Yom Kippur 2023 began on the evening of Sun, Sept 24 and ends on the evening of Mon, Sept 25.
Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year, when we are closest to G‑d and to the essence of our souls. Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement,” as the verse states, “For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before G-d.” — chabad.org
May our time … today enable each of us to order our souls and release what needs releasing, to savor the journey we are on singly and together, to delve deep into the layers of who we are and who we have been and who we hope to become, and to trust, and embrace, the changes which are coming. — Rabbi Rachel Barenbat
Our lives are finite, but when we try to do right by each other and by our world we align ourselves with the flow of spirit and love. And our tradition teaches: that flow of spirit and love is eternal. More eternal even than plastic. When we transmit memory to the generations that will follow, we become part of something that is forever. And when we commit to deeds of justice and righteousness in memory of those who are gone, we uplift the best of who we can be. — Rabbi Rachel Barenbat
- Kol Nidre performed by Mischa Maisky, Paavo Järvi with Frankfurt Radio Suymphony: https://youtu.be/XGzOozXt4ek
ASHMANU (confession as part of Viddui prayer on Yom Kippur):
- Ashmante audio by Hadar Institute:
SONGS about FORGIVENESS & LETTING GO:
- Purple Rain by Prince (pop): https://youtu.be/TvnYmWpD_T8
- Live Like a Warrior by Matsiyahu (Jewish rap): https://youtu.be/p53pDNodxHE
- Forgiveness by TobyMac (pop/rap/Christian): https://youtu.be/xfkhqpl81NA
- Hello by Adele (pop): https://youtu.be/YQHsXMglC9A
- I Forgive You by Kelly Pickler (country): https://youtu.be/rFC20P25mZ4
- Forgive Myself by Sam Smith (pop): https://youtu.be/50d_eeEg_AQ
- Cleanin’ Out My Closet by Eminem (rap): https://youtu.be/RQ9_TKayu9s
- All Apologies by Nirvana (rock): https://youtu.be/aWmkuH1k7uA
- Sweet Forgiveness by Bonnie Raitt (country): https://youtu.be/mq2RbR-eXVE
- Baby Can I Hold You Tonight by Tracy Chapman (pop): https://youtu.be/kjRo_CHSdt0
- Back to December by Taylor Swift (pop): https://youtu.be/QUwxKWT6m7U
- Less Than Whole by Eric Paslay (country/Christian): https://youtu.be/aTqEzo0GZJU
- Forgiveness by India Arie (pop): https://youtu.be/qxMLZjqZ8wE
- I Forgive You by Kelly Clarkson (pop): https://youtu.be/wT_VvanbpqE
- Pray for Forgiveness by Alicia Keyes (pop): https://youtu.be/IvdYcpGw9Oo
- Last Time I Say Sorry by John Legend, Kane Brown (pop): https://youtu.be/j9Nl7o5WEFg
- Low Man’s Lyric by Metallixa (rock): https://youtu.be/If1vafTxHjw
- Please Forgive Me by Bryan Adams (pop): https://youtu.be/7x8wPt8xarE
- If I Could Turn Back Time by Cher (pop): https://youtu.be/9n3A_-HRFfc
- Losing by Tenth Avenue North (Christian): https://youtu.be/hHcVTbyJqis
- Forgiveness by Matthew West (Christian): https://youtu.be/h1Lu5udXEZI
- The Apology Song by The Decemberists (pop): https://youtu.be/ZctK51RwK8A
- Forgiven by Crowder (Christian): https://youtu.be/u_ZWEO36jok
- Sorry by Justin Bieber (pop): https://youtu.be/fRh_vgS2dFE
- Start Somewhere by TobyMac (pop): https://youtu.be/7rT7Zci7LQQ
- A Song for You by Amy Winehouse (jazz/blues): https://youtu.be/zWR82j1hAO4
Yom Kippur 1984 — Adrienne Rich
I drew solitude over me, on the long shore. —Robinson Jeffers, “Prelude”
For whoever does not afflict his soul through this day, shall be
cut off from his people. —Leviticus 23:29
What is a Jew in solitude?
What would it mean not to feel lonely or afraid
far from your own or those you have called your own?
What is a woman in solitude: a queer woman or man?
In the empty street, on the empty beach, in the desert
what in this world as it is can solitude mean?
