Have you ever forgiven yourself?

self forgiveness

During formal forgiveness practices taught on certain meditation retreats, you can hear the proverbial pin drop as we’re led to contemplate the various stages (those who’ve harmed us intentionally or unintentionally, or either other people or ourselves whom we’ve harmed intentionally or unintentionally). Yet, when if comes to the part of forgiving ourselves, tears often flow. Many report stumbling on this category.

 

Why is it so difficult to forgive ourselves?

 

One reason I frequently hear from clients is that they sincerely don’t believe they deserve it! This has to be the saddest statement.

In the Buddha’s words, “You could go all around the world, and not meet anyone more images (3)deserving than yourself!”

 

Trying to self-manage Type 2, insulin-free, is no walk in the park. We humans have a knack for fallibility. It comes with the territory.

 

As I was struggling to learn how to be in the world with my new relationship to food, I ate foods that I’d now classify as harmful. At times I ate knowingly, other times unknowingly. I had a choice each time.

After the fact, I could berate myself, causing damage twice (firstly, the actual food I ate, then secondly, the emotional damage by being so hard on myself).

 

I found that by taking a forgiving approach, accepting that I’ll screw up at times, the incident and its repercussions passed far quicker. In no way did it negatively impact my ability to get back on track. On reflection, it probably helped as it brought about resolution to what happened.

 

I erred, acknowledged it, forgave myself and moved on.

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But, if we identify with our actions, mistaking them for who we are, we’re in trouble! How often I hear about a person referring to someone in a negative way, judging them solely based upon an erroneous behavior or spontaneous action. Typically, in the judging person’s mind, there’s no separation between the person and their behavior.

I’m not saying that we take zero responsibility for our actions, we should. But no one lives without making mistakes.

 

We are more than just our behavior.

 

Translation: We ALL do stupid or regrettable things at times. Sometimes knowingly, at others unknowingly. Yet, we all deserve to be forgiven.

 

What does it mean to forgive?

 

It doesn’t mean we condone the behavior. It doesn’t mean that it was OK, or that we’ll overlook it.

 

It does mean that we acknowledge an error happened, we recognize it, but we’re capable of letting go. To not do so means it becomes part of our “baggage”, dragged around feeling heavier each day.

 

So forgiving is part of letting go, something most of us need practice with. Having Type 2 is really a gift, as it offers us lots of practice for letting go.

 

Personally, I can’t imagine having stayed on the vertical learning curve it takes managing all the behavioral pieces for this condition, if every time I made a mistake, I exposed myself internally to an ongoing tape of how bad or dumb I am. Hearing that message inside my head frequently would wear me down. I’d be far more likely to have given up, believing what I was attempting was beyond my capabilities.

 

I don’t buy into the idea that I’m unworthy of being forgiven. I do however, buy into the idea that I’ll made mistakes, many of them!

 

Phrases for forgiving yourself and others.

 

You don’t have to recite them all, just those that apply. Take time to contemplate them as you read or say them out loud. Doing so as part of a practice, maybe picturing the person or circumstance you’re directing the forgiveness towards, repetitively over and over, your heart opens and you’ll feel lighter.

 

Forgiveness happens and you’re free to move on with a liberated heart!

 

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“If I have done anything to harm anyone,

intentionally or unintentionally,

through thought, word or deed,

I ask for forgiveness (or may I be forgiven)”.

 

“If anyone has done anything to harm me

intentionally or unintentionally

through thought, word or deed

I forgive them ( as best as I am able)”.

 

“If I have done anything to harm myself,

intentionally or unintentionally,

through thought, word or deed

I forgive myself (as best as I am able)”.

 

“For the ways I have harmed others,

intentionally or unintentionally,

through thought, word or deed

I forgive myself ( as best as I am able)”.

 

Here are some questions to ponder and share if you like. Leave your comments below

 

Can you share a time you forgave yourself or another?

 

How did it leave you feeling?

 

Did it become easier after the first time of practicing forgiveness?

 

 

A A R R – 4 Ways I Benefited from Feeling Afraid

It may sound odd to see fear as being good for you.

