I used to think success was for others, but not for me. Even still, I sometimes find myself feeling unworthy of successes that I achieve. Recently, I have truly built esteem with my actions, and am beginning to know the good feeling of success. From a hopeless addict behind bars to who I am today, I would like to take a moment to share some recent successes and a lot of hope.
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of recent successes is my relationship. I have always struggled with relationships in my life, especially intimate ones. Today, I am in a wonderful relationship with an amazing young woman. We aren't always walking on sunshine, but we communicate, are honest, and keep trying. We both have our own personal programs and practices, but we share in our growth. We practice separately, and grow together.
This healthy relationship is a great success for me. In the past, my relationships have always been a source of major stress in my life and have not encouraged growth. My relationship today is far different from anything I have experienced. For the first time, I am able to be myself, and be with somebody who helps me grow. Instead of a source of stress, my relationship is a source of insight, wisdom, and growth.
The Easier Softer Way
One of the greatest successes I have had in my life is The Easier Softer Way. I started TESW in April 2011 as a small, personal blog. I was working at the time for an online marketing firm, and was using The Easier Softer Way to test my skills. I chose the name "The Easier Softer Way" as a reference to the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous's claim on page 58, "We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not." To me, this is stating that the program of action as outlined in the book is the easiest, softest way. The name The Easier Softer Way was chosen as a reminder that working a twelve step program (of which meditation is an important part) is truly the easier, softer way.
The Easier Softer Way has grown since then. Now, almost three years later, we are a much larger site with many contributors. We now have three Daily Inspirational Emails available to our members. We also offer free guided meditations on Youtube, and have many free dharma talks and twelve step speakers. Finally, we now make and sell Buddhist Malas and Handmade Gifts. Users may join The Easier Softer Way for just $1/month to get access to our daily emails, download our guided meditations, and receive coupons to our store.
In the past year, I left my regular day job. I decided to take The Easier Softer Way a bit more seriously. I make a living off jewelry sales, memberships, and a private mindfulness coaching practice. I absolutely love my work with The Easier Softer Way. I love reading the responses to our gratitude posts, I love hearing the opinions and experiences of our users, and I love sharing my own personal practice. I didn't think when I started TESW that it would ever turn into anything more than a guinea pig for my marketing skills. Today, I get to do what I love all day, talk to like-minded people, and market something I am truly passionate about and believe in.
Recently, I put on an event in Santa Monica. The poet Anis Mojgani came in from Austin and performed. Anis won the National Poetry Slam Championship twice and the International World Cup Poetry Slam once. He is an amazing poet, and I have been an avid fan for the past 6 or 7 years. Recently, I contacted him about doing a show in the Los Angeles area. He didn't have any tour dates in Los Angeles, and I was wondering if he could come do a show. I am neither a promoter nor a producer, and have no prior experience putting shows on.
I worked hard to make the show happen. I set up ticket sales and ticketing, marketed the show, and organized with Anis. On February 12th, Anis showed up with Jeremy Radin, a local poet. We also had the blessing of having Sarah Key, a poet from New York join us. They performed, quite wonderfully, to a crowd of about 150 people. We were sold out, with people sitting on the floor of the theater.
Seeing the line of people before the show, the crowd in the theater, and everyone waiting after the show to meet the poets, I was overcome with a feeling of accomplishment. With the help of my partner, Elizabeth, the show went perfectly. A few artists who I admire greatly were performing to a sold-out theater, and we helped make it happen. I have always had great doubt about myself. To put this much work in and make something happen was a great point of growth for me. I followed my heart, and made something great happen with some hard work.
Recently, I have begun to take my personal wellbeing more seriously. Attending twelve step meetings and meditating have been great tools for me in the past years. However, I now am looking at myself as a whole. I have begun eating more healthily, exercising regularly, and generally taking better care. This is an extremely important part of my life today, and I am grateful that I have had teachers who have encouraged holistic wellbeing as an important part of my practice.
I share all this to encourage those that feel hopeless. I once sat in a jail cell with a few Class A Felony charges. I couldn't get a few hours sober, let alone several years. Every day I struggled to get anything done. My ambition was nonexistant. Today, with much work, I am living a life I love, and no longer have a sense of impending doom. Life does grow, and as it grows, so do my obstacles. However, I am able to meet my obstacles today with more stability and determination. I am able to find contentment more easily, and struggle less.
Throughout my using, I had difficulty connecting with myself and others. Even into my sobriety, I didn't know how to build healthy relationships. My sponsor often says that addiction manifests as a problem with the three relationships we have in our lives: our relationship with ourselves, our relationship with a Higher Power, and our relationships with others. These three relationships are beyond important today in my life; they are the focus of my spiritual practice.
Relationships with Ourselves
When I was using, my relationship with myself suffered greatly. The nature of addiction is that we let go of our values and stop listening to our hearts. Although I thought I used to deal with outside circumstances, the truth was that I used to run away from myself. After years of avidly running away from myself and pushing things down, it was inevitable that I became completely detached from who I was. I pushed my true self down and was driven completely by my cravings.
Essentially, my relationship with myself had become one of aversion and avoidance. Not only was I out of touch with my emotions, thoughts, and even my actions, I was actively trying to distance myself even further from them. It is safe to say that my relationship with myself was very poor and left much room for improvement.
In recovery, I have worked very hard on my relationship with myself. Step One offers us a chance to begin rebuilding this relationship. In the first step, we are encouraged to take a look at ourselves honestly. The Big Book recommends we "full concede to our innermost selves" that we are addicts or alcoholics. For me, this was quite a radical statement. Having spent many years denying my true nature, honestly admitting something to myself was powerful.
The main part of rebuilding my relationship with myself was through meditation. My first meditations were but a few minutes. Taking the time to sit with myself for even a few breaths proved very useful. When something unpleasant was arising within, I took a moment to pause and simply feel how it felt. Through this process, I slowly was able to face the things I had been running from. The anxiety, anger, and fear were overwhelming at times. My mentor helped me to sit with them and feel them. I learned to not act on every thought and emotion I had.
As time went on, I began sitting in meditation for longer periods of time. I found that there was a whole lot going on that I wasn't aware of. Even today, I often learn things about myself through meditation of which I was totally oblivious before. In this way, I have strengthened my relationship with myself. I know myself today better than I ever have, and I continue to learn. In building a relationship with myself, I no longer am shocked by my own behavior and thoughts, I am gaining insight into the nature of my addiction, and I am dealing with my pain.
