Forgiveness is essential

Forgiveness is essential for a happy life and peace of mind.  www.exploringabundance.com

Forgiveness is essential for a happy life and peace of mind.
http://www.exploringabundance.com

Forgiveness can be a hard won battle. And it is a battle. We teeter, at least I do, between the anger and the releasing. How do you let go of a transgression that caused so much pain?  I’m talking about truly letting go, absolute and complete release, so that there is no longer a remnant of the pain or resentment. I found myself in this position. The pain was palpable, as if I had been physically cut. I knew that I could not afford to hold on to the anger, but I was having a difficult time in forgiving the person(s) that hurt me.

I did the normal things, like venting to my confidants. I yelled, cried and prayed, yet I still had not forgiven the person(s). The hurt feelings and anger began to build instead of retreat. The tightness in my chest and belly would not go away. I kept replaying the incidents over and over in my head. Could I have done something different? How could this person do this to me? Was my response too excessive? I decided to remove the transgressor from my life completely. However, they were still a part of the loop in my brain and the pressure in my chest. I had to dig deep and look outside of the box.

I needed help. I went in search of enlightenment and found it on YouTube. Who knew that was possible? I searched for forgiveness and found two videos that put it all in perspective for me. I wish I could say that after watching the videos I was able to forgive right then and there, but that is not the case. I can however say that I did learn a few things and forgiveness is coming. It’s okay that it is coming in small increments. The point is that I’m moving more in forgiveness than anger.

The first video I watched was “The Law of Forgiveness” by Bob Proctor. My first impression was that Bob kind of looked and sounded like a minister. That was a little bit off putting, but I quickly bypassed that feeling to focus on the message at hand. The four points that I took from this video were:

  1. Let it go completely.
  2. Don’t hold on to resentment. It is not healthy.
  3. You cannot hold on to bad thoughts in your mind and move in a good direction. (6:40)
  4. Form a habit of letting go of things that make you feel bad.

All of these points have their own difficulties. Letting it go, includes 86ing the resentment, anger, bad thought loops in your headall of it. That’s hard work. Number four is truly the best step in the process because if you can make a habit of letting go of things that make you feel bad you are one step closer to peace of mind. I believe having this habit will make it easier to forgive. Point three is the one that really sticks with me because my goal is to continue to move in a good direction. I can see how the negative emotions are hindering my growth and remembering this point helps me tremendously on my journey of forgiveness.

The other video I watched was Bishop T.D. Jakes at Lakewood. This video was almost an hour long, but well worth the time to watch. There were so many things I gleaned from Bishop Jakes’ wise words. The top three points for me are:

  1. Forgive the way you want God to forgive you.
  2. Unforgiveness is not natural (22:26) and is a learned behavior (28:46).
  3. Unforgiveness holds you back.

When Bishop Jakes mentioned the Lord’s Prayer and paused at “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” to make a point that we as Christians/humans want God to forgive us completely, so in turn we should forgive just as He does. Ouch! That was definitely a wake up call for me. Bishop Jakes further explained that not forgiving is a learned behavior and is unnatural. He gave the perfect example of children still loving you even after getting in trouble. I knew by the end of this video that I had to release the resentment and anger because it was keeping me in a state of unhappiness.

There was hope for me because if this was a learned behavior I could definitely unlearn this destructive practice. I no longer felt bad about having such a hard time forgiving. My focus is now on learning new behaviors that will enrich my life and increase my happiness. I highly encourage you to watch the videos. You may find a treasure of wisdom that touches and changes your perspective too.

What helps you when it comes to forgiveness? Is unforgiveness holding you back in your life?

Expect the Best

You cannot expect victory and plan for defeat. ~Joel Osteen Expect the Best www.exploringabundance.com

You cannot expect victory and plan for defeat.    ~Joel Osteen
Expect the Best http://www.exploringabundance.com

There is a parable regarding two farmers praying for rain. One farmer prepared his fields as if rain were on the way. The other farmer continued to pray, but took no action. Who do you suppose received the rain? God sent rain to the farmer who prepared for and expected rain.

When I heard this parable it struck a chord within me. I understood preparation very keenly. My life motto was: Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. As a survivor of abuse, I learned to always prepare for the worst. I never knew when my abuser would strike, so I had to remain vigilant. And hoping for the best was really a superficial type of hope because I was unable to “see” the best ever happening to me. This skill remained with me into adulthood. No matter the situation I would always try to determine all the worst possible scenarios. The next step required me to determine what I should do in order to survive. My mind was always on overdrive. Sleep tended to be restless and futile. I lived this way for years, even after the abuse and abuser had been removed from my life. I did not know any other way.

