An Act of The Heart

The mind alone can never forgive. True forgiveness is an act of the heart.

I’ve met plenty of people who told me they ‘thought’ they had forgiven. What they mean is they formed the mental intention to forgive, only to later discover that the judgment and resentment were still there.  Does this sound familiar?  I call this forgiving from the neck up, or, emotional bypass.  It may provide temporary relief, but it is not lasting. I also frequently encounter people intent on analyzing their experience. They seem to believe that if they fully understand the situation, it will enable them to forgive – but this is not the case. True forgiveness cannot be intellectualized. 

You can say the words “I forgive”, and have the thought “I forgive”, until the cows come home, and still not have actually forgiven. The mind can only take us so far. At some point we must enter the arena of feeling in order to release the anger, blame, resentment, and so on.  They must be addressed.  Of course feelings are vulnerable and possibly unfamiliar, which is why we might want to avoid them, but the only way to heal is to walk through them. Feelings are the true pathway home.

So, how do you enter the emotional realm?  How do you forgive from the neck down?

One of the keys for me is guided meditation.  I start with the breath, and then bring awareness to the body step by step.  This creates the foundation for all the other work.  For some, it might feel uncomfortable and even unsafe at first to bring awareness into the body, so we go as slowly as necessary to create safety.  When we can feel our body and not push our feelings away, we discover that the body has vitally important information for us, information far more reliable than that acquired from the mind alone.  

Here is a powerful passage on the topic of coming into the body, embracing our emotions and forgiving, written by Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now:

Unless you give it some attention, emotions will prevent you from gaining access to the inner body, which lies at a deeper level underneath it. Attention does not mean that you start thinking about it.  It means to just observe the emotion, to feel it fully, and so to acknowledge and accept it as it is.  Some emotions are easily identified as anger, fear, grief, and so on.  Others may be harder to label. They may just be vague feelings of unease, heaviness, or constriction, halfway between an emotion and a physical sensation. In any case, what matters is not whether you can attach a mental label to it but whether you can bring the feeling of it into awareness as much as possible.  Attention is the key to transformation — and full attention also implies acceptance.  Attention is like a beam of light – the focused power of your consciousness that transmutes everything into itself. 

In a fully functional organism, an emotion has a very short life span. It is like a momentary ripple or wave on the surface of your Being. When you are not in your body however an emotion can survive inside you for days or weeks, or join with other emotions of a similar frequency that have merged and become the pain boy, a parasite that can live inside you for years, feed on your energy, lead to physical illness, and make your life miserable.  

So place your attention on feeling the emotion, and check whether your mind is holding on to a grievance pattern such as blame, self pity, or resentment that is feeding the emotion. If that is the case, it means that you haven’t forgiven. Non-forgiveness is often toward another person or yourself, but it may just as well be toward any situation or condition – past, present or future — that your mind refused to accept. Yes, there can be non-forgiveness even with regard to the future. This is the mind’s refusal to accept uncertainty, to accept that the future is ultimately beyond its control. Forgiveness is to relinquish your grievance and so to let go of grief. It happens naturally once you realize that your grievance serves no purpose except to strengthen a false sense of self. Forgiveness is to offer no resistance to life — to allow life to live through you. The alternatives are pain and suffering, a greatly restricted flow of life energy, and in many cases physical disease.

The moment you truly forgive, you have reclaimed your power from the mind. Non-forgiveness is the very nature of the mind, just as the mind-made false self, the ego, cannot survive without strife and conflict.  The mind cannot forgive.  Only you can. You become present, you enter your body you feel the vibrant peace and stillness that emanate from Being.  

 A potent reminder that we are so much more than our minds, thoughts, beliefs and words.

Musings on Miracles

The Path of Forgiveness is The Path of Miracles.

When I talk about what is possible with forgiveness, people often remark that it sounds miraculous. And on one level, it is. Yet, I can tell by the way they say this they don’t believe they could achieve the same amazing results. But that’s the thing. Miracles are possible – for everyone.

What is a miracle anyway?  We often think of a miracle as something mystical or magical. But this simply reflects the fact that we can’t explain what happened. 

