Choose Peace

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Letting go of grievances can, at the best of times, be a struggle, however hard we may try. Each time we recall what happened, we experience the pain as if it were afresh. We feel wronged, and at times, with good reason to be. But whilst we may feel justified in holding others accountable for our unhappiness, it rarely, if ever, serves its purpose. Instead we render ourselves immobile, incapable of moving forward. Grudges and deep-seated resentments not only effect our lives and the lives of those closest to us, but they also wreak havoc with our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Thoughts of: “If only he’d change; if only she hadn’t treated me that way; if only my circumstances were different, then my life would be so much happier…” – only serve to prolong our pain and misery.

There is a famous quote believed to have been said by Buddha that states: “Holding on to anger is like drinking a cup of poison and expecting the other person to die.” It is we who suffer, not they.

Today, may we find that sacred space in our hearts, that peaceful place that frees us from the binds of non-forgiveness.

In love and light,

Hayley

Be The Light

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There are some things in life we feel are simply unforgivable. So horrific, in fact, that we question: What kind of a God would allow this to happen? We question why a loving God would allow countries to be at war and people to die of hunger. But as Marianne Williamson reminds us: ‘Thirty-five thousand people a day die of hunger on earth, and there’s no dearth of food. The question is not, “What kind of a God would let children starve?” but rather, “What kind of people let children starve?”

So are we to direct our anger away from God and towards our fellow brothers and sisters instead? As purging as this may initially feel; to vent and blame and shake our fists at all the darkness we see in the world, will only add to the hatred and misery in it. As we express our rage we further mar our planet with our own discontent.

To penetrate the darkness, we must become the light. But what if the darkness is too overwhelming to bare? Then we must pray that we will find the courage to be the light amidst the darkness, and that others will find the strength to do the same.

A Course in Miracles states: Miracles are seen in light, and light and strength are one.

Our goal, therefore, is to illuminate our corner of the world, however small that corner may be. To shine our light on all with whom we meet so that they too, can feel safe to do the same. It is our light, not our darkness, that will make a change.

You may have heard the tale of The Little Soul in The Sun, by Neale Donald Walsch, the story of a little soul who announces to God: “I know who I am!”

God smiled and said: “Who are you?” To which the little soul replied; “I am Light.”

“Yes you are,” replied God.

But the little soul, living amongst others who also shone with the perfect brilliance of God’s light, felt like a candle in the sun. Amidst the beautiful light of which the little soul was a part of, it could not see or experience itself as it really was. The little soul yearned to experience itself as Light.

And so one day, witnessing the little soul’s yearnings, God suggested: “Little Soul, if you really want to see yourself as you really are, then you must call upon the darkness. You must separate yourself from the rest of the light so that you can experience yourself as light amidst the darkness.”

“What is Darkness?” the little soul enquired inquisitively.

“That which you are not,” replied God, and the soul understood.

And so the little soul did. It separated itself from the light and experienced all sorts of darkness. At it’s deepest despair it called out to God, “Father Father why hast thou forsaken me?”  poor_little_soul_

God replied, “I have not forsaken you. I stand by you always, ready to remind you of who you really are; ready, always ready, to call you home. Therefore, be a light unto the darkness and curse it not. And forget not who you are in the moment of your encirclement by that which you are not.”

Little Soul in the Sun is a timeless parable which serves to reminds us that without darkness, there can be no light; without fear, we could never know love; without up, we could never experience down.

Let us not forget ourselves amidst the darkness, and may we always remember that we are the light.

In love and light,

Hayley xx

Forgive. And dance.

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So many of us struggle to let go of grievances; she did this; he said that; she didn’t do this; he failed to say that. We hold grudges, turning a blind eye to the affects our deep-rooted resentments have on our lives and the lives of those around us. We justify our unhappiness and hold others accountable for the way we feel; if only he’d change, if only she hadn’t treated me that way, if only my circumstances were different – then my life would be so much happier. But when we view life through the lens of non-forgiveness – we give our power away. We become powerless.

Here, I tell the true story of a brave woman named Satta Joe; a story of immense courage and forgiveness. Satta lived in Sierra Leone during the civil war, a time of great upheaval and uncertainty. When the rebels attacked Satta’s village, she became the victim of gang rape. Her husband was shot dead and her seven year old son slaughtered before her very eyes. Curled up in a broken heap on the floor with her newborn child, Satta was left for dead.sattajoe

The man who had led the attack was Nyuma Saffa, a blood relative of Satta’s who had once tried to force his love upon her. Fueled by his grievance over Satta’s rejection and by his new allegiance to the rebels, he unleashed his attack upon Satta and her family.