Relationships with a Higher Power
The problem here is fairly simple: I made myself my Higher Power. When I think about a Higher Power, I think of turning my will and my life over and I think of letting something have power over me. In my using, I definitely made drugs and alcohol my Higher Power. I let them control me, and completely turned my entire life over. I also turned my life and will over to my own thoughts. Rather than sitting with my thoughts and emotions, I blindly followed them.
The solution for me has been to reassess to what I should turn my will and my life over. In my sobriety, the concept of a Higher Power has changed. Today, I take it to mean the seed of goodness within us all. When I turn my will and my life over today, I turn it over to the loving, compassionate, wise piece of myself within. In Buddhism, they would call this the Buddha-seed or Buddhahood that we all carry within.
I work on this relationship by performing esteemable acts and meditating. When I act in a loving way, I am watering seeds of love within me. If I act with anger, I am watering seeds of anger within. Through esteemable action, I am able to water the healthy seeds. I try to work with others, take commitments, be on time, and act with integrity even when nobody is looking. Even if nobody knows that I dropped a piece of trash, I have to sleep with it at night.
Relationships with Others
My relationships with other people were selfish and self-seeking, as the Big Book so accurately points out. My relationships centered on my own needs. My friends were all my friends because of unhealthy reasons. I chose lower companions that made me feel okay about my using. If a friend did not have anything to offer me as far as drugs, alcohol, or security in my using, I generally let the relationship fall to the side.
My relationship with my family and other loved ones suffered as well. I spoke to my family only when I needed something (usually when I wanted money). I lied, stole, and hurt them greatly. Again, my relationships centered around me having my needs met. I didn't care much about who I hurt in the process, and it showed. Eventually, my family stopped talking to me.
Finally, my intimate relationships were quite painful. I was in a few unhealthy relationships. There were fights, cheating, and a whole lot of lying. I rarely thought about my partner's feelings. The only time I made an effort was when I thought it would serve me well. Because I was so scared of myself, I didn't want to let anybody else in.
Working on my relationship with others has been an integral part of my sobriety. Steps four through nine really help us work on these relationships. In these steps, I learned to see my part in my relationships. Where I previously had blamed everyone else for my problems, I began to take some personal responsibility. In the Ninth Step, I cleaned up the wreckage of my past (or at least tried to). I was given a fresh start and an opportunity to build new relationships with people.
Step Ten allows me to continually check my relationships. I no longer sabotage relationships blindly, then wonder what happened. I take a look at the pain and the feelings, and figure out ways to address it. Step Twelve has greatly helped me as well. When I take somebody else through the steps, I am able to fully connect. Rather than taking, I am giving. It is a complete turn-around.
I also like to work on my relationships with others in daily life. I try my best to be friendly to everyone I meet. I practice metta meditation to try to connect my own desires to be happy with those of others. Although I am not perfect, I do my best to understand, accept, and have compassion. When I got sober, I wanted to work immediately on my relationships with others. However, I found I had to work on the other two first before I could honestly offer myself to anyone else.
Every time we post something about forgiveness, somebody seems to comment about how certain people should not be forgiven. Hitler, murderers, rapists, and abusers are often brought up. Every time, we have the same answer: absolutely everyone can and should be forgiven. One of my teachers reminds us that we don't have to forgive a behavior in order to forgive the person.
The word resentment comes from the Latin re (again) and sentire (feel), meaning to re-feel. When we don't forgive somebody, this is what we are doing. We feel the feeling repeatedly. Often, this feeling is anger or pain. A good indication that we have not yet forgiven somebody is when we think of them and have a strong emotional charge.
This resentment is driven by survival instincts and conditioning. When somebody hurts us or somebody we care about, our natural tendency is to want to defend ourselves and keep safe. Sometimes, we do this by resenting the person, in order to keep them far away. Our survival instincts want us to live without threat, and our habit energies try to keep any unpleasantness away. The problem with these reactions is that they are not skillful, and ultimately harm us.
When we resent somebody, we are destined to re-feel the pain over and over again. The only way out of the cycle of re-feeling is to deal with the resentment. Resentments take up space in our heart, and distance us from others. Our capacity to love is diminished when we hold resentments close. Holding onto this pain causes us harm, and does absolutely no good.
What is Forgiveness?
In order to understand the importance of forgiveness, we must first understand what it is. Merriam-Webster defines forgive as "to stop feeling anger toward or about." I would go further and say that forgiveness can be to re-feeling something in response to a certain person or behavior. Forgiveness is letting the blame go. Forgiveness is not carrying around the unpleasant emotions anymore.
When we forgive somebody, it doesn't mean we approve of what they did. This is one of the reasons people are hesitant to forgive. They think that forgiving is weak, and when we forgive somebody, we are enabling them to behave poorly. However, this is simply not true. Forgiveness has absolutely nothing to do with allowing the person to behave that way. Forgiveness is about not holding on to the pain and anger. Forgiveness is seeing that we deserve to be free from the pain and anger, and seeing that the other person is more than just this one action we are focusing on.
For example, I forgive a man who sexually abused me when I was a child. I do not approve of what he did, and I will never approve that type of behavior. However, I forgive the man himself. I deserve to forgive him, and live free from the anger. He deserves forgiveness, because there is more to that man than that action. I realize this may seem quite brash to some, but it is my experience. I truly believe that I live more freely because I am able to forgive him.
Why Should we Forgive?
Why is forgiveness important? Because without forgiveness, we hold on to our resentments for our entire lives. Again, forgiveness is both for us and for the other person. Forgiveness allows us to free our hearts from the bondage of anger. When we forgive even those who hurt us most, we feel free and light-hearted.
Forgiveness is also for our relationships with others. When we forgive others, we are able to see their true nature a bit more clearly. Our resentments cause us to only have a limited view of others. Forgiving helps us to see that there are many things that make up a person, not just one action that hurt us. Forgiving someone does not make them your friend, does not encourage them to behave poorly, and does not enable. It simply allows you to see them more clearly, as a human being.
