The Forgiveness Project

This is The Forgiveness Project - a 30 day adventure in forgiving, forgetting and everything in between.

Armed with a copy each of A Course in Miracles, a set of forgiveness tools and a steadfast intention, Nige and I are setting out to forgive unreservedly for 30 days. I wonder what on earth (and in heaven) is going to happen...?

Day 26
Our neighbour Barry passed away last night.

I feel sad about Barry's death, sad that I'd seen him last week and had said to him, "I'll see you before you go into hospital!" (for a hip replacement; he'd been due to go in today, ironically). And I didn't. Death saw him first. It reminds me not to take anything for granted. Funny really, because recently I've been very clear of the need to communicate my love to Nige before he goes off to work for the day - just in case. It's important to me that love is on my lips when I say goodbye. You never quite know if it'll be temporary. It's one thing you simply can't guarantee.

None of us know how long we have left in these frail, indescribably complicated bodies of ours. Every moment, and every breath is precious. Every moment. Every breath.

I want to live as many moments as possible with peace, & love in my heart in my mind. Forgiveness is my method for returning to innocence. It has been a beautiful day of connection and grace, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to forgive, love and connect.

Day 22
This evening I went to see an amateur production of a comedy musical, which I have agreed to choreograph next year (yikes!)

I have just arrived home and need to forgive the following things:
- crap ensemble for not having developed characters, for being lazy on stage and for getting their dance moves wrong
- my stomach for aching
- chocolate for having so many calories in it
- E for being there and being so goddamn beautiful
- crap direction in the second half
- Nige for taking ages to get ready when Pete was waiting to leave
- myself for getting the time Pete was coming to get us wrong: I thought 6:30, he thought 6:15
- principal actors for overacting
- the director and choreographer for not kicking them into shape in the second half
- crap, predictable choreography
- that I had to spend thirteen quid on a ticket - twice!
- all my future projections about how awful our local version of it is going to be, and how untalented all of our theatre company members are, and me thinking that it's just going to be five months of hard work for basically what will turn out to be a crap waste of an evening
- myself for having all of these judgments.

Glad to see my ego's alive and well, then.

Okay, here's the deal.
* Everyone tonight did their best, even if their best wasn't what their best was last night or will be tomorrow, even if was only 50% of what they're truly capable, tonight it was the best they could do and give and it was enough.
* Money is designed to flow and I'm grateful to have seen the show because now I have a clear understanding of what it is I'm supposed to be choreographing.
* Who am I to judge the director, choreographer and cast when all I am is a very inexperienced amateur myself?! I arrogantly think I would've done a better job than the ensemble that were up there, but I have chosen to drop OUT of a concert at Christmas because I don't have enough confidence in my singing voice, so who, really, am I to judge?
* Perhaps the choreography was supposed to be predictable because it was a pastiche of a scene from a film I watched last week (!)
* Maybe, just maybe, I will have a different experience in our local theatre company. Besides, surely it's better for me to live in the moment and worry about December, January and May 2012 when I get to them!!
* It's understandable that I would have a strong opinion about tonight's show, given that I am very passionate about theatre and most of the time try to give 100% to what I take part in. I deserve to be gentle on myself and it is by being gentle and forgiving myself that I can then look again upon these 'others' and remember that we are indeed all connected, that they are my brothers and sisters and that we are all innocent and worthy of love, regardless of how 'good' or 'bad' our performances are in life. My intention, my thoughts and my perception are hugely influential, and tonight, right before midnight, I am choosing love.

Day 20
It's been quite a number of days since I've been able to write, as I've been away on an epic cycling holiday with Nige. Forgiveness opportunities have abounded, as I expected them to, but do you know what I'm really grateful for: I haven't been a raging mess of confusion and judgment for the last twenty days. In fact, I've had some really beautiful moments of connection.

Of course, there have been umpteen forgiveness opps. The most difficult of which have been towards myself. When I mess up, or fly off the handle, or am snappy towards Nige, or judge someone and then judge myself even more harshly, or eat chocolate, or think about food even though I'm not physically hungry; in all of these moments and more, the most loving choice I can make for myself is to forgive myself.

I had quite an intense moment a few days ago, when years old self-loathing once again reared its head and suddenly without warning, my head was full of horrible thoughts about how repulsive I am, and I found it hard to turn my thinking around. I wanted to cut my hair off, or not eat in order to feel in control again, or eat and eat and eat to block it out. I didn't do any of these things though, and it passed. That's what I never used to realize - that these moments do pass, and the pain subsides, and peace of mind returns once again. It's all temporary: the pain and the peace.

With only ten more days to go on this adventure into forgiveness, I'm sitting here with my family this evening extremely grateful for the simple pleasure of being able to joke and laugh with them. Life is good, and forgiveness is integral to the quality of the life I find myself living.

