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Forgiveness

Forgiveness, Guest Posts

The Good News. By Erica Garza.

March 19, 2014

The Good News by Erica Garza

Please, I beg of you: Share the good news. Not “The Good News” they talk about in churches and cathedrals. Not “The Good News” of glossy magazine covers, detailing which celebrity lost the most baby weight this week. Not “The Good News” of the six o’clock time slot, announcing which blockbuster banked at the box office.

The better news.

Like how you’ve finally forgiven him for letting you down all those years ago. You realize now that he was scared then and battling demons that had nothing to do with you. Share how this forgiveness has bred more love between the two of you. How it has freed your heart and mind in ways that make you feel afloat in a cloudless new sky.

Share how you’ve finally stopped blaming your mother for having not done everything perfectly. For having not masked her weakness in those rare moments you were subjected to her humanity. Oh, how that scared you. And, oh, how your heart wells in compassion for her now.

Share how you managed to arrive at that delicious new plane of acceptance for the dimples in your thighs, the soft flesh of your belly and the tiny lines that have emerged from the delicate skin around your mouth. These were born out of time—hours spent nourishing the body, offering the world laughter, speaking, living.

Share the good deed you did today. Or yesterday. Please entertain the possibility that there was at least one. You participated in history, whether or not you have assigned significance to any of the precise words you selected or any of the ideas you, alone, birthed. Perhaps you smiled at someone. Perhaps you thanked someone. Perhaps you loved someone.

Share the good deeds you will do tomorrow. Even if living is all you do, try, I beg of you, to see it as good. Living is a remarkable gift, and if it is willed by the universe that you should have another day of it, know that all the things you do or choose not to do, are deeds of utter sacredness. See the sanctity in filling your lungs with breath, in savoring the sun for as long as it burns bright above you, in existing at this singular moment that is your life and yours alone.

*Originally published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com

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Erica Garza is a staff writer at the feminist magazine Luna Luna. Her essays have been published by HelloGiggles, Hot Metal Bridge, Airplane Reading and C.L.A.P. She holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Columbia University and is now finishing her first book, a memoir about obsession called Hairywoman. Born in Los Angeles, Erica has spent most of her adult life traveling. Read her essays at www.ericagarza.com.

 

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Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane and the founder of The Manifest-Station.  She’s leading a Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and a weekend retreat in May to Ojai, Calif as well as 4 day retreat over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing for all levels. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up is Dallas followed by Seattle and London.  

 

Forgiveness, Guest Posts, healing

5 Lessons from My Father’s Death.

February 10, 2014

5 Lessons from My Father’s Death

By Bethany Butzer.

When my stepfather Paul was twenty-two years old, he was shot in the face with a 12 gauge shotgun by his friend who was trying to kill him. He survived, but his injuries left him completely blind. After being shot, Paul got into AA and started to turn his life around. Over the next twenty-five years, he sponsored many people who struggled with addiction and gave talks at local community centers and jails in an effort to help people improve their lives.

Later in his life, Paul started to suffer from chronic pain in his feet, due to nerve damage caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency. His doctor prescribed Oxycontin—a powerful and highly addictive painkiller. Paul quickly became addicted to the medication, and over the next two years, he slowly wasted away before my eyes. He rarely got out of bed, seldom ate, and even stopped joining my family on Christmas morning.

Eventually, my mom left him. She refused to enable his destructive and addictive behavior.

Two months later, on October 25, 2007, Paul let out his final breath. He died alone on his bedroom floor. He was only fifty-five years old. And he was the only father I’d ever known.

Paul taught me five important lessons about life.

I work with these lessons every day, and I hope you will, too.

 Be Grateful

Growing up with someone who couldn’t see helped me appreciate the things we often take for granted, like our senses. Paul often had to ask me if his socks matched. He couldn’t pull a can out of the cupboard and know what it was. He couldn’t drive a car. He couldn’t take in a sunset. He once brushed his teeth with A535 (a cream for arthritis/joint pain) and ate a spoonful of dry cat food because he thought it was cereal. (We laughed about this at the time, but I think I’ve made my point!)

He never knew what I looked like. Instead of seeing with his eyes, Paul saw with his heart.

Be thankful for your ability to see. Not everyone is so lucky.

 Stay Strong

After being shot in the face and blinded, many people would give up. They would turn to a victim mentality, with “why me” playing continuously in their head. And while I’m sure that Paul experienced these thoughts at times, he was a striking example of how the human spirit can rise up and triumph over adversity.

Instead of playing the victim, Paul took his experience as a sign that he needed to turn his life around. He got sober and started inspiring others to do the same. He learned how to play the drums and joined a band. He got into weight lifting and worked out every day.

When tragedy strikes, pay attention to what the universe is trying to teach you.

 The Power of Forgiveness

One of the main tenets of AA is forgiveness. This meant that Paul needed to forgive the man who shot him. How on earth could you forgive someone who blinded you for life? I’m not quite sure how, but Paul did it.

One day, Paul was at a gas station with a friend who told him that the man who had shot him was at one of the other pumps. Paul asked to be led over to the man. He then hugged him and told him that he forgave him for what he’d done.

Paul taught me that holding onto anger and resentment doesn’t do anyone any good. These emotions eat you up inside and weigh on your shoulders. Forgiveness isn’t about the other person—it’s a gift that you give to yourself.

Who do you need to forgive?

Say What Needs to Be Said

Before Paul died, I had an opportunity to drop by his house to confront him about his addictive behavior. I was scared, so I drove by and reassured myself that I would talk to him the next time I visited my hometown. Instead, I decided to write him a letter, tape myself reading it, and mail him the tape.

He died two weeks later.

My letter didn’t arrive on time. I missed my chance.

From this experience, I learned the importance of telling people what we need to tell them. Don’t shy away from a confrontation because you feel awkward or uncomfortable. You never know when you might lose your opportunity.

 No One Is Perfect

Ultimately, Paul taught me that we all have our scars. We carry around personal demons that we struggle with from time to time. And that’s ok. We can’t expect ourselves, or anyone else for that matter, to be perfect.

Paul was a complex man. His heart was the same size as his temper—huge. He was rough, soft, kind, cruel, wise, and naive all at the same time.

I have fond memories of his kind side. The times we went for walks together and skated on ponds. The times he made me soup when I was sick. I’ll always remember how he loved to blare Bruce Springsteen and the tone in his voice when he would say to me, “You can do it, Grasshopper!”

Paul had his faults, and, like all of us, his faults were part of the package. His imperfections made him who he was. If he hadn’t been through what he’d been through, he never would have been able to motivate others to change their lives.

Realize that you are perfect exactly as you are, even with your imperfections.

I hope you take these five lessons and apply them to your life. That way, even though Paul isn’t around anymore, he can continue to inspire others.

As Helen Keller so aptly put it:

“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.”

I’d like to leave you with a two-minute YouTube video that I made in honor of Paul. Another remarkable thing that Paul did was create and maintain a garden, complete with beautiful ponds, in our backyard. I remember him pulling weeds at 11:00 p.m. because, for him, it didn’t matter whether it was sunny or dark outside!

You’ll see Paul’s amazing garden in the video below:


Bethany Butzer, Ph.D.
Author ● Speaker ● Researcher ● Yoga Teacher
Are You Ready To Create A Life You Love?
www.bethanybutzer.com

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Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer based in Los Angeles. She is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen will be leading a Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and her annual retreat to Tuscany is in July 2014. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. A lot. Next up is a workshop in London, England on Feb 15th. Book here.

Forgiveness, Guest Posts, healing

The Only Marriage Advice I Will Ever Give.