Ideally, we should forgive everyone. I have a sticker on the back of my phone from Pablo Das that says, "forgive everyone everything." It is a faded reminder to not be picky with my forgiveness. Forgiveness shouldn't be conditional. We should forgive absolutely everyone. If we pick somebody to not forgive, then we are holding onto unnecessary resentments. Let's take the common example of Hitler. Why should we forgive a man who was responsible for the murder of millions of people? If we let go of our anger or resentment, aren't we giving a break to a mass murderer? NO! Forgiveness is not about enabling a behavior. We should forgive Hitler because we don't need the resentment and anger. We need to let it go. Hitler already did what he did. Our anger serves no purpose. It doesn't prevent him from doing it again, it doesn't make us more virtuous, and it certainly doesn't undo what he did. All it does is cause us pain. When we forgive Hitler, it doesn't mean we approve of what he did. It means we let go of our anger toward him.
Included in "everyone" is ourselves. This is often the most difficult for us. We look back at actions we have taken and regret them greatly. We must forgive ourselves in order to free ourselves and move forward. We may look back at the harm we have done and be angry. However, forgiveness is necessary if we are to learn to love ourselves. This is why forgiveness is often taught before metta.
When Should we Forgive?
I am not a therapist. I don't know when the right time is for you to process pain you have gone through. However, I have been the victim of sexual and physical abuse and have created much suffering in the world myself. More importantly, I have either forgiven or worked diligently on forgiving everyone, including myself. My experience is that forgiveness often involves facing inner demons and great suffering. As I dealt with this pain, I was freed of it. It has become clear to me that the best time to forgive is right now.
How to Forgive
Forgiveness is important. Forgiveness is not about enabling. It is about letting go of resentment. It has been said repeatedly, but only because I find it to be crucial in our spiritual lives. Forgiveness is not an easy practice, but there are a few simple methods.
First, you may try a forgiveness meditation. In a forgiveness meditation, you bring up the image of somebody toward whom you have a resentment (it may be yourself). With this person in your mind, offer them the following phrases:
-I forgive you.
-May you forgive yourself.
-May I be free from resentment.
You may repeat these phrases for a few minutes. Eventually, move to the next person. You may also do this with yourself. Remember that hurt people hurt people, and many harmful actions come from somebody who is suffering.
Another option for forgiving is to do a an inventory, such as the Fourth Step of twelve-step programs. An inventory is a written way to get out all of our resentments. In writing them out, we are more easily able to understand them and let them go. When we have our anger toward people on paper, we may forgive these people fully, seeing our part in the pain and suffering.
Finally, we may forgive by practicing compassion. When we practice compassion and touch the suffering of another, our perceptions are transformed. Our resentments dissolve once we understand the person and their suffering. When we practice forgiveness and compassion together, we can deeply change our lives and our relationships.
I will end with this quote from Noah Levine:
I’ve been reflecting more and more, and I do in this new book, on how, in the Metta Sutta there’s several different places where the Buddha points to forgiveness as a prerequisite for happiness. This is what should be done if you want to be happy, and you want to be free from suffering. There’s a line where he says, “Do not despise any being in any state.” And there’s a line that says, “not wishing harm upon any living being.” How do we get to the place of not despising, not resenting? Forgiveness. Until we forgive, we’re still wishing harm upon our enemies. I feel that it’s very clear that forgiveness is an integral part of dharma practice, and that there is no one who is unforgivable, but yes, there are unforgivable actions—we don’t have to forgive the Holocaust or 9-11, the rape of the planet, animal cruelty, or environmental destruction. There’s so many unforgivable things that happen every single day. Yet these unforgivable things happen out of people’s ignorance and confusion and delusion. They are forgivable people.
Recently, I have heard a lot of talk about what exactly it means to be sober. Somebody mentioned they were sober because they had stopped using drugs, but they still drank. Somebody else argued that they had never drank or used in their entire life, and they understood what it was like to be sober. Finally, a non-alcoholic friend asked me about caffeine, smoking, and prescription medication, and their relationship with sobriety.
This example of somebody who quit hard drugs and just drinks is very common. I did this myself for years. Although some people benefit from this tactic, it is absolutely not sober. My personal experience was that I was simply no better off switching drugs. As my sponsor puts it, it is like switching seats on the Titanic. I still repressed feelings and pain. I didn't look within or grow. Although marijuana may physically be less harmful than methamphetamine, it is no better for my spirit.
However, it is not for me to judge how other people choose to live their lives. If somebody can quit using crack but continue drinking alcohol, then I support them. My personal Buddhist beliefs are that I should not ingest anything that leads to heedlessness, but I would never push this on somebody else (just as I don't want somebody pushing their religion on me). Just because I wasn't able to continue using one substance while quitting another does not mean everyone will have the same experience. However, this simply does not make one sober.
Having an Addiction
Although the word sober actually means not intoxicated, there is a different connotation in recovery circles. Being sober implies that the person once went through an addiction. If somebody never picks up or uses in their life, they are technically sober. However, they are not sober in the same way that somebody is who has gone through an addiction. This does not make their sobriety any less valuable or important. However, it is just not the same.
I was recently in a position where a non-alcoholic was speaking to a newcomer. The non-alcoholic said they had never used, and understood what the newcomer was going through. Because this person had never used, they had experienced much pressure and desires to try drugs and alcohol. However, this is completely different from trying to get sober from an addiction. Although the non-alcoholic here had a valid point about choosing not to use, the non-alcoholic simply cannot understand the addict's feelings. When we get sober, our brains are suddenly without substances they are accustomed to. We have been spending much of our lives running from every feeling. Suddenly, we are confronted by our feelings, and are often overwhelmed. However, the non-alcoholic has had many years to face their feelings.
As I am writing this, it sounds a bit exclusive or elitist. I don't think alcoholics are better than non-alcoholics. I don't think non-addicts don't suffer from social pressure, cravings, or desires to escape. I also know that non-addicts have many things to offer us (as everyone does). I simply think that nobody can help an addict like another addict. Although a "normie" may have great advice to offer, their advice on sobriety and recovery is often not from personal experience. Sharing from personal experience is one of the greatest gifts addicts can give to each other. However, I personally do not shut non-addicts out of my support network.
Addressing other mind-altering substances is tricky. These include caffeine, nicotine, sugar, etc. All I can share here is my personal experience and opinion. I am not an authority on the issue. I have found that all of these substances do affect me. When I was new, I drank a ton of coffee, chain-smoked, and ingested a lot of sugar. Although I didn't realize it at the time, I was using these substances to numb my feelings a bit. They're not quite as strong as other drugs, but they do affect our brain. I truly believe that cigarettes and caffeine helped me to stay sober in the beginning.
