Feet in the earth, mind in the now

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Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. Khalil Gibran

Life just keeps rolling around like a big old wheel. Sometimes you are on top of the wheel flying high, looking out at the world, sometimes you are on the bottom of the wheel being ground into the dirt.

The only difference between an abundant life and a stressful life may be in the perspective. Last week I was brimming with positivity, this week I feel overwhelmed. Nothing has changed but my perception.

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. Oscar Wilde

After the rather heady heights of my last post – reeling from the full force of all that manifesting energy – I kind of bottomed out. That’s okay – the natural ebb and flow of things.

It’s just that the natural flow of life started to feel less like gliding along a meandering river and more like manoeuvring rocky rapids heading for a colossal waterfall. Think Niagara Falls.

My lovely friend always says it takes a steady hand to hold a full cup. My cup was certainly brimming, but the hand was a little wonky. Without sufficient downtime to meditate and yoga myself into a zen state, I was feeling frazzled.

Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor. Thích Nhất Hạnh

While my son warmed up for his football match today, I took the time to meditate and then walk on the earth. I read an article about the health benefits of getting your feet on the earth, it balances your body’s electrons, stabilising your nervous system. Ignoring my concerns about what people would think of my barefoot in the rain routine, I stood under a lovely weeping willow – somewhat hidden –  and got my feet dirty. It felt good.

It is only when the mind is free from the old that it meets everything anew, and in that there is joy. Jiddu Krishnamurti

As a result of living in a modern, technological world, you are exposed to an ever-increasing amount of electromagnetic radiation, upping the production of free radicals in your body, resulting in inflammation, which is a major causal factor in most diseases. Researchers have observed a relationship between the electrical charge of your body and the earth.

It turns out that the earth acts as a natural reservoir of electric energy. When your body is in contact with the ground, if you have an excess of electrons, the excess will be absorbed into the earth. If you have a deficiency of electrons, then the earth will supply what is needed to achieve balance. (Source: Earthing: The benefits of connecting with earth’s energy)

The true miracle is not walking on water or walking in air, but simply walking on this earth. Thích Nhất Hạnh

Plastic soled shoes and artificial surfaces have meant that many of us go for long periods without making direct contact with the earth – unlike our ancestors who walked, sat, and slept on the ground.

Earthing (also known as grounding) refers to contact with the earth’s surface electrons – easily achieved by standing barefoot, sitting, or lying, on the ground. Emerging scientific research supports the idea that connecting the body with the earth’s electrons induces significant physiological changes, including a reduction in pain, improved sleep, a shift from the sympathetic (fight or flight) to parasympathetic (rest and digest) tone in the nervous system, and a blood-thinning effect. (Source: Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons)

As I meditated and earthed myself, I could feel the accumulated stress of the week fall away. It occurred to me how heavy it had felt, and yet it didn’t really exist, it was just thoughts and my reactions to those thoughts. A massive storm cloud of mental static blocking me from the beauty of the present moment.

The best time to plant a tree is twenty-five years ago. The second best time is today. Unknown

I got to thinking about the power of complete surrender, of letting go of all thoughts, of just being in the moment. My mind tried to distract me, but I kept letting go of those new thoughts too. And then there I was, just my essence, free of all that other stuff. It was a lovely two minutes!

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern. William Blake

As I stood beneath the arms of the willow, the wind blowing her leaves towards me, my feet in the soggy earth, I felt an affinity with this tree. I asked the willow if she came here often, I like to make light of my hippy moments.

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper. W.B. Yeats

Then I saw a mum I knew walking towards me, and realised I probably should put my shoes back on and stop talking to the tree, barefoot in the rain, beside the footy oval. For my son’s sake at least.

You may be asking yourself what on earth this has to do with intentions? Everything.

My next intention is love. This week I felt an absence of love. I felt rushed, stressed, overwhelmed. Somehow fearful thoughts had supplanted my mindfulness and intentions. My attempts at meditation were hijacked by a to-do list of epic proportions. I couldn’t relax, I couldn’t be still. I couldn’t BE.

That is, until my encounter with the willow tree, and letting go of all that mental and emotional baggage that piles up and makes it hard to be in a state of love.

When we walk like (we are rushing), we print anxiety and sorrow on the earth. We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the earth… Be aware of the contact between your feet and the earth. Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.  Thích Nhất Hạnh

Speaking of letting go, I signed up for the Forgiveness Challenge, a global initiative by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter, and Mpho Tutu, which started today. See forgivenesschallenge.com

Over a 30 day period, The Forgiveness Challenge follows the Fourfold Path – a process outlined in The Book of Forgiving, by Desmond and Mpho Tutu and based on their work around the world with those who have suffered heartbreak and violence.