If we feel afraid, most of us don’t want to linger there, hanging out in its company. We want to get the hell away through any means possible, to stop that disturbing feeling. For in its presence, we feel small, vulnerable and young, which as an adult, is uncomfortable.

When I first found out I had Type 2 diabetes, and that carbohydrates (my former favorite food

group) were #1 on the harmful foods list, immediately all food became suspect in my mind, and I noticed I felt terrified to eat.

 

OK, so I admit to being a little compulsive about it, but I had no desire to compromise my health any further from that moment going forward. Not eating wasn’t an option, but neither was the alternative, finding myself with the strong feeling of fear arising when it was time to eat. Associating eating not with pleasure but with fear wasn’t encouraging in contemplating the rest of my life!

What to do?

Being mindful, a deeper exploration was called for.

Let’s take a closer look at the experience of fear through the lens of mindfulness, the practice of deep examination of all that occurs internally.

A.A.R.R. stands for;

Attend

Accept

Redirect

Reinforce

1. Attend to what you’re feeling

It’s natural to experience fear. We’re biologically programmed to via the universal “flight or fight” adrenaline rush triggered when we’re alerted to potential danger. Without this mechanism, we wouldn’t survive as a species.

Fear is naturally occurring, even helpful. But for some people (perhaps more males than females), fear itself is dreaded, avoided and rarely felt. Instead, this segment of the population may experience anger in lieu of fear. Allowing anger to arise “protects” from the rawness and vulnerability fear brings. It makes us feel bigger, more blustery, self-righteous or invincible. For the fear-averse, they’re generally more agreeable or comfortable emotional experiences.

Try this:

Sit comfortably in a quiet place, eyes closed. Let your attention gently follow the natural rhythm of your breath. Avoid judging or controlling the situation. After several minutes, recall a circumstance in which you felt afraid. Don’t go for the major ones, just a smaller experience. As the memory fills your mind, simply notice and observe all that you can regarding the fear that arises in response to the remembered thought. Pay attention to all the sensations the presence of fear brings in your mind and body.

If it becomes intolerable, shift your attention to something neutral or pleasant.

2.  Accept rather than avoid or deny

Approaching this with the curiosity of mindfulness, by befriending rather than avoiding the fear arising, I practiced redirecting it away from fear of eating towards what would happen to my health if I didn’t change my eating choices. 

And what I then saw when I looked steadily at the potential complications of poorly controlled Type 2 was daunting enough that it dwarfed the initial focus of fear, food.

 

 

Try this:

Repeat the exercise above, but this time, consciously alter the circumstance that triggered the fear. Practice exploring the situation in addition to your reaction. Let your curiosity lead you deeper. Hang out there a while till it becomes familiar.

3. Redirect

By flipping it around, I harnessed the fear, welcoming its presence by reinforcing this internal reframing (from food to complications), continuously honoring the powerful motivator it had morphed into.

Try this:

Recall the couple of alternative situations you thought of in the first exercise. Rather than allowing your mind to randomly flip through those or anything else for that matter, put effort into choosing to contemplate first one than the other. This helps you decrease the desire to avoid the fear-inducing thoughts, and offers the opportunity to experience being able to consciously re-direct your attention.

Just as you wouldn’t wave your fork wildly around hoping to spear the piece of broccoli on your plate, but direct your fork towards it, do the same with your thoughts!

4. Reinforce

I deliberately reinforced “fear as a motivator” by reading all I could about the potential complications I now faced if I didn’t change what I ate, so it became a no-brainer to do all in my power to avoid dying without my feet, blind and on dialysis!

Try this:

Repeat all the steps above frequently. We learn by repetition, so practice again and again. Every time you practice these exercises, you’re actually forming new neural pathways, good ones that will support a better way to relate to fear.

After all, it’s pretty essential to life!

