Forgiveness

LOVE ALWAYS WINS

Denise Robert
Denise Robert

When I was at my hair appointment on Tuesday - I read a story on FaceBook about a 62 year old, local woman, Denise Robert - who was out for a walk on Sunday night in a "safe" Manchester neighborhood and was randomly shot and killed. I said out loud, "What the f*ck is wrong with people? The world is going f*cking mad!" My friend who was cutting my hair, told me that Denise Robert was the Auntie of the fiancée of one of the other hair stylists at the salon. She was working that day, so she came over and we talked about it for a bit. I found out later that evening that Denise is also the sister-in-law of one of my old, beloved students (who recently lost her 14 year old daughter just two years ago.) All of this, it hurts my heart.

Here's the thing about murder - it has an explosive, exponential effect - way beyond what people untouched by the vicious act can fathom. One person's life might be taken but this entire family (Denise was the oldest of 12 children) and all of those that love her - will never be the same.

This kind of insane shit right here - this senseless, cowardly, brutal violence - is one of the MAIN reasons why I teach yoga.

For those of you not in the know, the first foundation of yoga is NONVIOLENCE. Which, you can imagine, as the kid of a murdered mother, really appeals to me. Now, as an adult, I teach and share yoga - as a way to bring the light of love to the darkness of this insane world that we've created. Yoga is one of my ways of rallying back against the tyranny of violence. Only my "weapon" of choice is LOVE.

One of my favorite quotes is from one of my spiritual heroes, the great Mahatma Gandhi, who said:

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall - think of it, always. " 

And so this is what I do. When the world seems to have gone completely crazy, when I see brutality, war, rape, slaughters, shootings and violence all around me, I keep my mind on God. When my mind shifts to all the suffering, I do my best to come back to sanity, where Spirit dwells and keep my thoughts, words and actions aligned with the ways of the Divine. I remind myself again and again that in the end - Love always win.

In Chapter 11 of A Course In Miracles - God or The Ego there's a great passage that says:

"You make by projection, but God creates by extension. The cornerstone of God's creation is you, for His thought system is light. Remember the Rays that are there unseen. The more you approach the center of His thought system, the clearer the light becomes. The closer you come to the foundation of the ego's thought system, the darker and more obscure becomes the way. Yet even the little spark in your mind is enough to lighten it. Bring this light fearlessly with you, and bravely hold it up to the foundation of the ego's thought system. Be willing to judge it with perfect honesty. Open the dark cornerstone of terror on which it rests, and bring it out into the light. There you will see that it rested on meaninglessness, and that everything of which you have been afraid was based on nothing."

That little spark of love in your mind is enough to lighten the darkness that we often find ourselves in. We must bring this light FEARLESSLY with us and bravely hold it up so that we can shine the light of the Divine on everything we see. This is how I try to make my way in the world. 

I hope the person who killed Denise Robert is caught. I hope that he/she is held 100% accountable for their unthinkable actions. And I hope that we don't just let Denise's tragic story be another blip on our media screens - a hot topic for one minute and then quickly forgotten the next. 

Please, let's not "get used to" this kind of stuff. Let's not go numb to violence and mentally check out whenever we see a horrific story. Let's consciously choose Love instead of Fear. Let's do our best to eradicate every ounce of violence that lives within our own hearts and minds - because changing the world is an inside job.

TURN ON THE LIGHT

Bapuji - Swami K
Bapuji - Swami K

Open a newspaper, go on FB or read your Yahoo News Feed and it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the frightening stories that appear. Beheadings, mass murders, water droughts, factory farming, starving children, people burning down churches and arguing over flags! Yikes! It's enough to make you feel like we're moving backwards and living in crazy dark times.

So when students and mentoring clients ask me, "I'm just one person, what kind of difference can I make? What can I really do to change the world?" I often tell them what my teacher Marianne Williamson once told me, "We are the lamps, God/Spirit is the electricity - but the light only works if you plug it in first."

