What do you do with regret?

Before I went to Montana for our July Soul Quest, I ordered a handmade journal from Mary Anne Radmacher. She makes a journal for each of my yearly soul-journs. I treasure her journals because they hold all the deep soul explorations that bubble up during the trip.   This year, Mary Anne outdid herself. The cover, as always, evoked the heart and soul of the adventure. But this time, she added pouches on the inside covers. What fun I thought–special places to hold little treasures from the trip. I noticed there was something in the back cover pouch. I pulled it out. It was an angel card–“The Angel of Forgiveness.”

That should have been a clue.

I was, I confess, a little miffed. Oh please, I thought, I’ve had my big forgiveness experience. I’m a bloomin’ queen of forgiveness. I lead people in deep forgiveness experiences in my courses. Surely, I’m not going to Montana to deal with forgiveness! I took the card out of the pouch and stuck it somewhere it in my office.

My reaction should have been a clue.

On opening night at our Soul Quest, I told the group, “You do not really know why you’re here. You think you do, but trust me, you don’t. Make a note of why you think you’re here and then on closing night let’s see what actuallly unfolded. You may be in for quite a surprise.”

I should have listened to myself.

The next morning, we learned about power by working with horse. The following day we learned about the opposite un-power of fish as we attempted to cast for mysterious and elusive trout. Later that day, we floated down the Missouri River in an Avon raft. I recognized the raft. When I lived on a sailboat in Oakland, we had an Avon raft. My husband said they were the best.

Oh boy, lots more clues.

As the day on the river ended, I realized my husband would have loved this trip. He would have loved fly fishing, and riding, and sleeping in a log cabin. He would have loved floating down the river in an Avon raft under the watchful gaze of eagle.

Then, it dawned on me I was wearing the water shoes he gave me, the Tilley hat he insisted every sailor have, and schlepping everything in his treasured but weathered 1985 Ghurka tote bag. I was surprised to discover that I had unconsciously created an experience my husband would have loved.

That should have been a huge clue.

The next day we participated in a Chippewa-Cree sweat lodge conducted by a lovely woman named Lillian. In the lodge, she led us through four rounds of prayer. For each round, hot rocks were brought in and doused with water. In the rising steam. she led us in traditional songs and gave us the opportunity to say the names of people for whom we wished to pray.  I spoke my son’s name in each round and many of my friends and partners. It was a beautiful experience and I felt honored to participate in such an ancient and holy form of prayer.

That night I woke with a start. “Oh my God! Her name was Lillian!” In that moment, I knew why I’d created this trip. And I’d come within a hair of missing it. It was not an accident that a woman named Lillian conducted our lodge. My husband, you see, was adopted. He was thirty-four when he found his birth sister and thirty-six when he spoke to his birth mother. They were unable to make peace and he died carrying a great wound around being given up for adoption. His birth mother died a few years later. And her name was Lillian.

Sitting up in bed in a log cabin in Wolf Creek Montana, I knew that I had been handed the opportunity to bring both their names into the sacred space of the sweat lodge and connect them in the grace of forgiveness. But I blew it.   But then, I stopped crying and remembered the great teaching of the angels in Check the Box, the course that brings us back in time to hear our soul’s purpose. The course ended just days before we left for Montana. The angels said that we can revisit any experience in our lives and make different choices. When we do, we literally–not metaphorically–alter the vibration of that scene for all time–past, present, and future–and we alter it for all parties concerned.

I closed my eyes and went back to the lodge in my mind. When it was our turn to pray aloud, I spoke my husband’s name and his birth mother’s. The fourth and final round is all about forgiveness, and with tears dripping down my face, I brought their names and their spirits into the lodge and joined them in a total state of forgiveness. In peace, I fell back asleep.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.

When I got back home, I had a toothache. A big bad toothache. My back molar had cracked, become infected, and had to be extracted. After the extraction, I felt exhausted. Even with 12 hours of sleep, I had no energy to work. On August 4, I turned to the Voice in my journal and demanded to know what my rotten tooth was about. In the next sentence I remembered that my husband had teeth problems his whole life. In deep soul writing I asked, “What needs to be completed, what else needs to be revisited like the sweat lodge?”