November 14, 2013

The Only Marriage Advice I Will Ever Give

By Julie Tijerina

Poster by Simplereminders.com

Poster by Simplereminders.com

When I was 13 years old, my father nearly punched me in the face.

He and my uncle were playing cards with my mother and aunt upstairs in the game room.  A green vinyl-topped card table had been erected to accommodate the game at the end of the pool table that filled the whole rest of the room.  Everyone was around the table, the adults, me and my kid sister because that room was the only one in the house with air conditioning.  I don’t really remember, but I’m sure it was a Fourth of July weekend, because that’s when my extended family would come down from Kansas to drink and blow up fireworks in the heat of the Texas summer.  We lived out in the country, so we weren’t breaking any laws to light fireworks and it became an annual stay-cation to invite the family and make a long weekend of the holiday.

The window unit circulated the cigarette smoke around the room.  It was smokier than any bar I’d ever visit as an adult. I lifted myself up to leave.  My drunken father pushed me back in my chair, laughing Jack and Coke in my face.  Again, I made a move to get up. Again, pushed back in my seat.  The third time, I expected the hand at my chest, so as he went to push me back into my chair, I swung hard at his forearm, knocking his arm back toward him and darted out the door, slamming it behind me.  I knew he was right behind me, so I ran as quickly as I could down the stairs, but he caught me as I was clearing the last piece of furniture in the living room, the sofa.

My dad’s left hand had me by the front of the shirt, his right raised with a closed fist. He had me backed over the arm of the sofa and I couldn’t have been any more trapped.  I turned my head as far to the right as I could, squeezing my eyes shut against what I knew was coming. My face would have been shattered if my mother hadn’t been hot on his heels down the stairs and was hanging onto his raised bicep with all of her body weight.

I was suddenly released. With a glare from my mother to each of us, she ordered him back upstairs and said to me with a finger pointing, “go to your room.”  Jesus Christ, you don’t have to tell me twice.

I didn’t forgive him for twenty five years.

Just before midnight on August 2, 2011, I found myself drunk on several glasses of wine in my best friends’ living room, having just finished a movie when a commercial came on that started a fight.  I’d relay the whole story, but it would make me sound like I was somehow justifying my behavior, which is totally impossible, so I’ll just paint you a picture instead: imagine a little blonde, drunk bitch, with her chest puffed out, screaming (yes, literally screaming) obscenities and insults at the people she eats dinner with 2 nights a week, traveled all over North America with and shared hotel rooms with, was at the time dreaming of moving to Florida with. In THEIR living room. I was so livid, my mouth was moving faster than my brain and I stormed out, taking the car, leaving my shell-shocked husband there to the deal with the group confusion.

My friends brought him home, where another fight ensued and I began to pack my clothes. My husband of 18 years helpfully handed me a box.

At one in the morning, I drove myself to my parents’ place, an hour away. (Yes, still drunk.)  I slept in my car until five in the morning when I heard my dad coughing on his back patio.  I guess that’s what old ex-smokers do.  They cough out of habit more than anything.

So, I knocked on the front door.  Since it was pre-dawn, I was greeted at the door by a flood light and a shotgun.  (No, I’m not kidding. This is Texas, after all.)  In hindsight, maybe I should have texted my parents to let them know I was there before I knocked on the door.

I stayed the day.  By the time I really sobered up and rested, I was so mortified by my behavior, I didn’t want to go home. I was invited home by my husband.  We had a long talk, as you can imagine.  And, when we were done, he arranged for me to make a 30-minute mea culpa to our friends. My memories of the day that my dad drunkenly attacked me came flooding back.  I had been in their place.  I knew exactly how they felt. I knew that I had dehumanized them, humiliated them, confused them, betrayed them, even. I also knew I didn’t deserve forgiveness because up to that point, I had been unable to forgive.  I knew I had destroyed something precious, something that was sweet and fun and brought us all joy.

The next day, I was so wracked with guilt and sadness that I did the long, big, ugly cry.  My poor husband was trying to be as supportive as he could without actually absolving me.  He knew too that I didn’t deserve redemption.  I had injured him as well, because our friendship now hung in the balance, and his life would be forever changed without these beloved friends.  But, like he always had, he stayed the course, working as an intermediary.  Trying to get us all to eat meals together and return to our normal activity level again. Since he and my girlfriend carpooled to work, I’m sure that many a conversation was had about what to do with me.  (He never shared them with me, for the record.)

I swore off booze for a time and kept my shoes on whenever I was in their home. I was determined not to make myself too comfortable in that space again, so I continually reminded myself I was a guest.  After five years of friendship, that thought tore at my heart.  It was ultimately my husband’s clearheaded words that struck a chord in the soul of my friend and healed her wound on my behalf.  (All the contrition in the world can’t make someone else forgive you.  It is their choice and their choice alone.)

At that point, my dad had actually been sober for 20 years – 20 YEARS! and had worked so hard to put his family back together. After 25 years reliving his alcoholism and trapping myself in my own head with emotional worthlessness, I was finally able to release that outdated version of him.  I never understood the angry outbursts before. I always felt victimized before.  Now I desperately wanted and needed that exact same forgiveness that I had been unwilling or unable to grant. Where it took me 25 years to forgive my father, it took her a mere year to forgive me and I’m grateful every day.

The “after-school special” part of this story, obviously is that we are all free.  After a year of (understandable) emotional distance, my girlfriend invited me to a pedicure, and I knew I had been forgiven.  But, because she chose to let go, she no longer has to relive the pain I inflicted. We don’t discuss it, or try to explain it. I released my father too and I no longer have to relive the pain he inflicted. When those memories find their way into my mind, they are easily dismissed as the vapor they are.

Our friendship and my family is (through changed behavior) whole. My husband and I bought a house behind our friends and we’ve all managed to get back to normal. We have since traveled together, shared hotel rooms together again and eaten many, many meals together. I still watch my alcohol intake when we are together in either of our homes. But, on the rare occasion I’ve had too much at a party, my “second husband” is willing to pretend to dance with me while he’s really supporting me on the dance floor.

You know when you go to a wedding, the little cards at your place setting that ask you for your marriage advice?  The only thing I write is, “forgive.”

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Julie Tijerina is on a quest to learn about herself, the world and to observe other people with curiosity rather than judgment. Her home is in Dallas, but her soul is always at the ocean; her current job is in a cubicle, but her life’s work is writing. She’s a SciFi geek, a yogi, a former therapy patient, a lover of dark haired men and honest women. She was catapulted out of depression by Learned Optimism and may have just learned the secret of happiness by identifying her Core Desired Feelings. She believes all the hard stuff takes at least a year, so ease up on yourself, love.

Forgiveness, Guest Posts

Forgiveness Leads to Perfection.

May 13, 2013

Forgiveness leads to Perfection by R. Byron Hord

The first question anyone asks when they have gone through a “bad” experience (and please note that I use the term bad loosely, in the realm of the Divine, there are no “bad” experiences) as humans we go to the place of Why? Is it me? Am I getting punished? Why did the man upstairs decide to do this to me? I pray. I give back. I love people? I thought these were my friends? I thought she loved me?

I-Ching teaches all man that the only thing that is constant is change.

As we grow stronger in faith, grow stronger in our convictions, closer to the Source, things change in Divine Order. Sometimes this change could be sudden, other times this change is gradual. But the reality is that change is coming.

The test in life is whether or not we are truly able and/or ready to handle it.

Within our hearts we know what is right in our life and what is wrong.

You have a job that you hate and you are wishing it to be over.

You have a car that has been giving you problems for years and you are wishing it would disappear.

You are in a relationship that you know is not right for you.

