It is Autumn, the season of letting go, and forgiveness in my mind is the ultimate form of letting go.
Milk Thistle is medicinally used as a liver tonic. In Traditional Chinese Medicine the liver is the organ that governs the smooth flow of emotions including anger and rage. It is a super prickly, spiky plant and obviously needs to be handled extremely delicately. The prickles are a powerful defense system, just like the liver, but if you are not careful you’ll wind up causing yourself substantial pain.
So this month I have been thinking a lot about how we channel and process our strong feelings, not just towards others, but towards ourselves too, so that we don’t create, store and perpetuate lasting pain.
I am a peaceful person...non-confrontational...but that doesn’t mean I don’t experience anger or frustration. It just means that (I have discovered over the years) instead of having the understanding and ability to express my anger in a healthy, non-judgmental way I have bottled it up. Filed it away somewhere under my “good girl upbringing” and “acceptable societal norms.”
Milk Thistle says, “Life has taught you to protect yourself, but sometimes you end up hurting yourself in the process.”
So often when we think of forgiveness then, we think of forgiving others. Those difficult people in our lives, those relationships and experiences that have hurt us, and so on.
What Milk Thistle is asking me to do is FORGIVE MYSELF too.
I am thinking about all the rage I have directed at myself hidden in the form of self-pity and victimhood.
I am thinking about all the shame and guilt I have directed at myself disguised in the form of perfectionism and not-good-enoughness.
I am thinking about all the resentment I have heaped upon myself concealed in the form of self-imposed limits and poverty consciousness.
I am thinking about all the physical pain I’ve experienced in my life too. How we judge what is worthy pain and what is not. And how we fear pain and instinctively do all we can to avoid and minimize it, although clearly this is impossible.
If the liver is responsible for the smooth flow of strong emotions, and I’ve stored them up, my liver must be working over time energetically! Add to that all the ibuprofen I’ve used over the years to numb the pain of my chronic headaches...it’s a wonder it can do its job at all!
And it’s a vicious cycle too.
Self-care. Self-care. Self-care. If I just took better care of myself, I’d feel better, maybe never have another headache again. More shame. More blame. Do you see what I mean?
And the shame and blame is energy. Heavy, painful, dark and lonely energy. I can feel it. We carry it around, our burden, and our spiky shield separating us.
Sometimes, I feel outward waves of anger, judgement and frustration too, brought on by something someone else has said or done. Like pouring salt on an open wound my physical body feels it deeply. These emotional triggers have a way of poking into the darkest places of ourselves.
And sometimes, before I have adequate time to process and express this energy in a "healthy" way, my thoughts and words erupt laced with venom and sharpness and are filled with my own pain in response.
And when the fight is over, what is left? A lot more hurt. My own and others. I am torn up and bleeding as the shame and guilt of what I could have said, and should of done, sinks in.
This is where I realise, there is no other.
I must hold myself accountable for my choices and my actions. I recognize that I need to have strong boundaries about what is ok for me and what is not. But equally I must remember that everything that I think, do or say that is not based in love will ultimately just hurt me.
Milk Thistle says, “I forgive you. I know you don’t want me here and I am difficult to ignore, but if you don’t handle me gently, with the deepest respect, and love, you will surely feel my presence.”
And so I take a deep breath and ground myself into the earth in a moment of quiet pause and reflection, and I ask Spirit to show me the Truth.
I don’t want to perpetuate the pain. I want to transform it. I want to heal and release it so that love and connection and abundance can flow in to fill its place.
I want to take that anger, take that rage, and burn down the veils that separate us all, that make us think we are different, alone and disempowered—victims of the cruel, painful world in which we live.
I FORGIVE myself for looking for external validation.
I FORGIVE myself for my watery boundaries.
I FORGIVE myself for feeling unqualified to lead/mother.
I FORGIVE myself for eating foods that my mouth loves but makes my body feel crappy.
I FORGIVE myself for not loving my curves.
I FORGIVE myself for holding myself accountable to impossible levels of perfection that I would never expect from anyone else.
I FORGIVE MY RACE, MY GENDER, MY PRIVILEGE, MY SPIRITUALITY, MY ANCESTORS...
I FORGIVE myself for taking myself so seriously!
I FORGIVE myself all of these things and many, MANY more perceived shortcomings.
I make peace. You have to find forgiveness and love for yourself before you can find forgiveness and love for others.
I know in my heart that forgiveness of our human-ness—our fragile, beautiful, ugly, imperfect humanity—is the only way to embrace true compassion and love for myself AND others. The only way to truly remember that there is DIVINE LOVE flowing through us all.
Milk Thistle, thank you, thank you, thank you for helping me to understand the incredible power of forgiveness.
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On our metaphorical dance floor that is life, we are faced with many choices every moment about what steps to take next. Lady’s Slipper asks if our steps come from within, guided by our connection with our higher selves, or if are they choreographed by others?