Unconditional forgiveness is a powerful force, but let’s not make the mistake of thinking that unconditional forgiveness means we can’t set boundaries. We can choose to forgive and love while keeping our distance. We must love ourselves, too, but when we allow another to pull us into their drama and take advantage of us, we do a disservice to them and to ourselves.
Healing is an ongoing process. Our perceptions aren’t perfect, and we often misjudge situations and comments thus creating more hurt and pain. As past and present memories come to mind we take a moment to ask for clarity, understanding, compassion, and the ability to forgive unconditionally. The more we forgive, the easier it becomes. The key is to forgive the little hurts and ask for strength to forgive the deeper betrayals.
When we hear truth, it resonates within our soul as if sounding a bell or lighting a candle. He know — and we know that we know — not based on head knowledge or heart knowledge alone, but based on both working together to remind us of the truths we know, but may have forgotten.
I recently came across the acronym H.U.G.S. which stands for, Helping Us Grow Spiritually. Because I haven’t always been comfortable with hugs, I’ve developed a simple trick to avoid awkwardness. When I feel it’s appropriate, and I want to offer a hug, I simply ask, “Are you a hugger?” Most people say “yes,” “okay,” or “sure.” At times I can sense tension on their part, but they open their arms and let me in.
I don’t give bear hugs. Usually a 2-3 second hug with the corresponding 3 taps on the back suffices. One of my favorite authors was a hugger. He had the practice down to an art. His secret? He simply expected the other person would hug them back if he made the initial gesture. After church he would station himself at the church’s exit and open his arms to everyone — friend or stranger — and give, big, warm, I’m-glad-you’re-in-my-life hugs that made people feel good and want to come back for more.
Can hugs help us grow spiritually? Absolutely. They open our hearts and remind us we are part of one big family. Everyone is welcome — no strangers here. Step right up and get your first-class hug. You deserve it. I want to wrap a hug for you within the pages of this book. If you’ve followed me all year, then you deserve it. If we ever meet in person, then I want you to remember that I struggle with this Divine practice, so step up to me, throw open your arms, and invite me in. It will brighten both our days, and we will grow spiritually together.
Healing occurs when we recognize we are no better, but no worse, than those around us. Everyone is on his or her own journey Home, and when we realize that and aid each other along the way, we heal by helping. Kindness, compassion, loving forgiveness, and respect are the tools that heal us and our world.
Stone Four encourages us to be discerning. When someone speaks with passion it is often easy to accept that person’s words and conclusions without discerning if he or she is coming from a solid foundation. A house that is built on sand is susceptible to destruction no matter how pretty or how strong it appears to be. A weak foundation can lead to destruction.
The Religious Recovery program wasn’t created to get people to change their minds. It was, instead, created to connect with those who have already changed their minds or are in the process of thinking outside of the religious box. We may not hold the same views, but we are here to acknowledge that you are not alone, and that we honor your views even if they differ from ours.
If we judge a person based on their religious affiliation and fail to judge them solely on the person alone, we do them and ourselves a disservice. All religions contain elements that are wrong, harmful, and dangerous. Nearly all religions — if not all — also hold great promise, love, and kindness as their guiding Light. If we don’t want to be judged because of what an extremist does in the name of our religion, then we must extend the same courtesy to others.
Stone Ten speaks of finding the harmony in all spiritual beliefs and adding our (spiritual) voice to the music of the Earth. We enjoy music from a wide variety of sources, and it spans races and nations. If we can understand how right it is to encourage a mixture of world music into our lives, perhaps then we can understand how right it is to encourage a mixture of different religious beliefs from all over the world.
Let our words be kind. I’m all for fun and laughter, but not at the expense of another’s feelings. Sometimes I violate this principle, but when I’m aware, I try to make amends and do better the next time. Compassionate words are an indication of a kind and gentle soul.
Little acts of forgiveness build strength within us to forgive what seems to be the unforgiveable moments of our lives. By practicing little acts of forgiveness each day we work towards peace, harmony, and love.
I have wanted for a long time to be a hugger, and I think I’m getting better at it. My family hugs, but not regularly, and rarely do we hug strangers. Our hugs were saved for special events and the occasional farewells. I understand the importance of the hug, and I wish I felt more comfortable with them. As I said, though, I’m getting better.
Stone Thirteen declares that we learn to deepen our ability to love when we learn to tolerate, accept, embrace, and forgive. The part about embracing causes some of us to stumble. Of course the intention was more than just the physical embrace. To embrace means to go one step further than acceptance and tolerance.
