What If You Were Suddenly Forgiven?

“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” ~Marianne Williamson

Twenty-seven years ago I made a terrible mistake that led to losing the friendship of someone important to me. I was twelve and I very vividly remember that I was at her front door, asking for her forgiveness and she was telling me she couldn’t do this.

Friendship is one of those areas of my life that I have always felt I need to work on. I used to believe I had to do work in this area because I was uprooted every six months to three years in my childhood. I believed that my trust in friendships was shaky because my history suggested to me that eventually one of us would leave.

And then the unimaginable happened.

I was faced with the truth, my unforgivable moment. The girl, who is now a woman, showed up at an impromptu reunion and I sat across from the mistake I had made twenty-seven years ago.

She and I were best friends. We spent the night at each other's houses and shaved our legs for the first time together. She taught me all the big vocabulary words, I taught her all the swear words. We were inseparable.

And then her mom got sick. Shortly thereafter, she died.

I grew up in an unconventional family where my parents were married at nineteen and had kids by twenty-one. They were boundless young adults with children and stalwart opinions, lacking in education. My dad’s dad had also died when he was young, and instead of creating empathy and compassion in him, my dad was left with the notion that when you die, you’re just dead—get over it.

My friend’s mom was the first person most of us kids actually knew to have died. I felt the tears and remember the sadness, but like any twelve-year-old, I was ready for our friendship to resume as normal seconds after her mom passed away. Naturally, that was not the case. Thus occurred the twelve-year-old “fight” over the conditions of our friendship.

My parents told me she was just using her mom's death as a reason to be difficult and that she just needed to get over it. I remember my mom hissing those heartless words at my best friend. And I remember echoing a similar sentiment myself, without conviction or the wisdom of experience, thus destroying our friendship forever.

Over the years after that, I would try to regain access to her, to our friendship, with apologies and attempts at conversation. All efforts were met with a firm “No,” or “I’m not ready.” The words not only marred and destroyed our friendship but rippled through all of our mutual friends, ending many other friendships for me. I was devastated, alone, and unforgiven. I was twelve.

Now imagine you are forgiven twenty-seven years later.

As I was meditating this morning, I was brought to tears thinking of my daughter and how careful I have been to express and teach empathy to her, how I have given her the pieces that I was lacking.

And as I meditated, I realized this is where my fear in friendship lives. This is where it all stemmed from. The moving and uprooting didn't help my trust levels. But imagine you were never forgiven for a mistake you didn't understand, for words that weren't yours, in a time of grief you didn't understand. Imagine you were left behind by all you had loved and trusted because you regurgitated your parents’ problematic view of grief and death to your friend.

Never in a million years would I ever do anything to intentionally hurt anyone, let alone my best friend. And knowing what I know today, I cannot even fathom how badly she hurt from the loss of her mother. Her mom! The one person who is meant to care for us and help us with our periods, talk to us about dating, and hold us when we cry. Her mom died. And I said the unthinkable. The unforgivable.

Last week I woke up thinking, “What if the unforgivable thing that has played a role in all of my relationships was forgiven? What if I was forgiven? How does that fit in? How does it transform itself in my life, in my body?”

I would breathe in a room of strangers, trust a little deeper in the friendships I currently host. I would be able to unwrap and unbutton my tightly wound guard that has protected me all these years. I could stop worrying about whether or not people would like me if they knew who I really was, and instead trust that I am worthy of love and simply good enough… finally.

We all have an un-forgiveness story buried deep inside. We don't have to wait years for the relief of receiving someone else's forgiveness, if it ever comes at all. We can choose to forgive ourselves now, whether they do or not, and free ourselves from the weight of our shame and self-judgment. Take these three steps to do just that:

1. Think about the day your un-forgiveness was born. Relax and allow yourself to repeat it one last time.

Close and eyes and remember: What was the context in which the story happened? Who was with you? What have you done? What happened after that?

