I thought I understood what I was going to say about forgiveness this week. After all, I’ve been there. Done that. Had about the most profound experience of forgiveness you can have. Even got the miracle to show for it. (Details in “How I discovered the Voice or how the Voice discovered me,” in Writing Down Your Soul.
I know forgiveness is key. The key, even. The key to moving on, breaking through, and experiencing miracles. So when the December Plan began to form, I knew forgiveness would be important. So important, it would have its own week. What I didn’t know is that it would have a life all its own. A life I was not in charge of.
This morning, I was sitting outside in the December Florida sun having my soul writing chat with “DG” about forgiveness when a shadow flitted across my journal. I looked up. A vulture was soaring directly over me. So close I could see her lighter brown underfeathers. I smiled and said hello. Then her friends started to show up. Within seconds, there were thirteen majestic turkey vultures circling over my teeny townhouse yard.
I’m used to birds blessing me with their presence, but usually my messengers are ospreys. I could hear my osprey buddies calling in the distance, but for the moment I was drenched in vulture grace.
Hmm, vultures, I wondered. Turning back to the page I asked, “DG, what do vultures have to do with forgiveness?” I knew it was no accident that I’m planning a week of forgiveness and 13 vultures show up. But I wasn’t sure what they were trying to say. So I went inside to get Ted Andrew’s Animal Speak.
Like most people, I have a simple and not particularly pretty image of vultures: they eat dead things. Well, yes. They do. But put in the context of forgiveness, maybe eating “dead things” is a beautiful thing.
The vulture, according to Ted Andrews, is symbolic of purification. “Its medicine would restore harmony that had been broken.” From a biological standpoint, the vulture purifies the area by eating what’s dead, and with it all the decay and bacteria that could potentially harm other animals or people. Well now, let’s think like a vulture for a moment. How does forgiveness purify us and our immediate area?
The opposite — non-forgiveness — is toxic. You know this. You see it every day in people who can not let go of their anger toward someone. Perhaps they’re endlessly obsessing about a scurrilous boss, an abusive ex-spouse, a faithless lover, or a soul-crushing parent. Everyone has someone in their history who has caused them harm. You do, don’t you? Quick. Fill in the sentence:
“I have not forgiven __________ for ___________.”
So what are you going to do? You’ve got a rather simple choice. Hold on to that anger till it makes you sick or call in the vultures to help you. And make no mistake, obsessive anger will make you sick. We know this instinctively, but there’s plenty of research connecting the dots between long-standing anger and illness. Just this morning there was an article in the St Petersburg Times about a study demonstrating that men who didn’t express their anger were “twice as likely to have had a heart attack or died of heart disease as men who openly expressed their anger. Risk was highest for those who walked away.” The article doesn’t say exactly what happens inside your body when you swallow your feelings and walk away, but we all know from personal experience that the fury, hurt, and shame don’t dissolve on their own. They stay alive inside our guts, our hearts, and our minds. And the more we dwell on them, the bigger and stronger they get until we can’t “walk away” because they show up unbidden in our thoughts and our dreams — sometimes every day.
Here’s what I learned on the page with the guidance of the vultures swirling above me.
Step One: If you want to “kill” your anger stop feeding it. Stop talking about it. Stop obsessing about it. Picture your thoughts as “blood” that feeds your anger. Stop feeding it. If you’re not ready to do that it may be because you’ve never really told your story. Not fully. Not consciously. If that’s the case, sit down with your divine Voice and tell your story one last time, pouring out all the gory details and your deepest thoughts and feelings about what happened. In the loving, gentle presence of the Voice, dig underneath the story to find the story beneath the story, the emotions behind the emotions, the deeper meaning of this story in your life. When you’ve done that — and it may take some time — state unequivocably:
“Thank you for listening. I am finished now. I have no need to tell that story again.”
Step Two: Name the gift in the unforgiveable. And yes, there’s a gift in there somewhere. If nothing else, it has brought you to the edge of Forgiveness Gap and freedom lies on the other side. If Nelson Mandela can forgive after 27 years of imprisonment, you can forgive. If the gift still isn’t clear to you, keep writing down your soul until you find it.
“Help me find the gift in this experience. I still have hurt feelings, anger, frustration. I still feel a need for revenge. But I want to let go. So help me find the truth, the big T truth, in this experience. What did I learn? How did my soul evolve through it? What good is there in this?”