This is explained in The Twelve Conditions of a Miracle by Todd Michael:

Miracles are poorly understood. Often we think of them as events in which the laws of the universe, the laws of cause and effect, are somehow circumvented. A miracle occurs when something impossible happens. We believe this about miraculous events only because we fail to understand the processes of cause and effect that enable them.  We are very much like Neanderthals observing an eclipse. Because we lack the proper knowledge, we rationalize what we observe in peculiar, supernatural terms when, in fact, what transpires has an entirely natural explanation.

What appears to us as a miracle actually follows natural sequences of cause and effect which we simply do not yet understand. 

To understand how this applies to forgiveness, think about some of the things that occur when we forgive:

  • We release anger and resentment we’ve been holding onto. People describe feeling lighter. There is an energetic shift.
  • We reconnect with a part of ourselves that is whole and wise. We connect to our inner truth. We feel empowered. This shifts our very stance in life.
  • We release fear and the need to control. This allows more room for the flow of life, and the flow of love.

It comes down to the fact that forgiveness changes our state of consciousness. Todd Michael points out, physicists now agree with what metaphysicians have long understood:  The universe rearranges itself around our states of consciousness.  

In other words, our state of consciousness is causal.  When we let go of our grievances and shift to love, the world around us changes too. Possibilities are created that didn’t previously exist. 

Until we grasp just how infinite and intelligent the universe is, and just how powerful our choices are in the creation of our lives, I suppose this will all continue to feel magical and mysterious, but that doesn’t mean it’s unattainable. Not at all.

As forgiveness teacher Collin Tippin says, forgiveness makes room for the miracle.



Why Forgiveness and Boundaries Go Hand-in Hand

Learning how to set boundaries can be an essential part of forgiveness.

Fear of getting hurt again is a big reason people don’t forgive. They use anger to protect themselves. The problem is, holding onto anger is toxic.  It hurts you, far more than it hurts the other person, and it ends up binding you to the person who hurt you. 

An alternative approach is to protect yourself with boundaries, instead of anger. Then you can take care of yourself, and forgive.  This way you reap the benefits of forgiveness and avoid the toxicity of anger.

For many of us, boundaries are a foreign concept. We weren’t taught about boundaries.  We don’t know what they are or how to establish them. We certainly didn’t have good role models. Instead, we learned to accommodate other people and put their needs above our own. That’s fine up to a point. But, when we find ourselves being treated poorly by others, it may indicate that our boundaries are weak or non-existent.

We need to learn that our needs matter. We need to know that we deserve to be treated well by others. We need to get clear about what’s ok for us, and what is not ok. And we need to learn how to speak up for ourselves.

The essence of a boundary is “here is what is ok with me, and here is what isn’t ok with me.”  You have a right to set boundaries.  In fact, it’s your job to set clear boundaries — to let others know what is ok with you and what is not ok — and stick to them. 

So, what do healthy boundaries look like?  Here are some examples:

  • It is not my job to fix others.
  • It is okay if others feel angry, but it’s not okay for anyone to lash out at me.
  • It is okay for me to say no.
  • I’m not responsible for how others feel.
  • I don’t have to anticipate the needs of others.
  • My needs matter.
  • Nobody has to agree with me.
  • I have a right to my own feelings.

Forgiveness can be combined with a range of possible boundaries, depending on what would have you feel safe and protected from being hurt again. For example:

  • You may feel the need to sever contact with the person.  
  • You might need to take a break. In this case, you might want to let the other person know you are working on finding peace and ask them to respect your space. Tell them you will let them know when/if you are ready to resume contact, and it might be in small ways at first. This approach can reduce stress, because both of you will then know what to expect, and it allows you to take small steps (when you’re ready) to see if you can re-establish trust.
  • You might choose to continue in a relationship with a clear boundary — i.e., “this behavior is unacceptable to me and if it happens again, we’re done” — provided you are 100% committed to following through, if the boundary is crossed.

The point is, when it come to forgiveness, it’s not necessary or wise to put yourself at risk. But you do need to be very clear in setting boundaries with the person who hurt you.  Doing so is an act of self-love, self-care, and empowerment.