What she was passing on to me, is what both Yoga and A Course In Miracles also teach in their own way - that our job is not to fight the darkness, our job is to simply TURN ON THE LIGHT. In order to be a force for good in the world - you have to first learn how to be a receptive conduit to the Divine.

One of the ways that you can do that is first thing, every morning (before you go out an inflict yourself on other unsuspecting people) - take some time to do your spiritual work and consciously connect to Source.

Just like we train and work out our physical muscles, we also have to take time each day to build our spiritual muscles too. It's this daily discipline of yoga, sitting for meditation, doing the Lessons of ACIM, forgiving, reading the great books of the faith traditions, chanting mantra, praying, counting your rosary (or whatever YOUR pathway to the Divine is) that will teach you how, in times of darkness, to turn on your own inner light.

It won't be easy and nobody else can do the work for you - but if you want to be the light, if you want to be liberated - from your suffering, from your fear, from the tyranny of your own ego mind - if you want to be an instrument of peace, then you must show up consistently for your LOVE practice. You have to be fiercely determined, disciplined, dedicated and and devoted to shifting your mind from Fear to Love. 

No more playing small, no more blaming everyone else, no more waiting for the other guys to fix things. This changing the "outer world" is actually an "inside job". We do not fight the darkness OUT THERE - we simply turn on the light IN HERE!

As Swami Kripalu gently tells us:

"My beloved child, break your heart no longer. Every time you judge yourself you break your own heart. You stop feeding on the love which is the wellspring of your vitality. The time has come. Your time. To live, to celebrate, and to see the goodness that you are. You, my child, are divine. You are pure. You are sublimely free. You are God in disguise, and you are always perfectly safe. Do not fight the dark, just turn on the light, and breathe into the goodness that you are.”

Keep turning on your light and shining bright!

LOOK FOR THE HELPERS

Fred
Fred

(Graphic Credit: EmilysQuotes.com)

I've always been a sensitive person. Ever since I was little, I've been really aware of other people's (and animal's) emotions. Able to feel subtle shifts in their moods and changes in their vibe/energy and whether I liked it or not, I could also sense their suffering.

My mother, who I believe also had this "sensitivity", nurtured and held dear this part of me. I learned rather quickly however, that my step-dad wasn't a big fan of all that touchy-feely shit. A master of "sucking it up and stuffing it down" - I figured he either didn't see or appreciate that sweet part of my nature or he wasn't interested in cultivating it in any way. Point in fact, this guy just didn't allow any room for weakness. So, to survive it all, I learned to put on a pretty good tough act. I never completely shut down that feeling part of me - but I didn't allow myself to show it much either.

I remember when my step-dad used to come home from his Fall weekend hunting trips in VT. He'd proudly pull into our narrow, cracked driveway with a honk, announcing not only his return but the arrival of a dead deer tied to the roof of his Buick. In our small garage, he'd slide the body of this beautiful animal he'd killed down off the top and onto the hood of his car. Then he'd wrap course rope around it's long hind legs and he'd string it up over a rusty metal S hook suspended from the ceiling. It would hang upside down with it's pink tongue protruding from it's mouth and it's front legs stretching limply toward the cold, concrete slab of floor.

Over the course of a few days, when he'd get home from his shift at Wonder Bread, he'd go to work on that deer. First, he'd slice it open from shoulder to groin with a shiny 8" Buck knife that he always kept sharp. He'd gut that gentle, harmless creature, removing it's innards and dumping them into a plastic pail on the floor. I'd hear the slop of intestines and other vital organs fill the bucket and then he'd begin to methodically skin the deer. Slowly cutting and peeling back it's thick coat of fur off it's body, inch by inch, away from the meaty muscle below.

Sometimes, he'd have me hold the body still to keep it from swaying side to side as he cut the deer apart, piece, by piece, by piece. He'd crack jokes and talk about the venison stew we were going to have later for dinner. I hated venison stew. I hated venison anything.

