The Thirty-Minute Exercise That Helped Me Forgive and Forget

There are people in this life who make me weary.

You know who I mean — the lover who discarded me; the boss who denigrated me. Even the kids who relentlessly bullied me in grade school. For many years, there was an entire cast of characters in my psyche I thought I was done with.

Except that I wasn’t.

They still chimed in from time to time, simply as disembodied voices in my head. And why? Because again and again, I invited them in.

The truth is I longed to let them go. Fie on those bully kids and that impossible-to-please boss. And what about the toxic lover? I longed to get rid of her, too!

How I craved some much-needed space in my head. Once I had it, then all kinds of kind, lovely, nourishing things could grow in my mind instead.

So I decided to set these angry rants free.

A book I was reading at the time suggested it would be as simple as writing a letter to each person I was still resentful with. I would never send the letter, of course, but instead simply write it. And that alone would free up space in my heart.

Okay. Fair enough. At this point, it was three years after the toxic relationship, 31 years after the obnoxious boss, and 46 years after the bully kids … so why not let it all go? I’d had those negative voices in my head far too long already.

I sat down to write each person a letter and a very surprising thing happened. I began with my former lover, a person I felt had done me wrong in many ways. I really let it all hang out as I wrote.

Spiritual bypass was not allowed — I scrawled every last one of my petty, crude, pissy thoughts. I gnashed my teeth on paper. I told her exactly what I thought of her … and then half way down the page, the tone suddenly shifted.

All of the sudden a small awareness of my role in the relationship became clearer. I found myself writing, “Of course, I invited you into this dynamic by being a vacant, pliable victim … so we acted out our little drama just like actors in a play.”

Whoa. Really?

Yes, really. The fact was I was being so nakedly honest gave me no recourse but to be honest about my own responsibility, too. Did she mistreat me? Did she use me? Did she manipulate and control me?

Absolutely! And did I manipulate her right back?

I certainly did.

Every time I was silent and let my former lover abuse or control me, I fed our off-kilter dynamic. Every choice I made that didn’t serve me merely cemented the unhappy lockstep we both found ourselves stuck in.

As I continued to write my letter to her, I discovered what a great thing our break up was. It was actually a great relief when she dumped me. Now I could actually see how critical this relationship was to my personal growth.

As a direct result of that break-up, I found my way into work that helped me become humble again. I learned to live in a far healthier way and found a new, far deeper connection to God.

Out of this work, I also found the truly happy, deeply loving marriage I am now in.

Our greatest teachers often show up as irritants in the path – the rock around which we must flow. The bully kids taught me to protect my most sensitive self, and let her only be seen in ways that are safe and whole.

The obnoxious boss taught me how low my standards were, and how to aim higher with the next job I got – and then the next, and the next after that.

Again and again, life conspires to bring the very best teachers our way, whether we like them or not. I say our souls demand it – for how else can we really grow?

By finally telling the truth, I owned the entire picture of what had happened. Here was my safe forum to truly express myself, and so discover the lessons buried behind the grief. Now I found I truly was ready to let go of the hurt, the pain and the anger.  

At the end of the letter, I was filled with compassion, empathy and even gratitude for this remarkable woman I had once loved. I knew that part of me would even love her for years to come, whether or not we ever spoke again.  

I had been reborn — simply because of one small, thirty-minute exercise.

If you are carrying resentment towards anyone in your life or your past, why not lay your burden down? All that you will lose is the artificial crutch of your resentment.

There is an innate joy that awaits all of us. It lives on the other side of humility, honesty and willingness.

I invite you to write a letter of your own – a letter you never send. For, if nothing else, it will be a supreme act of self care.  
As it turns out, all this letting go of resentments is part of becoming truly happy. If you’d like to find your own innate happiness, listen to our new podcast with happiness expert Andrew Matthews.

 

 

 

 

The Secret to Relaxing About Life

There is a strange paradox about life. Seldom is the one we are living the life we think we should be living. 

Somehow we can never get quite enough money, or power or titles or sex or adventures or love or anything to truly feel we’ve got our share. Like hungry birds in their nests, our beaks are always open, demanding yet another worm. There is always some better position, some higher level of responsibility, some more exalted realm we think should be ours.

At least, this much has been true for me … until recently.