Suddenly I wrote this question:   “What do I regret?”

Instantly, I knew. There is only one moment in my life that I regret. And oh, how I regret it. It was the night my husband died. He’d been in a coma in ICU for a week. The hospital called late that afternoon to say they were moving him. After dinner, our son asked to visit his dad and I said, they’re moving him tonight, let’s go tomorrow. The next morning at 6:30 we received a call that he had died. I have regretted not going to the hospital for nine years.   OK, I wrote. I will go back and redo it. Just like the sweat lodge and just the way the angels taught.   On the page in deep soul writing, I relived the evening of October 5, 2003. When my son said, “Let’s go see dad,” we drove to the hospital. At the hospital, we found his new room. We walked in and saw him on the bed. We stood close together beside the bed and prayed aloud thanking him for the good he’d brought us and promising to hold only the good in our hearts. When my son and I felt complete, I blew a kiss and whispered, God speed. The next morning, the phone still rang at 6:30 and we still got the news that he had died. But this time I felt no regret. I had said goodbye and given our son the space to say goodbye.

When I finished my Regret Redo, I felt a wave move through me. All the exhaustion and pain in my body and mouth flowed out of me and into the ground. I felt a burst of energy and for the first time since I got back from Montana, felt excited and energized. Suddenly, I had to hold Mary Anne’s angel card. It took me an hour to find it buried under a pile of books. The message on the card is: “I choose to forgive all those who have hurt me in the past.”

“Choose” is the operative word here. I have chosen over and over again to forgive, not only my husband, but anyone I think has harmed me. And thanks to heaven sending a woman named Lillian, I was able to bring two unrequited souls into the blessed place of forgiveness. And then, thanks to a broken tooth, I was given the opportunity to experience the next and even deeper piece in the fathomless journey of forgiveness: Regret Redo.

If reading about my Regret Redo experience is activating something inside of you, here are a few questions to ponder:

  • Are there moments you wish you could relive?
  • Are you willing to revisit them and choose differently?
  • What do you think will happen?
  • What do you regret?
  • How is regret a living, if deeply buried, presence in your life?
  • What impact is regret having on you, your relationships, your work, your creativity, your health?
  • What do you think will happen if you consciously choose to forgive, and even redo, the past?
  • Are you ready to enter into the profound state of Regret Redo? If not, why not?

I invite you to enter into divine dialogue and ask these and other deep questions on the page. Then trust the Voice as it leads you into the profound experience of Regret Redo. Then, I invite you to post your experience here. Your words may change someone’s life.

Blessings on you and all your experiences, yes, even those you regret.


My Judge has died. Can you forgive him?

Do you read obituaries? I don’t as a rule, but five days ago, the caption “Judicial career ruined by alcohol at end” caught my eye. I read a couple lines. My internal radar went off. I glanced over at the picture. Oh my God. It was my judge.

Twelve times I stood in front of Judge “West” asking him to protect my son. Twelve times I presented evidence of guns, knives, break ins, emotional abuse, and road rage. I played tapes of m y ex screaming at our son. I brought police reports, newspaper articles, domestic violence injunctions, and witnesses. I brought the road rage victim to tell his story of being attacked while a child left in the “crazy man’s” truck watched. Did I get supervised visitation? No, I did not.
 
At my last attempt, I brought a box of weapons his father had given our seven-year old. That box completely flummoxed the court security system. You cannot bring weapons into court, they said. But they’re evidence, I said. Doesn’t matter, they said, weapons put the judge at risk. I got the box past the guards but the judge refused to look in it. He ruled the father had the right to give the weapons to his child. He ruled that despite a sentence in our divorce decree forbidding exposure to guns, the father had the right to take his son to a gun show and let him handle a 44.
 