And the truth is, as much as it all scared me, as much as it broke my 8-year old heart, I would still stand by like a good little helper and hand him whatever tool he needed or doing whatever thing he asked me to do, to get the job done.

But after he would leave the garage, to go inside and wash the blood off his hands, I would crouch down and stroke the soft head of the deer and I'd whisper in it's ear, "I'm so sorry". Most times I'd cry, but I'd always make sure to wipe away my tears before going back in the house.

Years later, after my mother's murder, when I discovered Yoga, ACIM (A Course in Miracles), Veganism (Compassionate Eating) and other Love centered practices that expanded not just my mind but also my heart - I gave myself permission to return to and honor my true, empathic nature. This decision to drop the "tough act" - meant that I would now allow myself to feel it all. Which means that a lot of days, I feel way more than I'd like to. Which also means (if I'm being totally blunt) that I sometimes momentarily get truly fucking horrified, outraged and crazed by the insane amount of greed, voluntary ignorance and cruelty that I see happening in the world.

The upside of this kind of spiritual work is that your heart opens up - the difficult side of this kind of spiritual work is that - yep, you got it - your friggen' heart opens up and occasionally it also gets broken. And when you make the choice to move through the world with a sensitive heart and a more aware mind, you start to see, way more clearly, the suffering of others - both humans and animals - and some days the weight of it all can feel like it's almost unbearable. 

But here's what I learned, if I choose to focus only on all the bad things that happen, like the murders, rapes, genocides, wars, sexual slavery, mass shootings, bombings, bullying, beheadings, racism, factory farming, animal testing, global warming, endangered species, OMFG - I would not only become totally overwhelmed by despair, but also completely paralyzed by Fear. I would buy into the insane illusion that this world that we have self-created is REAL (and kind of a nightmare) and I would in turn be rendered useless. 

So, what do I do instead? First things first, I remind myself, as many times as I need to, what ACIM has taught me to be true: "ONLY LOVE IS REAL". Which means, I try to keep my mind focused on the Light, the Good, the Sacred, the Holy. That doesn't mean I'm not aware of the Dark. Trust me, I get it, I've seen that shit in action. But I just don't buy into it. I don't give it my power. I choose to Forgive My Humanity and Stand In My Divinity. I hold firm to my belief that the way we overcome it all is through LOVE. So that's where I put my attention.

One of the other practical things I do, is follow the advice of one of our beloved childhood pals and teachers, Mr. Fred Rogers, who so brilliantly once told us,"

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in the world."

So when I start to feel like I just can't bear one more negative newscast, whiny FB post, gossipy video or picture of what some horrible human being did to some poor helpless animal - I make sure to turn to the LIGHT. I head as fast as I can in the direction of the helpers. Knowing that there, in the midst of the do-gooders, the peace makers, the compassionate, fierce souls that dedicate themselves to Love - I will find the courage, tenacity and inspiration that I need to keep going. I make sure to spend some time and be in their presence and borrow some of the fire that drives them, to rekindle within myself that bright torch of Love. 

love&rescue
love&rescue

As you guys may know, some of my favorite "helpers" are my friends over at PEACE AND PAWS DOG RESCUE in Hillsboro, NH. It's founders, Melissa and Bo Hannon are not only wonderful, funny people, they've also dedicated their lives to helping dogs in need. Their mission and motto is, "To match the world's best dogs, with the world's best people." So far, through their tireless dedication and devotion, they've rescued more than 2,300 dogs that would otherwise have been euthanized. The magazine Modern Dog just did an awesome feature on Peace and Paws called "Love & Rescue" - you can read it by clicking HERE.

unnamed-6
unnamed-6

We got two of our own furry kids, Scooter and Peanut ("The Littles", aka: The Boondock Saints) from Peace and Paws a couple of years ago and we recently started spending a few hours there on Sundays whenever we can. It's funny, because as "volunteers", it might look on the outside like we're helping them - but the truth is, those hours sitting on the floor, petting and playing with pups, talking with my fellow dog-adoring friends - I' really clear that they're actually helping me!! Those visits are one of the ways that I restore myself to sanity, and remember all the Good/God in the world, and get to honor that sensitive, animal loving kid from my childhood.