On this journey of self discovery, I’m learning a new way to live, a new way to think and a new way to be me, an authentic me. Not too long ago I said a prayer. I needed help and direction, because everything seemed to be closing in on me. I’ve seen doctor after doctor, talked to friends and each gave me their own advice on how to climb out of this hole. Don’t get me wrong their advice was valid. But the night I cried out to God was the turning point. He said, “Just write.” Huh? Just write? That was going to help me? I did not see how, but I was obedient. I started writing this blog again. Writing has not solved my problems, but it has helped me more than I could ever have imagined. Sharing this journey of “exploring abundance” with others is helping me tremendously. I hope it is helping others as well.

So far, I’ve learned there are many steps to happiness and living an abundant life. The greatest news is that each step that I’ve encountered has been very simple. Simple doesn’t equate to easy. It is hard to change your habits and yourself. Transforming the way I think has been one of the most daunting and challenging “jobs” I’ve ever held. I realized that if I’m always planning for the worst, I was going to get the worst. Duh. Pretty simple, huh?

“You cannot expect victory and plan for defeat.” – Joel Osteen

Hoping and preparing for the best instead of the worst is a daily battle. So the first change was small. Every morning I hope and expect to witness something that will make me smile. I’m on the lookout when walking my dog Lucky. Like I said, I started small. Amazingly, I come home from my morning walks in awe. Just yesterday, I was almost home and I had not seen anything smile worthy. Then I happened to look over my shoulder and there was a ladybug hitching a ride. He stayed there until I reached my gate. Yes, it was simple, but it made me smile. Since I’ve been expecting and hoping for smile worthy moments, I’ve watched a blue bird capturing its breakfast, a hummingbird drinking nectar and a found a gloriously colorful garden. If starting this small can garner this many smiles, I know I’m on the right track.

Hope for the best.  Expect the best. And take actions toward your expectations. Great things will come your way.

What are your daily expectations? Are you taking action toward your expectations? What is the motto you live by?

Love is Always the Answer

Love is Always the Answer www.exploringabundance.com

Love is Always the Answer
http://www.exploringabundance.com

The very first post that I saw on Facebook this morning was the story of Jason Collins coming out of the closet. I did not know who he was or why it was even news worthy. Once I read the article I realized the significance of the news. It will be a great day when “coming out” will not be news worthy no matter the person or the job.

My views on homosexuality have come a long way. The journey has been a long one, but as I grow and evolve as a person I prefer the new me over the old. In my childhood home homosexuality was the worst kind of sin. The person who was gay had no redeemable value. At church I learned to “hate the sin, but love the person.” I struggled for too many years to count with that simple statement.

I have always thought of myself as open minded, but I realized when it came to this subject, my mind was closed. I believed that homosexuality was a choice. Maybe the person had life circumstances that pushed him or her to make that choice. I didn’t understand it and I did not want to understand. Then a family member, I will call “Butterfly” came out to me. I was like Jason Collins’ brother, shocked. I could no longer put homosexuality in a box and ignore it.

When Butterfly came out, I assured him that I still loved him, and I did. I accepted his choice to be gay. I truly tried to live by “hate the sin, but love the person” rule, but I found that I hated more than I loved. I did not want to be around this family member. What was wrong with me?

The more I pushed against the lifestyle, the more it showed up in my life. Another family member chose me to confide in regarding their sexuality. Again I assured this person of my acceptance and love, but in all honesty it was tainted, because of my struggle. As I battled against my conflict, I watched Butterfly change from living their life as a man to a woman. She blossomed and seemed happier than ever before.

As much as I tried to live the “hate the sin, but love the person” mantra, it was not working for me. I did not like the animosity that I felt toward my family members. Then I had several “Ah ha” moments. I realized no one in their right mind would choose to be gay, bisexual or transgender. Who would put themselves into that category with all the prejudices and hatred that comes along with that “choice”? No one! Once I came to the realization that it was not a choice, things started to shift for me. Butterfly’s change taught me that when you are true to yourself, happiness is a byproduct.

I choose to focus on loving the person. During prayer, God brought me to a scripture that put things in perspective for me.

