By letting go of judgment and by offering loving forgiveness, we can return to a happier time, a lighter time when our world was peaceful, caring, and safe. This return is like turning back time and living in the security of childhood before the world taught us about fear and evil.
Sometimes we equate love with doing things, but love is more about accepting, understanding, forgiving, and wishing for others the happiness and joy we wish for ourselves. We shouldn't let others try to tell us that we are not loving in the right way. As long as we follow our hearts, love with follow.
Sometimes it helps when someone can stand between two opposing forces and keep peace — or at least separation until peace can be reached. It’s not always about right or wrong, strength or weakness, but about love and peace. When irritation or frustration arises within us, the peace is removed. Until we deal with the frustration or irritation, we fail to recover peace.
Peacemakers are those who stand in the gap between frustration and resolution, between irritation and acceptance. One such peacemaker is called time. We separate mentally, physically, and emotionally to allow us time to gain control of our emotions. If it is not possible to separate mentally, physically, and emotionally, then any two of these forms of separation will work better than none and even one form can aid in overcoming.
Individuals can also stand in the gap and serve as peacemakers. Young siblings are often separated from each other by a parent or custodian in order to allow time to cool overheated emotions. Those who stand in the gap provide a needed service to help us control frustration and irritation. If left unchecked, these two emotions will lead to anger and possibly hatred. When anger and hatred enter our hearts, peace is gone. Learn to discipline anger in the little events, and then even the big events will be manageable.
It took me a long time to understand that I am not called to save the world. What I am called to do is to love the world and everyone in it. If everyone accepted the call to love our neighbors as ourselves, the world would no longer need borders, military, or saviors.
Religious abuse leads us away from being the loving and caring creations we are meant to be. But we hold the power to still be as The Divine created us. We simply have to make the choice to let go of those things that pull us away from our divinely given nature and open our hearts to Love.
Eyes can deceive and the mind can lead us astray, but if we see with the eyes of the heart, our vision will be accurate. Trust your heart and it will lead you to the Truth.
Rarely are we called upon to take a stand on issues, but once we hear the call it behooves us to listen to the heart and take a stand based on what is true, what is right, and what Love would have us do. Taking a stand based upon what others tells us is right can lead to disaster.
When we begin to question a particular religious belief or a religion in general, we will have those who will try to "bring us back into the fold." If we determine being in the fold is best for our spiritual development, then by all means we should remain under their instruction. But, if we can't bring ourselves to accept their teaching, then we must not allow them to use religious judgment to sway what we know in our hearts to be the truth. We must stand our ground.
If there is any one gift that has the power to transform the world, it would be love as seen through the power of forgiveness. Loving forgiveness can end all wars, stop all suffering, and bring us together as one global family. We cannot force peace, but we can be peace seekers, and we must use the tool of loving forgiveness to accomplish what doctrines, rules, and laws will never achieve.
The expression, "carrying the weight of our past" is mainly used to denote negative experiences. We don't complain about carrying the weight of joyous times. If anything, those memories lift us and make life easier. So, if these negatives memories "weigh us down," why not release them? The easiest way is to rewrite the script of the past through forgiveness and by asking The Divine to help us view the past from a Higher perspective.
The role of Religious Recovery is not to judge, condemn, blame, or accuse any religious organization or any religious leader. Our goal is spiritual healing, and for those who want more, to aid them on their spiritual path. It doesn’t matter to us if that path connects with a religion of their choosing. They may even return to a religion that — according to what they have told us — hurt them in some way. We’ve seen this happen successfully. How? We understand all human organizations make mistakes, and we choose to forgive those mistakes and move on.
The role of Religious Recovery can also be the same as our personal roles. As individuals we don’t have to judge, condemn, accuse, or blame another person or an organization. Our biggest response to any wrong, real or perceived, can be forgiveness and love. If we sense we can no longer follow a path because our beliefs would create too much strife, we can part ways without ill will — at least on our part. We can’t control their response, but we can leave with forgiveness and love in our hearts. Our highest aim in Religious Recovery, and perhaps also in life, is to respect one another, learn to get along, and to honor each other’s spiritual paths.
Native American spirituality believed everything was sacred. All life no matter if it was two-legged, four-legged, plants, rocks, the earth or sky — all was considered sacred. Some teachings need to come back into popularity, and this is one of those incidents where the old ways were good ways. They were holding onto some excellent spiritual truth. Everything that exists is sacred.
