I recently had the chance to sit down with a long-time friend who has been going through a lot in the past year.
His question to me was, “if I am to believe I am the Creator of everything in my life, then it seems like I’ve been F-ing up pretty badly.”
I looked directly at him. “Well, you could go with that line of reasoning, yes.” I paused.
“Or, what if you were to pose the question this way?
What can I learn about the patterns I’m seeing and creating that can help me transition to a higher, better and more conscious place in my life?”
He smiled at me weakly and laughed. “Okay,” he said, “what would that process look like, exactly? I mean, I have to be honest. Looking at some of the choices I’ve made and the things I’ve done, I’m kinda feeling guilty as hell.”
I looked at him, feeling both a deep sense of understanding and compassion.
“So, then it’s not inquiry you need to begin with,” I said gently. “It’s forgiveness.”
My friend looked at me long and hard. Finally, he replied, “I guess I just don’t know how to do that.”
The Buddhist tradition has a great story about two arrows. The first arrow is PAIN. Being hit with this arrow in life is inevitable. We will all experience it multiple times, and if it doesn’t kill us, we will gain something from it that allows us to learn and grow.
The second arrow is SUFFERING. Unlike the first arrow, this one is a choice. When we choose the arrow of Suffering, we are deciding to take this second arrow and jab it, usually again & again, into the wound originally caused by the first – the Pain arrow.
Often, when a client is going through something, I will ask if (s)he is in pain or if (s)he is suffering. Nine times out of ten, when I unpack the concept for the person, the realization is that it is suffering that is being chosen.
What I know for sure is that what we focus on becomes our reality and informs everything that we think, feel and experience. If we focus on what we have done wrong and what a P.O.S. we are for it, that’s all we will see. We will miss out on the opportunities to learn from the story and grow.
All around us these days, we see institutionalized teachings, beliefs and mandates being challenged. This is good. We need to learn to think and decide for ourselves, based on who and where we are NOW in our lives. Not based on interpretations that were relevant, in some cases, thousands of years ago, but now are out-molded and do not apply to not only who and what we are as individuals, but who and what we are as a collective culture, at this present time.
When we are constantly comparing ourselves to who others have told us we should be, we cannot learn and experience who we truly are.
Stepping back from what we’ve done “wrong” and, instead, choosing to view it as a possible misstep necessary for our growth, deeper awareness, and the ability to do things better in the future, gives us the room to practice something I find often missing from many things in our culture … HONOR.
If we need two things to grow – support and challenge, then each is a necessary developmental construct. We can, therefore, honor that each plays a key role in growth.
Missteps create challenge. None of us is perfect. Yes, we get to look at these missteps, be accountable and responsible, and learn from them – by all means! But, we also get to learn NOT to live there – in the muck and the f-up.
The more intentional & conscious that we become, the less we need to rely on missteps to learn. But, along the path of self evolution, they certainly play a role in building the awareness we need.
So, why beat up on ourselves incessantly? It’s wasted energy and keeps us trapped in lower vibrational self loathing, decreased self esteem, and leads to depressive states and an insecure approach to life.
This coincides with Brené Brown’s research on Shame. If you aren’t familiar with it or need a refresher, I highly recommend diving in!
A number of years ago, I learned about the ancient Hawaiian art of letting go called Ho’oponopono from a good friend of mine who was teaching a workshop on it. The practice allows those applying it to release the burdens of what they are carrying and keep the lessons.
It’s simple and is made up of four, short steps. As you hold the thing to be released in your consciousness, you recite (out loud or internally) and repeat: “I love you.” “I’m sorry.” “Please, forgive me.” “Thank you.”
As easy and simplistic as it sounds, it’s powerful. For more on this, I suggest reading (or listening to) the book Zero Limits by Joe Vitale.
The book I ended up giving to my friend to read is Self Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up & Leave Insecurity Behind by Dr. Kristin Neff.
In the book, Neff discusses the three elements that make up the practice of self compassion (the precursor to self forgiveness). They are Self Kindness, Humanity & Mindfulness (Awareness).
Learning how to practice self compassion and forgiveness makes room for us to be generous with and to ourselves. This is something we all truly need, as it is imperative for any type of real healing, deep learning and sustainable growth to take place.