Once the civil war had ended, the rebels returned to live in the village. Satta recalls feeling powerless: This was very hard for me, but what was I to do?  And that’s when Fambul Tok (Family Talk) arrived, a community led reconciliation program. They called for a meeting in the village and asked for those who had experienced suffering during the war to speak up. Satta bravely stepped forward and told her story. Fambul Tok then asked that Nyuma Saffa come forward to admit his crimes against Satta and her family. Finally, he confessed.

As part of the reconciliation ritual, Satta and Nyuma were asked to dance together as a way of forgiving the past. Understandably, Satta refused. She couldn’t bear the thought of holding Nyuma’s hands – the same hands that had raped her and killed her family. Though, after much encouragement – she bravely accepted. Satta states: As I took his hand I was sobbing, not out of despair but a sense of relief that perhaps now we could move on from this terrible pain in our past. I didn’t expect it, but they succeeded in making peace between us.

Satta Joe is one of many heroic people who, under horrific and seemingly unforgivable circumstances, have chosen the path of peace.

Forgiveness does not mean that what the other person did was ok. Forgiveness is choosing to shift our focus from one of pain, to peace. We forgive because we want to feel good. And holding onto resentment prevents us from feeling any peace within ourselves. It prevents us from moving forward.

If Satta Joe can forgive this man for inflicting terrible crimes against her and her family; if she can choose peace over pain and sorrow; forgiveness over bitterness and revenge – then isn’t it time we all cleared the floor and danced?

The Red Door

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We are sitting on the living room floor at number five Acresfield Road, my sister and I. I am five years old, Sarah is seven. Our eyes are glued to the eighties television set as we watch cartoons in our faded living room. Everything appeared to be brown back then; brown carpets, brown wall paper, brown television – a sepia stained era of times passed. Mum is at work earning her small income to keep us clothed and fed. During these times, Dad would take care of us. I never questioned why Mum worked and Dad stayed home, I guess I was too young to notice or to care. All I knew was that Dad took care of us after Gran dropped us home from school.

This particular day is to be one of my earliest memories, and it is one that will become etched into my existence, like a stray strand of hair which has embedded itself into my clothing, clinging on no matter how hard I try to shake it off. At most it simply shifts – falling to rest unnoticed on another part of me.

Dad appears in the doorway to our left, which leads into the kitchen. He is pacing back and forth, in and out of the living room, his face one of concern and panic. Fear transcends into my little body. I don’t know why Dad looks so frightened, all I know is that now I am frightened too. Dad’s right wrist is shaking and he grips it with his other hand in a bid to control the tremor. I stand, panicked. Dad tells us to, “Go away – leave!” We stare in horror and I begin to cry as Sarah grabs my hand, pulling me towards the other exit at the front of the house.

Dad disappears into the kitchen as Sarah drags me through the front door. Dad must have opened the back door because the moment we step outside the force of the wind courses through our home, slamming the front door tight with a deafening BANG. My heart stops in my chest. I turn to face the giant red door glaring back at me. The brass number five screwed to the top center of the door peers down at me as though mocking my age. “Five. Hah! What can you do?” The brass letter box sneers at me –  its gold teeth grinning with delight after swallowing my Dad up inside. My heart leaps back into action and I pound my small fists against the hard surface of the glowing red monster. I lift the brass letter box and cry out to my Dad, my voice trembling with fear and frustration, echoing deep into the belly of the house.

In later years, I told Sarah of this haunting memory, assuming that she would have her own version of events surrounding that moment – her own ingrained grievances, which I assumed would differ somewhat to mine. Yet, she told of how she stood waiting for our elderly neighbours, Ernie and Gladys, to answer the door, of how she remembers clearly watching as I repeatedly thumped at the door in a panic.

I don’t remember how I came to be standing in Ernie and Gladys’ back garden – the next thing I recall is watching in despair as Dad face planted into the concrete path of our own back garden – all six foot two inches of him. I remember how he fell without putting his hands out to break his fall. And that is where the memory ends.