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” -Matthew 22-36 (NKJV)  (biblegateway.com)

Once I choose to just love and accept my family members for who they were, true love and acceptance without the baggage, I was able to see things in a different light. I truly desired for them to be happy. I did not wish for them to suffer with being isolated or singled out. I realized that I had been doing that and it needed to change. I only wanted them to be happy, whatever that happiness looked like for them.

I began to question why God created people to be gay, bisexual or transgender. Why would He do that? Then, I reasoned, maybe it was a test or an opportunity to see how each person showed love to those that were so different. It can be difficult to love someone or something that it so contrary to ourselves or beliefs. However, for me, this journey was essential to my growth as a human being. I may not always understand, but leading with love instead of fear and hatred will always be the best answer.

I wish Jason Collins all the best in his career. I pray that his announcement will not hinder teams from scooping him up as a team player. I commend his courage to speak up and be authentic to himself. May we all have the courage to do the same in our lives.

Something new within

open flower

Have you ever watched a movie several times and still found something new within the pixels each time? What about a book? Have you ever reread a book and found a new bit of wisdom? I believe that we miss little things while watching or reading. It may be because for short bursts our mind wanders turning our attention from the screen or page. The second, third or fourth time around, may just be better than the first time. This week I watched The Secret again. I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve watched this movie. However, this time I watched a little bit differently. I took copious notes on everything that made my brain tingle anew.

Here is some of what I learned from this session. To begin to live the law of attraction, there are three steps, three very easy steps. This actually surprised me, but then I realized simplicity is truly the best. Keeping it simple makes it easy to remember and easy to practice. Now if you have never heard of The Secret, where have you been?  You can get The Secret, here.  It is a great source of information that can be life changing, if you so choose. This is my interpretation of the information in the movie. It can provide you with much more than I can, so I highly recommend you watch it and read the book.

Now back to what I gleamed this time around. The first step is to determine and decide what you want in your life. Jack Canfield said it best, “You have to decide what you want. You have to believe you can have it. And you have to believe that you deserve it.” Whatever “it” is for you. Take the time to write down your desires and/or create a vision board. I already have a vision board in my home and a journal of my desires/goals, so I had this step down. When doing this task it is vital to take the limits off! Dare to dream BIG!

The second step to igniting The Law of Attraction is Gratitude. It goes deeper than just being thankful and giving thanks. You must feel gratitude. Remember a time when an act of kindness was shown to you. Or remember how thankful you were to get that job/scholarship/apartment/you fill in the blank? How did you feel? Really take the time and experience the feeling of gratitude over again. Now take that feeling and begin to recite your blessings. Begin each day with a feeling of gratitude. Don’t make this a chore. I see it as the perfect opportunity for quality “me” time. I know that feeling and being thankful for all I have can only reap good benefits.

The last step is Visualization. Take your list out or look at your vision board. Close your eyes (not right now, but do this later.) Visualize yourself with one of your desires. The key to this is to focus on the END result. Again focus on the end result, not the how. The how will come. I get lost in the how, so this was definitely an “Ah ha” moment for me. It is important to give yourself time to do this exercise. Immerse yourself in the vision with feeling and purpose. How would you feel if that vision were reality? Happy? Thankful? Hold on to that feeling while doing your visualization. It may sound strange to do this, however, when visualizing your mind is unable to distinguish that it is a vision verses reality and your body will behave as if it is reality. Here is an exercise as an example. Close your eyes (again, not now but later.) Visualize yourself in a memory where you were upset with another person. (Just for a short amount of time, 15-30 seconds should work.) You will begin to notice that your body has reacted as if you have gone back in time. Your muscles may have tightened or your heart rate increased. Now visualize a happy memory. Did your body react for the better? Slowed heart rate, muscles relaxed?

These three steps stood out to me this time around. It was as if they were highlighted just for me. I believe that when a person is (emotionally/mentally/physically) ready to receive a particular lesson the information will be provided. I will be doing these exercises every day. I can always do with a little more me time. I will post my updates here on the blog. You are welcome to join me. I’d love to hear how this works for you.