You brood over these facts for days, weeks, months, years, and then… BAM!!! It happens suddenly.

Your boss that you’ve detested for years tells you that you are let go for no reason.

Your car gets totaled in a freak accident.

Your significant other leaves their Gmail open and you stumble on lustful emails to another person. You’re angry and immediately break up with them.

Now… how do we react in these situations?

Most of the time we enter into a mode of self-pity. We curse the situation. We curse the universe. We curse ourselves.

Instead we should be thankful and forgive.

Extractions from our lives are often blessings in disguise. The removal of waste is a part of our livelihood. It is part of what keeps us healthy.

Imagine if your body never dispelled waste. You would be poisoned every second of your life. Disease would engulf your body and you would inevitably perish.

So if that is the case of bodily waste, wouldn’t the same be true with spiritual “waste”? Wouldn’t our souls begin to deteriorate with the existence of a spiritual poison in our lives, in whatever form it manifested itself?

Many times we get comfortable with the pain, even as we continually ask for release from it.

We don’t even realize it, until that pain is gone… then we miss the poison that at some point began to pacify us.

We miss the fix.

As we gain closeness to the Divine, and our prayers become answered with higher frequency, we cannot dictate the what, when, where and how they will be answered.

We just have to embrace the answers however they come.

And when the pain and sadness is experienced after those poisons are finally extracted from your life, don’t curse it. Forgive and wish for the best for everyone and everything.

Then continue on your path to spiritual perfection.

Thanks to the beloved Bryant Mcgill and Simplereminders for the quote poster. Click photo to connect with Simplereminders.

Thanks to the beloved Bryant Mcgill and Simplereminders for the quote poster. Click photo to connect with Simplereminders.

R. Byron Hord is a Los Angeles based writer working in the industry for 10 plus years and is now owner of Uneq Interactive, whose mission is to Empower youth through interactivity.

If you’d like to connect with Byron please leave a note/comment below as he will respond. His website is being reconstructed.

Contests & Giveaways, Forgiveness, Guest Posts

Forgiveness by Janet Raftis.

February 12, 2013

I had no idea the response for the Forgiveness blog contest would be so overwhelmingly large. There were so many great ones ( I got over 100) that I will publish one every day this week. I love you guys. 

This essay is by Janet Raftis, an inspiring life coach living in Atlanta. Janet has taken a few of my workshops in Georgia at Hazard County Yoga and she is fantastic. Please get to know her. Offer her a comment at the end or connect with her on Facebook. Also, here is a link to her own blog which I suggest you check out.

Click to connect with Janet

Click to connect with Janet

Forgiveness by Janet Raftis.

I spent years punishing myself. I punished myself for things that others had done to me and for things that I had done to others. I did it by systematically beating myself down, abusing my body and numbing myself out. I punished myself for not being good enough, and sometimes I did it for being too good. No matter what I did, or how I acted, it was never right.

I don’t even remember what it was that constituted the first betrayal, but once the ball was set in motion, it snowballed. I found ways to hurt myself and I found ways to hurt others. The punishment increased. I smoked, I drank heavily, I took drugs. I neglected to eat properly, and I gave up athletics. I took to drinking a ridiculous amount of coffee to bring me back up during the day, and the cycle of emotional binging and purging continued.

The self-hatred was carefully disguised, and I never would have believed that I was intentionally harming myself. I admitted to being a little insecure, because that was acceptable. At some point, I realized that I was seriously harming myself – and others – and I sought change. But I didn’t know how to do this. One by one, I dropped my habits of destruction, but the more I shed them, the worse I felt. I teeter-tottered amongst them, searching for balance and never being able to achieve it. I felt naked and scared. I felt isolated and alone. I would drop one vice and then pick up another, each slightly less dangerous than the one before, but harmful nonetheless.

Around four years ago, I formally quit drinking. This was my first lesson in forgiveness. I took a sincere step to do something loving for myself. I started to listen to what other people were suggesting, and I realized that if they could be happy, I could be too. But how? I still felt pretty bad, and I still felt really angry. I had a few resentments that could make my skin crawl. People told me that I had to forgive them. They told me that to not forgive them was to continue to hurt myself. I wasn’t ready to give the resentments up, though. I had a lot of self-righteous anger gnawing at my core. They had hurt me, dammit! They should feel my wrath!

The problem, though, was that they didn’t feel my anger. In some cases, they had no fucking idea, and in others, they just didn’t fucking care. And I was sitting in the corner, stewing in my own muck, feeling hated, alone, unworthy, and violated. Life wasn’t fair! How could it be that those assholes got off scott-free, while I continued to feel so much hurt inside? How was it that I was so raw that even an off look from another could re-open every single wound that I had?

I wasn’t willing to let go, and so I let it sit there for a while, and I worked on cleaning other parts of myself up. The first step in doing this required that I practice acceptance. I had to be willing to accept that I had done some pretty lame things. I had hurt others, either through selfishness, stupidity, or ignorance. I had to see my part in my resentments, and I had to acknowledge that I had done the best that I could do in any given moment with the growth and understanding that I had at the time. It happened the way that it happened, and so there was no other available outcome possible. I had to accept that I am not perfect, and that perfection is not a requirement (nor even really desired) in this lifetime. I began to understand where I was operating from, and that I was not a bad person. I may have been lost, scared, or lonely, but I was not bad. Once acceptance of who I really was set in, forgiveness began to flow naturally.

For the first time ever, I realized that I was a spiritual being having a human experience, and that a huge part of this lifetime is learning to relate and interact with other humans. I was able to see myself compassionately, and this opened a huge door for me. Finally, once I could see myself through the lens of compassion, I could see others through it too.

Some of my resentments just melted away. Once I saw my role in everything, I realized that some of the stuff I was holding onto was just out of sheer self-flagellation. I couldn’t even remember what it was. There were a few things that I had to work at a little harder (and still do at times). I have to constantly go back to compassion. Yes, what this person did hurt me. Why? Is it because I am feeling insecure, lonely, frightened, or unloved? Okay, nix it. Is it because this person was acting from a place of insecurity, loneliness, fear or feelings of being unloved? Okay, forgive it. They are doing the very best that they can.

I have a particularly difficult relationship in my life that I have to maintain. Because letting it go is not an option, I have to practice forgiveness on an almost daily basis. Sometimes I can let things go immediately. I remember that he is not trying to hurt me; he is trying to protect himself. At other times, I have to dig down deep, and pull up every ounce of compassion I have. It can reduce me to tears. I have to remember over and over again that I have played a part in this, and that I still do. What I can control is how I react to it. I have to recall that we are each doing the very best that we can at any given moment. When I can do this, I can find forgiveness. And once the forgiveness comes, I can find gratitude. That is the nugget, right there. The most difficult situations and people that I have had in my life have offered me the greatest moments of growth. They have provided me with the seeds that I want to nurture and grow, and they are the reason that I want to reach out and help others. Learning to love and honor myself enabled me to offer others the same that I would want for myself: compassion and forgiveness.

forgiveness

 

My next workshop at Hazard County Yoga outside of Atlanta is Sunday April  28. They sell out quickly so please pre-register and pay by clicking here. See you then.

And So It Is, Forgiveness, Inspiration, Owning It!

How Kindness Works.

February 8, 2013

I got in a car accident the other night.

