p1000386-1024x666I had a lovely solo ritual last evening, to celebrate the autumn equinox. As the sun set, I meditated on the changing colours in the sky, on the harvest that has taken place, the wheat and corn crops taken in, the onions and turnips. The fields are still being tended, ploughed for winter veg, seeding with potatoes and other root crops. The sounds of work in the fields is still going on, even as the evening dog walkers pick blackberries and apples from the hedgerows. It’s a strange time of both noise and stillness, when the swifts and house martins have mostly left, the skies seeming emptier for it. The dawn chorus is softer, the evening calls less urgent.

The times of the festivals have an effect on me, physically as well as spiritually. At these strong points in the year, I often feel at odds, not quite in this realm or any other. At Beltane, my head felt like it was being pressed in on all sides as we spent time at the local tumuli. Yesterday, and the day before, I felt dizzy, sometimes faint as it seemed the energy was swirling around me yet again. Being very susceptible to pressure changes in the air, I feel I’m becoming even more sensitive to energies unseen that roil and swirl around this little sphere hurtling through space.

I love autumn. I love the energy that it brings, a quiet, soft, energy: a release. It seems that all summer long, from Beltane onwards there has been a swift build-up of energy that it seeking its release. Some of it goes at midsummer, but most of it is contained, helping to ripen the harvest fruits. It’s at this time of year, when the fruits fall, that the energy is released, the potential lying still and quiet in the seeds, ready for winter’s dreaming.

And so at last night’s ritual, I began with meditation, and then did the ritual in my usual way, scattering leaves and saying words of my appreciation for the season and the harvest around my circle. I also prayed for peace, a deep, heartfelt prayer, as well as doing five earth touchings. I then meditated again, the sun having set, feeling the balance between darkness and light. I opened my self to what I needed to learn over the long dark nights of approaching winter, widening my perspective, allowing nature to guide me. Instantly, one word rang through my head: forgiveness.

Taking inspiration from nature, I thought about forgiveness. If any ecosystem held a grudge, then it would fail. Trees continue to provide us with oxygen, despite us decimating their population. Herbs continue to grow, despite humanity’s propensity for herbicides. The rain falls, the sun shines, and we still reap the rewards that this world has to offer each and every day. If we could only do the same, if we could only learn true forgiveness, then this world would be a much better place.

I thought that I was pretty good at forgiveness. I’ve forgiven people in my life who have caused me to suffer. But taking a deeper look, my forgiveness wasn’t all-encompassing. I needed to release the anger and hate, like the leaf falls from the tree, like the leaves that lay scattered all around me in my ritual circle.

Forgiveness is one of the most difficult things to do for us humans. We often equate forgiveness with weakness, seeing it as a relinquishing of power. Those who forgive, we think, are only setting themselves up for more grief from those who would cause them to suffer. They’re doormats.

What we don’t realise is the exquisite power of forgiveness. When we can truly forgive, we can move on with our own lives. This doesn’t mean that we condone bad behaviour; far from it. We can still stand up for ourselves, speak out against injustices. We will still face struggles with people in our lives. But we can suffer less in ourselves, if we can forgive.

But we don’t want to. We want the other person to suffer, for all the hurt that they have done to us and to others. If we forgive, we think that they’ve been left off the hook. This most certainly isn’t the case. Everyone is accountable for their actions, everyone has a responsibility for their own life. We can’t force anyone to accept this, of course, but we can set the example for others. And when others don’t follow our example, we shrug and move on, knowing that we have, at the very least, stopped the suffering in ourselves.

But we want to change people. We want to stop people who are hurting others, and rightly so. So we can stand up for what is right, remembering that there is more than one right. We can also forgive, because everyone is suffering in some form or other. Whether willingly or not, when someone is causing another being harm, they are suffering deep inside from some affliction that we may never realise. They are fighting their own battles. We must set the example.

That doesn’t mean that we’re going to suddenly start liking these people. But we can allow the power of compassion to flow freely, to stop the pain in our lives, and when we do it begins to radiate outwards, like rings of water in a still pond. We’re not going to take any crap, but equally we’re not going to allow any crap that comes our way to cause us to suffer, to continue to make us crazy, hurt or bitter. We’re going to remain open, calm and filled with love for this planet, and in doing so understand the true meaning of forgiveness.

We’re also going to forgive ourselves. In doing so, we find peace. We’ve all screwed up, we’ve all caused pain at some point. We need to release that in order to function properly. We accept responsibility for our actions, and ensure that we never do it again. We strive to be better people, to make the world a better place.

Some would query whether it is truly possible for any human being to really forgive. I’ve thought about this myself. As such emotionally biased creatures, are we able to set aside our skewed perceptions of any given situation? In the attempt to do so, at the very least, is the heart of compassion. In the striving to do so, we rise to the challenge.

So my ritual last night was filled with my home environment providing me with the awen on the nature of forgiveness, compassion and love. And as I sat in the growing darkness, the cool soft breeze playing around me, I whispered these four words: I welcome the darkness.


Patty Griffin – Forgiveness

In the time of greatest light, we cannot hide.  We face our demons, head on, letting our nearest star shine its light upon all that we would attempt to hide. And beneath it all, we remember that a body needs forgiveness…

Blessings of the summer solstice to you all. x

Kierkegaard and the Bullies

Perfect love means to love the one through whom one became unhappy – Soren Kierkegaard

Following on from a recent blog post about forgiveness, putting into practice the habit of it is, as is everything, much easier said than done. So I’m going to share some personal things in this blog post, which I don’t often do, but which I think is necessary to give it some context, and to perhaps allow for people in their own situation to relate to it in some way.