As time went on, my needs changed. As I became more able to meet life on life's terms, I became less concerned with these substances. I rarely drink caffeine, gave up coffee completely, and have been smoke free for about 3 and a half months now. I don't think this makes me more sober or better than anyone else. Nicotine and caffeine were of great help to me. As they helped me get sober and stay sober for a bit, they allowed me to get to where I am. Now that I can look at my craving and attachment to pleasure more deeply, I can change my relationship to these substances.
However, those that smoke cigarettes, drink a lot of coffee, or eat sugar are still sober in my opinion. They do not alter the mind enough to truly be considered a relapse. However, I encourage everyone to take a look at your relationship to them. I thought I drank coffee becauseI enjoyed the taste of coffee, but it turns out the caffeine made me feel good for a bit.
Finally, we come to the issue of prescription medication. This is a touchy one for many people. I have heard many stories of people who have had legitimate reasons to take prescription medications, only to eventually relapse. My opinion and experience on this is that if a doctor prescribes medication for a legitimate issue and we take the medication in a healthy manner, we are in the clear. However, we must be very careful. We must make sure we are taking medications because we legitimately need them. Our minds can trick us into thinking we do, so it is probably best to speak to others about it.
A few times a year, I have kidney stones. The pain is usually excruciating, and doctors often give me pain medication in the hospital, as well as a prescription. I try very hard to get through it with ibuprofen and rest, but sometimes I do need medication. I like to ask myself what my intentions are and if I truly need medication. I don't need to be a martyr, but I do need to be safe. I call my sponsor, and often ask my sober girlfriend for her thoughts. In the hospital, I talk to a sober addict before taking any medications. When I leave the hospital, I generally decline and painkillers. If I do need to take them, I ask the doctor for a low quantity. I tell my sponsor before I take even one.
In my opinion, we can absolutely take prescription medications if we need them. However, we have a problem that centers in our minds, and we must not deceive ourselves. If somebody is taking prescription meds without a medical issue, this is probably not sober. If you are in a situation that meds are a possibility, I would recommend you:
-Ask yourself if you absolutely need the meds
-Call your sponsor or some mentors
-Remember that just because you take the meds as prescribed doesn't make it healthy or not a relapse
-Be aware of withdrawal effects
This is the first ranting post I have written in quite a while. I just had this on my mind, and find that this is a great way to get my thoughts out! Let me know if you have any experience or thoughts with these issues! I have two conclusions from this. First, an addict is bodily and mentally different; being clean your whole life is not the same as sober. Second, if somebody else drinks coffee, smokes, takes meds, or is drinking instead of using hard drugs, it is not our business. We can offer support and love, but one path does not work for everyone!
I was recently asked to speak at a meeting in which the speaker chose a reading from As Bill Sees It. I flipped open the book randomly, and came to the entry on page 226 entitled Give Thanks from the March 1962 episode of the Grapevine. It read:
Though I still find it difficult to accept today's pain and anxiety with any great degree of serenity - as those more advanced in the spiritual life seem able to do - I can give thanks for present pain nevertheless.
I find the willingness to do this by contemplating the lessons learned from past suffering - lessons which have led to the blessings I now enjoy. I can remember how the agonies of alcoholism, the pain of rebellion and thwarted pride, have often led me to God's grace, and so to a new freedom.
I have not read every page of As Bill Sees It, but I don't know if I could have turned to a page that I agree with more. Although I do not practice this in every moment, I try my best to. Turning toward our suffering and not running from it is a indispensable practice. The tendency of recovering addicts to run from unpleasant feelings is often a result of what is taught in twelve-step programs: to call your sponsor, go to a meeting, or help a newcomer.
Generally, I think these things are great. I call my mentors every day, go to many meetings, and work with as many newcomers as I am able to. However, these are not solutions for our own issues. When I am feeling an unpleasant feeling (like anxiety), calling a sponsor may not be the right choice. A sponsor may tell me to go to a meeting or help a newcomer, but these are not helping me grow how I need. Going to a meeting or working with somebody else are both important aspects of my recovery, but again, they do not necessarily offer the best solution.
I have found that the best answer is often to just sit in it. I don't mean whine, play the victim, or blame others. I mean that we simply must sit in our feelings sometimes. When anxiety takes over, we must allow ourselves to feel the feeling. There are many ways I have benefited from doing this.
First, awareness of our suffering allows us to learn about the feelings. When an unpleasant emotion arises, I run. It is one of the foundational parts of being an addict. When I began to sit with my emotions, I began to learn about them. I noticed that my anxiety was generally a combination of tightness in my chest, a feeling in my arms and hands, and racing thoughts. Only when I sat with it was I able to see that anxiety was just a combination of other sensations, and not really as "bad" as I had thought. It was just unpleasant.
When we sit with our suffering, we are doing the most compassionate thing possible. It may not seem this way at first, but when we truly sit with our pain, we are able to change our relationship to it. When we accept our pain and look at it with a curious eye, we are able to treat it with more love and compassion. When we run from it, we are not giving it any attention, nor allowing it to teach us anything.
We also learn a lot about our instinct to run from unpleasantness when we sit with our feelings. When we run, we encourage ourselves to not feel the feelings. Every time we sit with an unpleasant feeling, we are able to strengthen our ability to change our relationship to unpleasantness. We may see our immediate reaction of aversion, and work on changing it to a more loving and compassionate response.
Finally, as the reading in As Bill Sees It points out, suffering has a lot to teach us. If we are willing to learn, our pain may be our greatest teacher. Pain is a motivator for change, and without it, we probably wouldn't be on a spiritual path. When we suffer, we are truly offered a chance to learn something about ourselves. Buddhist monk Ajahn Chah says, "In each moment of suffering lies an opportunity for awakening."
Although it is our natural tendency to turn away from suffering and wish for happiness, it is actually the suffering itself that leads to wisdom. It is inevitable that we suffer and experience discomfort. When we just run from it, we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn from it. However, our suffering really can be the gateway to freedom.
People have suffering in one place, so they go somewhere else. When suffering arises there, they run off again. They think they’re running away from suffering, but they’re not. Suffering goes with them. They carry suffering around without knowing it. If we don’t know suffering, then we can’t know the cause of suffering. If we don’t know the cause of suffering, then we can’t know the cessation of suffering. There’s no way we can escape it.
These words from Ajahn Chah put it another way. If we don't take the time to know our suffering, we won't be able to understand it. If we don't know and understand the roots of our suffering, we can't experience the cessation of suffering. Looking at it this way, it is a wonder that we ever deny our suffering.