If you want to be a helper yourself, consider becoming a volunteer at an organization that calls to your heart, or speak up about something in your community that needs to change, or donate some time or money to a good cause. If you'd like, you can make a donation to support some of the sweet pups in need at Peace and Paws by using this direct link:http://peaceandpaws.org/site/get-involved/donate/

They also have a Wish List of things that are needed at their Ruff House Retreat Adoption Center (like doggie beds, blankets, towels, paper towels, dog toys, etc.) that you can give to me at class and I'll take it with me when I go to visit!

PS - I also have to say that looking back as an adult, I realize that my step-dad was loving me in the only way that he knew how. And maybe he did see that sensitive kid and maybe he wanted to protect me - to prepare me for this difficult life. So he taught me how to be tough. And the truth is, that toughness did serve me. And some days, when it's needed, it still does. So maybe in his own "unique" way - my Dad was trying to be a helper too.

I hope you all know that you've all been such wonderful helpers for me too. I'm blessed and grateful for your presence in my life. Thank you. xo

MENTORS & TORMENTORS

unnamed-1
unnamed-1

As most of you already know, two of my greatest passions are yoga and writing. The more I've practiced both of these creative arts, the more I've discovered a deep spiritual connective thread that weaves the two of them together. So much so that in 2006, I offered my first Yoga & Writing workshop at my studio.

The relationship between the two has become so exciting and beautiful to me, that whenever I take a yoga training or attend an author reading, I always make sure to bring anotebook and pen because I know at some point, the teacher or writer is going to say some brilliant thing that illuminates yet another connection between the two, and it will be so fantastic that I must write it down and highlight it with neon markers and scribble in big, bold letters in the margins - YES!!! YOGA & WRITING!!! I've been doing this for years.

Last week, I was happily attending one of my favorite writer's conferences down in Florida. I adore it not only because it gets me out of cold-ass NH in January, but it also allows me to spend eight glorious days, totally geeking out with about 100 other book lovers, readers and writers.

While the whole week is a total blast, one of the things I love most is getting to spend some quality time with my writing friends and mentors. (There's a photo of some of them above.)

Each day at the conference, we get to workshop manuscripts, go to author readings, attend lectures and discussions on craft, and learn about everything from revising your first draft, to getting an agent, to how to start your own small publishing press. Book nerd heaven.

About midweek, there was a discussion called: My First Novel - Mistakes & Successes with best selling authors, Lori Roy, Laura Lippman and Andre Dubus III sitting on the panel. During the Q & A - the topic of mentors came up.

And while each of them shared their thoughts and advice on the subject, one of the things that Laura said almost sent me flying up and out of my seat like some sweaty enthusiastic, parishioner, at a big revival tent somewhere in the deep south that had just heard the preacher say something so glorious that it was almost impossible to just let it slide on by without making some sort of a “Praise the Lord” testimony.

"It's good to have mentors - but tormentors will take you a long way too." 

When I heard those words come out of her mouth - I felt like stomping my feet, raising my hands to the heavens and dancing around in the aisles shouting, "Hallelujah! Can I get a witness? Amen!" I resisted the urge, so I wouldn't scare the crap out of the people sitting close to me but I did start scribbling away in my notebook like I'd been possessed. YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YOGA & WRITING!!! WOOHOO!!!

You see, I've been telling my students for years that as nice as it is to have supportive, loving people in your life, do not discredit the power of the assholes. The button pushers, the bullies, the bastards, as much as we hate to admit it or accept it, are some of our greatest teachers, too.

