Last week we started our Lenten Series, using Rev. Mark Anthony Lord’s book, “Thou Shall Not Suffer – 7 Steps to a Life of Joy.”
We talked a bit about the very word SUFFER. It’s not a word widely used in Unity Circles, for sure. But as a spiritual being living in a human form, that physical world can present as suffering, if we allow it. Remember, our Principles, one of which is we create our world by our very thoughts.
We are made in the very image and likeness of our creator. And our first task was to fire our old God and hire a new one! Remember, Rev. Lord’s first chapter was, “Get a New God.”
How did you do with your firing and hiring? If we wish a personal relationship with the God of our understanding, we must put the time and energy into that relationship. After all, any relationship takes two.
And when you did your firing and hiring, did you use a different name for your God? Some people have a hard time with certain words that we grew up with in traditional Christian churches. It might be the word God, or church or even Father.
We in Unity traditionally use God, Divine Mind, Spirit, Universe, Creator, or Divine Energy.
It’s what we are feeling in our hearts when we use whatever word or even feeling when referring to our Creator. You choose, because in reality, no word fits all that that Divine Principle is…we just use a word so we can express what we are referring to as we communicate with each other.
It’s just easier to say God, Spirit, Divine Energy…
Now, let’s look at this week’s step toward more Joy; Chapter 2, “Forgive Yourself and Others.”
Forgiveness again you might think or even say!
Didn’t Jesus tell us, 70 times 7?
Here’s the Reading I selected for this week: Forgiveness
I let go of the past. I let God fill me with newness of life.
Charles Fillmore has written: all growth takes place through these two attitudes, a letting go and a taking hold, or a denial and affirmation. First we let go of old material concepts; we cannot get into a new consciousness until we let go the old…
Then there come into our mind ideas direct from the Fountainhead, and we see everything in a new light.
I let go the past. I let go outdated thinking and circumscribes beliefs. I let go any thought that I must continue in some endeavor simply because it has always been done this way. I use the power of denial to break any bond of negativity. I am free to enjoy the newness of life that is all around me.
I let God fill my mind with new and novel ideas. I am encouraged to adopt new activities, to step out in faith and meet new people and new experiences. I see my world in a new light, and I marvel at what I see!
“He put a new song in my mouth.” Psalms 40:3
“Forgive anyone who caused you pain or harm. Keep in mind forgiveness is not for others. It is for you. Forgiving is not forgetting. It is remembering without anger. It frees up your power, heals your body, mind and spirit. Forgiveness opens up a pathway to a new place of peace, where you can persist despite what happened to you.”
Are we ever not needing to forgive? Mostly ourselves, right? Often I don’t have to work on forgiving others…it’s just second nature, thankfully. And I would venture you are the same for the most part.
But forgiving ourselves? If we could just be more God-like! God doesn’t need to forgive. God doesn’t see an error. God sees and knows only love.
Catherine Ponder reminds us: “When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”
What is forgiveness? Rev. Lord defines it as a spiritual practice that frees us from the prison of regret; it clears away blame, removes judgment and heals a broken heart. It restores unconditional love and acceptance.
Forgiveness is for the giver.
So how do we forgive, especially in trying times?
We must be willing to forgive, to go through that process of surrendering and letting go. And it might just take 70 times 7 or 490 times!
Seven is a mystical number…it represents completion. So 70 times 7 is the infinite forgiveness, its forgiving until forgiveness is no more required. Your spirit has comprehended what our human minds cannot, that our true spirit has not been harmed.
Forgiveness is not something you do once and done, obviously, or we wouldn’t be guided by Jesus to do it 490 times! It’s a practice, a tool that helps to awaken us to our wholeness.
Deepak Chopra gives us 7 steps to forgiveness: (There’s that number 7 again!)
- Feel your emotions and face them directly.
Resistance to forgiveness is fueled by emotions. You can rationalize why somebody else did something unforgivable, because deep down you feel angry, resentful, victimized, and hurt. Be honest with your grievance and go to the emotional level where it is rooted. Let the feeling be what it is. The purpose of this step is twofold, because if you confront your feelings, you also have the choice to release them.
Take responsibility for your own emotions. If you can, let go of at least a small portion of your story of how things were supposed to go. Letting go is almost as hard as forgiving, I know. At least say to yourself, “Maybe if I let go of my interpretation of events and what is unfair, I don’t have to be stuck with this feeling.”
- Write down your reasons for not forgiving someone.
This is best done in the form of a letter addressed to the person you feel wronged you. List all your resentments and reasons in detail. Set the letter aside for a day and return to it to add anything else you forgot to say. When you are completely satisfied, put the letter away to consult later. Don’t mail it. Its purpose was to get everything off your chest.
- Ask yourself how motivated you are to offer forgiveness.