2. Now imagine if you forgave yourself, and if there is another person(s) in the party, feel their forgiveness as well.

How would that feel in your body? How would that transform the beliefs you formed about friendships, partnerships, business, and life? What would you do differently if you knew you were forgiven and released the shame of your experience?

3. Give yourself and the others involved forgiveness, as we all do our best with the information and understanding we have based on our upbringing and out time in the world.

And as Maya Angelou wrote, once we know better, we can do better. We always have the opportunity to get wiser. Forgiveness is compassion and wisdom.

Forgiveness in ourselves and others is one of life’s great lessons. We are often held hostage by our inability to forgive and therefore so is our potential to achieve our life’s purpose.

A big powerful thank you to my friend who forgave me after twenty-seven years. I am honored and working to spread the love you showed me.

About Willow Bradner

Willow Bradner is an accidental psychic. She uses her psychic abilities to help people supercharge their careers, create, own and run successful businesses, overcome self-doubt and ignite their intuitive abilities. Download her free masterclass that will teach you how to break free of your limiting beliefs so that you can live the life you are dreaming of.

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Loving Yourself When You’ve Become Addicted to Self-Improvement

“Whatever purifies you is the right path.” ~Rumi

I'm tired of being good. It's time to be deliciously free.

How I wish I could say that without rushing in to assure you that I promise I’ll still be good.

The truth is, I worry. Less than I used to, but still, I do.

I’ve probably had every kind of worry you could imagine. There’s the kind about things that haven’t happened yet, things that didn’t but very nearly could have, things that are highly unlikely if not impossible, things that are commonplace; I’ve worried about the things I want and the things I don’t, the purpose and the impermanence of life.

Underneath, they all seem to stem from the same big fear that I am not good enough.

This worry manifests itself as indecision, overthinking, holding grudges, and comparison. My expectations and criticisms originate there.

Peek inside my head in my most afraid moments and you’re sure to find a motivational poster gone horribly wrong:

We all have the same twenty-four hours, so what’s your excuse? Hustle! No pain, no gain! Stop playing small. Take massive action, go all-in. They’re crushing it, why aren’t you? The steps to success are quick, easy, and proven. Do whatever it takes. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. The universe loves speed. #YOLO.

I’ve spent a lot of time and mental energy on what I thought was self-improvement. Now, I’m seeing it for what it really was: self-medicating. The pressure to always be moving, always be achieving, faster, faster, hurry up and keep up was an addiction.

This addiction was a symptom of losing trust in my own worth.

I’d wear the way I treated myself like a badge of honor as if it somehow made me more worthwhile. Yet, I criticized myself about it, too. “Don’t be so rigid,” I’d command myself, followed up quickly by, “But be more disciplined.”

I thought for a while that my worries were about control, but now I’m seeing that control was never the problem. I thought maybe it was perfection I sought. That wasn’t it, either.

This was never really about success or approval, and certainly not improvement. What I’ve been seeking all along is freedom, and that’s what scared me the most.

My indecision wasn’t about the decision itself, it was about doubting my ability to decide freely. Staying in relationships even though they hurt me wasn’t about the love or the loss, it was about doubting my right to choose myself, freely.

Underneath every fear, every worry, every grudge and comparison was doubt in who I am, what I’m worth, and what right I had to take up the time and space to figure this out.

And now that I see things more clearly, I am clear about what I truly want. I want liberation.

I want to free myself from the ghosts of the past and fears of the future. I long to be free from shame and the barriers I’ve built against my own peace. I want to use my voice freely and heal my steadfast heart. I want to freely and lovingly inhabit this body that’s stood by me no matter how much I’ve abused it.

I want to rise up, thank the day, and carry on. Freely.

Even as I’m writing these words to you, I’m learning what I need to do to stop the cycle.

I need to practice making difference choices and voicing different beliefs: Time is not money, it’s medicine. I need not be so disciplined but discerning. Not productive but perceptive.