I was stunned. This couldn’t be happening. I began to cry. Judge West looked right at me and raised his voice, “If you don’t stop crying right now, I’ll hit you with contempt of court and you’ll spend the night in jail.” I bit the sides of my cheeks hard and stared at a coffee stain on the floor, begging my tearducts to stop. I had t o get home to my son.
 
A year later, my family offered me a job in Wisconsin with the family business. At last, I thought, I can rebuild my life–financially, emotionally–in every way, and my son will get a good education and be surrounded by people who love him.
 
I went back to court to ask for permission to move. There were six legal criteria to move. My attorney was confident I exceeded the requirements of all six. You can start packing, she said. She hadn’t met Judge West. At the end of the trial, he complimented her. You out-lawyered the other guy, he said, and clearly demonstra ted that your client meets the six criteria. But Ms Conner cannot move. Not now. Not ever. 
 
I stopped fighting. I gave up and resigned myself to living in Florida. I send my son to visitation with nothing more to protect him than a cloud of prayer.
 
But that’s not the end of the story.
 
Three years after the divorce, I began to date. One night we talked about my struggles with the legal system. As I described one court appearance after another, his face clouded with doubt. I know it sounds insane, I said, but you’ve never met Judge West. 
 
He stopped and looked at me. Did you say Judge West? He signed, there’s something you need to know. The police have been to Judge West’s home 13 times on domestic violence calls. It was my turn to sigh. Thank you, I said, that explains everything.
 
But that’s not the end of the story either. 
 
A few years ago, Judge West was arrested breaking into a woman’s hotel room. His house of cards began to quickly tumble. First he lost a trial on the break in, then his judgeship, then his law license. Next he lost his home and his marriage. Finally, he checked into an addiction treatment center. Last month, he died at 61. 
 
So was I gloating? No. As I put the newspaper down, I cried.
I cried for Judge West. Like my ex-husband, Judge West 
died young, broke, and broken. He suffered greatly in this world. But the truth is he was a gift in my life.
 
Yes. A gift. A real honest to goodness gift. Because fighting him and losing time after time after time, led me to finally stop fighting not just him and the legal system, but my ex husband as well.
 
There were two huge awakenings in my divorce: stop fighting and forgive. And Judge West played the key role in both. If I’d won even one round with him, I’d have kept on fighting believing that fighting was the answer. It took me twelve rounds, but I did stop fighting. And the moment I put my own weapons down,  the moment I said to Spirit, I surrender, I quit, I give up, you have to take over, I don’t know what to do; I created a space where something new could happen.
 
And that something new was forgiveness. If Judge West hadn’t ruled that I had to stay in Florida, I’d never have forgiven my ex husband. And if I’d never forgiven him, I could never have invited him to come to our home for visitation. And if I’d never invited him to come to our home for visitation, the life insurance m iracle could never have happened. And that life insurance miracle created the financial wherewithall to begin this writing career and send our son to college.
 
I am who I am today because I forgave my husband. It’s that simple. You would not be interested in anything I have to say about deep soul writing or any other spiritual tools if I had not first forgiven my husband. Forgiveness is THE central spiritual practice. It is the core. It is the key to freedom. Or as Hafiz says, “Forgiveness is the cash you need.”  
 
But that’s not the end of the story, either.
 
I think we all have a Judge West. We all have a person or problem or situation that we butt our heads against over and over and over and over trying to change it, fix it, control it, manipulate it into something we want. 
 
Here’s my message to you: Find your Judge West and forgive it. Your Judge West might be an actual person or persons, but it might be a job, a financial situation, a diagnosis, a loss. It might be being abandoned, frightened, alone, lost, or in pain. Whatever or whoever your Judge West is, find it and forgive it.
 
Can you do that? Can you let go of the struggle? Put down your weapons? Open a space for something new?
 
Can you?

December Plan Day 21: Finally Forgive–the miracle prayer.

Today we wrap up our week of clearing our spaces–our heart spaces, our mind spaces, our soul spaces, and even our body spaces–of the silent (or not so silent) anger and resentment festering within. Is this necessary? Ask any therapist. Ask any spiritual counselor. Ask any metaphysician. Ask anyone. But really, there’s only one person’s opinion that matters. Ask yourself.

