The Beginning of a New Way Forward

As Charles Dickens once wrote in his novel A Tale of Two Cities, “it was the best of times, it was the worse of times.” Could this be true for us? We are coping with a pandemic and dealing with deep divisions and issues of racial injustice which are profound. Parallels have been drawn between what is happening now and during the Civil War. So where are “the best of times?”

Crisis brings opportunities. Out of our pain can come healing. We know healing begins with truth telling and accountability and fortunately we have models from around the world which we can learn from. The most notable comes from the work of Nelson Mandel and the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Although this commission had many flaws it is also a model which can teach us many things. Other models are emerging such as the work being done in Colombia with their truth commission. One of the most interesting aspects of this work is how it views different forms of the truth and works with the differing perceptions. Closer to home is the work done in Canada and their truth and reconciliation commission which provided those directly or indirectly affected by the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools system with an opportunity to share their stories and experiences.

A new way forward is about transformation. It takes time and a critical mass to get there. Unfortunately, our culture has de-valued many of its citizens and so our work begins with remembering our humanity, our inner-connectedness and what it means to be a human being. It means zero tolerance for any kind of violence. In this country what we must grapple with is the ideology of racism and violence and the denial of humanity for different groups of people. The work must be comprehensive and work on all levels of society. People need to change mind sets, communities must come together and heal, and there needs to be resources and commitment on the governmental level to change structures in society so what we are now experiencing can never happen again.

Can the worse of times become the best of times? Can we embrace this moment of crisis in a healing capacity as a country so we can go forward with a new vision of who we must be as a nation and have the capacity to demonstrate empathy and care for one another, showing that we value one another? Can we transform our structures to be inclusive instead of exclusive? What I have just described is the work of political forgiveness. In practicing forgiveness politically, we can grow in compassion and empathy and out of that can develop a new culture based on our humanness. This IS our way forward and gives us an opportunity to make profound changes in our society.

For those interested in learning more about political forgiveness please go to my website www.drborris.com. Feel free to sign up for the monthly newsletter which shares information and stories on political forgiveness when you go to the website.

The Poisoning of America’s Soul

Today is MLK day, to honor not only a man who was a great civil rights leader, but also a very spiritual man who had a great soul. His speeches and writings demonstrated a depth of thinking reflecting his beautiful heart for humanity. He understood the destructiveness of violence which not only destroys the social progress in America but also destroys the nations soul as well.

Reverend King often warned about the importance of caring for the worlds oppressed rather than taking sides with the oppressor and so I want to leave you with the words of King himself who speaks of the importance of re-directing ourselves to creating a better world no matter what it demands of us along the way.

“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

“We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. We still have a choice today, nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace and justice throughout the developing world a world that borders on our doors.

“If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality and strength without sight.”

For those of you who are interested in learning about forgiveness on a political level please go to my website www.drborris.com. You can also sign up for a monthly newsletter whose focus is on political forgiveness.

 

Stop the Insanity!

It was truly heartbreaking to see destruction taking place on the U.S. Capitol during what was supposed to be a procedural event to confirm president-elect Joe Biden as the next president of the United States. Instead, what was demonstrated was anger and hatred incited by the president himself. Is this the America we want or are we willing to stop this insanity and begin a healing process that is so desperately needed in this country? We are seeing very clearly the healing which needs to take place within the United States. If we chose to shine a light on the darkness within society and take responsibility for our actions perhaps something good can come from this.

 To heal the political divisions in this country we need to be honest. We need to know the truth and dismantle the conspiracy theories. Why is this so important? In Timothy Snyder’s book, On Tyranny Snyder spells out important lessons we need to learn and how to preserve a fragile democracy. He describes a trajectory of how authoritarian regimes begins to form such as in creating an alternative reality, dismantling the truth, and introducing doubt in a democratic system. Therefore, truth telling becomes extremely important in the healing process of any nation and especially when people continually lie for political gain, they need to be held accountable. We need to recognize that none of this happens without a concerted effort to support an alternate reality from the very beginning. And finally, how this story is recalled in the future is going to matter a great deal for our country. We need to remember who were on the side of this alternate reality, who perpetuated lies and who encouraged the insurrection by domestic terrorist. The way out of this situation is to tell the truth, and for people to be held accountable. Truth and accountability are necessary in the long-term process of healing this nation and go hand in hand.