I’m learning the difference between moving quickly and moving honestly, and I’m replacing “should” with “I can if I so desire.”

Oh, and I feel the resistance to this. The resistance is withdrawal, and it's a natural part of the recovery process.

But even with this insight, the fear of the unknown and the craving of familiarity are still there.

Who will I become if I were truly free?
What value will I have?
What if I fail?
What if I disappoint?

Each time I set myself free, I will fly back to my cage until I trust the process of healing and love myself unconditionally.

This is the painful part about finding and expressing yourself that no one really talks about. Loving yourself and trusting fully in your inherent worth is risky.

You will surely fail at your previous rules and fall short of your old expectations as you explore new, more open ways of being. Someone is bound to be disappointed when you start existing as yourself, for yourself. The people who thought they knew you when you were only a fraction of yourself will say you’ve changed. They may not know what to do with you anymore.

There may be judgment and misunderstanding. There may be rejection. You may feel lost. You may get less done, things may take longer, your work may be less popular or less profitable.

And there will be the trappings of who you said you were everywhere. I still have a drawer full of makeup and hair products, perfume, and high heels that I will never use again. Maybe it’s time to let that version of me go.

As you move closer to freedom, the ghost of who you tried to be will linger, haunting you. It will show up as a craving for likes and shares, for affirmation from someone else of your worth.

Little by little, as you shed the security blankets put down over the years, you will move away from the conditions of your worth. Through forgiveness, setting and enforcing boundaries, more authentic yes’s and no’s, and growing more clear in what you want and where your true priorities lie, you will find new depths of freedom and space. It will be empowering and terrifying.

What I’m discovering now is that you need to meet these challenges with grace and compassion.

Letting go gives you space, but it needs space, too. Space brings solace and allows expansion. If you need to, stabilize. There's no need to feel like a complete stranger in your own skin. Seek comfort and familiarity, but do it consciously. If you fall into old patterns, treat yourself with kindness, not judgment. And then carry on, consciously.

Have the courage to ride the cravings out. Resist the habit of proving your worth and earning your freedom. The doubts will try to convince you that they’re making you better, more worthy. Remember that it never worked that way before.

I’m seeing now that what I do or don’t do, how far I do or don’t go, what I do or don’t achieve has never been the question. The question is, what frees me?

I may not know what my freedom holds, and I may still face that uncertainty with some degree of fear, but I’m learning to trust that the pins and needles of waking up are the cure to what’s really ailing me.

The greatest opportunities are not found in safety or certainty. Just as in facing any fear, the old beliefs about your worth need to be threatened in order to be changed.

Each time we practice asking ourselves what will set us free, we’ll learn to speak the language of our intuition that much more fluently.

Each time we practice validating our own perspective, we’ll learn to distinguish between wisdom and sound bites that much more naturally.

One layer at a time, we will build a foundation of trust in ourselves and our inherent worth, and I have to believe that this will set us free.

About Leslie Ralph

Leslie is writer and artist who hopes to leave the world a little brighter than she found it. Her people are soul-searchers, deep feelers, and big-hearted dreamers that crave inner peace and inner truth. Download her free ritual for receiving to bring true healing, inner peace, and lasting joy into your life.

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Under the Unseen Blue Sky in Sydney, Australia

If you’re going through a dark night of the soul, you might as well pass the time in a beautiful place.

That’s what I was thinking as my hour-long Qantas flight from Melbourne began its descent to Sydney. Australia has long been a place of joy and peace for me, and Sydney in particular. Ever since I first stumbled into town five years ago, when I was denied boarding on a flight from Brisbane to Nauru (long story), I’ve been coming back every chance I get.

This time felt different because, well, I’m different. I’ve been judging the days on a one-10 scale, and I get excited—at least moderately so—when I feel higher than a three.

And so as the flight lands in Sydney and I take the airport train to the city, bracing myself against an onset of anxiety, I begin my self-talk.

First, a disclaimer: you can’t motivate your way out of sadness. It’s not a matter of saying “Self, cheer up!”