You know if you’ve got old crusty crud blocking your spiritual arteries. You know if you’re carrying a pocket of anger toward some jerk who done you wrong. You know if deep inside you still wish that something rotten would happen to someone. You know. And you know if this anger is getting in the way. You know if it’s gotten in the way all last year — or all last decade for that matter. And you know, somewhere deep you know, if it could get in the way of calling in your magical, glorious, joyous new year.

So once and for all, it’s time to let go. To move on. To release. To forgive. To finally, totally and completely forgive. Want to do that? Well, it’s your lucky day because it just so happens that I know how. No, wait, let me amend that. It isn’t that I “know” how to forgive. Not in the sense of having an intellectual understanding of what forgiveness is and how it happens. I’m not sure anyone, no matter how many books they’ve read or written, “knows” that.

But we who have had a profound experience of forgiveness, do know something special. We know that forgiveness is miraculous. We know that when we forgive — not in the mind or even the heart but at the deepest, let’s call it cellular or even soul level — something happens. Chains really do break. Spirits really are released. And not just the other guy’s. Both people are released. You and the person you are forgiving. You are both instantly and miraculously free.

So, do I “know” something about forgiveness? Can I explain why this particular prayer works? No. Not really. It’s a mystical experience. It’s a miracle. All I can tell you is that it works. This is the prayer that released me and my ex-husband. Within two hours of my writing this prayer, my ex-husband wrote a check for the first time during our divorce. A check for half our son’s last dental appointment. Doesn’t sound big? Not to you maybe, but for us it was nothing less than the parting of the Red Sea. And, more than that, it was a harbinger of the giant life insurance miracle to come. (If you don’t know the story, you can read it in this excerpt from Writing Down Your Soul.)

And this prayer, “Finally Forgive,” doesn’t just work for me. Every time I read it in public, I get phone calls. I don’t know why, but they always come on the third day. And they always start the same way, “You’re not going to believe what happened….” I always smile. Oh, yes, I am. Yes, I am. Yes, I am. I am absolutely, positively going to believe what happened. Because forgiveness works. Forgiveness works miracles. Forgiveness works miracles every time.

Here’s the miracle prayer, “Finally Forgive.” I wrote it about my situation with my ex-husband. But it applies to everyone. Just change the sentence, “The truth is…” and fill in your own Truth about your own relationship with the person you are forgiving. Adjust this prayer any way you want for yourself.

  1. Listen to me say it first.
  2. Then make any changes you want to personalize the prayer for yourself.
  3. Then speak the prayer out loud. This is important. Say it standing up. Say it aloud. Say it slowly. With conviction. With meaning. With heart. Hold up your hands as you see the corners and make the choice. Because that’s really all you’re doing. You’re making a choice. THE choice. The most important choice you’ll ever make.

After you’ve said the prayer, be still. Let the words wash over you. Feel the fetters burst. Don’t be surprised if you’re a little woozy. If that happens, just sit. Be still. And whisper thank you. “Thank You, God for this gift of forgiveness. I am free. I am free. At last, I am free. Free to live the life I’m here to live. Free to come from love. Free to love my life, my soul, my purpose, and my gifts. Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, I am free at last.”

Finally Forgive
a prayer of finally, really, truly, and completely choosing to forgive copyright 2009 Janet Conner

Part I   The Gap
There is a gap between you and me.

In the gap is pain and fear and anger.
In the gap is our history of ugly thoughts, ugly words, ugly actions.
In the gap are the sounds of screaming, crying and swearing.
That gap is killing us and hurting our child.

What good is there in that gap?
What good is there in refusing to cross it?
What good is there in staying angry?
What good is there in not forgiving?

Part II   One Love
If there really is only one love—God’s love—then:
How can I love my work,
if I don’t love you, in some way? Just a little.
How can I love our son with my whole heart,
if I don’t love you, in some way? Just a little.