Why Do We Turn Away from Suffering?
The answer to this question is fairly simple. We turn away from suffering because it is unpleasant and doesn't feel good to us. When we are suffering, we are uncomfortable, discontented, and generally dis-eased. It seems natural that we turn away from such feelings.
One of the reasons we turn away from the suffering is this natural instinct. For survival, we are programmed to avert from suffering. In nature, if we feel some sort of pain or suffering, it is often in our best interest to move away from it. If humans didn't move away from the pain, we may have been hurt or killed. This natural instinct lives on today, and we move away from even the slightest discomfort and unpleasantness.
The other factor in our aversive relationship with suffering is our conditioning. Since the moment we were born, we have been taught that pain is bad and pleasure is good. Maybe we are not taught this overtly, but our society as a whole presents things this way. Especially in Western cultures, we are presented products and services that make us happier, cure unhappiness, or "fix" us. Although we may try not to fall victim to the society we live in, it does affect us.
Looking at the root of our aversive relationship with suffering, it may seem difficult to turn toward it. One thing that really helps me turn toward my suffering is understanding the benefits.
First, when we look at our suffering, we are given a sincere opportunity to awaken. Maybe we won't fully awaken from looking at our suffering just once, but liberation is available because of suffering and our honest look at it. Our delusion, greed, and hatred are what cause suffering. If we are to truly change our relationships with them, we must understand them. It follows that in order to truly understand our suffering and its causes, we must experience them.
However, just suffering is not enough to understand it. In order to understand it, we must actually investigate it. Investigating our suffering, we begin to see which of the Three Poisons are present. The more we investigate our suffering, the more easily we are able to identify our suffering and its causes when they arise. In this way, suffering is a pathway to wisdom.
Second, turning toward our suffering is a great practice in compassion. The practice of compassion is extremely important. It is one of the Four Brahma Viharas, and absolutely essential in our relationship with suffering. Turning toward suffering is the essence of compassion. Jack Kornfield describes compassion as "the quivering of the heart." Whether we are looking at ourselves or the suffering of another, our hearts only quiver if we experience it. If we deny the suffering, we deny compassion. When we face our suffering without the need to get rid of it, but just to understand it, we are acting with great compassion.
How Do We Turn Toward Suffering?
To turn toward our suffering and learn from it, we must be aware of suffering when it arises. Practicing the Four Foundations of Mindfulness is a great way to do this. We may begin by simply sitting in meditation, allowing our suffering to arise. It may be a physical pain, a recurring thought, or emotional suffering. As we allow our suffering to arise, we look at it with a bit of curiosity. How unpleasant is it? How can you tell it is unpleasant? Where do you feel it? What is your natural response to these feelings?
Looking at our suffering in meditation, we bring this practice to our daily life. When we notice ourselves suffering emotionally, physically, or mentally, we can stop and investigate. In this way, we are able to gain wisdom each and every time we suffer. The key to turning toward our suffering is to notice it. Once we can say, "I am suffering," we often are able to remember our practice and look at it wisely.
Love Your Enemy? Impossible!
If you didn't suffer regularly, would you have the drive to practice spiritually? Would you look to understand greed, hatred, and delusion? The moments in which we suffer are the moments that hold the greatest potential for growth. When we truly experience and believe this, our relationship is changed to our suffering. Instead of the enemy, suffering becomes a friend. We will leave you with this thought from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh:
To love our enemy is impossible. The moment we understand our enemy, we feel compassion towards him/her, and he/she is no longer our enemy.
With another year on the horizon, I find myself wondering why we feel the need to wait for January’s coy signal to jolt us into making resolutions. Why January? Why do we wait until after the holidays have come and passed? Why do we wait for our lives to ‘calm down’ in order to focus on our goals? Why wait at all? What are we waiting for? What is keeping us from making these resolutions today, here, now? Why do we find ourselves distracted, busied with excuses, and comforted in our procrastination? Why must we wait for anything? What are YOU waiting for?
As I chat with friends and family alike, many of us agree that New Year’s resolutions are somewhat disheartening. We make grandiose plans for the New Year only to be disappointed in ourselves a few weeks post ‘declaration of bold aspirations.’ Whether it is weight-loss goals never met, hopes of eating healthier crushed at the sight of a coffee shop donut, or simply never getting around to cleaning the spare-room closet, we all suffer defeat and give up. Next year will be better, we all say to ourselves. Our goals were too big, too silly, or too difficult to accomplish anyway. We succumb to the veiled belief that our goals were not realistic to begin with, and we bond with one another in our sea of excuses.
It is laughable at first, but I find it quite sad as well. We are quick to busy ourselves with mundane activities only to avoid and hinder our REAL goals, our TRUEST desires, and our biggest DREAMS with resistance and fear. We lose sight of what it is that energizes our true being because we are too distracted with extraneous preoccupations of the day. I think Sogyal Rinpoche says it best:
“Western laziness consists of cramming our lives with compulsive activity, so that there is no time at all to confront the real issues.”
Look at your life. What are you busying yourself with today? What is distracting you from the present moment? Sure, social media, television, and music distract us from what is presently before us. But think deeper for a moment. What is distracting you from accomplishing your goals? What is stopping you from opening up that restaurant you’ve always wanted to open? Who is telling you that you cannot sell your paintings and be an artist full-time? What is distracting you from living your dreams today? Why do you find yourself occupied with ‘to-dos’ and push aside the real issue of fulfilling your life’s true purpose by achieving your goals?
Keep in mind that these distractions of yours are not solely tangible ‘things’ such as phones, TV, electronics, etc. FEARS are distractions; EXCUSES are distractions; RESISTANCE of what your true self wants to accomplish is a distraction as well. Let’s face it, many of us are afraid to take on our goals starting today because stepping onto this unknown path is unfamiliar and scary at times. When we are uncomfortable, we cling to what is known and familiar to us. Thus, we remain snuggled up with our preoccupations, tasks, and deadlines. In busying ourselves, we miss the present moment of today. We miss each opportunity to fulfill our truest desires in life. Lost in our tasks, we become the laziest version of ourselves.
