How do you begin to explain a weekend that changed your life? A weekend that stretched your soul and bared your heart and broke you open? How can a person articulate the healing that took place that defies logic and belief? Words seem futile for explaining but I’m going to try!
Oprah says an ‘a-ha’ moment is just the soul remembering something it already knew like the final tumbler falling into the lock and releasing open to show you what was buried.
My ‘a-ha’ moments this weekend were definitely things I already intuitively knew but didn’t know how to see or implement. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve become a bit of a grumpy old goat recently. At first I thought it was pregnancy hormones and maybe that’s partially to blame but it was actually my Ego that was blowing up and out of control. My Ego was blinding me and holding me back to seeing Life through the lens of love and compassion. Ego and Fear hang out in the same crowd and Fear was keeping Ego in the driver’s seat. I was becoming bitter and resentful and then feeling guilty for having the thoughts associated with those feelings. I lost my ability to be sympathetic and compassionate and was becoming increasingly angry, frustrated and annoyed with everything and everyone.
I want to be the bright light and optimistic person in people’s lives and feeling the complete opposite made me feel like a failure. I was failing my soul who was shouting what it needed and I was failing myself for not overcoming the obstacles in front of me with couth and grace. I was falling into old belief systems and habits that made situations worse. I was allowing myself to believe the negative self-talk I was telling myself and I was preventing the skills from emerging to move beyond these feelings.
Needless to say, this retreat couldn’t have come at a better time. Without divulging all the nitty gritty of the weekend’s events, I will share the experience that was truly transformative. After lunch on Saturday, we met back in Circle and was told we were going to do a forgiveness exercise. Instantly, my heart started racing. My palms started sweating. Tears filled my eyes, spilling over. My head spun. I actually thought I was going to pass out. Had I been standing, my legs would’ve given out for sure. My physical reaction to just hearing the word ‘forgiveness’ triggered something in me.
I knew I had to show up for this. I had to surrender to the exercise and then surrender some more. We were asked to write a letter to someone we needed to forgive. From there, we’d read the letter aloud followed by throwing it in a fire, watching it burn and to signify the release and forgiveness, we’d end by washing our hands in rose water. Everyone would watch this happen.
I’ve tried to forgive the trespasses done against me many times before but it never truly released its talons from my mind. I’ve written letters and burned them before. I’ve said the words, “I forgive you” in meditation and prayer numerous times. And yet, the resentment and pain lingered like the smoke smell in a burnt building.
There’s something about conviction and ritual that make being human such a beautiful experience. When I read my letter, I sobbed like I have never cried before but I felt the conviction behind my words. I meant what I was saying. My words had power and I felt that power.
The act of attaching ritual to the event made it spiritual and cleansing. Through conscious intention and movement, the surrendering and releasing made the forgiving part seem easier and obtainable.
I wrote THREE letters: to my parents, an ex and lastly, to myself. Each was harder than the one before. I was hysterical. When I threw my letters into the fire and watched the flame ignite them in a blaze of beautiful light, I felt like my anger and resentment were also burning away in a glorious blinding light. I let the tears and sobs come freely and when I stood up, wiped my face and turned around, I knew I had truly let it go.
The tears washed away my past and pain and all that was left was a peace and a lightness. I also watched 15 other women complete the same forgiveness ritual with deeply rooted pain pouring from their faces as well. My empathy was bombarded with the horrible energy of these women’s stories and the pain they had experienced and were still experiencing. But it was weird: I was hit with an onslaught of pain witnessing the woman in front of me sharing her letter but I was also awash in the love and support radiating at her from everyone watching. The energy was this beautiful, almost physical weight of swirling reds and pinks and oranges and yellows. To have those women hold space for me (and everyone else) to cry without shame, to voice my past mistakes without judgement and love me hard while it happened was beyond anything I have ever experienced. I am tearing up just remembering it now.
Beyond the healing powers of the forgiveness ritual the biggest transformation came from the return of my compassion. As Amanda Marshall sings, Everybody’s got a story that will break your heart. EVERYONE. Every single person you come into contact with will have a story that will break your heart. Life isn’t easy to navigate and for many others, its damn near impossible at times. To hear the heartbreak and the pain and the stories of other women made me realize that my compassion is vital to my happiness.
I had lost my compassion somewhere. I was judgemental of the people who weren’t like me, who weren’t doing what I would have or wanted them to do. I was annoyed by everything and everyone around me. It was making me miserable and even though I knew (and know) I have a choice in how to perceive people and events, I was blinded by my Ego and paralyzed to take loving action.
This retreat woke me up. It shook my soul to the core and opened my heart to a compassion I never thought I could feel. Before judging someone, KNOW that there is a reason behind their rudeness or aloofness or bitchy exterior. Before writing someone off, understand that maybe they’re having a bad day or a bad life. It’s hard to take those bumper sticker ideas and put them into practice. You know the ones: “before you judge someone walk a mile in their shoes” or “what someone thinks of you is none of your business” or “how someone treats you is a reflection of their own self.” Those are all hard to believe and implement especially when your Ego is roaring so loudly, you’re self-compassion can’t be heard. I had to have an experience to truly understand it. I did walk a mile in those women’s shoes and now I feel like I can walk in almost anyone’s with love and compassion in each step.
But I saw first-hand what true love, acceptance, and nonjudgment looks and feels like. It’s warm and big, magnetizing and vibrant. It’s letting someone see your flaws and Darkness and yet, they still shine their love and light upon you. It’s admitting your faults and mistakes and having someone tell you, “I’ve been there too” to show you you’re not alone. It’s a group of women hugging and sharing and crying for each other. It’s taking 16 people’s pain and dividing it into 16 pieces for each person and taking those pieces to release for our fellow sisters. I left with 16 pieces of pain and resentment and hurt and I released it to the Universe so my sisters no longer have to carry their burdens alone. It’s accepting the good and the bad without reservation. I have NEVER felt anything like it.
Afterwards, we were all emotionally drained. Tear still fell and hugs were exchanged in solidarity, love and support. We took some time alone to regroup, process and relax. I wouldn’t have been able to leave if it had of been over after that. My brain was downloading, my soul was uploading and my heart was offloading. I woke Sunday morning with an incredible vulnerability hangover and severely puffy eyes but my heart was overwhelmed by the love and compassion radiating from me and everyone else. Imagine sitting in a small room with 16 people’s loving energy emanating and filling the space?
It’s like a catch in your chest, a butterfly in your tummy, a fullness in your soul that can’t be understood until you’re immersed and enveloped in it like a warm blanket.
I also found self-compassion there. I realized I don’t have to have the best feelings everyday to be a good person. I’m allowed to lack sympathy but have empathy. I’m allowed to be annoyed. I’m allowed to get angry. I’m allowed to be human. I can’t be a unicorn every damn day no matter what happens. Everything is a choice and it’s okay to choose annoyance or frustration once in a while. I’m human.
I’m a beautiful, glorious human making the best of the experiences this life can give me. As long as I have compassion and love leading the way most of the time, I think I’ll do alright.