Not only have I consistently believed throughout my life that I didn’t have ‘enough’, I believed that I wasn’t enough either. I honestly thought that if I got that million dollar book deal/perfect body/perfect … whatever … then I’d finally be whole and complete.

Then I could relax! Then I could be happy! I could stop pushing so hard and endlessly striving. Then, in the eyes of the Universe, Mom, and everyone else I would finally be enough. Or so I thought.

It was only recently, at the ripe old age of 58, that I finally decided to let go of this toxic illusion. This, right here and right now, is the life I’ve been given. And this, right here and right now, is as good as it gets.

What happened was that I was standing in our church singing in one of our annual concert, singing my heart out with my fellow choir singers. There was nothing slick or high visibility about the event. The audience was peppered with families and dotted with unruly kids and crying babies. Heck, we barely had microphones.

And there was nothing slick about my life. My work continues along on a humble path. There is no massive book deal, no high visibility position, none of the things that I’d always imagined would make me happy.

But in that moment as I looked out over the crowd and sang, delivering my gift for that particular moment, I felt intensely bonded to each person sitting there. I could feel the love rising in the room, and the slightly sweaty, restless-child imperfection of all of it at the same time.

It was spectacularly beautiful.

These were my people, I thought to myself, and I am in exactly the right place doing the right thing at the right time. On the other side of the choir, my new wife Rachel was singing in the tenor section. We were experiencing the uplift of the music together, as our choir director beamed his approval.

Simply put, we were one with the audience, with each other and all the good and caring musicians around us.

That’s when I understood, unequivocally, this is as good as it gets.

And that’s when I saw a grand illusion that my long held dream has been. As long as I quantify my life by many book deals, or income hikes, or vacations, or … whatever … I receive, there will probably never be “enough.” Not in this congested, tired little mind.

Furthermore, I will miss the deep and beautiful treasure of the life that’s happening here and now.

I realize now that it’s okay to have dreams and goals as long as they are accompanied by an intense sense of gratitude for what is present now. As long as I don’t reject the reality of the present moment for some cherished illusion in my mind – because that illusion has no substance.

Down here, in the thick of life, only one thing counts and that is tapping into the love that is here and now, in this present moment. And then being grateful as we gaze ahead, ready to be surprised by life.

Wherever you are and may you know that, today, right here and right now, you are enough.

 

 

 

P.S.

On my Before the Afterlife podcastTony talks about maintaining a zestful life, and what his ‘magic bullet’ is for Emergency Zest as needed… check it out here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can find this episode below, or subscribe with any podcast player.

Here are the links to iTunes and Google Play!

 

 

The Magical (and True) Story of How My New Healing Podcast Came to Be

I drove up to Sebastopol on a foggy Bay Area morning last fall because something was pushing me. I just kept feeling the urge to go back  to this sweet town where I once lived. At the time, I felt stuck. I couldn’t move forward, though I badly wanted to.

In my meditation, when I asked what was next for me, the image of Sebastopol’s main street and it’s intersection in the middle of town was shown to me. It was an image that had come to me repeatedly since Teal’s death, at one point prompting me to live there for a year and a half.

Although I moved away, Sebastopol still calls to me and invites me in …this is a place where I resonate and where Teal’s spirit really comes alive for me. Especially as I drive up there.

While I was driving on that particular day, I felt so lost. I was at some kind of crossroads with my work. The novels were being published but I felt incomplete. I submitted an  excerpt from my memoir to an agent and was waiting for her feedback. I was ‘on hold’ and I didn’t like it.

So I prayed to Teal as I drove. “Please show me what I’m supposed to do. Make yourself apparent to me. Help me know what is next.”

After I got to Sebastopol, I did what I always do … I went into Infusions, ordered a cup of tea and a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie, and put down my backpack. Then I looked through the big glass doors of the tea shop.

Standing there was a blonde woman talking to Magick, the psychic who usually sits outside. I studied her. I was instantly drawn to her though I really didn’t know why. It could have been because she is beautiful, but there was some other, bigger reason I couldn’t put my finger on. I thought perhaps I knew her.

Then I realized it was Michaela, the shaman who Teal had done a session with her only a week before her death. It was Michaela who’d gotten Teal so very interested in shamanic healing in the first place.

It was in this very spot that I’d run into Michaela several times over the last four years. I said hello to her, we hugged, then spontaneously sat down to tea together.