Think to yourself what it is that you truly want to accomplish – and furthermore, ask yourself what you can do TODAY to be one step closer toward that goal. I myself find it difficult to glance toward 2014 and project my desires. Instead, I wake up each morning and think to myself, “Today I want to accomplish ----“ in order to be one step closer toward fulfilling my dreams. Projecting thoughts and plans too far into the future leaves me frustrated and inevitably disappointed as I think to myself, “I can’t do it.” After all, thinking about the future is a distraction from the present, right? This is simply another reason to focus on today, here, and now.
Being mindful of our situation and admitting that we are distracted from our goals and desires is the first step we can take in 2014. Being aware of our lives as they are – today and now – will help us refocus our energy and point it toward what we truly want in this life. Being intimate with our distractions and coming to KNOW what resistance looks, feels, and sounds like will help us greet 2014 with ease. We will smile confidently with a renewed sense of mindfulness and embrace each sunrise that the New Year has to offer us. We can always begin again. Why not now?
Compassion vs. Loving-Kindness
In meditation practices, we are advised to have compassion for any suffering. Whether it is ours or somebody else's, the wise response to suffering is compassion. Compassion is often defined as "the quivering of the heart." Metta or loving-kindness is unconditional friendliness directed toward everyone and everything, while compassion is taking this same feeling and specifically directing it toward suffering.
Self-Compassion and Unpleasant Feelings
When we have a feeling that we find unpleasant, our first reaction is often to avert. We hate it, and wish that it wasn't there. We either run from it or push it away. In meditation, we often have unpleasantness arise. Whether it is in the form of a physical sensation, a thought, or an emotion, unpleasantness happens. However, our reaction of aversion does not need to happen. The Buddha taught that this aversion is one of the Three Poisons, or one of the chief causes of suffering.
Every time I sit, I experience unpleasant feelings, thoughts, or emotions. I have practiced the brahmaviharas and am quite familiar with the idea of compassion. After practicing for quite some time, compassion was something I understood from an intellectual standpoint more than an experiential one. I understood that when we have an unpleasant feeling, we are to respond with compassion. I also understood that in compassion, we don't avert from our unpleasant feelings.
On my recent retreat, I was having a rather unpleasant few days. Sitting in meditation, I had many unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations arising. On the second night, one of the teachers gave a dharma talk on self-compassion. For the first time, I truly understood compassion from my own personal experience.
In the past I had thought of compassion as a response to suffering that was better than aversion. However, a part of me expected that with compassion, the pain would dissipate. In this experience, I had the realization that with compassion, I am allowing the unpleasantness to be a part of my experience.
Compassion is not trying to get rid of something with a nicer tone. Compassion is welcoming something as part of my experience and allowing it to follow its natural path of impermanence. When I wish for some feeling to leave, I end up suffering more. When I allow it to take its path, I am not holding onto it.
Here are some of the self-compassion phrases I used toward my suffering:
"May I touch my suffering with compassion."
"May my heart be open to my pain."
"May no part of my experience be excluded from my love."
"May I make friends with every part of myself today."
The point of these phrases for me was to no longer push the unpleasant feelings away. With these phrases, I practiced allowing the unpleasantness to be a part of my experience. I practiced letting things happen. I practiced opening my heart to each experience I had. With mindfulness, I saw that the unpleasant feeling was not "bad" and that its natural state was impermanent. Changing my relationship to pain allows me to suffer less.
"Using Guilt on the Path" is a guest post from the amazing Chris Lemig, author of The Narrow Way: A Memoir of Coming Out, Getting Clean, and Finding Buddha. We just started reading his book recently here (and we are loving it!), and are absolutely thrilled to have a piece from Chris here. Read the post, and check out the info at the bottom to find out more about Chris and where you can find him!
I was having lunch with a friend the other day. We were reminiscing about the drug days. We're both in recovery, have been for years, and for both of us the Dharma has played a big part in that path's success.
But however different our lives are today, the memories of our past mistakes still occasionally return unbidden to haunt us and sometimes keep us peeking over the blankets in the dark, late at night.
"Was that really me?" we ask ourselves and whisper, "Could I become that person again?"
Then the images of all the people we've hurt, lied to, threatened and stolen from rise up in our minds like ghosts and banshees.
Whatever teachings I've heard about guilt being nothing but the worst kind of ego-grasping, something we should learn to let go of, just fly out the door at those times.
But let's face it. We all have skeletons in our closets. Whether we've committed major crimes or just been assholes to our friends, kids and partners, we've all done things we regret, things we'll never be able to take back.
Unresolved quarrels with loved ones now dead and gone. Missed opportunities to tell the people we love how we truly feel. All the times we should have or shouldn't have.
I'm not saying you can just forget all the mistakes you've made. I'm not even saying you have to. But maybe guilt doesn't always need to be so debilitating or self-absorbed.
When those dark times come up and you remember all the lies, all the stealing, all the cheating and all the harm you've done to family and friends, try just letting the memories come.
Don't retreat to that safe, dark cave of self-deprecation. Rather, think to yourself:
"Yes, I did all those terrible things but that's in the past now. From today forward, I will make every effort to be a kind and loving human being. I will strive with everything I have to use this precious human life to tame my mind and to work for the benefit of others."
I think it's from this place of positive motivation, this pure, aspirational bodhicitta, that we can then work skillfully with the memories rising and falling in our minds like so many waves on the ocean.
Then the focus shifts from the past to the present moment, from self to other, and we can begin to let go of the heavy burden of unnecessary shame and worry.
So guilt, and the painful memories that sometimes torment us, don't need to be our enemies after all.
In the end, they can be transformed into not only inspiration but maybe, if we're patient and diligent, even wisdom.
Even at twelve years old, Chris Lemig knows he’s gay. He just doesn’t want to believe it. Spurred on by intolerance, ignorance and fear, he takes his first steps into the closet and so begins twenty-three years of drugs, drinking and attempted suicides. It’s only after he wakes up one morning, beaten and still bleeding from a hate crime, that he finally finds the courage to come out and make a change. Read more at www.TheNarrowWayBook.com...
This is a wonderful anonymous guest post on hitting a Bottom while sober. A honest, raw piece, we are very grateful for this insightful submission!
Being sober is the most wonderful gift I’ve ever received. And for the first five years of my sobriety, I lived in a world of perpetual perkiness. I even walked through a marriage and divorce with what dignity and grace. And then that special someone walked into my life. And I was completely smitten! People commented on a regular basis about how good we were together….and we were. Or so I thought. What I realized was that I had entered my first relationship in recovery and was truly in love for the first time. But I was alone in that and the relationship ended abruptly and very unexpectedly. This was an emotional bottom, for me, of great magnitude.