I often speak of forgiveness on a political level and I am sure that when people hear these words, they automatically think that to forgive means to let people off the hook including our political leaders. That is not what political forgiveness is about. On the contrary, a political forgiveness process must begin with truth telling and accountability. This is the critical first step. Without this healing is impossible.

For all of you who would like to recieve my newsletter to learn more about political forgiveness please go to my website www.drborris.com.  If you have any personal or political forgivness stories you would like to share or have thoughts or questions you may have concerning forgiveness on a personal or political level please use the contact form below. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Political Forgiveness 101

There is so much good work happening n the field of peacebuilding and conflict resolution which goes unnoticed and which is very inspiring. Especially heart warming are the women peace makers who bring to the mix compassion, understanding and nurturance. With all the division and “us versus them” mentality to heal these divisions and transform conflict we need to change our mindsets. This is where political forgiveness can come into play.

Political forgiveness not only include individual forgiveness but broadens the concept of forgiveness to the political arena. In a sense it can be seen as a secular version of what can be viewed as more religious or spiritual on an individual level and is about healing not only individually but also on a community and national level as well.

The question becomes “are we ready for this?” Are we at a place where we are willing to let go of our need to be right for the sake of others and to be willing to really listen and hear one another especially behind the what is being said? There is so much fear that we are feeling. Fear of not having a place in society or fear of losing our place, or that we feel we do not matter. There is fear of losing control or not having control and the list goes on.

When we allow ourselves to engage in a political forgiveness process, we begin with the understanding that we want to come together and finally listen to one another. We are willing to acknowledge our part in what ever situation which has been causing conflict, take responsibility for it and work together in a healing capacity. There ae many steps to a political forgiveness process and in order to engage it begins with changing mindsets – a difficult process for some and a process which can be quite profound for others.

In transforming conflict, a political forgiveness process is necessary. Forgiveness on any level requires an inner shift within our beings. In an address to a joint session of the United States Congress in 1990 former president of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel said that “without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness, a more humane society will not emerge.” Stopping the cycles of anger, hatred, and fear which fuel so much suffering, requires a radical change in our thinking. Without this change we will stay stuck in the quagmire of violence and aggression, passing down to each generation the legacy of violence and guilt which will only perpetuate these cycles. If, on the other hand, we are honestly committed to transforming consciousness, then we will recognize that the true heroes are those individuals who are not afraid to look within, to change the way they think, and heal the pain of their heart. This kind of healing transformation is what forgiveness is about.

Healing ourselves, our communities and our nations is not east work, but it is necessary if we want to live more peacefully with one another. The gift is that when we have the courage to do things differently and make changes within ourselves our lives become richer, fuller and more meaningful. When we can listen to one another and help alleviate someone else’s fear by our compassion and understanding we are creating more peaceful societies and a more peaceful world.

 

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A Tribute to the Courageous and Beautifully Spiritual John Lewis

“Walk with the winds brothers and sisters and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide”

John Lewis –

           Representative John Lewis died July 17, 2020 at the age of 80 after a battle with pancreatic cancer serving more than three decades in Congress. A civil rights icon who began his life as the son of sharecroppers was by all accounts an ordinary man who because of his bravery, his acts of courage and commitment to making this world a better, more just place,  has changed this world. Almost losing his life during bloody Sunday’s march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama and being on the frontlines of a bloody campaign to end Jim Crow laws, Lewis never gave up hope for making this country a better nation.

Lewis reminded us to answer the highest calling of one’s heart. He spent his life demonstrating that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the best way if we want to achieve that peace. What Lewis was describing are principles of political forgiveness. Political forgiveness triumphs over violence, aggression, and war. It is a healing force that unites us instead of that which divides us. It is inclusive, not exclusive. It is a healing force that helps us understand one another instead of hating one another. What John Lewis stood for was political forgiveness in action. His attitude and philosophy in life was based on love. He regarded everyone with dignity and respect. His civil rights activism and his views on nonviolence were based in restoring relationships. And his greatest dedication to his life was changing political structures from those that supported structural violence to those that reflected justice and equality. The Voting Act of 1965 reflected that. As former president Barack Obama said about Mr. Lewis, “he as much as anyone in our history brought this country a little bit closer to our highest ideals.” Political forgiveness is one of those highest ideals.