The glassy, concrete octagon suspended from the cliffs
with its electric gate, its perfected privacy
is not what I mean
the pick-up with a gun parked at a turn-out in Utah or the Golan Heights
is not what I mean
the poet’s tower facing the western ocean, acres of forest planted to the east, the woman reading in the cabin, her attack dog suddenly risen
is not what I mean
Three thousand miles from what I once called home
I open a book searching for some lines I remember
about flowers, something to bind me to this coast as lilacs in the dooryard once
bound me back there—yes, lupines on a burnt mountainside,
something that bloomed and faded and was written down
in the poet’s book, forever:
Opening the poet’s book
I find the hatred in the poet’s heart: . . . the hateful-eyed
and human-bodied are all about me: you that love multitude may have them
Robinson Jeffers, multitude
is the blur flung by distinct forms against these landward valleys
and the farms that run down to the sea; the lupines
are multitude, and the torched poppies, the grey Pacific unrolling its scrolls of surf,
and the separate persons, stooped
over sewing machines in denim dust, bent under the shattering skies of harvest
who sleep by shifts in never-empty beds have their various dreams
Hands that pick, pack, steam, stitch, strip, stuff, shell, scrape, scour, belong to a brain like no other
Must I argue the love of multitude in the blur or defend
a solitude of barbed-wire and searchlights, the survivalist’s final solution, have I a choice?
To wander far from your own or those you have called your own
to hear strangeness calling you from far away
and walk in that direction, long and far, not calculating risk
to go to meet the Stranger without fear or weapon, protection nowhere on your mind
(the Jew on the icy, rutted road on Christmas Eve prays for another Jew
the woman in the ungainly twisting shadows of the street: Make those be a woman’s footsteps; as if she could believe in a woman’s god)
Find someone like yourself. Find others.
Agree you will never desert each other.
Understand that any rift among you
means power to those who want to do you in.
Close to the center, safety; toward the edges, danger.
But I have a nightmare to tell: I am trying to say
that to be with my people is my dearest wish
but that I also love strangers
that I crave separateness
I hear myself stuttering these words
to my worst friends and my best enemies
who watch for my mistakes in grammar
my mistakes in love.
This is the day of atonement; but do my people forgive me?
If a cloud knew loneliness and fear, I would be that cloud.
To love the Stranger, to love solitude—am I writing merely about privilege
about drifting from the center, drawn to edges,
a privilege we can’t afford in the world that is,
who are hated as being of our kind: faggot kicked into the icy river, woman dragged from her stalled car
into the mist-struck mountains, used and hacked to death
young scholar shot at the university gates on a summer evening walk, his prizes and studies nothing, nothing availing his Blackness
Jew deluded that she’s escaped the tribe, the laws of her exclusion, the men too holy to touch her hand; Jew who has turned her back
on midrash and mitzvah (yet wears the chai on a thong between her breasts) hiking alone
found with a swastika carved in her back at the foot of the cliffs (did she die as queer or as Jew?)
Solitude, O taboo, endangered species
on the mist-struck spur of the mountain, I want a gun to defend you
In the desert, on the deserted street, I want what I can’t have:
your elder sister, Justice, her great peasant’s hand outspread
her eye, half-hooded, sharp and true
And I ask myself, have I thrown courage away?
have I traded off something I don’t name?
To what extreme will I go to meet the extremist?
What will I do to defend my want or anyone’s want to search for her spirit-vision
far from the protection of those she has called her own?
Will I find O solitude
your plumes, your breasts, your hair
against my face, as in childhood, your voice like the mockingbird’s
singing Yes, you are loved, why else this song?
in the old places, anywhere?
What is a Jew in solitude?
What is a woman in solitude, a queer woman or man?
When the winter flood-tides wrench the tower from the rock, crumble the prophet’s headland, and the farms slide into the sea
when leviathan is endangered and Jonah becomes revenger
when center and edges are crushed together, the extremities crushed together on which the world was founded
when our souls crash together, Arab and Jew, howling our loneliness within the tribes
when the refugee child and the exile’s child re-open the blasted and forbidden city
when we who refuse to be women and men as women and men are chartered, tell our stories of solitude spent in multitude
in that world as it may be, newborn and haunted, what will solitude mean?
IT’S YOM KIPPUR, AND I’M NOT FASTING — George Franklin
The first thing I thought of this morning
Was coffee, café au lait in a
Blue ceramic bowl, a slice of toast
Still warm in my hand. I didn’t even
Remember today was Yom Kippur.
I say I’m not observant, which sounds
Like I have poor eyesight but really
Means that when God and I have a chat
All I hear is a dial tone at
The other end of the line. I’m tired
Of imagining what doesn’t have
An image. There’re no burning bushes
In my backyard, just history that
Can’t be changed, redeemed, or atoned for.