But I've got to forgive this bloody back of mine for being so bloody rickety!

Day 9
"Forgiveness is the release from illusions, and that is why it is impossible but partly to forgive. No one who clings to one illusion can see himself as sinless, for he holds one error to himself as lovely still. And so he calls it 'unforgivable' and calls it sin. How can he then give his forgiveness wholly, when he would not receive it for himself? For it is sure he would receive it wholly the instant that he gave it so. And thus his secret guilt would disappear, forgiven by himself."

Forgiveness is the central theme of A Course in Miracles, which is a text, manual of 365 daily lessons and workbook for teachers. Its essential teaching is, 'teach only love, for that is what you are'. It has taught me profoundly that 'only the love is real in any situation'. Miracles are the medium through which love is remembered and fear is transformed. I believe in miracles.

I have always been a seeker. As a child, I prayed to God. As a teenager, I dipped my toe into the water of Christianity. In my early twenties I deep sea dived in an ocean of evangelical Christianity, discovering the incredible art of praise and worship, something that is so regularly done in our society towards our cultural 'idols'. I discovered that singing praise and worship songs was an incredibly healing, opening experience. Tears flowed freely. My voice freed itself from deep within me. I found a deep sense of connection that began and ended inside of me but which encircled the world in love at the same time. I have dabbled with Taoism, Buddhism, humanism, egoism (a personal favourite). I have searched for God in men (and have been so close to finding Him there!), looked for Him in the great Ben and Jerry's vs Haagen Dazs war, and found him in earthworms, vast skies and mostly by looking deep into the eyes of another human being and seeing Christ, and strangely myself, reflected there.

But it was finding, or perhaps being found by, A Course in Miracles in 2004 that really shifted something massive for me. It spoke to me, stirring something deep, deep within, something that is ancient, far far older than my mere 28 years, something which dwells in my being but not in my body, somehow. I began to learn about forgiveness. I began to experience it.

I guess I used to think that forgiving someone meant that you let go of what they did to you, choosing not to poison yourself anymore with their act of betrayal/abandonment/insert other hurtful act here. And then I did The Awakening. My goodness, this workshop changed my life.

I experienced forgiveness, and it was like nothing else I'd ever done before.

What I realized was that in the core of my being nothing had been done to me. The wounds I carried, so tangible, so deep, so cutting, so permanent, were all illusions. Every single one of them. I know that this sounds crazy. I'd grown up in an alcoholic home, for God's sake! I'd been abandoned by my father. I'd been bullied at school. I'd been in conflict with my sister for years and years. I'd been in abusive situations. I'd had an eating disorder. I'd self-harmed. I had zero self-esteem. I believed in every cell that I was worthless. I repulsed myself. I'd subjected myself to mental, emotional and spiritual torture, reliving situations again and again, punishing myself day in day out. And though I might heal in time, I would be permanently scarred. And then I did The Awakening.

On that three day workshop back in 2004, I saw with different eyes; it was like God lent me His eyes for just a split second, and my life was irreversibly changed. I knew that Who I really Am could never be damaged, unloveable, unloved, abandoned, violated or abused in any way. I remembered the innocent, pure being that is underneath the illusory layers of depletedness, manifold mistakes, heinous errors, unkind words, rejections, failures and isolation and desolation.

I came to understand that forgiveness is peeling away the layers of illusion to reveal something that is impeccable, pure and indestructible: the sacred Child of God. And the amazing thing about it is that this Child looked, spoke and acted like the very child that I used to be! I pictured myself aged 7 and I began to see that I was simply a being of light encased in a fragile human body, walking the planet in order to remember who she really was. This being hadn't been abandoned. It was impossible. She dwelled within me the whole time that I was going through my childhood. While I was going through life, she was there always. And she still is.

The human child that I was, living in a basement surrounded by darkness, monsters and fears for so long, had forgotten the truth about herself. My job in this lifetime, the most real and important job I will ever have to do, is to help this little girl remember who, and Whose she is, and then just be that. It's so simple, yet often so not easy. Choice by choice, I am learning to hold little Elloa's hand and lead her out of darkness. As my path unfolds, new experiences come my way, new challenges present themselves in order to stretch me and make me grow, but really it's all so that I can remember the Truth about who I am, practice forgiving all of it when it isn't going my way, and then holding the space for you to do the same. This is my life's work.