And for me, it goes even beyond that. Tormentors are not just people. They're also the things that scare you, piss you off or make you feel less then. They're the weight gain, the death, the job loss, the cancer diagnosis, the cheating spouse, the addiction, the childhood abuse, the sad victim story you keep telling yourself or the old baggage you've been dragging around behind you for so long now that you've been leaving a trail of bloody bits and pieces of your unhealed self every where you go.

That "fill in the blank" obstacle, reason, excuse - you know, the thing(s) that keeps you playing small and feeling separated from God/Source/Spirit. Whatever it is that prevents you from stepping into your power and Divinity, those walls you've built against the awareness of Love's presence and the multitude of ways you've blocked the flow of miracles that are trying to come into your life. Yeah, all that shit - those are tormentors too.

However, remember what Laura said, "... Tormentors will take you a long way." But here's the thing, you've got to be willing to change your mind about how you see them. As Lesson 28 of A Course in Miracles directly guides us, "Above all else, I want to see things differently." 

So, how do we do that? How do we flip it and shift our perception of Tormentors into Mentors? Well, first thing first, you've got to know that it's an inside job. Here's another clue from super, smarty-pants buddhist nun, Pema Chodron. She got it right when she said, "If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher."

I would dare to say that anyone or anything can be our teacher (our mentor) if we change the lens through which we're viewing it.

If we come at a person or situation and look at it through the illusion of Fear, we will see an attack or a tormentor. However, if we choose (and trust me, it's a decision only we can make), to soften our hearts, or to let go of what we think it is, if we're willing to turn our thoughts over to the Divine, to Holy Spirt, to our Spiritual Team and ask to see this person, this thing, this situation through the forgiving eyes of Love.... I'm telling you - you'll be amazed at how your perception and your life can transform.

One of my greatest mentors, Marianne Williamson taught me, "Love is what we're born with, Fear is what we've learned here." 

All that God/Spirit/Universe/Higher Power needs is a little bit of your willingness to surrender our version of events. You must on some level consciously want to see yourself and your tormentors differently. Now, you don't have to understand it, you don't even have to like it, but you do have to want it. The truth is, our biggest tormentors only exist in our own mind. Healing, is an inside job. Just crack open the door of your mind a tiny bit and let some of that light shine into the darkness.

When you build your spiritual muscles through daily practice and learn to shift your perception from limited human sight, to limitless Divine vision, when you start to experience the world from a place of Love instead of Fear - all of life becomes a mentor, especially our previous tormentors.

Right now, I'm working on developing an online course that I'm calling: Creating Fearless Flow - that I hope when finished, will give folks some down to earth, practical tools to help navigate this kind of spiritual process. And you can bet your bottom that it will involve both some yoga and some writing! In the meantime, just know that the Universe has got your back, Love is on your side and you're surrounded by a kick-ass team of Angels that are always there for you, ready to help.

DON'T SHRINK - DON'T PUFF UP. STAND ON YOUR SACRED GROUND.

Puffer Fish

Last month I had the opportunity to watch a live stream video event that was taking place at The Omega Institute. It was called "Find Your Own Strength" and it featured a conversation with three women that I totally dig: Brené Brown, Joan Halifax Roshi & Elizabeth Lesser.

There were some brilliant insights shared that night but this one thing that Brené Brown said really struck me. I wanted to share it with all of you because I think it might be helpful especially as the Holidays draw near.

For many people, the Holiday season means getting together with family. Depending on the kind of relationships that you've had with your folks, your siblings and the rest of your extended kin, this can either be a super fun or super challenging time - especially in cases where there may have been an abusive, addictive, neglectful, combative, or competitive history.

Being with family sweetly puts us face to face with those we love - but it also often places us in close proximity to those we regard as our biggest PITA (pain in the ass). Even though PITAs are ultimately our greatest teachers and a gift on our spiritual journey - sometimes we just want to get through a meal without feeling bad about ourselves and without throwing insults or in some cases, plates of food.