Finding My Passions Part 2

Photo of a garden that made me smile. Photography is an Art. :) Finding my passions (p2)

Photo of a garden that made me smile. This is a happiness nugget. 🙂 Photography is an Art. 
Finding my passions (p2)

Yesterday, I posted about finding my top five passions, as an assignment from my best friend, The Fixer. By traveling through my childhood memories I was able to find three passions, creating stories, reading and art. I was also surprised that I had forgotten how much I loved to do these activities in the past. Although, I had found and excavated three passions, I was still on the lookout for two more.

This time I decided to not just focus on childhood, but on my life as a whole. I am confident in saying that I am a creative soul, but I am also known as the caregiver. From my earliest memory I have loved to help others. In my opinion, I let this love become perverted to the extent that caring for others was the priority. By that I mean in my pursuit to help and please others, my needs, wants, & desires became non-important to non-existent. Don’t get me wrong, helping others is important, but my path and intent became skewed. Eventually, I began to hate helping others. I did not want to extend myself to anyone because I was just tired of doing and helping, and helping and doing. Serving others did not fill me with joy, but with dread, resentment and frustration. Over the last few years I have severely limited myself when helping others. Ultimately it is necessary to keep all things in balance, and I realize that if am to pursue the passion of helping, I have to find that stability to find joy again in helping others.

Although, helping others is a passion, it is a bruised passion. So I continued to search and I re-discovered my joy of learning. I wasn’t sure if learning could stand on its own or if it should be coupled with reading. I have always been a stellar student, going all in when there was something new to learn, with the exception of statistics. Although my skills were adequate, math has never been a subject that I enjoyed. My college English professor was one of many to encourage me to write and help others with their writing. He actually felt I should become an English teacher. I wasn’t sure if I had the patience to teach, but I heartily enrolled in creative writing courses. I used my childhood love of creating stories and brought my characters to life. That’s when I learned my skills were pretty good. My classmates actually enjoyed my stories. Writing is definitely a passion that makes my heart sing.

The more I sought out my passions, more came to mind. I realized I truly enjoyed self discovery. That is exactly what I am doing now (and it is pretty amazing if I do say so myself). I have also wanted to travel the world to see the wonders it provides and learn about the different people and cultures sharing the earth with me. Most recently, I found that I enjoy organizing a party. The logistics of getting people to work together, coming up with a theme and then making it happen really excites me. Now, I’m in a quandary, a good one, but still a quandary. I have more than five passions. It was time to get my “hands” dirty so to speak and truly determine what makes my heart sing.

So far, I have writing, reading, art, helping others, learning, self discovery, travel and party planning. You may ask, “Why do you have to cut any of your passions?” The truth is I don’t. I just want to complete the assignment as it was assigned, top 5 passions. I spent a lot of time in thought and prayer. This is the list I gave to my friend: 1. Self-Discovery 2. Writing & Editing 3. Learning 4. Art 5. Helping Others.

The goal is to turn these passions into a form of income. This quote brought this assignment and all I learned about myself  into perspective for me. 

You have immeasurable potential. Just as a tiny seed can become a giant redwood tree, you have only scratched the surface of your potential. You have the creator of the universe on your team and you’ve been given the ball, so run with it. Run knowing that you have immeasurable potential. -Anonymous

Have you been down this path before? Do you make a living by pursuing your passions? Please share. I would love to hear your stories.

Finding My Passions

Finding my passion

Finding my passion

Recently, I called one of my best friends to help me resolve an issue. I have not worked full time in almost two years. A full time job has eluded me and honestly, even if I had captured one, I’m not sure I would have been able to work with my health issues. I will call him “The Fixer” because that’s what he does, helps me see the problem(s) in a new light. The Fixer asked me to list my top five passions. Yes, that’s right, not the top three but the top five. He gave me a week to give him the information. For some people that task may have been extremely easy, but for me it was very difficult. I can name many of my boyfriends’ passions without a second thought. I can even do that for my siblings, but when it comes to me, I was, well, I struggled. I realized that my habit of putting others first and my long struggle with depression had really made an impact on my life and not in a good way.

So, I spent the week really thinking and analyzing the things that I love to do. I searched the recesses of my brain and heart to find the top five things that would get me going, that made my heart sing. Coffee was not to be on the list and neither was breakfast, so I had to really dig deep. A few days ago, I tuned into Joel Osteen’s’ Night of Hope and something he said sent me scouring my childhood memories for my passions.