God, I have too many images
In my head today, videos of
Villages captured and recaptured,
Reporters asking, “Can you tell us
Where the bodies are buried?” Someone
Points to a field, fresh-turned dirt not far
From a road. Eighty-one years ago,
They were the bodies of Jews in a
Ravine in Kyiv, now Ukrainians.
When can we say atoning doesn’t
Work? The Earth is full of graves, mass and
Singular. Trees send out roots to thread
Ribcages that insects and worms have
Already hollowed. Each year, the ground
Sinks a little. In the history
Of the world, no one ever went broke
Selling shovels. God, there is something
Wrong with people, and thousands of years
Of fasting hasn’t fixed it. Neither
Has prayer or the sacrifice of
Unblemished cattle or first-born sons.
The sun will set soon, and the day will
Be over. I was taught the gates of
Heaven swing closed then: no more prayers.
The ones who haven’t repented yet
Aren’t going to. Another year’s passed.
Men put on their jackets and walk home.
The LAYERS — Stanley Kunitz
I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned campsites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.
August Rain, After Haying — Jane Kenyon
Through sere trees and beheaded
grasses the slow rain falls.
Hay fills the barn; only the rake
and one empty wagon are left
in the field. In the ditches
goldenrod bends to the ground.
Even at noon the house is dark.
In my room under the eaves
I hear the steady benevolence
of water washing dust
raised by the haying
from porch and car and garden
chair. We are shorn
and purified, as if tonsured.
The grass resolves to grow again,
receiving the rain to that end,
but my disordered soul thirsts
after something it cannot name.
YOM KIPPUR: The Holiest Day of the Year in Jewish Religious Life
HISTORY of Yom Kippur — chabad.org (full article: https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/177886/jewish/What-Is-Yom-Kippur.htm#What)
Just months after the people of Israel left Egypt in the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE), they sinned by worshipping a golden calf. Moses ascended Mount Sinai and prayed to G‑d to forgive them. After two 40-day stints on the mountain, full Divine favor was obtained. The day Moses came down the mountain (the 10th of Tishrei) was to be known forevermore as the Day of Atonement—Yom Kippur.
That year, the people built the Tabernacle, a portable home for G‑d. The Tabernacle was a center for prayers and sacrificial offerings. The service in the Tabernacle climaxed on Yom Kippur, when the High Priest would perform a specially prescribed service. Highlights of this service included offering incense in the Holy of Holies (where the ark was housed) and the lottery with two goats—one of which was brought as a sacrifice, the other being sent out to the wilderness (Azazel).
While the High Priest generally wore ornate golden clothing, on Yom Kippur, he would immerse in a mikvah and don plain white garments to perform this service.
This practice continued for hundreds of years, throughout the time of the first Temple in Jerusalem, which was built by Solomon, and the second Temple, which was built by Ezra. Jews from all over would gather in the Temple to experience the sacred sight of the High Priest performing his service, obtaining forgiveness for all of Israel.
When the second Temple was destroyed in the year 3830 from creation (70 CE), the Yom Kippur service continued. Instead of a High Priest bringing the sacrifices in Jerusalem, every single Jew performs the Yom Kippur service in the temple of his or her heart.
YOM KIPPUR— history.com (full article: https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/yom-kippur-history).
According to tradition, the first Yom Kippur took place after the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt and arrival at Mount Sinai, where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Descending from the mountain, Moses caught his people worshipping a golden calf and shattered the sacred tablets in anger. Because the Israelites atoned for their idolatry, God forgave their sins and offered Moses a second set of tablets…
… God judges all creatures during the 10 Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, deciding whether they will live or die in the coming year.Jewish law teaches that God inscribes the names of the righteous in the “book of life” and condemns the wicked to death on Rosh Hashanah; people who fall between the two categories have until Yom Kippur to perform “teshuvah,” or repentance. As a result, observant Jews consider Yom Kippur and the days leading up to it a time for prayer, good deeds, reflecting on past mistakes and making amends with others….
Yom Kippur is Judaism’s most sacred day of the year; it is sometimes referred to as the “Sabbath of Sabbaths.” For this reason, even Jews who do not observe other traditions refrain from work, which is forbidden during the holiday, and participate in religious services on Yom Kippur…
The Torah commands all Jewish adults (apart from the sick, the elderly and women who have just given birth) to abstain from eating and drinking between sundown on the evening before Yom Kippur and nightfall the next day. The fast is believed to cleanse the body and spirit, not to serve as a punishment….