Before you started this process, you may have had little motivation to forgive the other person. There can be various reasons for this stubbornness, usually including righteous indignation. Now check to see if your resistance to forgiveness is ready to move. But don’t set any expectation on yourself. If you are still mad as hell, if you feel devastated by hurt, or simply consider what was done to you unforgivable, it’s better to know the truth than to pretend. No matter how weak or strong your motivation is, say to yourself, “All right, this is where I really am.” Sometimes simply being honest with yourself begins to thaw the log jam.
- Let go of as much resentment and anger as you can, here and now.
You can only change what you are aware of, and by now you have gained self-awareness about the situation. Return to the letter that outlines all your grievances and reflect on each point one at a time. As you do, ask yourself, “Can I begin to let go of this resistance?” Don’t force yourself to be magnanimous but stay with how you really feel.
Some items on your list will have begun to soften, and when you encounter this, say, “Maybe there is another interpretation of this event than the painful one I am holding on to.” Release what you can and no more. At the same time, feel the burden of anger and resentment begin to lift. That’s a positive feeling which will increase your motivation to keep with the forgiving process.
- Envision what the future would be like if you do forgive the other person.
Any place you feel your grievance beginning to melt away, pause and envision what it would feel like to be at peace with the other person. Sense the warmth in your heart. If it leads to tears or sobbing, that’s okay—catharsis is a powerful emotion. If you can, feel the possibility of loving the other person, wishing them well, and setting them free—all of which is in your power.
- Reconnect at a sincere positive level.
When you can’t forgive someone, you usually isolate yourself from them, either physically or emotionally. Make an effort to repair this isolation and decide the appropriate level of reconnection. The safest course may be to write a note or send a card expressing your desire to reconnect and then leaving the next step to the other person. Be risk-averse here. You are treading on sensitive ground for both of you.
- Find the place of forgiveness in your own awareness.
The final step of the forgiveness process is to shift your state of awareness. Forgiveness is a state of consciousness, not an action. Emotions get you closer to forgiveness yet they also block the way. If you remove the obstacles, it turns out that forgiveness is completely natural and generally far easier than you may have supposed.
More importantly, once you shift your awareness into forgiveness, there is a much smaller chance that you will relapse. The experience of being a forgiving person becomes part of your spiritual journey, something you deeply need and desire.
I think those steps could help ready us for the exercise Mark Anthony Lord gives us in this chapter.
And can you see that the suggestions by Deepak are easily used to work on ourselves?
Rev. Lord has an exercise for us in this chapter too. It’s called the 70 x 7 Forgiveness Circle. You would make 7 concentric circles, each with a different layer of relationships to you.
The Center would be labeled Your God, next Yourself, Your Family, Your intimate relationships – spouse, partner, friends, followed by Your acquaintances, then The establishment and finally, Your Beliefs.
For 7 days, you would write a prayer of forgiveness, beginning with Your God and working out to the edge with Your beliefs. You would read each prayer 10 times every day for the week, giving you 70 x 7 by the end of the 7 days.
The God of your understanding does the work, you just need to be willing and open to receive.
For example, pg. 28
Does it seem like a lot of work? Maybe. Do you want to be free of suffering? Then one week isn’t a lot of time in the scheme of things.
So, there are two ways to aid your work on forgiveness. Let me know how things are working for you.
Let’s complete this message by introducing you to the Ho’oponopono Technique.
Ho – oh – Po-no – Po-no
Step 1: Repentance – I’M SORRY
As I mention above, you are responsible for everything in your mind, even if it seems to be “out there.” Once you realize that, it’s very natural to feel sorry. I know I sure do. If I hear of a tornado, I am so full of remorse that something in my consciousness has created that idea. I’m so very sorry that someone I know has a broken bone that I realize I have caused.
This realization can be painful, and you will likely resist accepting responsibility for the “out there” kind of problems until you start to practice this method on your more obvious “in here” problems and see results.
So choose something that you already know you’ve caused for yourself? Over-weight? Addicted to nicotine, alcohol or some other substance? Do you have anger issues? Health problems? Start there and say you’re sorry. That’s the whole step: I’M SORRY. Although I think it is more powerful if you say it more clearly: “I realize that I am responsible for the (issue) in my life and I feel terrible remorse that something in my consciousness has caused this.”
Step 2: Ask Forgiveness – PLEASE FORGIVE ME
Don’t worry about who you’re asking. Just ask! PLEASE FORGIVE ME. Say it over and over. Mean it. Remember your remorse from step 1 as you ask to be forgiven.
Step 3: Gratitude – THANK YOU
Say “THANK YOU” – again it doesn’t really matter who or what you’re thanking. Thank your body for all it does for you. Thank yourself for being the best you can be. Thank God. Thank the Universe. Thank whatever it was that just forgave you. Just keep saying THANK YOU.
Step 4: Love – I LOVE YOU
This can also be step 1. Say I LOVE YOU. Say it to your body, say it to God. Say I LOVE YOU to the air you breathe, to the house that shelters you. Say I LOVE YOU to your challenges. Say it over and over. Mean it. Feel it. There is nothing as powerful as Love.