We are a work in progress. Much healing needs to take place on all levels of society. This is where the power lies in a political forgiveness process. It addresses all levels of society in a coordinated and healing capacity. Lewis demonstrated moral courage and has asked us to do the same. Forgiveness requires moral courage. Lewis stood for unity not division, love not hatred and embraced taking responsibility to create a better society. These are some of the principles of forgiveness on a political level. Lewis never gave up and persevered against all odds. These are the qualities for us to emulate especially in a political forgiveness process.

John Lewis will be profoundly missed. Let us never forget the light that he shined upon this world. The greatest tribute we can pay to John Lewis is to keep fighting for what he stood for and in the way he led his life. He was truly a most spiritual human being.

Father Cries for Help and Gets a Life changing Surprise

There is a lot one can say about social media and for all the negatives there is also a lot of good. The other day my husband was surfing YouTube when he came across a story of a 24-year-old Tibetan who walks the streets of Majnu Ka Tila, a poor Tibetan Community in Delhi and finds people who are in desperate need of help. We both began to watch what this young man Tenzin Kunchok (also known as Ted) was doing, and before I knew it my husband was talking to Ted on what’s app! Being touched by this Tibetans compassion we found out that he wanted to help a man by the name of Karan. Karan used to do photography but due to the pandemic and rise of the smartphone industry he lost his job. He is the only breadwinner of his family of six and was living in abject poverty. He tried working in manual labor but would not always get work. The most he could earn was about 200 rupees ($2.70) a day. Because of that he was not able to buy food and the necessities for his family to survive. His four children are home because of the lockdown but once school reopens, he needs to pay school fees which he doesn’t have. If the children cannot go to school, they will never be able to get out of poverty. Because of the hard time his family was going through Karan felt there was no where to turn and feared for his family.

When Ted heard about the plight of this family, he wanted to do something about it. He went home and reached out to us. I offered my help to get this family get back on their feet. The next day Ted went back to Karan and told him he need not worry any more. The dream of making a livelihood by opening a pani-puri stall for Karan and a small shop of snacks, drinks and tobacco outside their home for his wife so she could earn some money was now becoming a reality. And his children will also be able go back to school.

Even when there is so much suffering going on in this world there are also people who care such as Ted who saw the need to help Karan. This inspiring and emotional story of one person reaching out to others who in turn could help can be found on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UMf-ZAHpW0. It is a story of what an act of kindness and compassion can do and change someone’s life forever.

Love, Not Fear During These Challenging Times

We are going through some trying times which is creating a lot of uncertainty, lots of challenges and yes, opportunities. We are the ones who will make the choice of how much fear or how much love we will experience at this point in time.

As a psychologist I have been asked by many of my clients how to weather this event. Having to change our patterns gives us the greatest opportunity to rethink our lives. We are forced to focus on what our lives are really about. What do we really want to live for?  What gives our life meaning? This is a chance to let the healing energy of love permeate our lives. We can’t be consumed by fear or deny the reality of the pandemic, but we also need to allow ourselves to feel the love that surrounds us.

Whatever physical and social actions we must take to ensure moving successfully through this challenge, we should do so as acts of love and mutual caring, not acts of fear. We need to stand in love, cooperation and connection with each other and see this as an opportunity to feel a sense of our interconnectiveness. When we can stand together, we break the chains of fear and ultimately strengthen the bonds of community which will sustain all of us.

Here are some things we can do to help ourselves feel better during these challenging times.

  1. Remember to Breathe. This will calm your nervous system and lessen feelings of anxiety.
  2. Take one day at a time and focus on being calm
  3. Create meaning in your life.
  4. Do things that help you feel normal. This can have a positive impact on how you feel.
  5. Have a plan for the day. Organizing will give you a sense of security and control.
  6. Nurture your relationships – Connect with people but don’t focus on the coronavirus!
  7. Live a healthy lifestyle – Exercise, eat well and get plenty of sleep.
  8. Meditate – You may want to begin your day with an inspiring thought and meditate on that for a few minutes.
  9. Remember to be grateful throughout your day and appreciate what you do have. That will also give your day meaning.
  10. Create rituals. This too will give you a sense of stability.
  11. Watch your thoughts. During times of stress we may engage in more negative thinking. Thoughts will affect how you feel. The more positive you can be the less stress you will experience.
  12. Develop a positive philosophy as to what we are really dealing with. This is an important time to get in touch with your personal spiritual beliefs and to deepen your spiritual practice.
  13. Remember to be joyful. There is always something to be joyful about!
  14. Appreciate yourself!

