Spiritual Practice: Blessing and Releasing

woman in long sleeved dress surrounded by water plants
Photo by Alise AliNari on Pexels.com

We’ve all had relationships that changed from healing and helpful to damaging and unhelpful. Many of us have had these kinds of relationships within our own families. Some of us have worked at jobs that, because of toxic cultures, were sucking the life from our souls. Some of us have attended churches that became so controlling we were dying on the vine.

How do you extricate yourself from this kind of damaging relationship, job or church? There are good ways and bad ways to make the exit.

You try and you try, but when you really need to leave, when that is what is best for your soul, it’s important to leave with as much peace as you can. I love the wisdom that says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

And that is where Blessing and Releasing come in. Is there a way you can draw a firm and healthy boundary to separate yourself from a toxic person or environment and yet live in peace?

May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
That disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.

John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings


Here’s how to know if it’s time to Bless and Release:

  1. Take a piece of paper and draw a line vertically down the middle of the page. Label one side “Pros” and one side “Cons.” Then write honestly about the thing or person you are considering leaving. If the Con side is heavily weighted, it might be time to bless and release.
  2. Go to a mentor or spiritual adviser, someone who knows you well and yet can be objective. Ask for their honest opinion about leaving. If you have two or three folks who can help you with that kind of wisdom, get more than one opinion. This will help you know if it is time to bless and release.
  3. Pay attention to your body, mind, and spirit. When this person calls, do you cringe? When it’s time for work, do you get a heavy feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach? Is your inner voice screaming at you to “get out?” Our body wisdom is important to listen to when deciding to bless and release.
  4. Sit comfortably in a chair. Let yourself believe that you have already made the decision to leave. Feel it in your body as if it has happened. How does it feel? Do the same exercise as if you have decided to stay. Compare and contrast. This is a good way to get in touch with your true feelings to know if it is time to bless and release.

Then, if it is time, picture the person, job or church cupped in your hands. Slowly open your hands and offer them to God. Pray a blessing over them and let them go. Follow through with whatever it takes to make this happen in your life: a change in relationship, quitting a job, leaving a church…

You might need to hold this person or place before God and let it go more than once! It is so important to bless and release, rather than break off and curse. If we break off relationships and curse those left behind, we become bitter and angry. It hurts only ourselves and leaves a trail of brokenness behind us. To bless and release will put you in a much healthier place as you move on to what is next. And what is next is sure to be a softer, wider and more spacious resting place for your soul.

Have you tried blessing and releasing? I’d love to hear how it went for you.

Spiritual Practice: Giving a Blessing

Mother and daughter
Words are powerful. We see it every day when someone uses the wrong word on social media and a career is over, or a relationship, or… The wrong words can inflame a nation to war, but the right words can move a people to peace.

Recently I ran into a familiar face during my yoga class. Afterwards, I said, “You are so familiar, how I know you?”

She said that we had worked together in the school district over fifteen years ago. She remembered me because she had just moved to town from a different state and knew no one. Another woman and I hosted a party for her and made her feel very welcome.

The thing is, I remember none of that; I’m absolutely blank about the whole story. But kindness stays with us, and she remembered. Then she added, “You look fantastic! You look younger now than you did back then.” Well, that made my month! Every time after that, when I thought of her words, a smile lit up my face.

Bad words stay with us too. In fact, they are stickier than the good ones. I can probably remember every mean thing ever said to me. Thankfully there weren’t too many, but you can see why bullied kids sometimes take their lives.

Last week I was in a medical office and the office staff greeted me with, “Unfortunately our computers are down so please be patient with us.” I took my clipboard to sit down with the rest of those waiting patiently when a man came in. He got visibly upset when he heard the computers were down. Somehow, it was as if the office workers had done it personally to him. He threw a fit and stomped out shouting that he “didn’t have time for this sort of bulls**t.” It was very disturbing.

I went on to my appointment and on my way out heard the office workers still discussing his behavior. I imagine that it set the tone for their whole day and they would probably be retelling the story for a while. That man needed a good dose of the book of Proverbs, which has a lot of say about our words including: “A gentle answer turns anger away. But mean words stir up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

Unfortunately, we live in a time when it is easy to say bad things about others. People from both sides of the political spectrum seem eager to hurl insults online that they would never say face-to-face. I have found myself in this mindset too and I am trying to replace this behavior with either silence or kindness.

I’ve noticed that when I get attacked online if I either don’t engage or continue over and over to respond with kindness, it takes the fight out of people. I’m trying to live from what the New Testament book of James has to say about our words, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19b

blessing 2

So, how do we push against our baser instincts and bless others? Here are some ideas:

First, the best way to bless is not by speaking, but by listening. If a person feels listened to they will feel loved. If they are sharing something you don’t agree with, you might say, “wow,” or “hmm,” but you don’t need to volunteer your opinion unless asked. This builds trust and relationship for a more open conversation later on. Who doesn’t like to be listened to? And here’s a bonus: the elderly and the otherwise marginalized are RARELY listened to – what a gift you can give.