If you know someone who struggles with depression or anxiety, remember this. When people are persistently sad, some aspects of their experience are outside their control. They aren’t always able to access parts of themselves that give them a baseline and protect them from harm.

Still, a little perspective helps, I remember as I hop off the train onto Circular Quay. It’s Australia! If you can ever be cheered up by virtue of mere geographic placement, being randomly dropped somewhere on the planet, this is the spot to hope for.

It’s good to celebrate small victories. I usually think of this in terms of starting entrepreneurial projects, but perhaps it matters even more in a season of sadness. Chances are, no matter how sad you feel, there will be moments where you recognize the joy and liveliness you once knew. When these moments show up, be sure to appreciate them.

So I don’t tell myself to suck it up, or that I should just “decide” to be happy. But I do tell myself: Self, try to take joy in all circumstances. Lift your head up. You’re in Sydney, Australia—is there any better place?

The good memories I have here are numerous. I remember arriving for the first time on that unscheduled visit and finding one of the most remarkable places I’d ever known. I had purposely saved Australia for the last part of my quest to go everywhere, but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did.

I remember walking in King’s Cross, pondering snippets of conversation from long ago. The Gin Garden on George Street. The hidden speakeasy. That week when I rode a different ferry every day in hopes of seeing each stop in the area. The Bondi beach walk. Dinner in Darlinghurst.

And as always, running over the Harbour Bridge, listening to the same songs on repeat. You Get What You Give by the New Radicals, for example.

This time I added Shadow Days by John Mayer:

“Hard times help me see
I’m a good man with a good heart
Had a tough time got a rough start
But I finally learned to let it go.”

It’s aspirational, of course. But that’s okay. If you repeat something over and over, sometimes you end up believing it.

“And I’m right here and it’s right now
And I’m open, knowing somehow
My shadow days are over
My shadow days are over now.”

As I said—name it, claim it. It doesn’t have to be an accurate reflection of the circumstances, but all things considered, it’s better than Everybody Hurts or Hallelujah. (Side note: If she didn’t really care for music, why did he write her a song?)

And so I return to my favorite place at an odd time of my life. Less than three months before 40. The year of “change everything.” The post-year of “WTF, really?” The season of now or never. I’m a nine-ender, a term I recently learned and identified with right away. (Short version: people make far more changes in the last year before they turn a new decade than in any other year. If you’re 29, 39, or 49—pay attention.)

I’d made a reservation at my favorite hotel in the world, which seven out of 10 times has rewarded me with a balcony view of the Opera House. Would I receive this auspicious benefit today? It’s good to manage your expectations, or so I hear. But my fingers are crossed nonetheless.

Here are some other things I tell myself:

  • These days are full of opportunities for you, traveler. This is a place where you can come to rest. No wonder it’s so far away!
  • Take heart, take courage. You’ve been through hard things before. You are adaptable. You are resilient.
  • And lest you forget: what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger, but first it will really try to kill you.

I tell a friend that I’m nervous about coming here when I’m feeling so sad. This has always been a place of comfort, not stress, and I’m concerned about the nostalgia making me feel sadder. She says something wise: “Perhaps it’s important to return at this time.” And so it is, or so I decide it will be.

Known Truths

In times of trial, it’s helpful to consider what you know to be true. This list shouldn’t be comprised of anything less than “known truths.” There are plenty of things that might be true, could be true, or even that you’re pretty sure are true.

No, the list of known truths is much shorter. In your heart of hearts, what do you believe about a situation or circumstance? What do you believe about yourself?

As I consider the list of known truths for this season, this visit to paradise, I come up with a few things.