You may want to put some of these tips on your refrigerator door or a place where you can readily see them to remind yourself of the things you can do. If you can follow these tips, cut down watching the news and stop following social media you will have far less anxiety, be much more resilient and feel a lot better. For those of you who feel you need extra help feel free to contact me. I am available for telehealth sessions over the phone. I can be reached at erborris@cox.net. Together we will all be fine.

 

“Love and Compassion are necessities, Not Luxuries. Without them Humanity Cannot Survive.”

Picture of the Dalai Lama

Source: https://www.gazettenet.com/Tibetan-events-26685261

“Love and Compassion are necessities, Not Luxuries. Without them Humanity Cannot Survive.”
HH The Dalai Lama

I was talking to a dear friend of mine, Father Leonel Narváez who has been very involved with the issues of political forgiveness especially in Colombia, his home. I asked him what was his inspiration for his tireless work in forgiveness. What he said was no surprise.

“The importance of forgiveness came to me when riding my bike through a cemetery. I was thinking about death and our finite life. If you are able to understand that your life will end you would understand why you should not hold on to hate and realize that anger and hate are such a burden.”

As he shared these words it reminded me of something else. I remembered reading a book written by a hospice doctor, Dr. John Lerma. In his book Dr. Lerma shared stories from people nearing death. Their messages where all very similar. They talked in depth about the importance for self-love and self-forgiveness and to have loving relationships while here on earth. They too reminded us that everyone here has a purpose – which is to learn how to love unconditionally and to forgive – and that unconditional love and random acts of kindness raise the vibrational level of humanity and spiritual growth for all of us here on earth. These stories were not only mystifying, but very healing and uplifting. Dr. Lerma’s conversation with his hospice patients, at the border between life and death, gives us all something to contemplate.

Abstract photo of compassion

Gregg Braden in his book “Walking Between the Worlds: Science of Compassion,” describes the opportunity forgiveness brings to all of us.

“We are the ones who determine how much anger and hatred we will experience in our lives, as well as how much compassion and forgiveness we will extend to others. We have been given opportunities to hate and the wisdom to transcend our hate. Think of the personal power we must have to move beyond old choices and to respond to life from a place of spiritual wisdom. Our pain and suffering provide us with the chance to learn how to forgive and to know our truest, most beautiful nature. Forgiveness is the gift given to us to transcend our darkness and like alchemy, turn darkness into gold.”

In a world filled with pain and suffering where blood drips from the hands of many people we need to find ways to stop the violence in this world. We have learned that the military or putting people away in prisons does not stop violence from repeating itself. What is truly called for is forgiveness, not only the personal kind but in politics as well. Forgiveness at the end has everything to do with mercy and compassion as very important practices for any person in any situation. Forgiveness becomes a powerful answer to the most important questions of life. And at the end of our lives, for those of us who have been able to practice forgiveness and live our lives from a place of love, our days will be rich and our lives will end peacefully.

“I have understood that I can’t stay with this pain: I want to learn to Forgive.”

War devastates. War kills. War tears apart the fabric of society often shredding it to pieces. Rebuilding a society is a complex and painstaking process not to be taken lightly. Often it is the most vulnerable people in our society, the women, children and elderly who suffer most. And often it is the women who come together in the search for peace to talk about forgiveness.

In the very complex political landscape that has emerged following over fifty years of conflict, Colombia has taken steps towards what can be considered the building blocks of a political forgiveness process. Work is being done on an individual and community level through a number of programs some of which include the Foundation for Reconciliation and on a national level as well through the “Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition” which is tasked with constructing a historical truth from the stories of millions of victims. This has reinvigorated hope among victims for healing their long-held traumas.