Kierkegaard’s reflection on forgiveness inspired me today to do something which I have never been able to do.  Forgive the bullies.  Thinking about forgiveness a lot lately, I have decided that the best place to start was at the beginning, when the first people who treated me badly first made an impression on my mind and my life.

I had a really happy childhood, growing up in beautiful countryside in a very loving family.  I exceled in school – primary school was a breeze.  I was top of the class in both academia and athletics – I loved them both. I was confident and happy – it was a great time for me.  However, things changed when I went to secondary school.

The first half of the first year went well – though it was a shock moving from a Grade Six class that had five people in it to class sizes of twenty to thirty children.  The school was enormous compared to my primary school, but I adapted pretty well (and much thanks to a map my sister drew especially for me to find my classes in the many halls, which was my saviour that first month!).  I was confident and smart and making new friends under quite difficult circumstances to a very sensitive child.  And then came the bullies.

They were two years older than me, and came from the same region, so we shared the long bus journey together (an hour each way, a total of two hours a day). That was where it all started.  Name calling on the bus – for whatever reason, began the whole affair.  I assume that it was because I was tall, pretty, blond and happy – though I can never truly know the full reason behind it.  Sometimes people simply think that blowing out another person’s flame will make theirs shine all the brighter, but that just isn’t the case – everyone knows two flames are brighter than one alone.  For whatever reason, the bullying started.

Being confident, I decided to fight back.  I was smart, and could have a comeback for anything. Everyone, from television and film and books, said that if you fight back, the bullies will leave you alone.

That is not the case.

I fought back, with words, not allowing them to see that they were hurting me – throwing it back at them, and also hoping that others around me would rally to the cause and that we would all overthrow this minority of bullies who seemed to control “the bus”.

That was not the case either.

People didn’t stand up for me. But I still persevered, fighting back as best I could. Eventually it did get me down, and I started to doubt myself. But I stayed as strong as I could. They put glue in my hair. They threw food and garbage at me. They called me names. They threatened me.  They taunted me every time we passed in the hallway until I avoided all the main halls and used the back stairs, entrances and exits as much as I could. I still held fast to the belief that it was because they were jealous – I stayed strong in my convictions, but it really, really started to get me down. I dreaded going to school every day, and dreaded the bus ride there and back.  I joined after school clubs just so I wouldn’t have to take the same bus as they did home – I could take a later bus. I longed for the two days of respite that the weekend brought – Fridays after the bus dropped me off was like a whole new world of freedom to be me again.

It became so bad one day though, that I had had just about enough of it all and, with no holding back, turned around to where they had moved up in the now almost empty bus to sit directly behind me and taunt me ceaselessly.  I let it rip, verbally, with all the hate, spite , viciousness and intelligence that I possessed. Their faces were shocked, and then anger took over. One girl grabbed me by the hair and started banging my head against the bus window, over and over again.  An older boy came down from the back of the bus and pulled her off of me – I had started physically fighting back – and we were separated.  I got off the bus seconds later at my stop, adrenaline bursting along with tears as soon as the bus was out of sight – I wasn’t going to let them see me cry.  I hated myself and my life.

The next day we were, of course, called into the Principal’s Office.  After a few minutes, where I (with seething calm) stated my case and then the other girl was allowed to state hers, she simply began to cry.  I was too angry to care about why she was crying – she had made my life a living hell.  I sincerely hoped the Principal was not “duped” by her show – though on reflection I do believe that she was a truly unhappy girl in an unhappy situation, the details of which I still am not aware of to this day – only rumours.

Nothing came of it for me – but I think she may have received a three-day suspension or something similar, though the memory of that is a little fuzzy.  What I do remember is that evening she called my house, and my mother answered the phone.  The girl threatened my mother and family, and also said that she didn’t care if she got expelled from school – she could always transfer to SAA.   My mother said, “Go ahead, please do.  BECAUSE THAT’S WHERE I WORK.” We never got a phone call from her again.

The bullying eased off from then on – just some taunts and words passing in the hallway. By this point, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel – the bullies were graduating that year, and once they were gone the school “was mine” again, in the sense that I could live, learn and do as I pleased and enjoy every second of it.  They graduated, or failed – I don’t really know, but they left. Those last two years of my high school life were some of the best years of my life.

I still suffered from confidence issues – walking past a group of people laughing, I would assume they were laughing at me.  Sometimes I still do – though now I catch myself and, with a wry grin, shrug it off.  But one thing I’ve never been able to do is to forgive them for the years and years of torment that they put me through.  Well, today I decided that enough is enough.

I have carried these bullies with me for 27 years now, and I’m more than ready to put them down.  As in my previous blog post, the story of the monks and the sack of potatoes, I really don’t want to carry anger and hate to these people anymore – I’m going to empty the sack, and maybe one day lose the sack altogether so that it can never be filled with anger again.  For anger is the cause of pain and suffering in the world – it is the root behind most, if not all, sufferering and “evil”.  So, no more, thank you very much.  I forgive you, CB, KJ, WG, D and A – I don’t want to carry you around any more.  I hope that your lives are much happier now, and filled with love.  Tears are welling up in my eyes even as I write this – the release is overwhelming.  I have compassion for myself and for you.  May you live well.

And so, I aim for what Kierkegaard wrote – for love is compassion and forgiveness.  I am emptying my sack, one by one, and looking for perfect love with every person who has made me unhappy.  In this way, I believe, the world can and will be a better place.  Namaste.