  1. The blue sky is there even if the clouds are in the way (thanks, Headspace). I suppose in other situations this is called faith, the belief in the unseen.
  2. We can’t control everything that happens to us, but we are always in control of our response. Sometimes it feels like we can control more than we really can, and sometimes we feel that we can’t control our response. But if we focus on what’s true, not just our preferred interpretation of events, chances are we’ll be better off.
  3. Sometimes you’re just going to be sad, and that’s okay. There’s not always a solution, and some things can’t be fixed.
  4. Choose love, sometimes even for yourself. Choose giving, and don’t forget to give to yourself.
  5. When you encounter those moments of joy, hold on tight. Consider the moments a reprieve from your affliction. Give them prominent space in your operating system.
  6. Remember that you’re not the only one struggling (as covered elsewhere). Maintain that perspective, too.

***

And so that’s what I do: I keep perspective, I do what I can, I accept sadness when it appears without trying to push it away. I run across the Harbour Bridge. I drink a flat white at breakfast. I eat dinner every day and sometimes even lunch.

I reflect on the talks I’ve been giving. Normally my mind races to the recollection of flubbed lines or unsatisfactory answers I give to questions. This time I realize that once in a while I can walk away feeling proud of both performance and impact. I’m doing something that matters! I hear it from other people every day but I don’t usually believe it myself.

I remind myself that it’s possible to appreciate the present moment without feeling anxious about the future.

I tell myself that uncertainty will produce strength; I just have to accept that I’m not in control of the timing.

I see glimpses of something positive emerging. I don’t want to jinx it or point to it too early, but the sensation is there underneath whatever else.

I have no onward ticket and I don’t care. I will stay or I will go. When I go I’ll fly east or west.

There are always options. There is always choice. There is always blue sky even when it’s nowhere to be seen. @chrisguillebeau (Click to Tweet!)

I got the balcony view at my favorite hotel.

Chris Guillebeau is the New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness of Pursuit, The $100 Startup, and other books. During a lifetime of self-employment, he visited every country in the world (193 in total) before his 35th birthday. Every summer in Portland, Oregon he hosts the World Domination Summit, a gathering of creative, remarkable people. His new book, Born for This, will help you find the work you were meant to do. Connect with Chris on Twitter, on his blog, or at your choice of worldwide airline lounge.

Image courtesy of Alex Wong.

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How I Let Go of My Painful Stories and Became Powerfully Present

Staring at the words, turning emotions of each letter over the mental screen of your mind.

Here it is again. That mind-numbing question, “Why me?”

As you shut down your computer, a sigh escapes from your lips.

Tomorrow’s to do list is just as long as today’s. With no answer in sight.

It seems the more you get done, the more there is to do.

You’ve been working flat out for hours…and still no signs of a reward.

You can’t help but wonder…why am I still struggling?

The road to success seems long and never-ending. Days on the calendar stare back, as past and present moments desert you.

Everyone else seems to be moving on in life. And still you remain. Unflinching, never changing.

‘Why me?’

I have been in countless situations like this. It’s easy to fall into this mental mindset whenever things don’t seem to be going the way you planned them. Your expectations can often set high demands that are simply too lofty and impossible to fulfill.

During my early life experiences, I questioned my self-worth every single day. People kept on judging my quiet or reserved nature…so in my mind, these attributes became negative qualities…parts of me to cut off. I needed to become the perfect fit. I only ended up hiding myself away even more.

Over the years, this became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I began to fear everyday tasks. People became a challenging concept to be around. My quiet nature felt like fuel for their own projections and insecurities.

This same fear and insecurity meant I was easy to mould to other people’s expectations. I hated feeling weak. My mind was always set to projecting away from my pain – into a utopian future that didn’t exist.

I did what other people told me to do. By abandoning my sense of self, in the hazy days that followed, even waking up became a challenge.

The emotions I was carrying with me were extra painful as I had no idea what to do with them. So they sat with me, dwelling in my mind like extra baggage. I was feeding my pain and yet, completely ignoring my own needs for happiness and security.

I had no energy left for my personal projects. Pages of stories were left abandoned in my search for fulfillment. As one emotion subsided, another would emerge and carry me along like a wave. Powered by my negative thoughts of low self-esteem, I left the idea of my own personal empowerment behind.