Hurt people hurt people. Abusive patterns get passed on, generation after generation, but we can break the chain with our choices. Meet anger with sympathy. Meet contempt with compassion. Meet cruelty with kindness. Meet grimaces with smiles. When you forget about the fault, there is nothing to forgive. Love is the weapon of the future. Yehuda Berg

The first exercise was setting an intention for the challenge, here’s mine:

I want to be free of the burdens of the past and the fear of the future. I want to set free the people I hold onto in unforgiveness, I want to set myself free from regret.

The Forgiveness Challenge is based on the precept that forgiveness flows out in an ever increasing ripple effect from personal, to local, to global.

Forgive within yourself. Forgive within your family. Forgive within your community. This is how we heal the world. We start close and we work our way out. In South Africa, we have the term “Ubuntu,” which literally means “humanity.” It is the belief that a person is only a person through other people. We are all family, and any tear in the fabric of connection between us must be repaired for us all to be made whole. To walk the path of forgiveness is to recognize that my life is bound up in your life, and every wrongdoing hurts us all. Forgiveness is how we heal the world, one relationship at a time. The Forgiveness Challenge

As a believer in forgiveness as a principle, I need little convincing of its merit, however that doesn’t means it comes naturally or easily. Growing up in a culture that records and punishes every minor transgression has endowed me with a scorecard check and balance system for the wrongs other have done – not to mention my own long list of transgressions. It takes dedicated practice to let these resentments go.

To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it. Confucius

Buddhist writer Jack Kornfield in his book, The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace, writes about a forgiveness ritual  – that has been doing the rounds on social media recently:

In the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unfettered. All work ceases, and every man, woman, and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused individual. Then each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a time, each recalling the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted. All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length. This tribal ceremony often lasts for several days. At the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe.

The idea, common to many tribal cultures, is that people are inherently cooperative and that wrongdoing is an expression of their disconnection from their true nature and its place in the balance of life in the tribe. To reconnect a person must be reminded of their true nature and their worth. Rather removed from the Western culture’s way of discipline and punish, blame and shame, isn’t it?

When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending. Thích Nhất Hạnh

In Hawaiian culture, Hoʻoponopono (ho-o-pono-pono) is an ancient practice of reconciliation and forgiveness. Morrnah Simeona, a modern Hawaiian healer adapted the traditional hoʻoponopono of family mutual forgiveness to the address the broader social issues of the modern society. The mantra they use is “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.” It is thought to undo all karma, or consequences of cause and effect, in the world. The practice has been used in the Hawaiian justice system and shown to create remorse and reduced recidivism in convicted criminals (Source: Wikipedia)

An eye for an eye, and the whole world would be blind. Khalil Gibran

The wisdom in these ancient practices is that rather than using punishment and exile, love and forgiveness may be the most effective way to deal with harmful acts. It may be time to expand our social repertoire to include forgiveness, acceptance and love into our treatment of members of our society.

Sometimes what a person needs most is to be forgiven. Jennifer McMahon

It’s tempting to argue that some acts are unforgivable, but look at these examples from 10 Extraordinary Examples of Forgiveness.

The father of a murder victim said to his daughter’s killer in court: “There are people here that hate you. I’m not one of them. You’ve made it difficult to live up to what I believe, and that is what God says to do, and that’s to forgive. You are forgiven, sir.”

When we forgive evil we do not excuse it, we do not tolerate it, we do not smother it. We look the evil full in the face, call it what it is, let its horror shock and stun and enrage us, and only then do we forgive it. Lewis B. Smedes

The members of the Amish community where a gunman killed several children in a school shooting attended the killer’s funeral and comforted his widow, then they also offered financial support to his widow.

Nelson Mandela is another example of turning what could have been a lifetime of justifiable anger and revenge into a passion for social justice.

As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison. Nelson Mandela

According to Frank Luskin “If you don’t get past some of the wounds of the past, you tend to bring them into everything else you pursue.” As director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project and author of Forgive for Good, several years ago, Luskin conducted a research project in Northern Ireland. He taught a group of mothers, whose sons had been killed, how to forgive their sons’ killers. After a year, he followed up and found that the majority of women had continued to feel more forgiveness toward their child’s killers.”The daughter of one of the women came up and hugged us, and thanked us for giving her her mother back,” Luskin says. “The mother had been so consumed with anger that she was never able to be there for her other children. But she finally learned to forgive, and her daughter said, ‘We have a mother again.'” (Source: How to forgive and why you should)

When I signed up for the forgiveness challenge, I did so with the belief that there is great freedom in forgiveness, and that it has immense healing power. In fact, it may be the force that saves the human race from self-destruction.