I was driving to teach my yoga class and just short of making it there I saw a car in front of me stopped. I stopped in time so as not to hit the car. The car in back of me however, slammed into me. The first word out of my mouth was Fuck and then my body shook.. My phone flew under the brake and the car got stuck in reverse and started rolling backward and tapped the car that had smashed into me and then a pretty woman cop was at my passenger window and mouthing something as she mimed a motion that probably said Roll down your window or Calm down. I shook harder. She came over to my side and got in (I must have gotten out at some point) and she got the car unstuck and moved it to the side of the road and the other drivers and I congregated on the curb. I was trying to call Equinox to tell them I had been in an accident and couldn’t get there to teach my yoga class but the guy cop was yelling at me to get off my phone and that he had been doing this too long or something like that. I couldn’t hear. I could hear but I couldn’t listen rather. I was gone. Somewhere else.

When she slammed into me maybe I died or maybe I floated away but when the cop said that no one was injured so he wouldn’t take a police report but that we had to get each other’s information I just nodded Uh-huh and shook. I was the only one panicking. And I kept saying I am sorry because we had all been in an accident and wasn’t that the polite thing to do? No one else said I am sorry so when I came home and told my husband I started to obsess that once again I had screwed up. I had opened my big mouth and because of being a people pleaser I was going to be at fault. I was going to jail. I was wrong. I messed up. Someone crashes into me and I apologize?

I haven’t been able to get out of bed for two days. I was depressed and my back hurt terribly from the impact. I was feeling sorry for myself and vulnerable and terrified to drive. Something this small rocked me so hard I thought. What exactly am I made of?

Why did I apologize? Apologizing denotes guilt. I was the only one that said I am sorry. I also noted that night the irony that I was the yoga teacher and the most freaked out. They were both so calm as if they’d had many car accidents and this was just another rung on the bedpost. The girl who hit me, her hood was smashed badly, and yet she seemed bored and un-phased. Me? I drifted into oblivion when she crashed into me and headed straight for my bed where I have yet to emerge.

It takes such little to shake me. My iPad gets lost or stolen (I will never know) and I have an accident and poof! I am bed-ridden, lost, scared of my shadow as well as the rain and the cars on the road and the idea of waking up in the morning, of being up with the lark.

While I was lying in bed yesterday and feeling this overwhelming sense of what’s it all for anyway? I posted on my Facebook the following question:

What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?

I don’t know why I asked it. I was in a foul people-hating mood. Maybe that is precisely why I asked it. Maybe I needed a reminder of kindness.

So I am laying in bed and the heat is blasting even though it wasn’t cold and I live in Southern California, and I am sweating and freezing and I start to cry reading the responses from my Tribe on Facebook.

Here’s one:

Nicole Markardt I was in a horrible car accident when I was 18. My back broke in 2 places, lying on a beach after the car rolled off of a bridge. A man ran through traffic… ran down rocks to the beach and back into traffic to flag down anyone that could call an ambulance ( pre cell phone). He gave me CPR. He even brought me flowers in the hospital. His name was Gabriel. Like the archangel. He cried when he saw I survived. I believe in the kindness of strangers.

I wanted to believe in the kindness of people again. Someone used my iPad on Monday so it obviously wasn’t coming back. Someone crashed into me and whether it was an accident or not did not say I am sorry. So many crap things happening and if I keep looking I will keep finding them. 

We find what we look for.

I broke into my ex-boyfriend’s apartment once. I used a credit card to unlock his door and let myself in.

He forgave me eventually. We had a big fight and he called me crazy and told me to get out but, eventually, we made up and went on to have about 2 years of more of the same, minus the “breaking in” with the credit card.

I didn’t think of it as breaking in at the time. He’d never use keys to let himself in his own apartment. We would come back to his place and he would slide a credit card through the space between the doorjamb and the door and voila! The door would open. It made him proud how easy it would be to rob his place. 

I had never thought of it as breaking in until he said that. I simply thought I was being cute. How could it be breaking in when the credit card was the way we always got in the door? The credit car was the key!

Except I knew. I knew he would be upset. I knew he never wanted me to stop by un-announced or call him my “boyfriend” but I did it anyway. I had such an adrenaline rush as I was sliding that card through the crack in the door that my whole body shook  like it did in the accident but worse.

Find what you are looking for.

I knew I could possibly catch him cheating. He was in bed though when I slid the credit car through the door and walked in. Asleep. He jumped up when I crawled in next to him and called me crazy and said that I broke in and that I needed to get out.

Look for someone to disappoint you hard enough and they will.

On some level, I knew he would react exactly how he did, but, since there are always two of us (at least) I ignored Voice #1 and went instead with Voice #2 in hopes I would catch him fucking someone else or doing something awful and I could say Uh-huh! People suck. You let me down. I knew it! People will fail you. See?

But he was asleep and he kicked me out and eventually we made up and went on to have a disastrous coupe of years but I think back on how I really let him down. His rules may have stank and he may have been a jerk but who was I to let myself in when he never gave me that permission, no matter how cute I thought it would be?

I wanted to fail.

I wanted to prove that people suck. Even me.

Yesterday I laid in my bed and posted that question on Facebook because I needed a reminder of the good in the world.

That’s why I said I was sorry when I was in the middle of the accident sandwich. I wasn’t at fault but I thought it was the human thing to do. The kind thing to do.

I don’t know. I don’t know if kindness counts much in the legal system but I stand by why I said it. Not all people suck. Some do. Can I say that as a yoga teacher? ( I just did, so I guess so.)

I don’t suck. 

I am kind. 

And there is a lot of kindness around us. It moved me to read about the things people posted on my Facebook and it reminded me how all we have to do is hear about it, read about, witness it, and kindness will live inside us. We don’t even have to be the one the kindness is meant for specifically, and yet and still, it will live somewhere within us as if it was meant for us specifically. That’s how it works.

BTCLOGOfinal

Beauty Hunting, Forgiveness, healing

What Forgiveness Does.

February 5, 2013
By Jen Pastiloff.
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There was this woman at my retreat last weekend at Kripalu in the Massachusetts Berkshires, who, when we were doing an exercise on forgiveness, told me that she was done forgiving. Had spent her whole life forgiving and was done. She was in her seventies and her husband had died the week before. 
 
Being done. I understood that.
 
A life of forgiving someone their mistakes. A life of forgiving ourselves our own imperfections and mistakes and misgivings. I get that wanting to be done with forgiving already, the I am Godamn sick of forgiving, I want nothing to have to forgive already. I want to be free.

Continue Reading…

And So It Is, courage, Forgiveness, healing

What Have I Done?

January 21, 2013

I used to live in this beautiful 1940’s apartment in Los Angeles before I moved to Santa Monica ten years ago. It was on a major busy street but nestled far back enough that once you were inside the apartment you couldn’t hear any of the noise from the road.

What you could hear however were my neighbors. 

One man would repeatedly scream Get the fuck out of my house so many times and with such passion that I often thought I was dreaming it. That maybe something had broken inside of my head and things had started to skip. Maybe my mind got stuck on that one sentence and it was trapped inside my dream. Get the fuck out! Get the fuck out!

He would stand outside our front door, red-faced and hyperventilating. He seemed shriveled, slightly polio ridden. (Through some mysterious force that constantly seemed to pull at me, this spastic neighbor and I were both from the same town in South Jersey, Cherry Hill.) I’d heard it in his accent and knew that nasal tonality that inhabits the voices of South Jersey folk. And also a certain sadness which recognized immediately.

She is a fraud he would scream in the courtyard. She’s left maggots! She ate all the cereal! She took an ice pick to my piano! My Piano!

He didn’t look anyone in the eyes. Ever. Not even anywhere remotely near your face which was disturbing and creepy. But this one morning. This wonderfully otherwise perfect Los Angeles Sunday morning, with his lip cut and bleeding and his curly hair flying around his chubby red face, there was something. His eyes stopped roving and focused on something. 