The Colombian “Commission for the Clarification of the Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition” is partnering with an organization, PeaceWomen Across the Globe and its Peace Table program.  The Peace Table program creates spaces in which women can talk to one another and provides opportunities for voices to be heard and ensures that women become part of the peace process and that their experiences are not being forgotten. Their stories are powerful and as women shared their experiences of pain and suffering, they also speak of what they did to survive. In Columbia part of Peace Table experience is walking through a dense forest helping women re-experiencing nature and re-awakening memories. The group stopped at a tree where they saw a yellow note attached to it. It said, “I have understood that I can’t stay with this pain; I want to learn to forgive.” The women recognized the importance of this message and the kind of healing only forgiveness can bring.

At the end of the Peace table each woman received a pot of earth, seeds and a paper flower with motivational sayings which is what the picture above shows us. (@ PeaceWomen Across the Globe.)They also learned that they could talk about their pain and suffering, that forgiveness was about their inner healing, and that they could forgive which did not mean they would forget and at the same time have inner peace.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School finds a Way Through Forgiveness

Thousands of mourners attend a candlelight vigil for victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 15, 2018.

A grieving community tries to come to grips with the loss of 17 precious lives. Mourners come together to honor the victims as sadness clutches the face of so many people trying to make sense of what has happened. As tears wash the pain and sorrow felt in so many hearts, behind those brave faces is a sense of fear and confusion after such a devastating event. Despite this horrific tragedy so many students demonstrated the best of humanity.

While thousands of mourners slowly gathered on that mild February day a group of eight high school students formed a tight circle. As people met each other with hugs and tears before Thursday’s vigil for the dead, eight students appealed to a higher being to save the souls they had just lost. They reflected on the sanctity of life. They held each other up just 24 hours after experiencing senseless evil. Shay Makonde, a junior at the high school led the group in prayer. His message was that we shall carry on for the lives that were lost. For Shay, the day after the shooting was not only about community, it had also presented the challenge of forgiveness.

Shay had to deal with his own trauma. The day before he led those prayers, Shay was in one of the hallways where Nikolaus Cruz, the 19-year-old suspect, opened fire on students. Shay pulled two of his classmates into a hallway during the shooting. What was most striking was that Shay heard Cruz laughing before he saw a third friend go down.

Notwithstanding what had happened Shay said that he cannot hate the shooter. Instead, Shay says he wants to focus on the people he still has in his life, and on honoring his lost friend’s life. Hatred, he said, only breeds more hatred and pain.

Even with the horrific nature of the attack other students also found a way forward through forgiveness. One student, Daniela Menescal who like others thought that a drill was taking place until the moment bullet fragments slammed into her back and leg. She hid behind a metal cabinet as gunfire sprayed the room. The girl in front of her was hit in the face, a bullet was lodged in her eye. Menescal survived and made it home bandaged with metal from the bullets still inside her. Despite all that happened to her that day she found it in her heart to forgive. When asked what message she wanted to get out it was forgiveness. “In the back of his mind, God is with him and I know that we all deserve a second chance, and that even for all that he caused, we forgive him. I forgive him,” Menescal said.

The killing of 17 people at the high school in Parkland, Fla., has yet to reveal much forgiveness toward the shooter. It is too early. People need time to recovery physically and emotionally. The anger over the murders, especially among Parkland students, is directed mainly at elected officials and the cause of controlling access to guns, especially assault rifles. That debate should not be deflected or weakened. Yet at the same time, the United States can tackle the issue of whether better qualities of care in society – including the role of forgiveness – might help prevent a similar shooting.

After the 2015 shooting that killed nine people in a Charleston, S.C., church, many in the predominantly African-American congregation forgave the young white male gunman. In doing so, they hoped not only to heal the hatred they felt but the hatred in him that motivated the crime. In addition, they hoped their forgiveness might enable them to better reach others prone to violence and perhaps prevent a similar massacre.

We may want to think about this and the role forgiveness can play in our society. With so much hatred and violence taking place changing mindsets can go a long way in healing the maladies we face. Forgiveness can break the cycles of violence and have a healing effect which our society so desperately needs.

Please share your thoughts on : https://www.facebook.com/7-Steps-to-Forgiveness-109220899099707/, twitter @erborris or www.linkedin.com/in/dreileenborris

As always, I am interested in hearing about your experience and welcome all your comments, so please feel free to share your thoughts on this blog. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

For more information on learning how to forgive go to “Finding Forgiveness: A 7-Step Program for Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness” by Eileen R. Borris-Dunchunstang.