I had no idea that I was at the wheel. After 30 years of being a passenger, I finally chose to move myself into the driver’s seat.

Shifting Up A Gear

It was only when I took a look at the vehicle itself – by becoming an active observer, that I realised I was going nowhere. All of my creative power was being drained because I was no longer in control.

Resetting my mind was the only way. Once I had this realisation, the answer came to me. The wheels of mindfulness came into motion when I started reading a book called ‘A Bug Free Mind’ by Andy Shaw.

Devouring a chapter each day, I would read and apply the techniques until I emotionally and mentally felt a shift inside. If I couldn’t think or feel anything positive – then I simply chose to think of nothing at all.

By observing, I regained my power. Each new read through of the book created an energy shift inside me…allowing my creative power to grow. I found emotional freedom from the chains that once bound me. Each day, my painful stories peeled away like layers of an onion.

Instead of clinging onto them, I simply let go. I began to realise that my stories were just experiences. By loosening their grip, I took back my creative freedom and regained my power. Previous stories that my subconscious had created therefore had no bearing on this moment. The only moment that mattered.

Life Through A Rear-View Mirror

As a sensitive soul who writes for a living, letting go actually felt like self-destruction. I had mistakenly associated myself with the stories in my mind. Empowering each one with negative thoughts. All of which were rotting my self-esteem and self-worth.

No wonder I couldn’t create my dream life. The subconscious stories were so deeply rooted in my psyche that I was scared of what would happen should they be removed.

By focusing my mind each day towards staying present – not dwelling on negative thoughts or fantasies about the future…I released myself and came back into the moment.

It was simply a matter of observation. When your mind is clouded with negative thoughts, it becomes almost impossible to drive towards your destination. Only the clear minded can drive with confidence and certainty in the direction they are going…even when the road ahead may have many obstacles.

Your mindset works in the same way. Signs may emerge by the side of the road as a warning…and you may need to use them as intuitive guidance…but you should not let it overwhelm you. Do not let distractions overpower where you need to go.

Occasionally, I may take a look in the rear-view mirror at my memories…to see how far I have come. Yet, I do not allow the pain of the past to dictate my future.

By choosing this road, I have let go of fear, worry, anxiety and stress that come along with life’s many expectations.

Meeting Yourself At The Crossroads Of Consciousness

When you are conscious, you can not suffer. Or at the very least, you can choose to minimise any pain or suffering. It’s only in a state of unawareness, that you can become trapped in victim mode.

By sitting in the driver’s seat, you consciously choose to drive your life forward. And when you can choose again, you free yourself to focus on the good feelings.

There have been many trials and tribulations in my life that have tried to break me down – both mentally and emotionally. Yet, through simple observation – I can see that it was often my own expectations and judgments about those events and how they should unfold that attached unnecessary suffering to them.

Letting go of experiences and learning to go with the flow of life meant I could once again maintain myself and my personal power.

Staying lost in the future or locked in the past only keeps you trapped. The only way to free yourself is to live in the now. @spiritualb_mag (Click to Tweet!)

Rebooting Your Mindset

Rather than shutting yourself down, choose to open yourself up to life and the possibilities it may be wishing to show you.

You have the choice to restart your mindset every second of the day. To be ok with not being perfect. Acknowledging where you are and loving yourself anyway. All of this makes the road to self-acceptance seem shorter.

By staying open to the moment, you receive the greatest gift of all…the present.

In a world of constant distractions, life is speeding up for all of us. The question is, will you learn to enjoy the view?

Anna Jones is a freelance writer, on a mission to inspire others about the life-transforming and healing benefits of meditation, mindfulness and spiritual practice. Download her free ebook,’22 Ways to Find Your True Calling & Uncover Your Inner Destiny’ to get in touch with your inner guidance. You can follow Anna on Facebook.

Image courtesy of averie woodard.

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