An exercise I use with coaching clients moving through transition is to write their own epitaph. Some are put off by this exercise, but others embrace it. Some find it validates their choices, while others realize their current life does not reflect their true aspirations.
Since we’re all different, what is important to us varies by age, sex, education, income, values, and abilities. And, as we age, our values and perceptions change.
The first half of life is about learning who we are in the world, choosing and establishing careers, and starting a family. For artistic souls, how to express themselves is critical. For security-minded folks, long term safety trumps risky challenges.
Later, as careers progress and families grow, we may find that what was once satisfying has become humdrum, maybe a little boring. At this point, many explore career transition, or develop new avocations.
Difficult life circumstances influence all our decisions. Victims of trauma and abuse who do not receive treatment can find their goals out of reach. They may have financial difficulties, trouble maintaining stable relationships or jobs. They may suffer from a nagging sense that something is wrong but can’t pinpoint what.
Anger and fear not processed block the creative energy that is our birthright. People who want to write, paint, design, or express themselves in any way may find resistance a formidable force.
- I don’t have time.
- I don’t know where to start.
- I don’t have the right education to do that.
- How do I know my work would be good?
These thoughts are negative programming held in the brain below the level of conscious awareness. We can hold beliefs from early childhood to old age without knowing what they are. All we know is that we don’t do what calls us. Not until we learn why we do what we do, can we uncover the beliefs that hold us back.
When asked how they want to be remembered, which is another way of asking, are you on track with your goals? Most people mention:
- Creative Work
- Personal Traits
If you try this exercise, and find you’re not engaged in activities related to your goals, this is a clue that it’s time to work on that negative programming.
Like the ancient goddess of crossroads, Hecate, with her ability to look both forward and backward in time, we can use past experiences to guide change in the present, so we can be more confident about how the future will unfold.
How do you want to be remembered?
We all have an inner critic. It’s a function of the conscious mind. Some have huge, robust, well-developed critics that comment and decide on every aspect of our lives. Others, more fortunate, have milder critics who appear only once in a while.
Every spiritual and psychological system of personal growth has ways to deal with the aspect of mind that criticizes, blames and judges to keep us where we are. The critic believes it is acting in our best interest.The critic wants to keep us safe.
Deciding to use forgiveness to work with the inner critic is a radical method that I have found works. This is not seeing the critic as an enemy in a war. While many are comfortable and energized by doing battle with what needs to be changed, I have never liked the idea of war. More useful is the idea of inquiry. The most severe critic is still part of us. It may sound like Mom or Dad of our second-grade teacher, but it lives inside our heads.
The ancient Hawaiian prayer of forgiveness, the Ho’oponopono, is a compassionate tool for personal work. It seems almost too simple to be effective, yet that is its beauty. Ulrich E. Dupree, author and teacher, wrote a little book about the Hawaiian ritual of forgiveness and how it can affect your life, your family relationships, friendships, even the environment.
The simple prayer is:
- I am sorry
- Please forgive me
- I love you
- Thank you
That’s it. A short prayer with roots into antiquity, it is part of the Hawaiian Huna tradition which teaches there is one power in the universe, the power of love. Ho’oponopono is compassion in action.
Its practice is a way of returning to unity, releasing judgment and condemnation toward the self and others, and finding harmony. Since it requires acting from the heart, it could be seen as a way of returning to the divine plan, which has compassion for all that exists.
This may be the opposite of what you learned. From infancy, we learn dichotomies, right and wrong, good and bad. All our institutions follow the hierarchical model. We move up or down, in school and then in work.
What stops us from experiencing the harmony and freedom from pain is our thinking minds. We come to adulthood attached to cares, fears, comparisons, standards, and beliefs about what we need to be happy.
The Ho’oponopono method of working with unease or distress takes a different approach. Instead of figuring out what we need to do, learn or achieve, these are the steps:
- We ask to reach within ourselves a place of recognition, courage, power, intelligence and peace.
- From that place, which can be described as sitting in the heart, we describe the problem and then search for our share in it. That could involve, for example, a judgment we’ve made, or an action, or a memory.
- We forgive unconditionally and speak the four sentences: I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.
- We give thanks, express trust and let go.
This method of personal change implies acceptance that we are co-creators of everything in our lives. On some level of awareness, we have accepted all we encounter. That does not mean we need to keep accepting it. Once we become aware enough to notice an issue, it is usually ready for healing.
I have found this method works, not only to forgive myself and others for making judgments, but to forgive my judgments of aspects of myself.
I find self-marketing challenging. I resist it. My inner critic tells me I’d be better off spending more time creating my fiction, not developing a platform to sell it.
That does not take into account the realities of today’s publishing world. Therefore, I can forgive the part of myself that does not want to spend time on marketing. As I do that, I can delve deeper into the issue and discover what I’m really afraid of.
This simple technique works wonders with resistance, with any form the inner critic takes.
I’m sorry. Forgive me. I love you. Thank you.
Everything has a right to exist. Even resistance.
The more we battle with what we don’t like, the stronger it gets. Forgiveness softens the hard, unyielding parts of ourselves that reach from the past to fasten their tentacles into our minds and keep us from living fully.
Even if you’re not convinced, try the Ho’oponopono prayer. It has worked wonders for many people.
To learn more about this method of forgiveness, read Ho’oponopono: The Hawaiian Forgiveness Ritual as the Key to Your Life’s Fulfillment