Step Three: Make a conscious decision to forgive. State twice — out loud and in writing on the page — that you want to forgive, are ready to forgive, and are calling on Spirit, your guides, your saints and your angels to come to your aid to help you do it.
“Dear Spirit, I am ready to forgive ________. I want to forgive __________. I want to be free.”
Step Four: Open your fist and let your anger go. You can visualize that or, if you want to do it physically, write “I forgive ________ now and for all time” on a small piece of paper. Hold the paper tight in your fist feeling the tension and anger of your history with that person move through your arm and hand and out of your body onto the paper. Then open your hand and let the paper float to the ground.
Step Five: Call in the vultures. Visualize them consuming the paper and with it all the “bad” bacteria of non-forgiveness, vengeance, anger, pain.
Step Six: Thank the vultures for purifying your body, your spirit, your soul and your space. And step into your true home, Freedom.
How does the freedom of forgiveness feel? Perhaps you have become so light, you can soar with the vultures.
In Follow Up, the fourth step in Writing Down Your Soul, I talk about several ways to confirm or clarify your guidance. One of my favorites is to pay attention to the messages that come through animals. (p 183-185)
I was raised strict Catholic. Trust me, no nun or priest ever mentioned animals as vehicles for divine guidance. But in 1992, I took a Women’s Spiritual Empowerment class from Charlotte Starfire and my eyes were forever opened to the constant stream of messages in the air and on the land coming to me (and to everyone) in the form of animals.
Charlotte learned about the medicine, or healing messages, of animals from Sun Bear, the great Native American shaman and teacher. Since Charlotte’s class, I’ve kept my Medicine Cards close at hand and turned to them often to understand why a snake crossed my path or an osprey died a few feet from my door. I love my beautiful animal messengers and I welcome their messages.
But last night at 5:00 AM I got a new messenger and I didn’t love it at all. I was awakened by a cockroach crawling across my forehead. Instinctively, I threw it across the room and sat up in horror. I turned on the lights and pursued that thing for thirty minutes. I simply could not fall back asleep with a cockroach somewhere in my bedroom. This is Florida, and I know roaches are everywhere, but thanks to my pest control company, there’s never been a moving one in my bedroom before.
Well, this morning, when I did my deep soul writing, I asked, “What’s with the bug? If I perceive your divine messages in other more delightful animals, don’t I have to recognize the message this creature delivered, too?” It took me a few pages of writing to get the message. The bug had been on my forehead, my third eye, the seat of my knowing. So it was letting me know that I had bugs in my thinking, bugs in my programming.
And of course, it was right. I’ve been wracked with fear lately, fear about finances and fear about my son’s well-being. I desparately need to debug my programming.
“How do I do that?” I wrote. And the answer instantly appeared: “Ask the cards.” But this time, instead of going to the Medicine Cards, I went to a new deck my publicist, Jennifer Hill Robenalt, gave me when I met her in Austin: The Answer is Simple by Sonia Choquette. I love these cards. And they are, as the name implies, incredibly easy to use.
So I took a deep breath and prayerfully asked my question: “How do I debug my programming? How do I get the fear out?”
I drew three cards and laughed at the answer — and yes, it’s simple, clear and simple:
1. Say Thank You.
Suspend your fears long enough to recognize and appreciate those who are helping you. I recognized immediately that I’d been taking the small army of people who love me and my book for granted.
2. Reclaim Your Art
I didn’t even have to read this to know the answer: get back to my creativity, my writing, my love, my joy.
3. Say Yes
“The ego gets fearful…it waits until it’s absolutely sure that it will be safe before it acts. The trouble with this approach to life is the ego never feels safe, so it never acts, it reacts…. Don’t allow the ego to hold you back from the gorgeous opportunities in front of you. Take a chance and trust life as it unfolds.”
The cards perfectly diagnosed the fear “bugs” in my programming and showed me three simple steps to take to get de-bugged. I’m on it right now: I am grateful, I am writing, and I joyfully say YES! to my life’s purpose.
And so, I have to say once more to all my messengers, from the majestic birds to the creepy bugs, thank you for your words and your wisdom, your guidance and your grace. I see you. I hear you. And I learn from you. I am so blessed. And thank you to Sonia Choquette for her fabulous cards.
I am not special or unique. The animals are talking to all of us all the time. Consider this: What animal is delivering a message to you right now? What’s the animal? What’s the message? And what are you going to do with your message?