Because the High Holy Day prayer services include special liturgical texts, songs and customs, rabbis and their congregations read from a special prayer book known as the machzor during both Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. Five distinct prayer services take place on Yom Kippur, the first on the eve of the holiday and the last before sunset on the following day. One of the most important prayers specific to Yom Kippur describes the atonement ritual performed by high priests during ancient times. The blowing of the shofar—a trumpet made from a ram’s horn—is an essential and emblematic part of both High Holy Days. On Yom Kippur, a single long blast is sounded at the end of the final service to mark the conclusion of the fast…..
Pre-Yom Kippur feast: On the eve of Yom Kippur, families and friends gather for a bountiful feast that must be finished before sunset. The idea is to gather strength for 25 hours of fasting.
Breaking of the fast: After the final Yom Kippur service, many people return home for a festive meal. It traditionally consists of breakfast-like comfort foods such as blintzes, noodle pudding and baked goods.
Wearing white: It is customary for religious Jews to dress in white—a symbol of purity—on Yom Kippur. Some married men wear kittels, which are white burial shrouds, to signify repentance.
Charity: Some Jews make donations or volunteer their time in the days leading up to Yom Kippur….
SONG: Pray for Forgiveness by Alicia Keyes: https://youtu.be/IvdYcpGw9Oo
POEM: Jane Hirshfield: The Weighing (excerpt): The heart’s reasons seen clearly, even the hardest will carry its whip-marks and sadness and must be forgiven.
QUOTE: Veronica Roth: Can I be forgiven for all I’ve done to get here? I want to be. I can. I believe it.
We are not responsible for what breaks us, but we can be responsible for what puts us back together again. Naming the hurt is how we begin to repair our broken parts ― Desmond Tutu
Awareness is the first step in healing. — Dean Ornish
The wound is the place where the Light enters you. ― Rumi
The place of true healing is a fierce place. It’s a giant place. It’s a place of monstrous beauty and endless dark and glimmering light. And you have to work really, really, really hard to get there, but you can do it. — Cheryl Strayed
Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. — Helen Keller
Being brave isn’t the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it. —Bear Grylls
SONGS about HEALING:
- Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’ by Lainey Wilson (country):https://youtu.be/aZtCol-tUaE
- Bird Set Free by Sia (pop):https://youtu.be/FkOO3kz92_c
- Beautifully Broken by Plumb (Christian): https://youtu.be/ce6PT-3sQGg
- Annie’s Song by John Denver (country/folk): https://youtu.be/RNOTF-znQyw
- Sound of Surviving by Nichole Nordeman (pop): https://youtu.be/IaOExJJa_YA
- Everything Comes Alive by We Are Messengers (Irish Christian): https://youtu.be/7ga5wTxF6Tc
- I Am Not Nothing by Beth Crowley (pop): https://youtu.be/SNJ–gHasOE
- I Won’t Let Go by Rascal Flatts (country):https://youtu.be/z4lk4OIi56Q
- Strong Enough by Matthew West (Christian): https://youtu.be/knuHDPbE5es
- Mended by Matthew West (Christian): https://youtu.be/-Otg-5p7qug
- Leave a Light On by Tom Walker (pop): https://youtu.be/nqnkBdExjws
- Ashes Remain by Right Here (rock): https://youtu.be/36ieBoBMcHc
- Scars To Your Beautiful by Alessia Cara (pop): https://youtu.be/1tAvYhW1ZLI
- It’ll Be Okay by Shawn Mendes (pop): https://youtu.be/KrgJp7Z1Hv8
- People Help the People written by Cherry performed by Birdy (pop): https://youtu.be/OmLNs6zQIHo
The JOURNEY — Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.
THE HEALING THAT COMES — Jan Richardson
I know how long you have been waiting
for your story to take a different turn,
how far you have gone
in search of what will mend you and make you whole.
I bear no remedy, no cure,
no miracle for the easing of your pain.
But I know the medicine
that lives in a story that has been broken open.
I know the healing that comes
in ceasing to hide ourselves away
with fingers clutched around the fragments
we think are none but ours.
See how they fit together,
these shards we have been carrying—
how in their meeting
they make a way
we could not find alone.