It is one of my earliest memories, it is also when I learned of epilepsy; my first real encounter with fear, and my first recognition that Dad wasn’t safe.

***

I often hear that the opposite to fear is love – that love transcends all fear. I have also learned of the importance in letting go. For some it is a ritual, for others it is prayer – for me, it is through the process of writing. Once it is recognised, it can be turned over to the angels, to God, to Source or The Divine – however you wish to refer to Higher Guidance – for healing.

With every heart ache comes a lesson. Once we recognise the lessons, each one becomes easier to release. Those stray strands which weave their way into the fabric of our lives are freed by the winds of change and lifted towards the heavens.

As I look back on this memory, in the words of Dr. Wayne Dyer ‘I can see clearly’ the way it has shaped and contributed to habitual fears in my life – fears which I am beginning to notice have held me back on this spiritual path – fears which I am ready and willing to let go of. I notice the walls I have built between myself and that which I love; passions as well as people. The way I have refrained from loving the men in my life too much. A fear of losing them? A fear of being vulnerable? I am not sure. All I know is that I have been known to freeze up when becoming too close threatens my sense of security. It’s as though that big red door is standing between them and I – preventing me from fully accessing my loved ones, as well as accessing those passions which bring me the greatest sense of freedom and joy. It also occurs to me that red is one of my least favourite colours (and there I was convincing myself that it’s because I support Manchester City, not Manchester United!)

I have walked passed that house many a times. It is one of the many houses we lived in growing up. The door is no longer red, it has been replaced by a newer door with a stained wood finish.  Its size is no longer so large and looming, since I have grown some extra inches over the years. That big red door has been torn down, its existence is no more. I have no reason to hold on to its memory, no reason to fear it. I send that door love. I send epilepsy love. I send my Dad love. And most importantly, I send my five-year-old self love. There is nothing to fear anymore.

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Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

Writing 101, Day 5: Hook ’em with a quote
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Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

Dalai Lama

One thing I strive for each day, is to be kind. I don’t always get it right, but I do endeavor to be compassionate in my interactions with others; humans and animals alike. It isn’t always easy, especially when dealing with agitated or angry people. However, taking a deep breath before reacting, and ensuring that my response is honest, true and kind, helps to diffuse the situation and keep the peace most of the time. Should I falter and react from a place of ego, such as when I am tired, under pressure, or just generally feeling intolerant, then I will always seize the next opportunity to offer a heartfelt apology and to make things right again. Thankfully, forgiveness is also an act of kindness and one we should never take for granted!

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A simple act of kindness can leave impressions that last a lifetime, but the same can be said for unkind behavior; whether that’s yelling at the dog for getting under our feet, or snapping impatiently at a curious child who has asked too many questions, or ignoring a loved one’s efforts to tidy the house; all of these things can deeply affect those around us. Being kind is not as easy as it first sounds and I like to think that most people do not wish to intentionally hurt others, that the majority of the time we do so when we are unconscious of our words and actions. In these situations, Dalai Lama’s quote can remind us that it is always possible to be kind, even when we feel tired and stressed and agitated. That kindness is something we can all strive for, with a little patience and effort each day.

At the school I work in, we have three school rules:
Speak kindly to others;
Keep your hands, feet and objects to yourself (eg. never lash out at anyone); and
Follow instructions first time.

Whilst all three are important in keeping our pupils safe, the first two endeavor to teach our children from a very young age the importance of being kind to others. If we can nurture kindness in children, then we can also adopt the principles of compassion in our own lives and therefore, lead by example.

How can you be kinder in your interactions with others? How has kindness impacted your life?

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A Pause for Thoughts…

So far, my meanderings down memory lane have opened up some old wounds. I have relived painful emotions that I thought were buried long ago – as it goes, they were merely tucked away, hidden beneath the many depths and layers of my existence. One thing I have learnt during this process, is that reliving the pain of the past causes the original emotion, the one that was felt at the time, to resurface, making it all seem very real and raw again. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t cried fresh tears since embarking on this journey through my blog. So why, one might ask, would you put yourself through the trauma all over again? The answer is simple; revisiting the past after a period of healing is, for me at least, a chance to release some of the old hurts surrounding that time in my life – to unearth the tender emotions buried deep within so that I may replace them with meaningful substance. However deep and turbulent these waters seem at times, I know that they eventually lead to a beautiful, tranquil place; a place of freedom and a place of peace.

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