Maybe he saw the point ahead of him, that point of utter loss. He was stupefied and panicked. 

The kind of panic when you realize you really are alone and that she did eat all the cereal.

He understood then that all the Get the fuck out of my houses took their toll. He had prayed for that woman to be gone. He had screamed it into the air. But I saw it in his motionless eyes. That fear. That what have I done?

I was happy when I finally moved from that place even though it had been inexpensive and huge with gorgeous hardwood floors and charm like nobody’s business. Those years are what I refer to as The Dark Years. They all blend in, gray and dank in their lack of happiness. Years of nothing on top of nothing. Years of picking at my face and talking about what I should do but couldn’t seem to get out of bed to do. I slept almost all the time. I starved myself all day and would get up in the middle of the night and eat in my sleep. I had hated waitressing but didn’t know how to stop. Like it was some kind of addiction I was in the throws of. 

 Which, of course, it was.

The Dark Years. 

And throughout those very dark years, there were these neighbors I was terrified of becoming. These screaming hate-filled red-faced people who loved and abused each other and wanted their lives to be anything but what it was.

I would lie there listening to them scream and see myself as a waitress for the rest of my life and then maybe I would eat all the cereal and take an ice pick to a piano and maybe someone would find out I was a fraud too.

The What have I done? some unspoken code between my neighbor and I. Even though we never made eye contact, we were from the same town in South Jersey (weird!) and we had this pact. This Oh My God, I’ve made a mistake like a car we’d loved but had long died and yet sat and sat in the driveway as if one day it would be able to go back up the hill.

We’d wimper silently and sometimes not silently: How can I get it back to the way it was? 

Well, here’s the good news and the bad news: You can’t. You can’t ever get it back the way it was.  

I remember lying in my room in that old apartment and thinking How can I get it back? How did I even get here? I would be here the rest of my life. Who could I blame it on? Who put me here, dammit?

Before I had moved into that apartment I had been still living in New York City. My mother had recently moved back to California (for the second time in our lives) and I had come to visit. Having lived there as a kid for a few years I still had a lot of friends in Los Angeles, so when I came to visit my mom and sister I also planned on seeing my friends. 

I had borrowed my mom’s car and took off to go to my friend’s little party despite the anxiety I had. I hated driving. And I hated parties (still do, but for different reasons.) I was afraid people would try to make me eat. I had anxiety as I drove my mom’s Isuzu Trooper or mini-van (one or the other) down the street looking for my friend’s address. (This was before cellphones.) 

I couldn’t find the building and my anxiety became a steamroller. I hit the steering wheel and cried as steam poured from my ears and I bit my fingers. I hate driving! See! I suck at it! 

I remember pulling up to a building I thought sounded like maybe that had been the address? 7890? 8790? 6790? I don’t remember (and can you even imagine a world with no cellphones during a crisis like this?)

What do you do? Well, you park and knock on a door.

The door opened and a very cute and very gay man answered. This was not my friend’s house the tears in my eyes told him before I could mutter I am lost. He asked if I wanted to use his phone.

Yes please.

He proceeded to show me around his beautiful (so stylish) apartment and then to the phone (a real wall phone.) 

I called my friend and was told that I was the three blocks north. I thanked him, told him he had a beautiful apartment and that his boyfriend (who was away working as a flight attendant apparently) was very very lucky.  

And off I went to the party which I probably hated because I probably ate food that I simply ate to make it look like I wasn’t starving myself which I very much was. The lies! The lies!

How did I get here? What have I done? 

Almost a year after that I left New York City. People used to ask why I moved to L.A. when I was half-heartedly trying to be an actress. Did you move here to be an actress?

I would say yes because it was easier but the truth was a No No No. I moved here because I had nowhere else to go. I was dying in New York. I had no choice, don’t you see? But I would nod and say Yeah, totally.

In New York I had been severely anorexic, lonely, depressed  and also very quickly going crazy. My mom had moved back to California and I wanted to feel safe so I fled New York to be with her. Clearly it wasn’t to pursue an acting career but once people started to assuming that I decided it was my best bet. Yes! I came here to be a star!

For a while I lived with my mom in a one bedroom apartment where she slept in a closet (I am not kidding although I am horrified) with a little bed on the floor and I took the master (and only bedroom) I was 21 or 22 and apparently okay with my mom sleeping in a closet/room? It lasted only a few months until I moved into the apartment on the busy street. The beautiful 1940’s apartment on the busy street.

It speaks volumes of my mother though, that little sleeping in the closet living situation. 

You like this necklace? I will give it to you. It’s yours. You want the bed? I will sleep in the closet. (That’s my mom.) 

One night, after I’d been living in the big beautiful apartment a couple years or so, my roommate M. and I had dinner at our next door neighbors. There were this fantastic gay couple with a dog and a washing machine. They also loved us in the way gay men love cute and single twenty something women. You have the best boobs! I love what you are wearing. OMG your boyfriend is so cute.

We loved them.

So, here we were hanging at their extremely well decorated place, drinking wine and laughing and I get the strangest deja vous. The kind where the ground lifts up and you have to grab the edge of the table and your wine spills over and you don’t even notice because you are so immersed in the I have been here. I don’t know how I got here but I have been here.

I turned to one of the Boyfriends and said I’ve been here. 

Yes, you have many times, Jen. Keep drinking girl! 

Me:  Last year. I was lost. Remember? I was still living in New York. I knocked on the door and you let me use the phone.

 One of the Gay Boyfriends: No that wasn’t you. That woman was like 40 and really skinny and miserable looking.

It had been me. 

I was a lot thinner last year. And I was unhappy. But I wasn’t 40, you asshole! I joked as I cleaned up my spilt wine, and of course, spent time obsessing that he meant that I was fat. I was much thinner then? What did he mean? I didn’t care about the miserable comment but the really skinny part slayed me. Much thinner? Much?

How did I get here I remember thinking. How did I get here? How did I get pointed to this building? To this moment?

To this life?

Everything is always against the odds.

The fact that I got lost and ended up there, at that very building that I would eventually live in. Not only that I ended up at that particular building that night, but of all the apartments I had knocked on their door: the only people in the building I had become friends with or even seen the inside of their apartment.

I’d also had no intention of leaving New York. It was a last ditch effort to save myself before I faded away into dusty bones on some street corner in Manhattan, my hair falling out and my face apparently aged beyond my years. I end up living at this random building. How can this be? 

How did I end up here? What have I done?

It chose me. I had been driving along in my mom’s Trooper (or minivan) and it called me. Come, come in your awful little Boy Scout pants made for a 12 year old and pale face. Come, leave your life as you know it in New York City. It will take you many many years to get where you are going but this is the first detour. The first stop. Come.

So I went. 

I would listen to my locksmith neighbor scream at his wife or not-wife and hate myself for sleeping until 11:30 am and I would wonder How did I get here? When really I knew. I knew that I had been chosen. How many apartment buildings in Los Angeles and I end up at this one with a friend of a friend of a friend who had found it and needed a roommate. I had been plucked out of my life in New York because I probably would have died if I hadn’t. Or maybe not. Maybe I would be fantastically rich and happy. Either way I needed those Dark Years and that screaming neighbor and my years of donning an apron.

I have a compass now. I know who I am. I can look back. I have a map. Here is where I was and here is where I am now, my little map says. 

I had been waitressing at the same job for about 12 years when the What have I done? creeped in and couldn’t find its way back out. What have I done? I thought I would be somebody? I’ve wasted so much time? I hate L.A. Why do I even live here? What have I done? I’m old now.

 I would take someone’s order for a veggie burger and it’s all I would hear: What have I done What have I done What have I done What have I done Do you want avocado on that and anything to drink What have I done?

