Self-acceptance is the launching pad toward freedom (8)

Our anguish reveals itself to be our treasure. Over the time Angie and I worked together, we stayed closely with her experience. In fact, it was her experience that led us.

Normally we fear the unknown depths of our sorrow and fear. We tighten against it. We turn the other direction. We push it out of our sight. We pretend we are happy. We present ourselves to the world as strong. As good. It is a violent way to treat ourselves and how we suffer when we do this.

One of the first things Angie and I did together was to develop in her a tender gaze toward all the different levels of her being. She was scared. But she was also angry. She felt guilty that she had been a part of this decision to move which now she feared would dreadfully affect her daughter’s lives. She felt deficient. Ugly. Loveless. Depressed. Lonely. As she felt her way through all the levels of her experience, she learned to let it be, to stop trying to escape it.

This acceptance brings the freedom to look at situations with new eyes. The situations that break our hearts tear us to pieces in an upward cry. These circumstances ask of us a newness, and if we find the new, then tomorrow will never be as yesterday.

The most important thing is to feel the humanity which makes us suffer, that breaks us to pieces, in a positive way. From every ending, then, everything can begin. Our humanness reveals to us that we are made for the Infinite. That nothing less than the Infinite can satisfy us. The pain we feel is the means we become aware of what Jesus is attracting us to. It is the instrument through which he makes himself present. This is why we must open ourselves to ourselves, acutely aware of how circumstances are reverberating in us on every level of our being: physically, in our emotions, through our thoughts….This is why we must seek the complete meaning of what we feel.

One day I was sitting in a coffee shop with two sisters. As we spoke of a project we were doing, they divided up the writing aspects of the project. It didn’t occur to them that I could contribute. At least that was how I interpreted it. It was the culmination of months of inner soul searching, of a series of events in which others were chosen for projects, of the rejection of other projects that I had worked on, and failure of still others. When we returned home I took a walk in the backyard where I could be alone. It was a small thing, so small I felt guilty even feeling it so deeply. I knew God was at work in all of what was happening in my life. Yet it still hurt. As I looked across the new spring garden just beginning to be dotted with the bravest of flowers poking above the dirt, I began to cry. I embraced the sorrow, the disappointment. From somewhere deep within, the bravest of prayers at last came forth: Jesus, take everything, everything, but give me You.

God doesn’t cause the painful situations in our life, but as our heart is thrown wide open in agony, we discover a treasure we had never known was there: the presence of God that grows stronger and stronger. We crumble in admiration and gratitude.

A healthy way to become aware of the whole texture of your experience is to take a few moments reflecting upon what you are feeling about a situation that is still upsetting you. There is a surface feeling, probably anger, grief, fear. When you focus on this feeling you will notice that another feeling makes itself visible. When you focus on that feeling, another feeling will make itself visible. With this tender loyalty to yourself you find yourself relaxing, even if it is painful. Our humanity was given to us to recognize Christ. So live the immensity of the question, the depth of the pain, and there will blossom a new humanity that is brave, tender, real.


In Part I, you have learned that the process of forgiving yourself means you’ll have to give up for a while the attempt to forgive yourself, that forgiving yourself has more to do with resetting your life back to normal. This “normal” requires a mental and emotional clarity, in order to be surprised by the gaze of Christ who communicates to you through his eyes who you are.

Simple tools like breathing and not running from your feelings help you re-connect with yourself gently. Standing before the gaze of Christ, as did the woman in the Gospel and Angie, can melt the self-hatred of a lifetime of self-escape and refusal to address head-on what you really feel about yourself.

So before you go on, I invite you to return to the story of the woman bent over double and the story of Angie. Take your time and allow both of these women to lead you before Jesus gaze, to receive his healing tenderness.


How to Start Resetting Your Life (5)

I used to think that if I did one more thing, took one more step, made one more resolution toward a new goal I would eventually arrive there. Radicality, instead, has become my new approach. It is true that we take one step at a time, that the law of graduality means we will develop in spirit much as we develop physically—slowly, but if we hope to touch the sunrise by deciding to make micro changes in our life, it will not happen. In the darkest mid-night we could decide to light a match or we could choose the eventual promised dawn, and the sunrise that dispels the night.

If you are suffering the effects of not being able to forgive yourself, you will get nowhere by deciding to forgive yourself again. Instead, like Angie start resetting your life. For the moment, let’s not worry about the issue of your self-forgiveness. Instead let us take a step back and start from the beginning. Reset to factory mode is the quickest and easiest way to return a computer to normal, cleaning it of viruses and temporary files so that it can run at optimal performance.

We can also “reset” our life.

A very easy way to start is to simply breathe. Take a few deep breaths. You may not realize how shallow your breathing has become as you carry around your secret shame. Breathing brings you home, while shame causes you to disengage from yourself. What do you feel as you breathe? Breathe in. Breathe out. Focus on just breathing for about eight minutes.

What do you hear in the room around you?

What are the thoughts that you are thinking? Take some time to begin to be aware of them. Are they life-giving thoughts? Are they harsh? Are they fearful?

Turning within, what do you hear within yourself? What do you see? What do you taste?

In coordination with your breathing, say this simple reminder to yourself that only this moment is yours: I am here. I am now. That is all. I am here. I am now. That is all.

Do you perceive any shift in your awareness of yourself? What are you feeling? Whatever you feel is alright. Some people feel a great inner peace. Others experience an inner agitation or anxiety. The agitation and anxiety are probably closer to the truth of what is most deeply going on within most people.

I often tell people I work with about the time I was helping to upgrade a building before moving our apostolic department. We were pulling up carpets, scraping up glue, stripping and waxing floors, moving furniture. After a while I wasn’t sleeping at night at all. I moved to the living room one evening and started doing the simple breathing exercise outlined above. Within seconds my feet started to “scream.” I looked down and there were open blisters on the soles of my feet. I soaked them in epsom salts and soon my insomnia passed.

I tell this story because it is a simple way of explaining what emotionally/spiritually happens to us. We are in pain–even spiritual or emotional pain–all the time, but we often aren’t even aware of it. It is when we stop and do an exercise that helps us become present to the here-and-now that we suddenly touch what is here-and-now. Then we say OUCH!

The pain you are living with as a result of not being able to forgive yourself hurts. You may be able to keep going, put on a smile, take care of others, but inside you hurt.

To reset your life, you first need to begin by coming home to yourself. The easiest way to do that is to breathe.

Question Every Thought

Three questions to ask every thought you let in the door of your mind:

1) Where did you come from?

2) What’s are you going to want me to do?

3) What will you give me? What will you cost me?

Then decide whether or not you will let the thought in. I started doing this and as a consequence my mind is now quieter and more peaceful. Not as many thoughts make it through the front door!

Can I just be a bush?

I’ve been rather anxious lately, that all around uncomfortable feeling that has no beginning or end, no rhyme or reason, no explanation for its reappearance in my life. I tried analyzing it, understanding it, de-stressing, sleeping, reading…. It wasn’t until this morning that I touched the sunrise:

In the book of Exodus, when the Lord appeared to Moses, he did so from the midst of a burning bush. The bush wasn’t special, different, accomplished, amazing. God chose that bush for his own purposes. The bush was there, doing what bushes do. Insignificant and yet the bearer of divine Majesty. The channel of God’s self-revelation that would lead to the Exodus, prefigure the Passover that would be celebrated by Jesus on the night before he died, and ultimately transfigure all of human history.

Can I just be that bush? Open, willing, nothing more than what I’m given to be?

What peace.