Tidying Up

Lately I’ve been fascinated by a Netflix seeries called “Tidying Up” — a show about Marie Kondo.  

Marie is the author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way to Banish Clutter Forever, which has sold millions of copies and been translated into dozens of languages.  

It’s perfect inspirtion for spring cleaning!

In each episode, Marie works with a family that has piles and piles of clutter in their home. People whose lives and relationships are choking on their stuff. People who desperately need to declutter and they know it.

Marie is great. Marie does not judge. She enters their home with sweetness and light. She teaches the family how to organize methodically, one category at a time.

We watch as the family sorts through their things, item by item: clothes, books, kitchen, papers and so on.  

We witness as they confront the failed promises of consumerism. Our culture teaches us that we can purchase the solution to all of our problems. It’s not all that surprising that so many people end up with closets, homes and garages literally stuffed with things. After working with Marie, we see most of these items stuffed into large garbage bags, headed for charity or landfill. 

In many ways, our possessions reflect our lives — our hopes, our dreams, our successes and our failures. So when we sort through our belongings, we are sorting through our lives.  And when we release things, we are releasing the past.

Not only do these people end up beautifying their homes, they transform their lives in the process.  They talk about having space for the first time, having air to breathe.  Feeling lighter, feeling free.

This is what I find so striking . . . 

The results are remarkably similar to what people experience with forgiveness.

Unresolved emotional debris and inner conflict also accumulate in our lives, much like old clothes in the back of our closet. They too need clearing out every once in a while. For example:

  • Those things we haven’t said to our loved ones
  • Areas of procrastination
  • Regret over past decisions
  • Guilt as a parent/child/sibling/mate
  • Emotional eating/spending/avoiding
  • Incompletions in relationships

Marie offers one simple rubric for sorting:  Does the item spark joy for you? 

If something sparks joy, it’s a keeper.  If not, she says to thank the item for what it’s given you and release it. Through her process, Marie is teaching people to attune to the spark of joy so they can recognize it more easily. 

What if we could do this in other areas of our lives?  

With disappointments and mistakes from the past, what if we could simply thank the situation for what it gave you, give thanks and let it go?

When relationships end, we often experience difficult feelings such as hurt, abandonment, disappointment, and grief. But if the time has come to part ways – whether through our own choice or not – what if we could focus on the love and joy that was shared instead?  

There is a deep honoring in Marie’s approach.  She honors the people, the home, and their things — even the rejects.  In the process, she teaches people to focus on gratitude and cultivate joy. And as Marie says, joy comes from the inside, not the outside.

About The Wall

I want to talk about inner walls. Emotional walls.  Walls meant to protect and keep you safe. Walls that have been there for so long, you may barely know they are there. 

Maybe you created the wall because your heart was broken at some point, and it really really hurt. Maybe you learned the hard way that you shouldn’t trust people and definitely shouldn’t trust love. 

You might not be aware of having a wall, but I guarantee if you are presented with the opportunity to receive more love than you ever have before, you are likely to come face to face with your wall. You might experience it as resistance, discomfort or outright pain. You might believe that something is wrong, and feel a strong urge to pull away.

I’ve seen this many times, because this often occurs when people forgive. We come face to face with the prospect of receiving more love than we have experienced in a long long time, or maybe ever. It can be uncomfortable, and you might have a profound moment of reckoning: “Do I dare take the risk of opening? Can I trust this?” 

Or maybe, if you’re lucky, your heart will simply burst open before your mind has a chance to stop it. It still might feel painful around the edges, and there will often be tears — much like any birthing process. But let them be tears of joy. Yay! You’ve had a breakthrough.  

And then, when the floodgates burst open and love is flowing, don’t forget to forgive and thank your messenger — the person who delivered you to this moment of forgiveness by triggering something difficult and painful in you.

This is what Marianne Williamson wrote about inner walls in her wonderful book, Return to Love:

People who have the most to teach us are often the ones who reflect back to us the limits to our own capacity to love, those who consciously or unconsciously challenge our fearful positions. They show us our walls. Our walls are our wounds—the places where we feel we can’t love any more, can’t connect any more deeply, can’t forgive past a certain point. We are in each other’s lives in order to help us see where we most need healing, and in order to help us heal.  