FACING OUR FEARS (Demons)
Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it. — Judy Blume
Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. — Dale Carnegie
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do. — Eleanor Roosevelt
The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. — Nelson Mandela
He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones. — Thich Nhat Hanh
Have no fear of perfection–you’ll never reach it. — Salvador Dali
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold. — Helen Keller
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. — Theodore Roosevelt
One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do. —Henry Ford
I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear. —Rosa Parks
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. —Nelson Mandela
Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. —Marie Curie
Fear comes from uncertainty. When we are absolutely certain, whether of our worth or worthlessness, we are almost impervious to fear. — William Congreve
These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them. ― Rumi
What about evil, you may ask? Aren’t some people just evil, just monsters, and aren’t such people just unforgivable? I do believe there are monstrous and evil acts, but I do not believe those who commit such acts are monsters or evil. To relegate someone to the level of monster is to deny that person’s ability to change and to take away that person’s accountability for his or her actions and behavior. ― Desmond Tutu
Through meditation and contemplation we can learn, for example, that patience is the most potent antidote for anger, satisfaction for greed, bravery for fear, and understanding for doubt. It is not very helpful to rage against others. Instead, we should strive to change ourselves. — Dalai Lama
These verses – and all those like them scattered throughout the Scriptures – are encouraging, inspiring, and revealing. But they can also be quite painful for those who are suffering and do not experience healing. Why then and not now, we might ask. Or, more poignantly, why them and not us? — David Lose
Our own life has to be our message. — Thich Nhat Hanh
Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos—the trees, the clouds, everything. — Thich Nhat Hanh
The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.—Marianne Williamson
Healing yourself is connected with healing others.— Yoko Ono
Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs – and becoming who you are. — Rachel Naomi Remen
There are so many ways to heal. Arrogance may have a place in technology, but not in healing. I need to get out of my own way if I am to heal. — Anne Wilson Schaef
The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love. — Hubert H. Humphrey
Love one another and help others to rise to the higher levels, simply by pouring out love. Love is infectious and the greatest healing energy. — Sai Baba
I’m touched by the idea that when we do things that are useful and helpful – collecting these shards of spirituality – that we may be helping to bring about a healing. — Leonard Nimoy
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. — Proverbs 16:23-25
To me, forgiveness is the cornerstone of healing. — Sylvia Fraser
The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore, the physician must start from nature, with an open mind. — Paracelsus
The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind. —Caroline Myss
All healing is first a healing of the heart.— Carl Townsend
Eventually you will come to understand that love heals everything, and love is all there is. — Gary Zukav
Everybody has losses – it’s unavoidable in life. Sharing our pain is very healing. — Isabel Allende
When I stand before thee at the day’s end, thou shalt see my scars and know that I had my wounds and also my healing. — Rabindranath Tagore
ON HEALING ― Richard Rohr
To finally surrender ourselves to healing, we have to have three spaces opened up within us – and all at the same time: our opinionated head, our closed-down heart, and our defensive and defended body. That is the summary work of spirituality – and it is indeed work. Yes, it is also the work of “a Power greater than ourselves,” and it will lead to a great luminosity and depth of seeing. That is why true faith is one of the most holistic and free actions a human can perform. It leads to such broad and deep perception that most traditions would just call it “light.”
Remember, Jesus said that we also are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), as well as saying it about himself (John 8:12). Strange that we see light in him but do not imitate him in seeing the same light in ourselves. Such luminous seeing is quite the opposite of the closed-minded, dead-hearted, body-denying thing that much religion has been allowed to become. As you surely have heard before, “Religion is lived by people who are afraid of hell. Spirituality is lived by people who have been through hell and come out enlightened.”
The innocuous mental belief systems of much religion are probably the major cause of atheism in the world today, because people see that religion has not generally created people who are that different, more caring, or less prejudiced than other people. In fact, they are often worse because they think they have God on their small side. I wish I did not have to say this, but religion either produces the very best people or the very worst. Jesus makes this point in many settings and stories. Mere mental belief systems split people apart, whereas actual faith puts all our parts (body, heart, and head) on notice and on call. Honestly, it takes major surgery and much of one’s life to get head, heart, and body to put down their defenses, their false programs for happiness, and their many forms of resistance to what is right in front of them. This is the meat and muscle of the whole conversion process.
Dogfish — Mary Oliver
Some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing
kept flickering in with the tide
and looking around.
Black as a fisherman’s boot,
with a white belly.
If you asked for a picture I would have to draw a smile
under the perfectly round eyes and above the chin,
which was rough
as a thousand sharpened nails.
And you know
what a smile means,
I wanted the past to go away, I wanted
to leave it, like another country; I wanted
my life to close, and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song
where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery;
to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know,
whoever I was, I was
for a little while.
It was evening, and no longer summer.