Ninety minutes later, I had a clear sense of my purpose moving forward.

Because Michaela is a shaman, she ‘travels between worlds’ and often talks to beings such as Teal who inhabit the other side. We started chatting and inevitably Teal’s essence began seeping into the conversation.

We talked about life, and then moved on to the topic of organ donation. Teal’s heart was donated to another young woman about her age whose life was saved, and who moves through this walking life right now because of Teal.

Michaela began to receive all kinds of information from Teal, then, about what happens to the stored memories in the cells of the transferred organ. She went on to channel Teal at length, ending with these words.

When my heart stopped I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. My soul was ready to go, but I was not aware that my heart had a different trajectory … when I was young I didn’t understand the pain that my heart was in. And I didn’t know if I could sustain it. There was an aspect of denial that is part of being young, which prevented me from expressing the pain and working with it in a substantive way.

And yet, my heart’s journey was really to impart information from another dimensional aspect, so people could hear the wisdom of my heart and other hearts. I was not capable of doing that psychologically in my body, and with the personality that I had. I wasn’t evolved enough to understand that in order to heal the heart, I had to experience what the heart was harboring.

Now when I look at it, it’s more like I had to learn how to play the chords, so that I could improvise in a major way. I’m now improvising in a major way, but I didn’t have the tools to do that when I was young and alive.”

Then Michaela looked at me. “Teal says, ‘To be continued,” she said.

Michaela had no way of knowing that that Teal was a musician … a musician who loved to improvise. Nor did she know that when Teal was dying, she came to me several times as thoughts in my head. When I asked what she was doing, she told me, “I’m trying to reconcile my heart and my soul.”

At the end of our conversation we both felt great. Uplifted, serene, content, happy. And energized in an entirely new way.

And suddenly I knew exactly what I needed to do next – the path was crystal clear. I knew I was to create a podcast and have Michaela as my first guest … and a repeat visitor. It was to be an exploration of the Afterlife, and whatever we can learn from this side of the divide.

I got my confirmation on the drive home. Sensing Teal around me once more, I turned on my iPod which is always set to Shuffle. Immediately, I heard Teal humming the beginning of the introduction I’d recorded a few years earlier for a podcast that never happened .

Of the nearly 2000 songs on my iPod … this was the first one I heard Now it all made perfect sense.

I’m pleased to announce our podcast will begin on February 21. Naturally, Teal popped in with a name for it while I was interviewing Michaela … Before the Afterlife. I’ll be sharing my own stories, and talking to mystics, psychics, shamans, monks, brain geeks, authors and experts who deal in happiness. It’s about healing, spiritual guidance, and how to be happy before you go.

Now you know the story behind Before the Afterlife … I do hope you’ll give a listen.

Thank you. And as ever, Namaste.

Before the Afterlife will be available on iTunes by February 20 … Hope to see you there!

 

Why Is It So Difficult to Know What You Want?

woman standing by gauzy curtainsIt is said that the greatest guide to living a prosperous, happy life of love is to listen to your heart.

Just follow its guidance and you’ll be all set. At least that is the conventional wisdom that drives us to eschew the ordinary life and set off on the road less traveled.

And yet … there seems to be a design flaw.

I don’t know about you, but I have one hell of a time hearing my heart. I know its wisdom is back there somewhere. But it’s lodged behind the ranting of my incessant, worried mind, a million to-do’s, and a cacophony of mid-life emotions.

It’s also buried behind the subtle over-layer of apps, texts, emails, phone calls, appointments, traffic jams, calories, doctor appointments, instant messages, chats, whether to eat chocolate or not, and the frenetic microcosm of social media.

Bottom line: I can’t frigging hear my heart!

And yet … I know if I just stop and listen, like really stop and listen, I can hear it.

The fact is I don’t want to listen.

My heart will tell me that my constant ‘doing’ must end. That I must be willing to let go and hang out with the mystery of life for a while. If I really want to feel my feelings, I must stop being so busy-busy-busy.

My heart will say that far more urgent than anything on my ‘must do’ list is my own – our own – continued healing.

Many of us are all in a state of subtle emergency most of the time. But we proceed as if this is the human condition. And yet … it’s not.

Underneath all the furor of modern life, we are calmly rational. Furthermore, we know exactly what to do at any given moment. In fact, our nervous system is always ready to chime in with its intuitive hit to set us straight. But really … we just can’t bear to hear it.