I never hit a bottom like this as a still suffering alcoholic. And it was huge. The stages of grief were almost more than I could handle. I was desperate to turn off the emotions. I was desperate to not feel at all. And I wanted to drink!
My heart physically hurt and the pain was nearly unbearable. The question that may come to mind for some people reading this is, “How could a person cause this much pain to someone with five years of sobriety?” The answer to that question is: I still had a lot of work to do on me and God waited until I was able to handle it to do the work.
Prior to that relationship beginning, I had begun work on a very intense sex inventory. This one involved all of my past and it was quite scary. You see, my story includes a lot of alcohol combined with sex. And I did NOT want to do this inventory. So when a new distraction came along, I opted to stop doing the inventory.
When this breakup happened and I was in so much pain, I had two choices, jump deeper into recovery or drink. My instinct was to drink. It’s what I wanted more than anything. However, that was not much of an option for me. From day one of the breakup I began reaching out to people. I begged for help. I begged God to let me die. I cried every day for nearly four months. I prayed for the willingness to surrender that person. I prayed to let it all go. But through all of that, I never picked that drink and I finished that sex inventory.
The sex inventory was the most painful inventory I had walked through. Looking at my past behaviors with men and women alike, people I had mistreated and used and manipulated through some type of sexual behavior (even if only flirting) to get what I wanted was not my idea of a good time. But cleansing it was. I had also made the decision to not allow any intimate relationships into my life for at least six months. What? Six months? I had never been single longer than two months. This was absurd.
For the next six months, I focused on being as involved as I could. I went to tons of meetings. I picked up new sponsees and worked closely with my sponsor. I let myself feel what I needed to feel. I cried and cleansed and eventually began laughing again. I really began to understand what peace and serenity really is. That understanding came to me because for the first time in my life, I surrendered to a power greater than myself, all of me. I believed so completely in God’s will for me and abandoned my own will. And I knew freedom.
What I learned of myself was that I had lived in ego for five years. I’d always relied on someone else to bring me joy and had no idea what being happy on my own looked like. In that time, I learned to love myself and be my own friend. This is the biggest gift I’ve received in recovery.
There are particular mindsets or points of view that can be counter-productive. These errors in thinking, especially if taken to the extreme, can inhibit the personal growth and development in relationships.
1. All or absolutely nothing pondering: You see items in extremes, everything is black or white. This can be evident or subtle, for instance saying 'He is always late, but I never get angry about it'. This mindset can be that of the perfectionist also. This thinking error is common amongst addicts.
2. Minimizing or catastrophizing: You exaggerate the relevance of modest issues. 'The whole meal was ruined since the desert was not served promptly.' Is this a catastrophe? An illustration of minimizing is taking a substantial problem or occasion and minimizing its value so it seems inconsequential. People often do this so as not to have to deal with uncomfortable feelings or consequences. It is a form of averting from discomfort and confrontation.
3. Overgeneralization: You get a single event and draw basic conclusions that it is universally true. If your date is late you say 'No guys/girls are ever on time'.
4. Minimizing or qualifying the optimistic: If an individual says you did well, you reply by saying 'I could have/should have done better'. These thinking errors are often a result of low self-confidence.
5. Jumping to conclusions: This is fairly self explanatory. You interpret events even though there are no definite facts that genuinely prove your conclusion. 'My boss didn't say Hi this morning, I am in huge trouble.' 'My girlfriend is not at home, she's cheating on me.'
6. Thoughts reading: Couples are usually guilty of this, 'If he/she loved me they would know what I want.' You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting in a negative way to you and never bother to check it out. 'I know what you're thinking.'
7. Ought to and need to statements: These are shame generators, and some of the most painful thinking errors we make. "Musts" and "shoulds" are also offenders. This can be the product of inflexible and rigid pondering. 'I should not let them see me cry.' 'I should have been there'. The emotional consequence of failure to adhere to the rule is shame and guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you are setting up unrealistic expectations and if they do not behave they way they 'should,' anger and resentment can be the results.
8. Emotional reasoning: While your emotions are valid, and they are your own. They do not necessarily reflect truth. Currently being frustrated at not being in school does not mean you are not intelligent. Feeling hopelessness does not indicate you are hopeless.
9. Personalization: You see yourself as the result of some damaging event for which, in fact, you had been not genuinely accountable. Your loan application is not accepted, and it does not mean the loan officer had it in for you. Your daughter not getting asked to the prom does not imply you are a poor mother.
10. Believing every thought: This is often one of the most difficult thinking errors for us to deal with. We rarely question our thought process. We simply think something and believe it. Our thoughts are not always based in reality, and it is important that we don't listen to every single thought.
Many of us deal with these thinking errors on a daily basis. However, there is good news! With spiritual practice, mindfulness, and concentration practices, we are able to become more aware of these thinking errors and take steps to grow.
“It happened again today – when I learned that my childhood best friend’s father is dying. I am, once again, intimate with fear; death; dying. I think I pushed it away when my Grandpa passed. Could be any day now – his death. What to say when all we do is wait for him to die? Words fail me in this moment. Words fail me today.”
With eyes blinded by tears and hearts stricken with grief, we mourn the loss of my dear friend’s father. His soul left his body but a few weeks ago. As she drowns in his memories, my friend feels lost and alone. I cannot begin to comprehend her grief; the enormity of the loss; the depth of the void she now feels. Words fail me yet again. So I offer to her the most beautiful healer of all, Mother Nature.
The Universe has a funny way of offering us comfort. September’s coy arrival brings rich hues of red, orange, yellow, and brown; the scent of dried and crunchy leaves that tickle the nose; and a chill that sends us clinging to the first sign of warmth. Inevitably, autumn reminds us of the necessity for human touch – a longing to be near others – A longing that leaves my friend thirsty to drink in once more the love and warmth that her father gave so easily. But wait. Stay alert. Nature offers so much more. The turning of seasons is nature’s guide to survival in the most dire of circumstances. After all, one doesn’t take a journey without a guide who knows the paths, and who knows change and direction better than Mother Nature?
As words become a familiar acquaintance with my mind yet again, I plead with my aching friend – Dry your eyes and take Her hand. She will show you the way. Mother Nature will take care of you.