Three small fish, I don’t know what they were,
huddled in the highest ripples
as it came swimming in again, effortless, the whole body
one gesture, one black sleeve
that could fit easily around
the bodies of three small fish.
Also I wanted
to be able to love. And we all know
how that one goes,
the dogfish tore open the soft basins of water.
You don’t want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don’t want to tell it, I want to listen
to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.
And anyway it’s the same old story – – –
a few people just trying,
one way or another,
Mostly, I want to be kind.
And nobody, of course, is kind,
for a simple reason.
And nobody gets out of it, having to
swim through the fires to stay in
And look! look! look! I think those little fish
better wake up and dash themselves away
from the hopeless future that is
bulging toward them.
if they don’t waste time
looking for an easier world,
they can do it.
FORGIVE — Wendell Berry
I was your rebellious child,
do you remember? Sometimes
I wonder if you do remember,
so complete has your forgiveness been.
So complete has your forgiveness been
I wonder sometimes if it did not
precede my wrong, and I erred,
safe found, within your love,
prepared ahead of me, the way home,
or my bed at night, so that almost
I should forgive you, who perhaps
foresaw the worst that I might do,
and forgave before I could act,
causing me to smile now, looking back,
to see how paltry was my worst,
compared to your forgiveness of it
already given. And this, then,
is the vision of that Heaven of which
we have heard, where those who love
each other have forgiven each other,
where, for that, the leaves are green,
the light a music in the air,
and all is unentangled,
and all is undismayed.
On Healing with Christ — Nadia Bolz-Weber (excerpts)
He just touched him, looked to heaven, sighed and said “BE OPEN.”
It’s a wonderful statement for healing isn’t it? Be open.
It’s an image that’s stuck with me all week. This might sound weird but all week I kept picturing Jesus sticking his fingers in each of your ears and saying “BE OPENED.” And then in the same daydream, before I could stop it, I pictured Jesus’ Holy and unwashed fingers in my own ears. He sighed he looked to heaven and he said, “Be opened.” To which I said, “No thanks.”
See, It’s painful to be open. There’s no control in it. No self-determination. But Jesus is like that, taking us away from whatever the THEY thinks about us, getting all up in our business and insisting on our wholeness.
Be opened, he says.
Be opened to a life where you aren’t the broken one anymore.
Be opened to the possibility that there is healing in the world and it might not look like you think it should.
Be opened to knowing that your own brokenness doesn’t need to be hidden behind someone else’s brokenness.
Be opened to the idea that you are stronger than you think.
Be opened to the idea that you aren’t as strong as you think.
Be opened to the fact that you may not ever get what you want and that you will actually be OK anyway.
Be opened to finally being happy.
Be opened to your own need for healing especially if you yourself are a healer.
Be opened to life and life abundant.
Maybe that’s what healing really is.
We think it’s about identifying what’s wrong with someone else or with ourselves and then having that thing cured, but I wonder if spiritual healing has more to do with being opened than being cured…
But it’s not easy. Healing can hurt. It can feel like a loss as much as it can feel like a gain.
Because sometimes healing feels more like death and resurrection than getting a warm cookie and glass of milk.
Maybe you are someone who has for so long been the one who suffers depression or illness or dysfunction that you are simply more comfortable that way, because frankly, when you stay sick no one expects much from you. And that’s easier.
Maybe you are someone who deals so much with the brokenness and sickness of others in your work that you forget that you are in need of healing too.
Maybe you are someone who has experienced healing of hospitality here in this community and you have yet to be healed through offer the same thing to others.
Maybe you, like myself, would rather not admit to needing anything form anyone. Including Jesus…
FORGIVENESS as a HEALING PROCESS
From article by Religious News Service — Jonathan Merritt: As the former Archbishop of Cape Town, Tutu became a leading human rights advocate who has championed causes such as poverty, racism, homophobia, sexism, HIV/AIDS and war. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. In his … work, The Book of Forgiving (co-authored with his daughter, Mpho Tutu), he offers four steps to forgiving and healing:
- Telling the Story
- Naming the Hurt
- Granting Forgiveness
- Renewing or Releasing the Relationship
Transformation begins in you, wherever you are, whatever has happened, however you are suffering. Transformation is always possible. We do not heal in isolation. When we reach out and connect with one another—when we tell the story, name the hurt, grant forgiveness, and renew or release the relationship—our suffering begins to transform.
― Desmond Tutu
7 SKILLS for FORGIVING
- The Forgiveness Project: https://www.theforgivenessproject.com
- From the The Forgiveness Toolbox: http://theforgivenesstoolbox.com/
The skills of making sense of one’s suffering, researching & learning phase
Nothing is easier than to condemn the evildoer, nothing is harder than to understand him. — Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Before we can forgive one another, we have to understand one another. — Emma Goldman
Broaden perspective through history.