Not only do we tolerate and accept that another’s religious beliefs are different than ours, but we also look for ways in which we can embrace at least a small measure of them. Even if we can’t accept any of the religious beliefs another person holds, we can still choose to embrace them, and, figuratively speaking, hold them in our hearts as fellow travelers on the planet. When possible, we can also let go of our inhibitions and feelings of shyness, and offer them a hug. I rarely find anyone who says “no” to a hug.
I want to see things differently. I want to see beyond the surface to the deep meaning of life and find Divinity within myself and within every individual. I want to see this physical world for the illusion that it is and discover what drives religions and the religious for Divine connections. Does it really matter what religion, denomination, or religious institution I attend? Aren’t we all seeking the same thing?
I was wrong. It wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last time. The beauty is, we are free to admit our mistakes, change our minds, and choose differently. If some religious or spiritual belief I’ve held proves to be false it will not destroy me. It might surprise me, baffle me, and slow me down, but I will go on — hopefully wiser and kinder.
We often determine when we are need a spiritual or religious course correction by paying attention to our feelings. The right religious path brings joy — not every second of every day — but our overall experience is one of child-like playfulness and happiness. If our feelings are less than joyful for an extended period of time, look for the source and make the appropriate adjustments.
It is not unusual for us to think the religious/spiritual path we are on is good, worthy, and perhaps even perfect. But, when we focus too much on our own journey, we can view it as superior to all others. This view can lead to pride, arrogance, and other dangers. Respect all paths as much as possible, and remember: tomorrow we might change our minds about some of the things we hold as truth today.
One of the struggles we face is taming the ego. We want to think we are special, and The Divine sees us that way, too. But when we understand that each individual is no more special than we are, but also no less special, then the ego is quieted. We may need to be reminded of this often until we come to truly believe it and begin to practice mutual love and respect for all religions, all nations, and all people.
Religious Recovery doesn’t hand out answers. Instead we encourage individuals to think for themselves, question authority, and discern what resonates with their heart. If we have any guidelines or rules it would be to love, forgive, and follow the “golden rule.”
We can choose to see the world as our enemy, or we can choose to see the world as our friend. The choice may not change the events that come our way, but the choice can determine how we interpret and react to those events. We can live in fear, or we can live in hope.
There are times in my life when weariness plays in my favor. I can be a perfectionist and worry over little details. If you recall the television show called Monk you’ll get a somewhat exaggerated image of how I can obsess at times. Weariness often forces me to slow down and decide what is important. When I’m exhausted, I prioritize what must get done and let lesser things go for another day.
Weariness can be our bodies’ way of telling us to slow down, relax, and take it easy. The Universe does not depend upon how much we accomplish today. The sun will rise and set no matter what we say or do — or don’t say or do. We cannot mess up the Universe. It will run, the grass will grow, and life will go on.
The Dalai Lama said this about worry: “If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it's not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”
Relaxing and letting go of worries isn’t something a lot of us come by naturally. I struggle with it — and maybe that’s the problem, I struggle. Instead, I need to relax, let go, and let it fall away. I also want to remember that my weariness can be a blessing — a reminder that it’s time to relax.
 Young, Christopher (2012-04-12). Buddha Quotes - 365 Days of Inspirational Quotes and Sayings in Buddhism (Kindle Locations 748-749). . Kindle Edition.
I remember the 1960s and the racial tensions we faced. At that time I never believed we would ever see the end or racism. Fifty years later I’m amazed at the progress we’ve made, and I now see the possibility of an end to all racial strife. We are moving in a positive direction, and eventually the world religions will catch up, and we will see an end to wars, hatred, and terror, and love will be our guiding force.
Love and hate are opposites. Any religion that allows hatred in the name of their deity has apparently lost their way. Any religion that treats its members — past or present — with hatred and contempt is not something I personally want to be involved with. Only love, unconditional and free, is the basis for personal and religious freedom.
There is more to spiritual vision than seeing with the eyes. Spiritual sight involves the emotions, the soul, and seeing with lovingkindness. Yes, we have our ugly moments, but the beauty within still shines a light that illuminates the world if we choose to see with spirit eyes.
Many sicknesses and much of our unhappiness can be traced to a lack of forgiveness. We struggle to forgive those who hurt us, and we struggle to forgive ourselves. Peace, love, and compassion flourish under the watering influence of forgiveness, and those same qualities tend to shrivel and die when we refuse to forgive.
Love is not always easy. Forgiveness is not always easy. The decision is often difficult, and sometimes the best we can do is want to want to forgive. We might not be ready to forgive, but at least we want to want it. But even this inkling of a desire is all that is needed for the process to begin.
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Our purpose is to help individuals to heal who have been injured by religion or the religious. We welcome your comments and questions.