“There is a beauty to be found in the changing of the earth’s seasons, and an inner grace in honoring the cycles of life. If grief or anger arises, let there be grief or anger. This is the Buddha in all forms, Sun Buddha, Moon Buddha, Happy Buddha, Sad Buddha. It is the Universe offering all things to awaken and open our heart.”
It is a beautiful gift to see the world anew; to taste the fresh, crisp air; to appreciate the world that our loved ones have left behind for us to discover.
To my friend and to those who wrestle with anger and grief with each rising sun:
Your father’s scent lives on in the budding flowers of a cool spring morning. Look for his smile as the sun sets and gracefully makes her way to neighboring countries. His touch is as near to you as the hot summer air lay thick on one’s skin. His light is the warmth you feel on a bitterly cold winter day in Montana. Let all winds be his gentle hug. Let the sun be his warm forehead kiss. Let the moonlight be his blanket, holding you tightly as you sleep each night. His body may be gone, but his essence is as strong as ever. Quiet your aching mind, dear friend, and open your eyes to see the beauty that is your father. Stand tall next to the trees the brush against your bedroom window. Roots firmly planted, he is there to guide you; embrace you; comfort you always.
Let’s be grateful for this wonderful gift that he has left for you – the gift of the natural world. Find strength in change, solace in letting go, and comfort in relinquishing fear. The circadian rhythm of Nature’s song is undeniably sung each year. Perhaps you can try to hum a few notes with Her. She will be patient with you. And I will be here to hold your hand.
My name is Kiley. Most friends call me Ki. At twenty-three years young, I’m itching to understand the Universe and my place in it. I am an individual first, a mother second, a dreamer – always. LifeofKi is a humble blog reflecting my thoughts at any given moment. I ask questions of my readers, of myself, and of the Universe. I find solace in spirituality and connecting with others. With a passion for creative writing, I am living my dream every day. Stop by for a visit sometime! I’ve only just begun my spiritual journey, one fleeting thought at a time.
Sitting in meditation last night, I had a rather pleasant sit. Sitting with a facilitator leading the sit, I followed from concentration into open awareness. As usual, my mind wandered. I was able to gently bring my mind back and avoid the judgement that I often have. In the traditional open awareness practice, we were instructed to note where our attention was. The facilitator included the examples of breath, physical sensation, thought, and sound. All was quite pleasant until the facilitator said, "For these last few minutes before the bell rings, put extra effort forth to focus."
As soon as this was said, anxiety took over. Although I was in the midst of a pleasant sit, the thought of ending the sit brought about great emotion. I had been able to bring my mind back and settle throughout the sit, but I began to struggle with the anxiety. It was slightly stronger than anything else I had experienced during my meditation, and my mind followed it for a bit. Bringing it back, I had an interesting insight.
I tried noting that my focus had turned to a feeling. However, it was rather abstract for me to see this anxiety as a feeling. I put effort forth to truly be presently aware, and found that the "feeling" rested greatly in my body. My heart rate had increased, which I could feel in my chest and my arms and my shoulders and neck became tense. Noticing the physical sensation, it truly was where the anxiety rested.
My mind also had a part in the anxiety, but it was far less obvious that it was in my body. When I heard that the sit was almost over, my mind habitually activated, and the anxiety manifested in my body. My conclusion with this experience was that the anxiety rested mostly in my body.
It is not always easy to identify where a feeling rests, or how it is present with us. I know when I have pleasant and unpleasant emotions, but can not often pinpoint where they rest. Physical pain is simple to locate, as are thoughts. Emotions have somewhat evaded my understanding. With this experience, I see how emotions are an interaction between my mind and body, and affect more than one part of me. Emotions are spread out throughout my human experience and thus harder to locate, but seeing how heavily they rest in the body, I hope to use this in my daily life dealing with emotions.
My name is Natasha and I’m an alcoholic and an addict. When I came into the program I was willing to do anything my sponsor told me. Until I got to the Ninth Step. Make amends to people? Seriously!????!!!!!!
My sponsor must have been crazy if she thought I was going to make amends to my father!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I was never going to make amends to that asshole! He abused my mom and ruined our family.
I knew amends would be necessary so I focused on all the recent ones.
I had done some pretty terrible things in my first 90 days. Yup, even sober I stole from my employer at the time. I knew I had to make amends.
People warned me that I would go to jail, lose my job, and never be trustworthy again. I remembered that I was willing to go to any lengths to recover so I did what I thought was best.
I replaced the money and made amends to my boss and I didn’t get fired. I was shocked.
The one amend I knew was going to be hard was my mother. I had lied, stolen, cheated, and the likes to her for years; How could I make this up to her? I made amends to my mother and we had a beautiful cry session. Today I do a living amends to her. I show up, participate in life and of course I don’t pick up.
When I was in treatment in July 2012 I started having vivid dreams about sexual abuse and my father was very present in the dreams.
I spoke to the counselors and they told me I had to do inventory on this with my sponsor and learn to forgive and let go. I realized that I totally had stuffed this traumatic event for 25 years. I never remembered it. Looking back now, I see where my behaviours and impulsivity around men came from.
So I did what my sponsor told me to do, I prayed. I prayed for the willingness to make amends…
Seriously though, what part did I even have? I was a victim of child abuse and dammit he should say sorry to me.
The more I worked my program the more I realized I did have a part. I was holding onto this for 25 years.
I was reading the Big Book on page 66/67, “This is our course: realize at once that the people who wrong you are spiritually sick. Though you don't like their symptoms and the way these disturb you, they, like yourself, are sick, too. Ask God to help you show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that you would cheerfully grant a friend who has cancer. When a person next offends, say to yourself This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.”
Then it hit me, my heart became awakened and boom! I realized my father was sick. How could I be angry at someone who is sick?
I went to church that Sunday, even though it had been years since I went to church and the Pastor said “If anyone needs a healing, please come to the front”. So I went to the front of the alter and cried my eyes out (people who know me, know that I cry a lot, imagine that times 1000). After church was finished, I called my dad and made amends. Even though my sponsor suggested I do it in person, I knew God gave me this opportunity to do it.
My father has forgiven me and even though he is not part of my life today I am totally 100% okay with that, because my side of the street is clean!!!!!
Making amends doesn’t mean everything will be all cheerio and roses; it’s making sure that if I die tomorrow I know that I did the best to right my wrongs.
I now make amends quickly if I have harmed someone, and it’s way easier than holding onto anger and resentment. I try to always do the next right thing, but I have to remember, I am a work in progress and for that I’m grateful!