Your turn…

What motivates you to change? I really want to know… does fear factor in, or is it something else entirely? Leave a comment below to start a discussion on what motivates you…

How 20 Minutes Can Change Your Life

Especially in today’s fast paced lifestyle, delayed gratification isn’t in vogue. It’s more the opposite, instant gratification, ADD style that our constantly wired lives encourage.

I was reminded of this during a recent visit from my brother. His passion is good food and wine, and the mostly annual vacations we take (he remained in London, while I moved to California, so it’s our way of spending time together), typically consist of elaborate planning and eventual enjoyment around eating.

I have significant dietary restrictions which govern my food choices- high fat, low carbohydrate, small portions of healthy balanced meals throughout the day – while he makes choices based upon other criteria, like taste!

From both habit and a metabolism that supports a very light breakfast and lunch, he saves around 75% of his daily nutritional intake until dinner. I know from the thousands of meals we’ve shared over the years the challenge I face in speaking up and making a case for needing to eat earlier than he typically does, because of my own altered food needs, while addressing the later-dining European style, with the earlier-supper U.S. But these days, as I remind myself, my health is more important than his preferences, so we navigate this new territory of what and when to eat for supper so everyone’s content.

Difficult breakfast time

It’s not that he’s unsympathetic to my different relationship to food. He just relates to it based upon different, and dare I suggest, more common criteria. For me, within the controlled environment of my home and life, being tempted by “harmful” foods is no longer an issue. Carbohydrates just aren’t to be found!

Brother arrives, and the first thing we do is dutifully visit Whole Foods (his avowed spiritual home in California). Unpacking the purchases, out come the high-end crackers essential with delicate creamy French cheeses, fresh pasta, artisan sourdough bread, quality chips for the guacamole. He doesn’t have a sweet tooth, but loves both fresh and dried fruits. While I want him to have the food he enjoys, and take delight in his pleasure with the excellent choice the foodie-driven Bay Area has to offer, inwardly I prepare for the challenges I anticipate from having some of my most missed foods sitting in the kitchen.

How to be in the presence of someone eating “forbidden” foods 

I’m especially mindful of which of the senses incurred in eating trips me up the most. It’s hearing crunching! For others, it might be the smell or thought of certain foods.

Personally, with very poor taste and smell, texture has now become hugely important. In particular, anything crunchy or crispy holds great appeal. Anticipating that my cravings will be triggered through listening to my brother crunch his toast, or scoop up guacamole (which I can eat) with crispy chips (which I can’t but would like to), I prepared to take care of myself in 2 main ways.

 

1. I ensure that I’m not only full, but 20 minutes have passed since I ate. This is easiest to do at breakfast as I was up earlier. By eating first, I was able to check in with my sense of being satiated by the time my brother ate. Many of you are aware of my particular weakness for bread. (If not, I write about it here and again in this post.)

Why 20 minutes?

It takes that length of time for the hormone leptin to give us the “full” sensation after eating. By the time he was enjoyably crunching his sourdough toast, I focused upon my feeling of being full, and noticed how it lessened any temptation.

I learnt that being full made it easier to bear a trigger, in this case the sound of his crunching!

2. In order to deal with the trigger of hearing the (loud) crunching, I used the mindfulness approach of silently noticing to myself… hearing is happening, hearing… hearing.

In this way, I directed my attention to knowing that hearing was occurring (the sound of crunching). By letting my attention then move onto the physical sensation of “fullness”, any cravings or urges to eat toast faintly hovered and dissolved quickly when attention wasn’t sustained. Doing so only embellishes the thought or storyline, which in turn would trigger the emotion of wanting or craving. In the way that everything is impermanent, my urge quickly passed, not satiated, even as the crunching lasted longer!

A technique taught in mindfulness practice is to note internally the “activity” of the sense which is dominant. In this example, hearing the crunch was the dominant phenomenon being received. This is particularly helpful with those pesky urges.

Noting it reminded me that it was impermanent, a sound being received briefly by my ears.

By not elaborating the storyline that my mind could have seamlessly gone to, “it’s not fair…he gets to eat toast…maybe a small slice…just this once…poor me…I miss it SO much”, I was able to be present but remain free of cravings and temptations.