And if you don't believe in God, or if you don't call it God; if God is a She not a He, or an It, or a They; if you have suffered intolerable abuse and have been subjected to the most sickening, hideous torture by other human beings, people who should have been trustworthy, people you trusted with your life and who violated that in horrific and unfathomable ways; if you feel trapped in the same cyclical patterns, feel disempowered, powerless, a victim of yourself rather than someone else; if life is okay really, honestly, and I should be grateful, should be happy, need to just be a bit more positive; if underneath it you are crying out to be held and held and held, comforted and whispered to in the dark night of your soul, hear this:

I love you. Really. I love you.
You are enough - just the way you are.
You are forgiven.
You are innocent.
It wasn't your fault.
You can have a miracle.
You can be healed.
Take my hand and let's walk awhile together.
It's safe to love yourself.
It's safe to go gently.
It's safe to let go.
It is safe to forgive.

It is safe to forgive. And all of us - Gaddafi, Blair, me, you, Mr So-and-so, the drivers, teenagers, old people, rich people, racist people, selfish people, rude people, obese people, black white yellow green and brown people - we are all loveable, all enough, all doing the very best we can.

And that is what happened on day 9.

Day 8
Gosh, I need to forgive. I really do.

I just feel... off. Not quite myself. I have that feeling that I'm carrying too much weight on my hips, an imagined state in which some kind of discomfort is transposed into apparent body weight. It is illusory -- I'm no heavier or larger than I was two days ago when I felt slim, which tells me there's stuff I'm holding onto. I also believe that yes, it is possible to physically carry your resentment around with you, that stuff can build up inside the body, that undealt with issues can manifest in blocked up insides.

So what is going on with me tonight? Well, it's late, and I'm a little run down at the moment, getting up very early for work and not meditating every day. Perhaps that one little factor is affecting me more than I realize; it's taken me years to start meditating regularly, and this year was finally the year that I did it, meditating every day for three months at one point. Not doing it, I notice that I feel grumpy, short-fused, and a bit removed from a strong sense of connection.

Okay. I am breathing in. I am breathing out and allowing my shoulders to drop and relax. All is well in this moment. I am exactly where I'm supposed to be. I'm happy to be moving towards Love even if I'm still in fear; at least I'm facing the right direction. Beautiful things are happening right now in my life, and my potential is not locked away in some unattainable 'future self'. Rather, I am here, I am now, and I am fully alive. I can give myself everything I need in this very moment. I can soothe and reassure myself. I can remember the Truth about who I really am, right now. My forehead is relaxing. My feet are resting flat on the floor. My fingers are tapping away, effortlessly, smoothly, quickly, easily. My tummy is full, I am relaxing my jaw. I let all of today's struggles just dissolve, just go. No need to hold on to them anymore. Today has been a great day. I started with connection and I'm finishing with connection, and there have been moments when I've remembered Love, so that has made it a worthwhile day.

And suddenly, all is well in my world. Perhaps I'm doing alright at this forgiveness lark after all...

Day 5
Sitting here with quite a sickening ache in my shoulders, and thinking that I've not really forgiven very well today, I have just read Anni's updates and I'm flabbergasted by how thoroughly she's taken on doing TFP. Compare and despair is one of my oldest mechanisms. Well, off with you! She is amazing and so am I! So there, ego. (Instant forgiveness feels good.)

Today has been ... well, according to Anna, just a day, really. It's me trying to judge whether it's good or bad that leaves me feeling a certain way. If my goal is peace, and forgiveness is the journey to get there, then the following things could well do with being forgiven.

I enjoyed work today, teaching English to a Turkman student (I hadn't heard of Turkmenistan until this morning, so I've learned something today), but it was quite difficult. I want to forgive myself for not making him laugh more (it's not stand up comedy, it's English teaching, and he's a beginner, so it's hard for him!), and also for not having a shed load of games ready up my sleeve. And if I'm brutally honest, for not really being that bothered about spending loads of unpaid time - my time - preparing lessons when I think he'll be happy with focussing on the book.

I napped on the bus (partly avoiding a young girl who was in the production of Annie that I was in a few months ago - I'm sorry, I wasn't feeling sociable and listened to my ego telling me it would be better to not connect than to at least say hello to the child). What woke me up was a young guy sitting next to me when there were loads of other seats free on the bus. Why? I became immediately suspicious - did he want to try and steal my wallet? Did he fancy me? My God, my head runs riot sometimes. I am blessing you, young man, with all the RnB and hip hop you played, and your very cool cornflower blue jeans. I hope your day was magnificent.

*I love airing the secret thoughts that I beat myself up for having. Makes me feel so free!*

Last week, I cocked up a coaching appointment, and today the person I would have been coaching this evening let me know that she's going to be working with someone else. I have to forgive myself for thinking that I ruined everything and trust that all will be well and celebrate that she's made a loving choice for herself.

And this aching body of mine. I think that's the last thing I've got to forgive today.

What's interesting is that I haven't yet meditated (two bus naps and an hour long lay down in bed don't count as meditation).

As each day passes, I seem to be getting deeper into the ego's domain... This is definitely an interesting, if not yet fully conscious, journey.