My whole life led up to it. The first what have you done? after my father died. The last words I spoke were I hate you, Daddy.  

I couldn’t undo it. What have I done? Oh, what have I done?

When my neighbor had said that it couldn’t have been me that had come to the door the year before because that girl had been so thin my initial response had been What have you done, Jen? You’ve let yourself go. How could you? What have you done and how can you get it back?  

There is no getting it back.

After 13 years of working at the restaurant and after so many years of being mad at myself for failing I realized one day, or throughout the course of many many days, that its okay to never get it back the way it was.

I was always meant to get lost at that building and then move into that building. I was always meant to cry in my room and ask Why Why Why I’m too smart for this shit as I put my apron on again and again over the screach of my neighbors screaming Fuck Yous at each other.  

Here it is. Thirty years after I said my first What have I done? Here it is: It’s okay.

This will not determine the rest of your life. You have a choice right now in this moment. What will it be?

So. What will it be? Asking the questions is a good thing and I wish for you, and for me, and for all of us, all that we never stop asking the questions. How did I get here? What have I done? And then look closely , with a magnifying glass so you can see all the cracks and bugs and little hairs. Really be willing to see. Start to contemplate. Then ask more questions. Then get a really good microscope and go deeper. What have I done will lead you to different places on the map until you get to where you are now.

Please, when you start to get close to finding some answers, or more questions for that matter, please do not judge. Put down the ice pick and stop screaming and simply say I love you right into the microscope even if it makes you feel a little crazy. By doing that you’ll start to see the map move under the lens. Where there were rigid lines and boundaries on the map there will be moving molecules and big empty spaces.

That’s your moment. Right there. Look down and for the first time see that no matter what you have done you are not stuck. Your map is moving. The lines are no longer there. You are free. You can go. 

And know that no matter what you have done it doesn’t matter anymore because it got you here. And here is where the rest of us are. Start from here.
Nothing can be undone but what can be done, what can be started, is love. Start with love. Now. Go.
At the end of my life when I ask What have I done? one final time, I want to answer: I have done love.
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Forgiveness, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings, Letting Go

When You Finally Forgive.

December 29, 2012

I suppose almost everyone who writes is afflicted some of the time by the suspicion that nobody out there is listening ~Joan Didion

**

Its like this: You get on the bus, you get off, you get on. Its red. Its blue. It doesn’t matter what color it is.

It’s trudging along down the Putney High Street in London. Its speeding down the expressway in New Jersey. You’re on it. That’s the point.

You’re on it and you are always getting on and getting off and taking bags unless you have none but the day you have none hasn’t happened yet, so you get off or on with your bags and you find a seat and you go where the bus takes you. Again and again.

You didn’t know when you got on (not at first, anyway) where the bus was going. But when you see the other passengers, when the lady next to you tells you she talks more, I talk a lot, since my husband died. He was 82- you know. You know exactly where this bus is going.

You tell her: It’s ok. That you will listen.

So you listen.

Here’s what she says: We were married a long time, four kids, nine grandkids. He had an affair, twice. I forgave him. You ever forgive someone like that? Do you know what it’s like just to outright forgive someone like that?

**

There was the time in ninth grade when you walked in and your best friend was kissing the guy you were sort of dating (but totally loved!) and you forgave her. That same guy, whom you reunited with ten years later, after seeing a video camera on his desk the whole two weeks you stayed with him in Philadelphia, you nervously suggested: Why don’t we, you know, video ourselves the last night I’m here? Then watching the tape he sent in the mail (in the mail!) and Oh My God I can’t believe I’m watching this and then realizing that the last night wasn’t the last night at all, but the first and the second night and every night thereafter.

He’d recorded the entire two weeks without your knowledge. A fluke that you happened suggested it that last night. But what if you hadn’t suggested it? He would have still been recording you those other nights and what then? A betrayal you don’t know about- a betrayal nonetheless. Or is it?

If a betrayal falls in the forest and no one knows, does it make a sound? If he records you having sex without your knowledge and you never find out, not when you are thirty, or forty, or say, even on your death bed- does it affect the natural order of things? Have you been betrayed if you know not of it? Does the betrayal still exist?

It was your idea he’d said, you wanted to do this, when you confronted him with all the gumption you possessed in your late twenties. And you forgave him, but you didn’t really, you didn’t know what else to do, you’d never done anything like this before and maybe this is the punishment you got for wanting to be intimate with someone you thought you (totally!) loved by fucking in front of a video camera. Maybe this is what you got? All your kisses and blow jobs recorded without your knowledge and maybe you didn’t forgive at all but rather, stuck that little VHS tape in your back pocket so you could throw out the window of the bus, down into the river? Maybe you didn’t think you had a right to be angry, or that you deserved to have a voice? Maybe you thought you were the one that had to say I’m sorry? So many maybes when we look down the barrel of the past.

Watching yourself on that dumb mailed VHS tape and thinking: That is me.

That is me and that is me, and right there? That is me, without me knowing its me. 

What an asshole, you think.

You have permission to throw him down the river, although with time the asshole-ness will fade and you will shake your head at the outrageousness of it all, and the I can’t believe I got that upset-ness of it all. He will still be an asshole although he may be less of an asshole now that he has kids and has grown up a bit, but that is neither here nor there, is it? He betrayed you and you forgave him, but not really. Not fully, not until you throw him from the bus in the rain and watch the stupid VHS tape drown in the dirty river while people watch and wonder what did that chick chuck from the bus window?

And you think that if they knew you were throwing away anger and resentment and betrayal and not speaking up for yourself and drunken sex that they would understand and clap there on the sidewalk but the truth is that there are no people- no one really cares, they are all too busy fussing over their own scandalous sex tapes and lies and misgivings, and in fact, you threw nothing from the window at all. You just stuck your head out for a little air.

 

Then there was the woman your father was screwing. Before he died. She’d done it with other men as well. You knew. So young, seven years old, and you knew. You know her name (but you won’t say it, not so many years later, not here,) because she probably has her own grandkids now, it was so long ago. She could be like the woman sitting next to you on the bus, for all you know. She could be chatting up a stranger on a bus, trying to talk to anyone who would pay attention. Isn’t that what most of us spend our lives doing anyway? Someone please listen to me? Pay attention.

She started like a cold. No big deal. Then all of a sudden, a full blown flu, like a I think I need to leave my wife and kids flu except that isn’t how you and your mom and sister are left. You are left in the he dropped-dead-in-the-middle-of-the-night-by-choking-on-his own-vomit kind of left.

You forgave that. At least his death.

The woman, the affair, and let’s face it, his death- they’re still with you on the bus with all your other shit.

**

On the way to London my suitcase cracked. The airline damaged it and claimed responsibility. They offered to replace it and send over a new suitcase. I was tempted to say: No, I don’t want to take anything back. Let me leave it all. Every last thing. All my dirty underwear and sweaters and mismatched socks. Who needs it anyway?

My husband: Babe, you need it. You need a case.

Literal, logical, loving husband.

I told the woman all of this on the bus. The beautiful black woman who was 80 but looked 50. The woman whose husband had been with her all of her life (but cheated twice that we know of) and had just died. And now she was left talking and talking and who was listening to me now? she often asked no one in particular, in bank lines and bus stops.

 

New suitcase came. Black with purple satin inside. Like I was royalty. My old case was orange and plastic with wine stains from when a bottle of red wine cracked in it in Paris. It was ugly and stained. And broken. But hell, if I wasn’t sad to see it go. How I wanted to fix it, salvage it, and drag it on and off every bus for the rest of my life.