What Brené said that night - can definitely help us to navigate the awkward, irritating and annoying situations that might come up. She told us about an encounter she'd had with a woman who always ruffles her feathers. A bona fide button-pusher who'd mastered the art of asking seemingly innocent questions that were not so secretly disguised as personal digs.

Brené said that she could feel herself about to react to this woman's latest poke at her mothering skills but she caught herself. She paused and what happened next is what A Course in Miracles would call, well, a miracle. Brené didn't use ACIM language to describe her experience but from what she shared - I could clearly hear that there was a shift in her mind from fear to love.

Before uttering a word back to her antagonist PITA, Brené started to silently repeat her authenticity mantra over and over again: "Don't shrink. Don't puff up. Just stand on your sacred ground that God gave you."

She said that doing this helped her to diffuse the situation and kept her from reacting in an equally unkind way. This was friggen' brilliant! It totally summarized and brought together many of the ACIM teachings that are already so near and dear to my heart.

Let's break this awesome message down:

#1 - Don't Shrink:

A Course in Miracles - Lesson 153 tells us - "Be not afraid nor timid."

My spiritual mom Marianne Williamson is known for her famous quote that starts: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond all measure..." In that quote she goes on to say - "Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you."

 # 2 - Don't Puff Up:

It's kind of a natural animal instinct that when we feel threatened or attacked, we either try to make ourselves small (shrink) - or big (puff up). Even if the threat is a mental one and not a physical one - we either cower, run or come out swinging. (Which one do you do? I think it's important to know this stuff about ourselves.)

However, A Course in Miracles - Lesson #153 teaches us - "In my defenselessness my safety lies."

To paraphrase, it says - "This world gives rise to defensiveness. For threat brings anger, anger makes attack seem reasonable and righteous in the name of self-defense. Yet defensiveness is a double threat. For it attests to your perceived weakness. Defenses are the costliest of all the prices that the ego mind would have you pay.

Defenselessness on the other hand is strength. It testifies to recognition of the Christ/God/Goodness/Love in you. Defenselessness can never be attacked, because it recognizes strength so great - that attack is folly, or a silly game a tired child might play, when he becomes too sleepy to remember what he wants. We will not play such childish games today for our true purpose is to save/serve the world and we would not exchange for foolishness the endless joy our true function offers us."

#3 - Stand on Your Sacred Ground that God Gave You:

OK - still kind of paraphrasing here - but Lesson 153 continues, "We recognize that we need no defense because we are created unassailable. We cannot fear, for we have left all fearful thoughts behind. And in defenselessness we stand secure, serenely certain of our safety now, sure of salvation; sure we will fulfill our chosen purpose. Be still a moment, and in silence think how holy is your purpose, how secure you rest, untouchable within its light.

In time, with practice, you will never cease to think of God, and hear His loving Voice guiding your footsteps into quiet ways, where you will walk in true defenselessness. For you will know that Heaven goes with you. 

We rise up strong in the Beloved, and let our weakness disappear, as we remember that Spirit's strength abides in us. We will remind ourselves that God remains beside us through the day, and never leaves our weakness unsupported by His strength. We call upon this strength each time we feel the threat of our defenses undermine our certainty of purpose. We will pause a moment, as He tells us, "I am here."

So, if we've been created "unassailable" - knowing that we cannot be attacked or defeated. If we know that God remains beside us through the day and that Heaven goes with us everywhere. Then what could we possibly have to defend, attack or fear? When we find ourselves faced with a person that is not acting their best out of their own fear - we don't have to react, we don't have to shrink or puff up - we just have to take a few deep breaths, use our spiritual tools and practices and stand on our sacred ground of Love.

When my ego mind gets triggered out of Fear - it's of great comfort for me to remember that I can always choose again. I can always choose Love. I can make a conscious decision to Forgive My Humanity and Stand in My Divinity.