When the student is ready, the teacher will appear (from Step Twelve of Religious Recovery). We are not in competition. One religion isn't better or more spiritually advanced than another, and by leaving off all judgments we can progress at our own pace knowing the journey is just as important as the destination. Relax and enjoy the ride.
Love is the beginning, middle, and end of our spiritual journey. We come from Love and it is to Love we return. Our journey is designed to help us understand, appreciate, and share the Love we have and the Love we receive. Don't allow any religious path to take you away from Love.
In times of crisis we often see the world as meaningless, and we might even lose our sense of purpose. Perhaps this perspective is closer to reality than what we tell ourselves daily about who we are and why we are here. Maybe if we could hold the perspective revealed in the crisis and learn to see beyond the exterior, we could enter a state of calm acceptance that would allow life to simply unfold without trying to force things to happen.
Step Eleven speaks of prayer, meditation, and contemplation, and it comes as no surprise that two out of three require a good degree of silence and listening. When we speak we share what we know — or at least what we think we know — but when we are quiet and simply listen, we open our hearts to hearing what The Divine would say to us.
Seeking peace does not mean a complete lack of emotional turmoil. If we fail to acknowledge all of our emotions we risk losing part of our humanity. Our goal is to seek peace within the turmoil after we welcome it and choose to move past it. We recognize the turmoil, release it, and replace it with thoughts that move us forward.
Dieting can be difficult — as most people know. I use a simple method to drop a few pounds: I count calories and try to stay under a certain number. I can choose a muffin containing 560 calories or I can choose a whole meal with steak, broccoli, and salad for the same number of calories. One choice is healthy, the other not so much. The result may be the same as far as calories, but one will be better for my body than the other. Life is about the daily choices we make. Make good choices, live a good life.
“I don’t know,” is an admission that can free us. Religious Recovery encourages us to question, to investigate for ourselves, and not be satisfied with another’s beliefs unless they resonate with us. In this quest to find our spiritual path, unknowing is common and healthy. If a bowl is full of rice, we can’t add more unless some is removed. Jesus spoke of not putting new wine into old wine skins.
We surrender our thoughts and our lives to the unknown. We might think each day is the same with little break from the normal routine, but in reality we have no idea what each day will bring. By becoming open to what might be instead of what we think probably will be, we become like expectant children looking for the prize in the Cracker Jack box.
When we become more childlike we understand The Divine only gives good gifts. In fact, what He or She gives is exactly what we need, given in just the right time and in just the right way we need it. The Divine is Love. How could The Divine give anything less than love? We rest assured in our unknowing, because we know The Divine loves us.
We often talk about the ability to change our lives by changing our thoughts. This is not just wishful thinking. Being stuck in life is often a result of stuck thinking. When we decide to think differently about a situation or a belief system, things change. It's up to us to decide if that change will be negative or positive.
We talk about opening our minds to new ideas and to new ways of experiencing The Divine, but it's also important to open our hearts. When the heart and mind work together, we find a deeper love, a deeper concern, and a deeper spiritual experience.
I once had a Yoga instructor who would tell us that simply by showing up we were ahead of those who stayed home. Spiritual progress is much like that. We seldom see progress occur in leaps and bounds, but simply by showing up, being present, and trying, we make strides toward our goals. Often those strides feel like baby steps, but baby steps add up into forward progress.
We often find we can't move forward until we accept what was, what is, and what will be. Contentment is a necessary part of spiritual growth. By accepting we can't control all situations in life, we understand our best response is to decide how we will handle the situations that are out of our control. Making that decision will go a long way toward creating the inner peace we desire.
Sometimes roads merge and become one, at least for a while. As we make our journey Home, we discover the path of peace and the path of forgiveness will eventually merge into one path. In fact I'm not sure the paths were ever separate, because there is no peace without forgiveness. Those who travel a religious path filled with conflict, strife, hatred, and war might do well to reconsider how a loving Higher Power could honor such a road.
We are wise to reject anything that doesn't align with love. It's also important to examine our definition of love to determine if that definition is truly loving. Does it resonate with our hearts, and does it promise to bring peace and not conflict both with others and with ourselves? Love is the goal, and forgiveness is our means of healing in order to bring us to that destination.
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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.