A potentially useful way to seek an understanding of one’s suffering is by considering the bigger historical context in which the harm took place. Such consideration may help uncover the links between one’s suffering and the adversary group’s suffering. An understanding of one’s suffering in relation to the past or current suffering of the ‘other’ may reveal insights into the adversary group’s basic psychological needs (e.g. security, autonomy, avert existential threats). A threat to these needs may have given rise to the motivation to use aggression to protect them.
For some, it may be possible to make sense of their suffering by viewing the roles of victims and perpetrators as reversible. Such flexibility can result from considerations that a degree of victimhood and hopelessness must have lied within the perpetrator to motivate him/her to cause suffering in others. The inter-changeability of roles between victims and perpetrators may further be encouraged by beliefs that human beings are fallible and that they all share a potential to harm each other. This skill may also require one’s acceptance that one’s views of justice and truth may not be shared by others, especially by the adversary party.
Move beyond understanding.
Sometimes victims become too preoccupied with their search for understanding the causes of the harm they’ve experienced and consequently may neglect to harvest the benefits of the above researching & learning skills phase. In other words, understanding becomes the only and ultimate goal. The above skills are not intended solely to accumulate knowledge but also to utilize that acquired knowledge to stimulate shifts in one’s static, uncompromising attitudes and positions.
2- Building bridges born out of suffering:
The skills of relating to another person’s pain
If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Build bonds of suffering.
A tendency that maintains the cycle of revenge is to compete over one’s share of suffering (akin to Dr Noor’s concept of Competitive Victimhood: We have suffered more than the other group!). However, it is also possible to use one’s suffering as a bridge to connect to someone else’s suffering, their ‘imperfect’ humanity. Thus despite political, economic, religious and other types of divides, the victims of two conflicting groups can use their suffering (e.g. loss of loved ones and other traumatic losses) to establish a strong, emotional and psychological bond (akin to Dr Vollhardt’s concept of Inclusive Victim Consciousness). They can find it possible to agree that the conflict has brought about adverse consequences for both groups, albeit in perhaps different ways. A focus on common suffering can result in unexpected discoveries of intimate bonds based on shared pain and it can trigger generosity in attitudes and actions between counterparts.
Grasp the concept of Ubuntu.
My humanity is caught up in yours. This ethic which originated in South Africa is a critical skill. Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes this perspective as, ‘Ubuntu’ is not, “I think therefore I am.” It says rather: “I am a human because I belong. I participate. I share.” In essence, I am only because you are.
The skill of putting oneself into someone else’s shoes without judgement. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. — Atticus in To Kill A Mocking BirdTry on dirty, uncomfortable, new shoes.
Attempts to understand how the world is viewed by the adversary party might shed further light on what motivated them to cause the suffering. For example, the adversary party’s attacks on one’s child who serves in the military may be incomprehensible to the bereaved mother/father, especially because of the child’s best intentions and limited choice to avoid compulsory conscription. However, after taking the perspective of the adversary group, from which the military is viewed as a force of oppression, and thus their child as a symbol of that oppression, the hostile behaviour towards soldiers may become more understandable. Thus the skill of putting oneself into someone else’s shoes enables one to acknowledge that the world can be viewed and understood in ways that may be very different from one’s own worldview. To do this, it is required to first become aware that these other types of perspectives and worldviews exist and then to develop the desire to relate to them. Healing work is about acquiring a new pair of spectacles. Practising this skill in relation to someone who has inflicted harm can result in insights into the person’s thoughts, feelings and actions that motivated him/her to cause the suffering. Such empathy is void of moral judgement and thus can move the person beyond simple understanding. Yet, it does not necessarily contain condoning of the suffering.
4- Curiosity & Courage The skills of looking beyond yourself.
You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. — Andre GideGenerate curiosity to correct stereotypes.The benefits of the other skills in the tool-box can be honed partly by developing the skills of curiosity. To develop a sense of wanting to find out more about the ‘enemy’ requires one to go beyond oneself and one’s existing knowledge. It also requires an acceptance that one’s knowledge of the world as well as its sources are imperfect, limited and in need of expansion. Such expansion can be implemented by developing a desire to reach out and add to or revise one’s existing knowledge. It is also possible to gain further understanding of one’s own suffering and the circumstances that led to it by generating curiosity to find out who the enemy group really is. Such curiosity often generates a motivation to engage with the other group, which in turn creates opportunities to correct one’s stereotypes of the other group.