One of the first memories to arise was me creating and reciting stories to my younger siblings in an effort to keep them occupied and out of my mother’s hair. I also remember talking aloud to the characters I had created. I’m not sure why I did this, but I know that it helped me to understand the character better and extend the story. My siblings loved it; however, my mother had a problem with me talking to thin air. I guess in a way I had imaginary friends. Although, I still created stories I needed to find another outlet to stay out of trouble with my mom.

At that point I turned my focus on reading as much and as often as I could. One of my fondest childhood memories is being able to check out a library book on my own, without my mother present. That was such a glorious day for me. I know, it is a little bit of a strange accomplishment, but to me it was very important. In elementary school there was a reading program called “Reading Around The World.” In order to get the award, a student would have to read as many pages as the circumference of the Earth, 24,901 pages. I went around the world twice, without struggle. Reading was certainly an activity I enjoyed and still do to this day.

I just had three more passions to discover. I dug a little deeper and began to remember how important art was to me by Junior High. I remember making a piece of art with left over tiles and a discarded piece of wood. The funny thing is I remember some of the art assignments from my 7th grade art class. I have a hard time remembering what I ate for dinner last night, but I remember that classroom, the assignments and the fun that I had learning how to create “real” art. Yes, the more I remembered, the more I realized art was one of my favorite pass times. Art was definitely a passion for me.

This little assignment from The Fixer was beginning to be fun. I was enjoying my walk down memory lane. I could not believe that I had forgotten how much creating stories, reading and art meant to me as a child and even into adulthood. I was known for carrying a book around with me everywhere I went. I had to have a story at hand and would often read five books a month. I was really at a loss for words. How could I forget? How did I let this happen?

Are you living your childhood passion? Are you participating and living a passionate life? If so, please share. I would love to hear your stories.                                                                                                                                                              

Joy and Happiness

Joy and Happiness

Joy and Happiness

My dog, Lucky, is the driving force that gets me going in the morning. Doggy kisses usually require an escape plan which entails me leaving the comfort and warmth of my bed. Once his nefarious plan has succeeded, he begins his victory laps, running with such enthusiasm it sounds like a herd of horses. Keep in mind he only weighs 16 pounds.

Today started just like any other day. There was, however, a chance encounter with a young lady from the neighborhood. We chatted about many things, but what touched me the most was her lack of joy and happiness. She told me she could not remember a time of being happy. I do have to keep in mind she is a teenager and this statement could just be part of the teenage angst that many experience. But me being me, I could not leave it there. I shared with her some of my life struggles with depression and finding joy.

No one wants to feel alone in their battle, and that is why I share my experiences. I, by far, do not have all the answers. And the “answers” I do have, aren’t really answers, but techniques that I use. Sometimes they help me and sometimes they don’t. The key is not to give up. It is okay to take a break, re-group, re-focus and then re-start, but don’t give up. Keep moving forward, even if it is by millimeters, keep moving forward.

One of the techniques I use is…. (drum roll please)my imagination. It’s free! It’s convenient! It’s always available! I imagine a better place, a happier place, a fun place. I imagine/envision myself happy and I feel the happiness. I go back to good memories that brought joy. I can do this anywhere. It helps to smile, giggle and laugh. Of course I do that part in the privacy of my own home.

Another technique I use isobservation. I seek out things that take my breath away. I look for amazing and ordinary things, no matter how small or insignificant, that makes me smile and lifts my spirit. I call them happiness nuggets. A butterfly flitting across my path to land on a flower, the laughter of a child, a smile to another and there are so many more. A while back, my boyfriend said to me, “no matter if you are down and sad you always sing a commercial and it makes you happy.” Now who finds happiness in a commercial jingle? I do.

Trust and believe that the more you focus on something, whatever that something may be, it is going to show up in your life. A prime example is when you purchase a new car; suddenly you see “your” car everywhere.  So, focus on seeing yourself in joy. After my conversation Joy and Happiness were forefront on my mind. When I arrived home, I found the following post on The Secret’s Facebook page. It fits perfectly with today’s post.

Every day, or at the very least once or twice a week, take a few minutes and focus on seeing yourself in joy. Feel yourself in joy. Imagine only joy ahead in your life and see yourself basking in it. As you do this the Universe will move all people, circumstances, and events to bring you that joy. You can’t be in joy if you have money worries, or health worries, or relationship problems with friends or family. So deposit some joy in the bank of the Universe as often as you can. There isn’t an investment that is more worthwhile. – Rhonda Byrne

How do you do keep your happiness level up?