Forgiveness is the only way to reverse the irreversible flow of history. Hannah Arendt

Pondering upon my seventh intention, love, I realise that unforgiveness is probably the greatest block to experiencing love. And while I may feel a lack of forgiveness towards those who have hurt me, this unforgiveness is in me, and harms me. It also potentially poisons all my relationships with the people I do love. The Northern Irish mother is not alone in spending her time ruminating on past hurts instead of being present to the love in this moment.

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.C.G. Jung

There is one person in my life I continue to forgive, and then resent, and then forgive. And on, I can’t seem to be free of it. I know forgiveness is an action, and hopefully one day I’ll be relieved of this sticky resentment for good.

Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude. Martin Luther King Jr.

Forgiveness is also a process. It is not something that can be forced. Deep and lasting hurt cannot be wished away with words or sentiment. The Forgiveness Challenge acknowledges there are stages on this journey: the hurt must be acknowledged, the story told, forgiveness must be a considered choice, and it does not absolve the other person of accountability, merely releases the attachment to the hurt and anger, and then the forgiver is left with the choice to continue or release the relationship.

How does one know if she has forgiven? You tend to feel sorrow over the circumstance instead of rage, you tend to feel sorry for the person rather than angry with him. You tend to have nothing left to say about it all. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Forgiveness is not as selfless as it sounds, the truth is to experience the joy of present moment awareness, to be free of the bondage of the past, it is essential to forgive, and to untangle yourself from the ties of the past, that literally hold you there and prevent you fully inhabiting the present. According to medical intuitive Caroline Myss, your precious life-force is squandered through these energetic connections to the people you won’t forgive.

True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.” Oprah Winfrey

Often people express a concern that by forgiving they are letting someone ‘off the hook’. Ask yourself this, how much does your unforgiveness even affect the other person? Unless they are a close loved one, probably not much.

If you knew that forgiveness had psychological benefits on you – reduced depression, decreased anger, increased self-confidence – as well as physical benefits including reduced risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety, as well as other chronic stress-related illnesses, would that convince you to let it go, for your sake? (Source: forgivenesschallenge.com).

Forgiveness is a prescription for health. Doug Abrams

When it came to writing out who I had yet to forgive and the effect on my wellbeing, I was surprised. The list was longer than I expected. My unforgiveness feels like a constriction in my chest, an anxious, sick feeling. It gnaws at my sense of serenity. It keeps me stuck in the past.

I, for one, am willing to forgive, and to let go of these feelings.

And it is all about letting go – forgiveness is the understanding that what you are holding onto is the past. Whatever caused the pain is over. You can choose to let it go.

Forgiveness is the freedom to love unbounded, for myself and others. And as love is my next intention, forgiveness is the perfect way to begin.

The forgiving state of mind is a magnetic power for attracting good. Catherine Ponder

 

Here’s a gorgeous online exercise for letting go by the Campaign for Love and Forgiveness.

 

Today’s healing forgiveness affirmations are by Che Garman:

Every day I am letting go of everything that has been holding me back.

Forgiving others brings immense emotional freedom.

I abandon all notions of prejudice and love everyone equally.

I acknowledge that all my memories, good and bad, are my own creation.

I allow myself to experience my feelings, and release all those which are negative.

I allow only good memories to inhabit the present.

I am breaking down the barriers in my life, one by one.

I am dissolving all blocks to achieving my goals.

I am forgiving of myself and others.

I am now beyond my past.

I am now free to move forward in my life.

I am now living my life without regret because I cherish the present.

I am righting all the wrongs in my life.

I am willing to let go of my past and take the next step towards a better future.

I apologize to myself for living in the past.

 

Bless!

 

More reading on forgiveness:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-therapist-is-in/201009/find-freedom-in-forgiveness

http://loveandforgive.org/loveandforgive/take-action/practice-love-a-forgiveness

http://learningtoforgive.com/research/effects-of-group-forgiveness-intervention-on-perceived-stress-state-and-trait-anger-symptoms-of-stress-self-reported-health-and-forgiveness-stanford-forgiveness-project/

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