Every time we forgive, we have the opportunity to let more love in. We have the chance to heal old wounds, let our walls down, and release whatever has separated us from love. 



Path With Heart

Image result for public domain images of heartsOne of my favorite book passages is from The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castenada. His teacher tells him there are a million paths in life.  Castenada asks, “then which shall I choose?” to which the teacher replies:

All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long long paths, but I am not anywhere. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.

This can be applied to many things in life, and it can be applied to forgiveness.

The Path of Forgiveness is a path of the heart. It can be very frustrating for those who want to figure everything out with their head. (It’s not possible.) This used to be a frustration of mine as well. But I’ve learned over the years to trust my heart much more than my head.

The Path of Forgiveness is a path that also requires us to develop emotional awareness and intelligence. This is not easy either, given our cultural emphasis on mental prowess and scant attention to emotional development.

This is well explained by Michael Brown in The Presence Process:

In life, we automatically grow physically by putting the correct or appropriate nutrition into our body. Our mental growth is also spoken for when we enter and attend the basic schooling experience. Yet our emotional growth, which usually begins to slow drastically at about seven years of age, receives no real attention as we move into and through adulthood. In this world, we have proven ourselves to be remarkably physically adaptable. In the last hundred years, we have also become mental giants, but sadly, we have also become increasingly emotionally dwarfed. The turbulent state of the world we live in today is a testimony to the fact that it is the playground of the emotionally immature.

In other words, it’s time for us to grow up emotionally!

This is especially important for those on a spiritual path. It is the emotional experience of love and devotion which enables us to make contact with our spiritual selves:

This emotional experience fuels our ability to penetrate the vibrational realm. Meditation in its purest form is a tool intended to drive us out of this physical world experience along a mental pathway into our hearts. When we are in our hearts, we are one step away from our Divine Presence. It is our Divine Presence which then oversees our entry into the vibrational realm.

The key is in shifting our emphasis from mental understanding to emotional truth, i.e., to feeling. It is committing ourselves fully to the journey. And always but always choosing the path with heart.

Happy Thanksgiving!



My Experiment With Money

Earlier this summer, I found myself struggling with money — just getting by, worrying about having enough to pay my bills, and feeling anxious about it. I decided to write about this because a) I know I’m not alone in this and b) I’ve had a big breakthrough! 

I’ve had an up and down relationship with money for most of my life. Sometimes things are great, and other times not so much. I could see I was in an old, fear-based pattern. One thing I’ve learned from the path of forgiveness is that whenever we are struggling, there is something we need to learn, something that needs to heal.

So, I got curious. 

I started listening carefully to the hooligans in my head. Just beneath the surface, were quiet little voices: “I’m not worthy.” “I don’t deserve.”  Once these core wounds were illuminated, my inner work began. And this is what I learned:

Nothing outside of yourself can give you your worth.
No person, no job, no amount of money. 

Most of us think it’s up to someone else to decide how much we get in life, but that is wrong. You are the one that decides how much or how little you get to have. 

You are the one who decides! You have to give it to yourself. Claim your worth. See your own worthiness. No one and nothing outside you can do this for you, but no one and nothing outside you can take it away from you either.

And let me be clear – I’m not talking about saying affirmations over and over, and putting post-it notes on the mirror. That’s not it.

It’s about actually getting from within yourself that you are worthy. It’s about an experience of self-love that allows you to recognize your worth. And your deserving. For real.

My breakthrough was seeing this clearly and then bearing witness to my own worthiness. If I’m the one that gets to decide, I say yes. Hell yes! I give myself more. Yes, I deserve more. Inner validation creates room to receive.

So, I’ve started moving forward with faith and confidence. Just a few weeks ago, I took an action I’ve been afraid to take, which is hiring an assistant. I put out a call for help and very quickly found someone who loves the work I’m doing and is helping me take it to the next level! Within days of hiring her, my phone started ringing off the hook. Money is flowing and so is gratitude.  Big time.

I’m not saying it was easy. But I am saying it worked!