Second, sometimes we toss the word “blessing” around, as in “God bless you,” when someone sneezes, or “Blessings,” at the end of a letter. But, what does giving a blessing really mean? Well, if you’ve ever received one from someone you respect, you won’t soon forget it. Have you ever had one of your parents look you in the eye and say, “I’m proud of you,”? Or a mentor that touched your shoulder and said, “Good work,”? Or had someone pray a blessing over you that sent waves of peace and love flowing through you, suddenly you’re crying and you don’t know why? These are real blessings that come from the heart. It’s as if the person giving them is giving you a part of themselves. Even if we haven’t experienced receiving these kinds of blessings, we can still give them to others.

Third, another huge way to bless is to ask for and offer forgiveness. Recently, when my boss and I had a big disagreement, it took a few days to work it through as I strongly disagreed with a decision he made. But still, he is my boss and I trust him, so at the end of the conflict, when I had calmed down, I went up and offered him a hug, saying, “I understand why you did what you did and I’m not mad at you.” He was very grateful for those words of forgiveness. And, just so you don’t freak out, I work in a hospice – we hug.

So, here is our challenge. Let’s spend November sharing blessings. It is the month of gratefulness anyway and we can give others something to be grateful for. Listening, blessing and forgiving will help bring light and love into a desperately hurting world.

How have you received blessings? How have you given them? I’d love to hear your stories.

For more on spiritual practices check out my new book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening.

Photo Credit: Top Picture, Second Picture 

Glimpses of God

 

glimpses of God

I often feel more evidence of God’s presence during difficult times. Maybe I’m just more aware of what actually goes on around me every day, or my radio dial gets tuned in quicker during trauma. Maybe I just pay more attention when my legs get kicked out from under me.
Labor Day weekend was my 35th class reunion and my high school besties and I decided to make a girls weekend of it. We got stranded in a bar for several hours (a long and humorous story for another time) and played the game, “Tell me a Story.” This is a game I invented when I was young to entertain my little sister on long road trips. In this game, someone gives you a word or phrase and you have to tell a true story about your life related to that prompt. My friend gave me the word “Terror.” I laughed and said, “I’m not sure what the story will be, but I’m positive it will have something to do with my kids.” Kids have a way of pushing our fear buttons faster than anything I can think of.
Driving home from the weekend, I got a first-hand look at another form of terror. I was driving up the Sierra Nevada Mountains at night when I came upon a pick-up truck stopped in my lane with no lights on. Instant decision: plow into him or try to miss him. I swerved left, overcorrected right and plowed head-on into the guard rail at 65 mph. I won’t go on about all that happened next. I won’t tell you how I found out the guy in the truck was a four-time DUI offender and plastered. I won’t tell you about his wasted female passenger who I thought was coming up to ask if I was okay but instead asked for a ride to the next town. Or the sheer miracle of how I walked away alive and unbroken even though my car was totaled and sitting in the same lane as the truck. I will say that I finally had the clarity to get out of my car and onto the side of the road. Then Brain-Trust in the truck opened his door so an oncoming car could take it off and fling it at me. At that moment I had an epiphany: I felt terrified! I knew that if I ever got asked that question again playing Tell Me a Story, I’d have an answer.

51216156_10155897145596975_3710294119550025728_n

But, I do want to mention a glimpse of God I got that night.
The tow-truck driver dropped me and all my worldly goods, including my grand-baby’s car seat, at an all-night gas station in a small mountain town. It was a warm night and there was a man sitting on the bench where I was deposited. He was sipping a soda and smoking a cigarette. After noting my arrival he asked if there was a baby in the accident. I assured him there was not and we started chatting. It was very comforting to have someone to talk to. He told me of his life as a journalist in the bay area.
After about an hour I asked, “Why are you here?” I mean, it was about nine-thirty by then and he seemed content to sit and talk to me. He said he managed an apartment complex down the road and came here to get away from the noise. As the temp cooled he even got me a shirt from his car to cover my bare arms.
When my frazzled husband arrived around ten-thirty, my nameless angel got up to leave. “Thank you for staying with me,” I said, knowing that sentiment was inadequate for the situation.
“I just wanted someone to be with you until your husband arrived,” he said, shrugging as he walked away – just an every-day hero, just a glimpse of God. I wondered as we drove away, if he was real or a soda sipping, cigarette smoking angel? It didn’t matter, he was exactly what I needed in that moment and I was grateful.
There is a part two to this story, where the terror and the glimpses both crank up about a hundred notches. If you are a careful reader you will know where this is headed. But…since I’m still in the middle of this one I think I’ll wait a bit for that post.
Let me know of times you’ve seen glimpses of God.

 

Photo Credit, Believe Sign – Debbie Mitchell Pinjuv