Day 4
A gentle start to TFP has mostly continued (mostly). I realize that I don't need to go hunting for forgiveness opportunities - as Nige sometimes reminds me, the shit will find me! However, this is a fearless and thorough experiment, so I commit to leaving no stone unturned. (And it turns out, having written all of the below, that there is quite a lot to forgive today.)

I worked today and yesterday at the coffee shop where Nige has worked for 2 and a half years (and where he is a legend). Being around people definitely provokes forgiveness opportunities galore! If it's not lazy coworkers (I've only worked there two days!), it's moody, impatient customers that get my back up. And then there's me; I get my own back up for being so.... judgmental! And too territorial over (my) fiance. And not fun enough. And too giggly. And so bloody contradictory.

And then forgiveness peeps out from behind the coffee machine, saying:
Perhaps we are ALL doing our very best. Including me.

And I breathe.

But... I also got stressed at being shown what to do by Nige because I am arrogant and I think I know everything and that he doesn't recognize how superior I am. I judge him a lot, secretly (except that he kind of knows when I do, and he will name it, which my ego really hates because then it has to own up to how horrible it is). It's not very pleasant in my tummy when I judge Nige; it feels awkward and shameful and I really dislike myself when I've done it. I'm airing it here like a tea towel on the washing line, allowing fresh air and sunlight to get to it and hopefully transform it. Please help me change. Please show me how to change, I pray to God. I don't know how to change.

I had a bad dream a couple of nights ago, in which my love betrayed me with a colleague, and she was there today, working. She's lovely. I noticed today that although I'd shared about the dream and had laughed about it, I was still holding on to it. I forgive myself for dreaming it, for being suspicious, and I commit to keep turning the insane thoughts over to Love.

I forgive my back and neck for continuing to crack. Thanks for the reminders to get to the chiropractor!
I forgive my tummy for being a bit bloated and for not having a six pack yet despite all the sit ups I've done recently. Hooray, I'm a woman!
I forgive myself for riding ahead on my first ever 3 person bike ride today. I have been feeling guilty about that even though all I was doing was my best. Was I selfish and unkind towards A who struggled a bit on the ride? Or was it okay that I rode ahead a bit? Forgiveness makes it all okay, and allows me to do it differently next time if I want to. Hurrah - it was a wonderful bike ride and all is well!

I wonder what forgiveness opportunities tomorrow will bring?

Day 2
I haven't meditated today. I guess I can forgive myself for that.
I had a series of thoughts go through my head about not having done enough today. I guess I can forgive myself for that.
Nige called my mobile to discuss dinner plans, and I missed his calls. I wish he had phoned the house phone. I can forgive him for that, and forgive myself for tasting the edges of anger.
Bloody bike bar bags are doing my frikkin' head in. I am breathing really deep right now and forgiving them for coming in two sizes (why?! I don't want to have to choose!)
I felt awkward around a couple of people in the village today. I can forgive myself for that and know that it's safe to let my guard down.
And it's 10.45pm and we've yet to start watching tonight's movie, Rocky II. F**k it, I'll forgive that as well.

Day 1
It's the first day of a 30 day deep dive into the mindset of forgiveness, and I am so happy. This means that there wasn't a huge amount for me to forgive today. In fact, I have had an amazing day - we bought my engagement ring!! (Can't speak for Nige though... hop over to his blog to take a look at how it was for him!)

Nige and I got engaged on December 27th last year and for ages, I didn't think I wanted a ring. And then recently, I suddenly did, and it felt really important. I worried that Nige wouldn't 'get' it, or would resent me wanting one, yadayadayada, but I had a beautiful experience choosing one today. You know how amazing it is when life just flows? Well, the whole experience of finding a stunning engagement ring has just flowed. I know I've digressed, but it's so exciting I had to write about it.

Also, Nige and I went for a bike ride this evening, racing the sun which was setting in a perfect summer's sky (even though it's the first day of autumn! So much to be grateful for). I named the bike ride the 'best ride of the summer ride'. So I'm happy and it's been a great day.

Back to forgiveness. Honestly, today I was flying so high, with 21 minutes meditation in the morning and good news flowing all around me in addition to the ring and bike ride experiences. If there was going to be anything to forgive, this would be it:
- All my fear based thoughts about tomorrow, and having to get up early, and worrying that I'm going to miss the bus.
- My back which insists on cracking a lot.
- My legs which felt like burning lead at points on the bike ride this evening.
- Thinking about my neighbour who may or may not be moving one of his mates in. I'm groaning inwardly. And yet we are the ones playing music this evening.
- My beautiful fiance for getting angry at drivers who are in a rush. He must really value his safety and his life.
- The lady who sacked me as her gardener, and the other lady who has yet to pay me. I guess everything is as it's supposed to be.