The old woman on the bus says: Take your shit back with you. Take what you need. Leave the rest.

I lean over and touch her nonchalantly. She’s real.

She says: Get off.

This is your stop.

Or maybe she didn’t say that. Maybe she didn’t say any of that. Maybe it was just time.

 

The Manifestation Workshop in Vancouver. Jan 17th. Book here. No yoga experience required. Only requirement is to  be a human being.

The Manifestation Workshop in Vancouver. Jan 17th. Book here. No yoga experience required. Only requirement is to be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it's magical.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it’s magical.

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Forgiveness, Guest Posts

The Orchid of Forgiveness.

November 7, 2012

The Orchid of Forgiveness by Nancy Alder

This morning I walked into one of my bathrooms ready to throw out an orchid that I thought was done.  I had forgotten to water it for weeks.  I had forgotten to open the window and give it more light.  I had forgotten this orchid.

But there it was in the window with not one but two new bloom stalks that had show up virtually overnight.  This fighter, this beautiful and simple warrior had decided to bloom again despite my lack of care.

I realized that the orchid had forgiven me.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

 –Gandhi

We need to learn to be more like orchids and allow ourselves to forgive and grow.  That does not mean to not be angry, do not fight and do not express your displeasure with a situation or a person.  Just simply, do not hold on to those things and let them cause you to wither.  Acknowledge your feelings, create a space for them and then let them go.

My yoga practice is a place where I am able to practice forgiveness.  Life gets in the way of every asana, vinyasa and Bakasana I would love to do on more occasions than I care to admit.  Yet when I return to the mat I find my practice is waiting to fit with where I am at that moment.  Is there resistance?  You bet!  But there is also space for growth and exploration.   I am able to forgive myself for not making time, for putting others first and for letting things get in my way.  I explore new places to find forgiveness towards others, to experience my feelings and to then let them go.

I find a way to stretch, release, and grow just like the orchid had done in my neglect.

“To err is human.  To forgive is divine.” –Alexander Pope

As I write this I think of my friend who forgave me when I did not acknowledge the importance of a special milestone in her life.  I think of the way my elves still love me even when my mean mommy side comes out too frequently.  I think of the how my husband moves heaven and Earth to allow me to do trainings when it causes stress on his schedule.  I think of how much forgiveness I have been given and how it is time to give back.

To those who have hurt me and from whom I have received silence, anger and vitriol, I forgive you.  To the ones who forget to email, call or visit, I know it was not personal.  To those I have unfriended, to those I have cut out and to those whom I have never let in, my door is open for you.

It is time for us all to move on to a place of blooming and growth.  It is time for us to be like my orchid.

I am not perfect but I am strong.  I know neglect is not a sign of hatred or dislike, but rather that love is still there waiting to show itself again.  I know my yoga practice will give me space to forgive myself and my heart has space to forgive others.

I am thankful to my little purple orchid for reminding me how important it is to forgive.  I gave it water this morning and opened the window.  I will remember more often to take care of it and take care of myself.  I will remember to let go and forgive.

How can you allow yourself to bloom and grow?  What or whom can you forgive?

Nancy Alder is a 200H EYRT  in Connecticut. She teaches her students to connect with space and breath from a place of safety and humor. She writes for many yoga blogs and chronicles her daily practice to find yoga in all places on her own blog, Flying Yogini. She is co-founder of Teachasana, a site by yoga teachers for yoga teachers. When not writing or doing yoga she is in awe of her elves, busting asanas in crazy places and counting the days until the next snowfall.

Forgiveness, Travels

Guilt-Away.

July 11, 2012

Guilt is the state of being responsible for the commission of an offense. It is also a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes or believes—accurately or not—that he or she has violated a moral standard, and bears significant responsibility for that violation. It is closely related to the concept of remorse. 

That’s how Wikipedia defines Guilt.

I arrived at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris from Pisa to discover that of the two bottles I had (over)packed in my orange suitcase, the red one cracked and broke in my (over)packed luggage. Mind you, I had missed the actual wine tasting in Tuscany at the winery because I had been ill so someone got them for me per my request because of my FOMO, as my friend Sara Lieberman, author of The Handbags Tale,  calls it.

FOMO= Fear Of Missing Out. I just had to have Italian wine! I couldn’t possibly leave Tuscany without chianti, could I?

I sat on the floor of the airport in my long white dress and new Italian boots as I opened the case to check the damage. Immediately glass and red wine exploded everywhere. People stared. I didn’t care. My clothes were drenched in red wine!

My new clothes.

My white clothes.

My silk.

My gifts. 

My white bras.

I was upset, naturally, but I actually sort of laughed. My number one rule is: If you fall you must laugh.

Or tried to laugh, despite having no actual voice from being sick. At this point I had been sick ten days and I knew that I was being tested in some way.

Ok, I thought, it’s just stuff. Just stuff. Things and stuff. And broken glass.

Needless to say, I was frustrated because I hadn’t listened to my intuition which strongly whispered to me as I packed in Tuscany: Jen, give those bottles of wine away as a gift. You do not have room. Plus, it’s dangerous putting wine in your suitcase. Plus, if one was to break you know it will be the red one. 

I ignored my intuition and it came back laughing at me. Wearing a burgundy and chianti broken-glass colored shade, it snickered at me for being such a fool.

Arriving at the Le Bristol, the fanciest hotel I have ever set foot in, I immediately ask the concierge if they can take the clothes to their in-house dry cleaner. They assure me in lovely French accents that red wine is very hard to remove but they will do their best. 

Merci.

As a side note, I am traveling with my childhood babysitter who I was reunited with after her only son was killed at age 19 in a drunk driving accident in Northern California.

This put my dilemma in a file called IRRELEVANT very quickly.

I let it go.

It’s just stuff. Stuff and things. 

The dry cleaners got almost all the wine out for a small (big) fortune and I was happy. But non-attached. I had made peace with the wine and the wine debacle.

The few stains that remain will remind me of this trip, this moment in the not-so-straight line of my life.

As I was looking for ways to get red wine out I stumbled across Wine-Away. 

So I invented something called Guilt-Away.

Would you like a bottle? Or a case?

As I led my retreat in Italy with 25 people I got very ill. Sicker than I have been in years. So sick that I couldn’t speak. So sick that at one point I really thought I was dying. That kind of sick.

At first, the guilt I felt was insurmountable. How could I have brought all these people here and let them down? How could I let this happen?

My brain goes to the path of guilt because it is the path of least resistance. Just like our bodies take the path of least resistance, so do our brains. I have spent many years of my life felling guilty, which is a dirty broken thing that presses into the corners of your soul like a sky in December descending for the day. The last words I spoke to my father before he died where “I hate you” so naturally I have spent much of my life feeling as if I caused his death, or at the very least, should be punished.

So here I was in Italy with that same familiar pull of guilt. So heavy, it weighs down your boat and sinks you before you can even get out to sea and observe the horizon in the distance to allow you some clarity. Once you get to the bottom it is too late; you have sunk and everything looks cloudy and muddy and water gets in your eyes and up your nose and you can’t breathe.

You get the picture.

As I sat on the cold airport floor in Paris I realized that along with Wine-Away I would like to always carry Guilt-Away so whether wine spills or Guilt starts to call me, I have my defense. I will spray it away like it never existed. Maybe there will be a slight remnant but it will be so faint that it will just be a memory rather than a reality.

State the facts, speak the truth. 

(Iyanla Vanzant taught me that. Memorize it.)

Fact: I got very very sick. Very very very sick.

Truth: My retreat had an amazing time and Kylee Lehe (who I have been mentoring) taught 3 beautiful classes and was given an opportunity to really rise to the occasion. I had been overworking and was run down.