How can I love my new relationship,
whomever that may be, whenever that may be,
if I don’t love you, won’t love you, can’t love you, in some way?
Just a little.

How can I love my home, my family, my friends?
How can I love my purpose, my reason for being,
if I don’t love you, in some way?

If I could love you, just a little
I could love my life all the more,
love my child all the more
love my work, my home, my friends, all the more.

Part III   The Choice
I have it in my power to hate you, to ignore you, to blame you.
I have it in my power to make your life difficult, set up little traps,
say small nasty things.
I have it in my power to paint you as the bad guy, the stupid one, the fool.
And, I have it in my power to forgive you, to love you, in some way. Just a little.

The truth is your presence in my life was a gift.
For now and for always, you gave me our precious child,
the sweetest gift on earth.
And you taught me, finally taught me, to say no.

Thanks to you, I learned, oh God, how I learned.
Thanks to you, I grew, till I became bigger, stronger, richer, fuller.
Thanks to you, I walked. I walked a long tough journey, but I walked
to this place, this moment, when I know who I am.

I know what I’m thinking. I know what I’m feeling.
And I see a clear choice:
I can hold you in this corner, where you are forever wrong.
Or, I can hold you in the light, where you are free to grow, and change, and be happy.

Dear God, I’m choosing.
I’m closing the gap,
filling it with forgiveness, plugging the holes, and posting a sign:
Only love is spoken here.

(Finally Forgive comes from Spiritual Geography, the soul-writing system that heals the broken heart. Click on the Country of Peace to learn more about forgiveness. If you’re interested in more information about Spiritual Geography please contact me at janet@writingdownyoursoul.com. I invite you to forward this and all the posts on forgiveness in the December Plan to friends. Encourage them to subscribe to this blog and to the Writing Down Your Soul newsletter.)


December Plan Day 19: Who’s in your Dungeon?

We’ve been talking about forgiveness for several days now. And the conversation just keep getting richer and richer. Truth is we could probably talk about forgiveness with our inner divine Voice for a month, and still find more to say and more to forgive.

That’s why most people don’t begin. We sense instinctively that if we start to poke beneath the taut surface of our “everything is fine” mask, we’ll find dozens of wounds that need healing and there’ll never be an end to it. So why start?

Here’s why: forgiveness is the most delicious, most healing, most soul-lifting, joy-inducing thing you can do.

Want freedom? Forgive.
Want a vibrant healthy body? Forgive.
Want to find your purpose? Live your purpose? Forgive.
Want love? Forgive.
Want that magical new year? Gotta forgive first.

Forgiveness is the magic. It opens the door to a life you cannot even imagine at the moment. A life that’s yours, all yours, if you will just let go of the anger and resenting holding you prisoner.

St Theresa of Avila knew this way back in the sixteenth century. She explained it in her treatise, Inner Castle. In Entering the Castle, Caroline Myss gives us a modern insight into St Theresa’s vision. For Theresa, the soul has seven floors in the inner castle. Well, guess what’s on the first floor? Your castle’s dungeon.


Listen to St Theresa speaking to you about the dungeon through Caroline Myss:

“Everyone has a dungeon. It’s where you hold your prisoners…. Haul open the heavy lead door and walk down the damp, stone stairs. The atmosphere gts darker and colder as you descent. As you walk through, notice that there are cells for prisoners lining the walls. Everyone you cannot forgive or whom you resent or wish harm to is held by you in these cells. The parents you cannot forgive are in a cell; the business partner who cheated you and whom you still resent is in a cell; the ex-spouse is in a cell…. No doubt some of the people you hold prisoners are holding you prisoner as well.

Why do you keep prisoners? …you keep someone prisoner because you feel he has not been punished enough for the harm he did to you.”

It’s time to take a little tour of your own dungeon. Close your eyes for a few seconds and walk down the stairs in your own inner gut. Look around at the cells. Surprising how many are in there, huh? Glance around inside the cells. Who’s there? Any surprises?