Then change might be required. Change for which we feel ill prepared. Change that might lead us to failure.

At least that’s what the ego thinks in its protective, if misguided way.

So it is that we hang out there in vagueness … longing for something but unable to say exactly what.

So I have been quietly learning that I have no choice. If I want to be happy, I have to follow the directions of my heart whether I like it or not. Really, my heart’s the only sane driver on board.

Because when I slow down long enough to listen, life calms down. Then my faith returns and I remember I’m not alone. Instantly, I feel stronger, wiser. And somehow, I know what to do.

Bear in mind this: your heart will not ever try to set you off course. Nor will your heart ever try to hurt another. Instead, it only wants to lovingly steer you onward to become your best, every day.

That’s all that happens when you make enough time, and create enough peace, to finally listen.

What is your heart trying to tell you today that you may be avoiding?

How I Finally Learned to Open My Heart

Some yestrawberry heartars ago a psychic in Key West, FL told me something I’m only just now beginning to understand.

As I sat there in front of her, in a darkened room all full of incense, she intoned: “You’ll have the success you want, Suzanne… but only when you open your heart.”

I wasn’t sure what this meant, exactly, but I did what any good self-help devotee would do. I set out to crack the code on what ‘opening your heart’ meant.

My first stop was the aromatherapy store, where I spent a good hour sniffing this and that until I’d whipped up my own little brew designed to split open a congested heart chakra. (Mind you, I had no idea what I was doing, but this did seem like the place to start.)

Then I headed over to my friend, Mary, the Oriental Medicine Woman. Mary listened to me quite seriously when I requested she set lots of needles that would open my heart. After the third treatment, she gingerly asked how it was going.

“I don’t know,” I replied.

“Well, what would ‘opening your heart’ be like?” she asked.

Again, I could not answer. Meanwhile, a nightly application of my heart chakra oil was giving me nothing but a greasy, rose-scented chest. Ultimately, I forgot about opening my heart as the whirlwind of life sucked me on toward the next endeavor.

Then one night I sat up in bed, suddenly aware of exactly what opening my heart really means. At the time it meant working extremely hard on my passion, and investing time, money, and energy in getting it out there. And it meant facing down fear, and being uncomfortable, and having the courage to truly share myself with others.

I thought I knew this already from leading my first workshop. During the weeks that I created it, I was racked with doubt; I had to keep making one uncomfortable phone call after another. Yet, when that first day was over, we all seemed to be floating a few feet above the ground.

For the first time I saw how I had really moved people. The feeling was one of deep, intimate connection with others. It was profound and unforgettable.

Now, decades later, ‘opening your heart’ has come to mean something else, yet again.

In the first few years after losing my daughter, it meant having the courage not to work incessantly, but instead to become to very still and focus on feeling. To let my own grief well up inside until it found its way out into the broad daylight. And to let myself have the luxury of many a good, long cry.

Then as my grief receded and I returned to the swing of life, I found opening my heart meant tuning in to the people around me. So I learned not do to my work not for the sake of success and ambition … but for the sake of love.

In this way I have found my way back to empathy, and true forgiveness – a deep, deep place of surrender, humility and grace. Over the last few years I learned, for instance, to really forgive my mother. To finally let that poor woman, as flawed as she was, off the hook.

I have also learned to cut myself a break as well. No longer do I have to do everything perfectly. Nor must I intimidate or impress people with my toughness, and my professional valor. I don’t even need to run from every person I fear or even disagree with.

Instead, these days I can be soft and gentle. I can listen to others, and I can comfort myself. I can tune into my needs and make requests. When I do this … it turns out the world is a pretty wonderful place.

In forgiving the world, I have learned to forgive myself, as well. And so I dissolve into love.

This is the love that waits, like a pool in our heart, for us to come swim in its bliss. And it is nothing more than our own shimmering, endless sea of bounty.

You have it and I have it.

Turns out this is the gold that awaits when we open our heart.

Go within to find your own place of letting go. What or who holds you fast in resentment, anger, chaos or confusion? What is the decision you made that you cannot forgive yourself for?

What is the loss you cannot face? What is the choice that will set you free?

Perhaps not today, but soon, you will find yourself releasing the bonds that hold you fast so you, too, may swim in the sea of bliss.

The water’s fine … I encourage you to dive in!