reconnect us with our natural aliveness, open heartedness and awareness. They empower us to develop our inner resources, energize us to awaken, free us from rumination and remind us that we are not our depressive thoughts and feelings. The growing realization of the loving awareness that is our home heals the very roots of depression.
Have you ever severed a relationship, but even though the person was no longer in your life, you still continued the relationship in your head? Consider that the very act of keeping it alive even if only in your mind means you are still in it. Perhaps that happens when you feel a relationship is unrequited, and you’re not letting go, or you’re nursing a resentment because you won’t, or lack the self-awareness to see your part in the dynamic.
This is not about self-blame at all. It’s about self-accountability and freedom.
Well, one thing you do, is you acknowledge that you feel ‘closed.’ That’s the first thing. You don’t make believe you’re open hearted, which most people do much of the time. They’re making believe they are open-hearted, while they’re aloof a little more than they’re feeling themselves to be. They always end up feeling a little hypocritical.
First thing is to acknowledge what you’re feeling: “My heart is closed.”
I’ll tell you there are numerous practices for this, and you have to find one that’s comfortable for you. For example, I work a lot with my breath, and I breathe in and out of my heart, and when I’m breathing out in my heart, I allowed whatever love I can muster for anything to be offered to people, to beings around me, and when I’m breathing in, I’m taking the existence of the universe into myself, and I keep feeling this breath going back and forth, and the breathing out is, “May all beings be free of suffering, may all beings be peaceful, may all beings be happy,” and I say:
“Hard-hearted though I am, and closed hearted though I am, I am going to use my energies to the extent that my mind and my heart can do it for the benefit of others. I’m gonna wish them well.”
I first learned about Dr. Gabor Maté through his groundbreaking book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, which explores his work with addicted individuals living on Vancouver’s skid row, as well as being an exceptionally comprehensive delineation of just what the hell addiction is, its causes, its effects, and so, so, so much more. Aside from that, Dr. Maté is a renowned speaker and bestselling author, highly sought after for his expertise on a range of topics, including addiction, stress, and childhood development.
I’d heard that Gabor believes addiction is not the problem but rather a person’s attempt to solve a problem in his or her life. I reached out to him because I wondered, among other things, how he would define addiction and what his perspective was on people using addiction to solve their life problems.
I can’t breathe. F#$k. F#$k. F#$k. I can’t breathe! My eyes pop open as a full-body panic attack sets in. Through my haze, I see my hands strapped to the bed. Oh, f#$k. Not again. I’m gasping for air.
There are tubes coming out of my mouth. This is new. I raise my head and realize I’m in a hospital. But where? How did I get here? What the f#$k happened? That’s when I see my parents sitting in chairs at the end of my bed, near a window. The heartbreak and despair in their eyes are unmistakable. A nurse stands nearby. She’s telling me to calm down and let the tubes do the breathing for me, but I’m too panicked. I begin thrashing in the bed, trying to break the woven nylon straps that are keeping me from ripping the tubes out of my mouth. Later I’ll find out this is the reason I was restrained in the first place.
Because I have lived so much of my life caught in a cycle of addiction, recovery, relapse, repeat, a quote from Zen master Ikkyū Sojun—Sometimes all I am is a dark emptiness—sums up and shades much of my experience. I’m no stranger to relapsing and the pain, shame, guilt, confusion, and heartbreak that come along with it. Nor am I a stranger to detoxes, rehabs, emergency rooms, jail cells, and psych hospitals. What is strange for me is that after my last relapse, I began to care about relapsing. In the past, when I found myself in a place where I was willing to pick up a bottle of vodka or succumb to depression, I didn’t give a damn about the consequences. Fights, handcuffs, lies, withdrawals, self-cutting, hospitals, vomiting, and pissing blood—none of it mattered. I meant nothing to me.
I know, I know. I know what happened yesterday. An American woman joined the royal family. Yippee!
I actually got up to watch Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s wedding. Yes, I did. I watched it because I’m a romantic at heart. I just love love stories, and theirs is an especially good one because it’s about more than just two people in love. It’s also about acceptance, race, second chances, overcoming differences, old rules and new traditions. That’s what love can do for you. It can let you see the world again with a fresh set of eyes. When two people take a stand for love, other people can see the world differently through their example.
Meghan Markle’s story is quite the American story. She is a child of mixed race who grew up in California. Now, she is the Duchess of Sussex and a woman recognized around the world. Markle has a huge opportunity in front of her to rewrite the definition of a royal for young women everywhere. My hope is that she continues to use her voice for causes she believes in and that she uses her American grit and strength to overcome whatever balls get thrown her way (because there will be many).
When it comes to healing, our notion of time can behave very strangely. It might speed up or it might be infinitely slow, like molasses. When we are eager for a loved one to get better, as I am now, it can seem like forever. The body heals at the rate that it heals. I remember Rachel Naomi Remen saying disease is a weird thing; it reveals itself when it’s ready to reveal itself. It can be frustrating when all sorts of symptoms appear, but no prognosis is certain. You are left wondering...where am I?
Rachel Naomi Remen, one of the pioneers of the mind-body health movement and relationship-centered care, is my inspiration for how to think about these unfathomable mysteries. How many of you have read (and reread) her book Kitchen Table Wisdom? I read it when it first came out and I was in culinary school. My copy is a dog-eared treasure on my shelf.
What’s the spark and what’s the fuel?
Positive emotions—such as feelings of gratitude, love, and confidence—strengthen the immune system, protect the heart against loss and trauma, build relationships, increase resilience, and promote success. Based on studies that have already been done, if a drug company could patent a happiness pill, we’d be seeing ads for it every night on TV.
Technically, emotions can be organized along two dimensions: intensity (how strong they are) and hedonic valence (how good they feel). Tranquility, for example, has low intensity but can feel really really good, a profound inner peace.
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