In tandem with the skills associated with curiosity, the skills of developing courage to engage and potentially meet with the person who is responsible for one’s suffering may be required. One way of developing courage is to become aware that the adversary might have to go through a similar courage-generating process full of its own challenges and that they could have opted for ‘easier’ options (e.g. avoidance, offers of pseudo-apologies). 5-Accepting personal and collective responsibility:
The skill of locating the ‘I’ and the ‘We’ in the suffering
The gunman and his family are victims too. Perhaps victims of the society we have responsibility for. — Andrea LeBlanc, (lost husband in 9/11) commenting on Boston bombings
Rediscover agency without shame or guilt.
Acknowledgement and apology are important factors in the healing journey but they may not be available and therefore can put the power in the wrong hands, keeping the harmed stuck in a place of disappointment and expectation. Instead, rediscovering one’ personal and group-based agency is a more fruitful approach to healing. The skill of reviving one’s agency requires that one does not separate oneself as a passive recipient from the harmful event, but instead one acknowledges that as human beings we have agency. At the time of the harm such an agency may have been perceived as non-existent or strictly diminished. Acknowledging personal and collective responsibility is to concede that even at the time of the difficult harmful situation one had a degree of agency. Such insights may produce feelings of guilt and shame. However, the above skill is intended to direct individuals towards empowerment such that it helps them to rediscover their agency after the harm has been done. Whether erroneous decisions (miscalculation, missed opportunities, etc.) were made by one’s group leaders or by one’s own inaction to challenge short-sighted leaders, accepting personal and collective responsibility requires the development of a critical awareness of how oneself and one’s group have contributed to the situation that led to the suffering. Such insights into own contributions to one’s suffering can in turn enable one to act in order to change the course of action from further harming to healing.
6- Resisting conformity The skills of finding your own path
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that has ever happened. — Margaret Mead
You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist. — Friedrich Nietzsche
Defy what others may have in mind for you.
Traditionally, there is a piece of cautionary advice not to overburden individuals who have experienced major painful events in life, for example, by encouraging them to re-adjust too quickly or to engage with the person who caused the pain. However, as useful as this advice may be, it is equally important to bear in mind that at times these individuals may be trapped within their victimhood, not because they want to remain victims but rather because of the expectations by their families, community, society, etc. to conform to their victim role. Thus, in order to counter these expectations individuals may be required to develop the skills involved in resisting such expectations, namely, deviance. The kind of deviance referred to here involves two sets of skills: Be a small black sheep The first set presents a number of challenges at the personal level and encourages the individual to acquire skills that were described earlier (e.g. challenges to the self to empathize with the adversary, to consider the non-static nature of victim and perpetrator roles, to acknowledge personal responsibility, to be curious and brave, and to engage with the person causing the pain).
Be a big black sheep This set of skills presents challenges at the group-based level and requires critical thinking about one’s own group, their assumptions, norms, values and worldview. It further requires a genuine understanding of the adversary group’s concerns and psychological needs (e.g. need for safety). These skills will help develop awareness that one’s own group may have contributed to the conflict and suffering as well, be it through provocation, poor negotiation skills or missed opportunities for a peaceful co-existence. The above sets of skills essentially enable the individuals to discover the ‘full story’ and to move beyond the ‘always guilty other’ and the ‘always innocent me/us’. 7- Recovering from resentment: The skill of letting go of anger and bitterness
Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies. — Anon
Return to being human.
No-one is born angry, resentful or evil. However, our hearts and minds can easily be filled with strong and persistent negative emotions and intentions due to a victimhood experience. The more that resentment plants the desire in one to exact a wrong, the further one moves away from our humanness with which we are gifted at birth. The skill of letting go of anger and bitterness requires the realisation that resentment has the potential to undermine our humanity, its integrity and its capacity for compassion, as well as the potential to eat away at our peace of mind and well-being. Holding onto resentment has a cost. This skill is the ability to transform the impulse for revenge into a search for something larger; it is about broadening one’s perspective to encompass a sense of the ‘other’.
This skill invites the act of forgiving.
Forgiveness is not a pancake movement. Feelings cannot just be flipped, but you can tilt the balance in the direction towards the discovery of a new way of operating in the world. Hatred and resentment have a tight grip in the same way that the more one focuses on a problem the more engrained it becomes. Forgiveness results in a loosening of that tight grip. It generates space and creates capacity to doubt, modify and think anew.