Forgiving #MeToo

Easter Sunday I was invited, as a forgiveness teacher, to a beautiful ceremony honoring the Divine Feminine. 

At the start of the event, a group of men come forward to the stage.  As the first man began to speak. I felt guarded (why does every event have to start off with men speaking?), but I was willing to listen. 

The men said they had an offering for the women. One of them said this:

If there is any woman here who has ever felt demeaned, belittled, made wrong, made small, dishonored, put down, violated, abused, or treated as less, on behalf of ourseves and on behalf of all men, we apologize. 

We apologize.

I could scarcely believe my ears.

I was still skeptical.

But then, the men did something extraordinary.

They got down on their knees. They were humble. They said they were committed to listening to the women, hearing us, helping us heal, and serving us.  

Many tears and sobs could be heard in the room.  The words of the men touched something very deep in the women.  For me, it touched the edge of a place that was numb, buried deep within, that hasn’t been felt for thousands of years.  

Eventually I wondered, what about forgiveness? Am I ready/wiling to forgive men?  

The answer for me was “not yet.”  “Not yet” because I do not yet even know all of what this

Forgiveness is Sexy

Ok all you forgiveness lovers, here is our favorite reason to love forgiveness – 

Forgiveness is Sexy!

Think about it for a moment ….

Relationship problems can almost always be traced to emotional issues that cause us, often unconsciously, to push people away and create barriers to fulfilling intimacy. Dissolving these barriers and healing our deepest wounds is what forgiveness is all about. 

Without forgiveness we hang on to our painful past. We feel angry, resentful, bitter, depressed, closed down. We complain and blame, and judge the other person and ourselves. Depending on our personality, we lash out or withdraw. Either way, none of this is very sexy, right?

On the other hand, forgiveness brings you into the present moment where you can reconnect with your true self and shine your light brightly. Forgiveness enables you to embody self-love and wholeness, standing in the flow of love.

Ulysses Slaughter, a forgiveness teacher from Philadelphia, nails it: “Forgiveness is sexy because it creates magnetism, a powerful force that draws people to you.”  

It may not happen overnight, but when you walk the path of forgiveness, you experience gradual shifts. First you notice you  have less unhappiness and suffering. Then one day you find yourself feeling happy –  a sense of inner peace and contentment – maybe for the first time. After that, you discover joy and moments of bliss. And, you want nothing more than to share this with others. 

Is forgiveness sexy? You bet! I’m not saying this is the only reason to forgive, but it’s certainly icing on the cake!

Speaking of cake …. for Michael’s birthday, I decided to create a “Forgiveness is Sexy” T-Shirt for him.  Then, some of the folks at Esalen wanted them, so we made more … we’ll be selling them while supplies last. To get yours, use the link in the right-hand column to order!


Let Your Break Up Be A Wake Up

Use your break-up to wake-up!

If you do, someday you will be grateful for your broken heart.

Seems like an outlandish think to say, doesn’t it?

The loss of a relationship can be one of the most painful experiences, that leaves us feeling dazed and heartbroken, with a thousand questions left unanswered. What if I had ….? Why did he ….?  Why didn’t she?

We probably experienced more love with this person than we had ever felt before. And now suddenly, they are gone.

You replay events over and over in your head, wondering how and why you ended up here. You start to question yourself. It must have been my fault …. There must be something wrong with me …. Maybe I really am unlovable …. Your hopes and dreams are lost at sea, drowned out by endless waves of anger, sadness, despair, fear and depression.

If your heart has ever been crushed, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The loss feels devastating. And sometimes we get stuck here, feeling the sorrow for years, unable to move forward.

Consider the possibility that your break up might just be the best thing that ever happened to you.

Here’s the thing – your heartache is showing you the emptiness and pain that live in your heart, pain that has probably been there for a long time. This gives you a life-changing opportunity.

Now you have the opportunity to heal your heart at a profound level.

You may not know how to do that, but you can learn – anyone can. The Path of Forgiveness is dedicated to teaching people how to do this, step by step. 

It’s a choice – it’s up to you. But I promise you this. If you follow the path of forgiveness, you will discover more love than ever before.

So let your break-up be a wake-up. It is time to heal your heart!