Story: I should feel bad because I got sick and let everyone down. They had a miserable time because I couldn’t babysit them. I was boring.

Things always go wrong.

I got sick because I was being punished.

Guilt-Away: I take my bottle of Guilt-Away and rid myself of any of the story. The story is what keeps us stuck in the dry Desert of Guilt with no water or air.

I can breathe again now.

I am sitting in my hotel room in Paris and using my Guilt-Away to clean up any remorse I have over not feeling 100% and being able to go out and explore. Any guilt I have at sitting here and staring out the French windows. Any guilt I have about doing anything other than what I am doing at this very moment.

What will you use your Guilt-Away for? Share below anything you need Guilt-Away to remove or clean up. 

Forgiveness, Hearing Loss, Inspiration

Love Yourself, Accept Yourself, Forgive Yourself

March 7, 2012

“Love yourself—accept yourself—forgive yourself—and be good to yourself, because without you the rest of us are without a source of many wonderful things.” ~Leo F. Buscaglia 

You mean I am a source of many wonderful things?

Yes. Actually you are. Own up to it.

Leo has it right.

1. Love yourself.

Despite all the things that you think may be terribly wrong with you, love yourselfLove yourself.

Tattoo it on your brain.

I can think of so many reasons why you should love yourself, but here’s just one: It is incredibly dull and uninspiring to be around people who do not love themselves.

I spent many years being anorexic and feeling like I was a monster. I’m sure I was not much fun to be around and I also know that I didn’t book any of the acting jobs I was trying to land. It is very challenging to hire someone or love someone who fights you by holding up a mirror of hatred toward themselves.

Here’s my challenge for you today: Take a picture of your face and remember that in 10 years time you will be amazed at how gorgeous you were. Be amazed now.

Identify something about you that you may not adore and find a way to at least laugh at it or like it, even a little bit.

I have profound hearing loss; in fact, I am almost deaf and wear hearing aids. I have ringing in my ears 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Does it drive me mad most days? Yes. However, it is here to stay, and I have learned that I can make light of it or sit home and feel sorry for myself because I am missing out on what feels like everything.

Either way the choice is mine to make. I have also learned that because of my hearing loss, my other senses are highly attuned. I am more compassionate because of it. I am a healer.

I have turned something I don’t necessarily “love” having into another piece in the puzzle of me, and part of why I love that puzzle.

Instead of thinking “I am an incomplete human being because I can’t hear perfectly,” I think “I am an incredible human being with a profound sense of touch and understanding and a huge capacity for love. I am also awesome at reading lips. So there.”

What can you love about yourself today that you may have struggled with before?

Can you find a way to cultivate the opposite? According to Pantajali’s Yoga Sutra 2.33, “When the mind is disturbed by improper thoughts constant pondering over the opposites is the remedy.”

2. Forgive yourself.

I lead a meditation in my workshops on forgiveness, and every time, without fail, people start crying. Almost everyone in the room will have at least shed a tear. This leads me to believe that we are all indeed connected, a union—which is what the word Yoga means.

The human experience is so similar, and yes, I know the details are vastly different, and that the devil lies in the details, but, we still share the same weight on our shoulders. That weight would be diminished if we chose to forgive instead of harboring guilt or anger.

People cry most in my workshops when we do the meditation on forgiving yourself. Most likely it’s because we are hardest on ourselves.

What can you forgive yourself for today?

I forgive myself for saying “I hate you” to my father right before he died when I was eight years old. I carried it around for many years and let it color my life a dark airless color.

I forgive myself for not being perfect.

This shift occurred was when I was finally able to let go of my eating disorder. We often hold ourselves to impossible standards and end up feeling bad.

Ask yourself honestly, “What can I forgive myself for?” 

Sometimes it takes simply saying it aloud or writing it down to realize that you actually no longer need to bear the brunt of it.

3. Be good to yourself. Do things that you inspire you daily.

Make a list. Grab your iPad or your notepad or even your hand and draw up a list of things you can do today to make you feel good.

Keep adding to the list. Forgive yourself if you skip a couple and love yourself no matter how long or short the list is and how much you accomplish on it.

You will not be graded or tested on this list.

My list involves a lot of laughing.  My “Feel Good” list also has: my yoga practice, teaching yoga classes, writing, a long leisurely dinner with friends, having a great glass of wine, staying up all night reading a book I cannot put down, being with kids who have special needs and teaching them yoga, poetry, Modern Family, skyping with my nephews, and the list goes on.

Do something every single day that makes you feel good, whether it is changing your thought patterns or taking a bath while reading a magazine in the tub.

Maybe it’s getting an extra hour of sleep or staying up late and watching Pretty Woman for the 50th time.

Pleasure and joy are highly underrated and beating ourselves, up highly overrated. Flip it! Cultivate the opposite.

One of my main rules as a yoga teacher is that if you fall, you must laugh and take down your neighbor, which cultivates a sense of humor, and hopefully a little joy. You need at least a little joy daily. Sprinkle it on your cereal, slip it in your downward facing dog, add it to your pinot noir.

Accept that you are indeed the source of many wonderful things. If you need help remembering what they are from time to time, keep making your feel good lists. Keep coming back to the love that is inherently yours. It is your birthright. And so it is.

Whatever it takes. Just do it.

A student told me after she returned from my July Ojai retreat that she wanted to live her life every day as if she was still on the retreat. And why shouldn’t she? What a revelation! What a revolution of the mind. 

Be good to yourself. You will train other people to do the same.

And guess what? If they aren’t good to you, you will still have your old standby who is always good to you: YOU. Pretty much what matters most at the end of the day. You being good to you. The rest will follow.

Remember the 90’s En Vogue song, with the lyrics “Free your mind, the rest will follow”?

It will. So get up and dance.

***This originally appeared on the Tiny Buddha site.

Forgiveness, Inspiration

Perfect.

July 26, 2011

Perfect: being entirely without fault or defect : flawless <a perfect diamond>

Then she told me something that her 6 year old son Will said and I realized the err of my ways. It is brilliant and I will now steal it and use it in class. Quoting Sir Will, of course.

He’s just learned the word ‘extinct’ at school. He comes in and says :

“Mom, why isn’t the word ‘perfect’ extinct since nothing is perfect?”

My point exactly, Will! Why hadn’t I said this yet? ( Because often 6 year olds are smarter, more observant and more honest.)

He made this deduction himself after the constant reminder from his mom that no one is perfect.

As I often say in class: Perfect people are boring people.

I even said it on Good Morning America! ( Aren’t they though?)

All jokes aside, at some point I forgave myself for not being perfect. For many years, I struggled with an eating disorder and the feeling that I had to be/look perfect. This nearly killed me, in many ways. I still struggle with this in yoga class at times, I won’t lie to you. We all do. But it’s a silly notion, this extinct idea. I am committed to not being perfect. Conforming absolutely? Who wants that? Excellent beyond improvement? Blergh.

To be clear, we are perfect. Perfectly imperfect. I can’t hear well. That’s ok. My nephew has Prader Willi Syndrome and Autism and he is perfect as he is.

It’s this idea of perfection as something outside of ourselves. As something better than ourselves. As something someone else has decided. The idea of perfect as something unattainable.

I believe it is most certainly inside each and every one of us already. But let’s unite and give up this notion that it isn’t.

A child’s laugh is perfect. A sunset blue and purple as a bruise is perfect. A good cup of coffee can damn well be perfect.

Check out this poster one of my dearest friends Karen Salmansohn made. (Yes, the unstoppable bestselling author)

In the comment section below please answer: Where in your own life can you stop trying to be perfect?