Now, comes the fun part. And it’s easy. Instead of dissecting all the stories, reopening the wounds, explaining what happened, justifying your behavior or your motivation for locking them up, just release them. That’s it. Just release them. Here’s how you do it.

Stand up to stretch out your dungeon. Close your eyes. Put your hands in front of your dungeon like two doors. Visualize yourself walking down into your dungeon. See the cells. Walk up to each one and open it. Gesture for the prisoner to leave. No talking. No apologizing. No explaining. No nothing. Just open the cells and watch them walk out. When all your prisoners are gone, walk to the very back and release the pathetic prisoner in the darkest dankest cell. You know who that is. You.

When your dungeon is empty, call on Spirit to flood the dungeon with white and gold light. See the space being filled with this loving gentle healing light. Watch the cells dissolve. When the space is completely transformed from prison to light, say thank you and open your eyes.

How does that feel?

(If you don’t want to miss any of the rest of the December Plan, I invite you to subscribe to this blog at the top of the right hand column.)


December Plan Day 18 part 2: The Enough Prayer

Ordinarily I write one post a day in the December Plan. But today’s post on who really needs forgiveness has caused many a tear. These are good tears. These tears are little messages bobbing up from your soul saying, “Yes, oh yes. Please forgive yourself. There is so much ahead of us, so much beauty, so much potential, so much joy, but as long as you have this gaping hole in your heart, you can’t see all that good. And because you can’t see it, you probably can’t have it. So, yes, darling one, please forgive yourself. Because the truth is you are so much more beautiful than you can ever know.”

I’ve struggled mightily with this idea of not being enough. And for a very long time. I wrote this prayer, “Enough,” back in the early nineties, well before my divorce. The words still resonate today. To me, they sound like long slow deep vibrations from a bell that has been ringing for a very very long time. I am ready to stop clanging the bell of “not enough.” I’m going to say this prayer one more time today. Out loud. With vigor. I’m going to feel it in my bones and know that it is true. From this day forward, I am enough. I am more than enough.

Here. I think this prayer is for you, too.

Enough
A Prayer of Abundance (copyright Janet Conner 2009)

Dear God of the universe,
creator of all life, hear me.
This one prays.

In the mirror.
In the reflection that bounces from me to the world and back again,
there is a circle, a circle of sadness.

I am not enough.
They see “not enough.”
Therefore, I am not enough,

not good enough
not enough of something
not strong enough, perhaps

not smart enough, for sure
not handsome enough
not pretty enough

not wealthy enough, never wealthy enough
not fast enough
not clever enough

not tough enough,
but too tough sometimes and that makes me
not kind enough

something not enough
many things not enough.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter what.
The specific fault is irrelevant.
I don’t have to name it.
It’s enough just to know that I’m not enough
of whatever it is I’m not enough of.

Do You understand this, God?
Seems a bit convoluted, I know.
But circles are circles.
And everywhere I turn,
there are more of them.

If I look at my work – I’m not good enough
and, of course, they see I’m not good enough.
Therefore, I’m not.
Good enough.
And doesn’t my “success” just prove it.

If I look at my family – I’m not loving enough.
They know I could love them more.
Just look at our tensions
and You’ll see that I’m right:
I’m not loving enough.

If I look in the mirror – I’m not pretty enough.
There it is for the world to see:
blemishes, imperfections, crooked teeth, blotchy skin, ridiculous hair, flaccid muscles.
I think I’ll stop now.
But You see. Well, I see.
I’m not pretty enough.

If I look in my checkbook – I’m not rich enough.
Doesn’t take a banker to see I don’t earn enough.
Perhaps if I worked harder, smarter, faster, better…something,
I’d be better off.
But there it is: I’m not rich enough.

I could continue, but I need to move on.
There are things to do, people to see, problems to solve.
And I’m not organized enough to get it all done.

So I have to get going.
But first, I need to ask You this question. It’s important.
Why did You put me here if I’m not enough?

Why didn’t You make me pretty enough, smart enough, rich enough?
You could have, You know.
Even now, You could do it in a single breath:

Ask and poof, I am beautiful
Ask and poof, I am wealthy
Ask and I’m smart

Ask and I’m wanted
Ask and I’m wise
Ask and I’m…

What?
What do I want?
What do I really want?