BIRTHDAY BLESSINGS - A SURPRISE GIFT ON MY SPECIAL DAY!

KK Happy I had such a spectacular 45th birthday - I felt like this deliriously happy little kid all over again. Yes, there were yummy vegan snacks, time spent with sweetie and some pretty awesome presents. But I was also given a surprise gift that only God could have arranged.

I think of October 4, as my own personal New Year's Day. This extra special day each year when I'm given an opportunity to look back on what the past year held and look forward to the possibilities that have yet to come. I like to slow down, get still and take a few moments to forgive my Humanity and celebrate my Divinity.

It's a day balanced with both honest self-refection and self-appreciation. A chance to recognize and own the times where I painfully screwed up, fell short, lost my patience, bitched and moaned, judged people or let others down. It's also a day to celebrate the moments where I miraculously got it right, went above and beyond, took my time, laughed and let go, forgave people or said I'm sorry.

Which brings me to the surprise! Yesterday I was given one of the best gifts ever - an unexpected apology that allowed two hearts and spirits to mend an old hurt and connect more deeply.

About 10 years ago, at a gathering, I asked a young woman that had just arrived to the event: "How're you doing?" She burst into tears and yelled at me in front of the whole group of people. I was so embarrassed at the time, felt awful that I had somehow upset her and even though I had let it go - I could still feel the shame of it rise up in me randomly over the years.

Yesterday, I bumped into that same woman. She waited for a moment when we were alone and then quickly sat down at my table. She looked me in the eye, took a big breath and apologized to me. She explained that on the day I asked her that simple question - her mom had just died. She'd been so overwhelmed with grief.

She told me "you've always been so kind to me" and shared that she felt terrible about what had happened but had moved away shortly after the incident. She admitted that she'd been carrying the weight of it around with her for all these years.

I told her that I totally knew how it felt to lose your mom, that I understood her despair and her reaction. I assured her that I'd forgiven her a long time ago. I stood up, opened my arms and said give me a hug! I pulled her close, gave her a good tight squeeze and could literally feel the tension leave her body as she started to cry.

She said in hindsight, given my own mom history, I was probably the best person in the world that she could have blown up at that day. I said, "Yeah, God is super funny like that" and as we laughed - I could feel the love rush in to fill the space that shame used to occupy.

A Course in Miracles says - "The holiest of all spots on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love." This is the power of forgiveness.

Her act of courage inspired me so much - that I wanted to begin my 45th spin around the sun in the same way. So......

To any person that I've ever disappointed, hurt, embarrassed, picked on, talked about, betrayed, misunderstood, judged or excluded - I'm truly sorry for my unkindness and my clumsiness. I hope that you can forgive me. Please know that I made those choices out of my own Fear and was doing the best that I could at the time. I'm now committed to choosing Love - and hope to demonstrate that choice more and more each day. I'm still probably going to screw up from time to time. Please be patient with me.

To any animal that I ever ate or harmed in my ignorance, to any tiny creature that I accidentally stepped on or smashed with my car windshield, to any tick that I've flushed down the toilet or mosquito that I smacked out of pure reaction - I am truly sorry. I love you little critters and hope that you can forgive me. I was only doing what I was taught to be right at the time. I'm committed to being more mindful every day but admit that I still have a ways to go with the whole mosquito and tick thing - sorry.)

To Mother Earth - I'm sorry for anytime I was a litter bug, used Aqua Net hairspray, threw my cigarettes out the window or didn't recycle. I'm getting more educated all the time and trying to make smarter more sustainable choices. Today when I read in our local paper that our town dump is now considering recycling #5 containers - I actually did a little jig! Look how far I've come!

Thank you to each and every person who took time out of their day to wish me a Happy Birthday. I was blown away by your thoughtfulness and your love. Every sweet message that I received left me grinning ear to ear - just like that happy little kid in the red shirt!