Want beyond wanting?
Need beyond needing?
What is the hole that must be filled?

Love…I guess. Yes, Love. That’s it, isn’t it?
If I had Love – enough Love – I would be blessed.
If I had Love – the right Love – I would be joyous.
If I had perfect Love, pure Love – Your Love – I would be healed.

That’s what I ask for, dear God.
That’s what I want.
Love is what I need.
Starting here. With me. Just me.

Fill me with the Love of the angels.
Build a bridge of Love across my doubts and fears.
Pour Love all around me
in my eyes, my mouth, my heart and my mind.

It feels good, this Love,
warm and calm and easy.
It has no ambition, but it won’t stay still.
It needs nothing, yet it sets my heart in motion.

This Love is peaceful, yet yearns to spread.
It oozes out of me and fills the room.
It swims out of the room and fills the house.
It radiates out of the house and seeks the world.

I guess it is enough, isn’t it!
Enough for me.
Enough for now.
Enough for always and ever.

Enough.

Amen.

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December Plan Day 18: The one person you need to forgive

Have you noticed that when you set the intention to connect with your divine Voice on the page every day, those ten or fifteen minutes morph until it seems every moment becomes a vehicle for guidance, wisdom, and grace — even the most mundane?

Like running errands. After mailing three orders for Solarzar’s Theta Music CD at the post office yesterday afternoon, I drove to the library to return a book. The library is on the same street as my son’s high school. I’ve driven it hundreds, probably thousands, of times. Nebraska is an unremarkable street of typical Florida cement block homes. But yesterday something remarkable happened there.

Nebraska is a fun street in December. Many of the neighbors decorate for the holidays. As I passed one candy-cane filled yard, my eye fell on the plain brown house next door. The yard was overgrown, the roof layered with leaves. I know that house. It belonged to my first post-divorce boyfriend. He sold it before we went out, so I’ve never been inside, but he pointed it out once when we were driving somewhere. In the moment it took to drive past that house at thirty-five miles an hour, I felt a little twinge of neglect. He should have loved me more.

Huh? Where did that come from? I had no idea I was carrying any regret for that relationship. He wasn’t even the one who ended the relationship. I did. And I ended it ten years ago, for heavens sake! So why on earth was I feeling even the slightest speck of sorrow?

I know why. It’s because of this December Plan. This particular week of the December Plan. My old boyfriend’s old house had a message about forgiveness for me. And its not the message you might expect. The message is not about forgiving old lovers.

I realized as I drove past his house that any time anyone pulls away, even a little bit, and even for all the right reasons, and even because we ask them to, we feel at a subterranean level that somehow it was our fault. Somehow we were not enough. Not attractive enough, not smart enough, not clever enough, not rich enough, not organized enough, not focused enough…. Somehow we were not enough.

It’s a demented logic loop, I know. Here’s how it basically sounds:

If I were good enough, everyone would love me. They couldn’t help it.
So, if someone does not love me totally, madly, and completely…
I must not be good enough.

It sounds pretty comical laid out like that. But please don’t laugh. Look instead for the truth inside the loop. Go ahead, test it for yourself. Pick a relationship that didn’t work out. Even, or especially, one you chose to end. If you peek behind the door, I think you’ll find that at a deep emotional level, a deep irrational emotional level, you feel that somehow you didn’t hold the other person’s attention. If you had been just a wee bit more __________ — something — then he or she would never have turned to someone else, or fallen out of love with you, or simply stopped being interested.

Why is this such a big message? And why is it so important for this week? Because it proves that there is really only one person who needs forgiving.

You.

Not the other guy. You. It’s always you. The wound is inside of you. It’s not about what the other guy did. That can and will be forgiven, but the first wound, the greatest wound, and the hardest one to heal, is inside of you.

Have you noticed that?


December Plan Day 17: Want to forgive? Call in the vultures.

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.