Renewal

Renewal: Seeing Your Life with Fresh Eyes, Feeling Your Life with a Fresh Heart

“There is in us an instinct for newness, for renewal, for a liberation of creative power. We seek to awaken in ourselves a force that really changes our lives from within. And yet the same instinct tells us that this change is a recovery of that which is deepest, most original, most personal in ourselves. To be born again is not to become somebody else, but to become ourselves.”

Thomas Merton

“Our words can lead us down a path of renewal and increased personal fulfilment.”
Sandra Marinella

What comes to your mind when you think about renewal? That is, aside from how we commonly use the word when looking to renew our driver’s license or membership in a health club.

If you had the chance to do the Forgiveness Process in the last issue, you might have experienced another aspect of renewal. You may have noticed some relief and the experience that you had been restored to a refreshed sense of who you are. You may have seen that you can rise above the frustrated, angry, and irritated thoughts that can crowd out anyone’s ability to see who other people really are in their hearts.  The following quote reflects what I’ve heard, over the past forty years, from hundreds of people who’ve  completed the Forgiveness Process: 

Luanne: “Ok. I used this process on a coworker who works with me at the health clinic in our town. We see each other every day. I know I’ve given up permission to bring up the old negative thoughts I used to have about him. And guess what: knowing I’ve forgiven him and have untied him from my complaints, I see an entirely different side of  Walter! He has some creative ideas about making our intake procedures even more efficient! And here’s the thing: I feel great! Like I’ve lost 20 pounds. OK, I haven’t really lost them, but I do feel better about myself.”

In the article on forgiveness, I told you the one caveat Father O’Rourke explained to us. In this form of forgiveness, you don’t do it for yourself. Instead, you do it for the sake of the person you haven’t forgiven. You let them down from that wall where you plastered them with your negative thoughts, feelings, and stories. You do it because you no longer want to be someone who does that to others. Period. 

But remember, I asked you to start with someone who only scores “2 or 3” on a 10 point scale, where 8-10 represents the “Big One” who’s there for you to forgive.  You need to have a successful experience before “graduating” to those who score higher.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at  Luanne’s experience. The relief she’s talking about, the renewal she’s experiencing, is not because she’s “free” of Walter. It’s because she’s no longer suffering the effects of her former thoughts about him. 

This is the point: in our hearts, you and I were designed to recognize the greatness in other people! We were made to see that everyone has something to contribute. That’s why it takes such a toll on us to hang on to our resentments and our stories that belittle them. I have never met anyone who loves to think negatively about others.

To be sure, there are those of us who have undergone and endured great hurts in our life. That’s why as a psychologist,  I advocate therapy to heal those wounds. And, once they are healed, the question is: what’s next?

Forgiveness is one way to open us up for renewal.  What are some other ways? To answer this question, let’s look again at what renewal is all about. 

Thomas Merton,  an American Trappist monk, writer, theologian, mystic, poet, social activist, and scholar of comparative religion,  offers that  “There is in us an instinct for newness, for renewal, for a liberation of creative power…..a spiritual recovery of that which is deepest, most original, most personal in ourselves.” 

This description of renewal gives us hope that we possess a creative, regenerative power within ourselves. It already exists there, so we don’t have to go searching for it. We must simply allow it to emerge. When I read that quote, I experienced some immediate relief. I don’t have to work hard to experience renewal.  Well then, how might we begin this experience? I have some thoughts. I hope they are useful for you.  After all, even as I write this, in Sacramento we are being deluged with pollen coming from hundreds, maybe even thousands, of trees that are contributing to the renewal of their species. At times you can see it coming down like soft snow flurries. 

It all starts with where you are willing to focus your attention, and also the kind of action you are willing to take. The operative word here is “willing.” You may not want to do something, or you may not think you can do something. However, are you nevertheless willing to try a few things out in order to experience a sense of renewal?

  1. Being in nature right now is one of the most direct ways to begin. Wherever you live, how are the plants and trees doing in your neighborhood? Have you seen birds vying with each other for the “hand” of the most attractive female around? If you want to know what I mean, you might watch some documentaries by Sir David Attenborough!
  2. Read the quote below from President Obama. He admonishes us not to wait for good things to “happen” to us. He says to get out and make some good things happen! OK. Where, in your home, office, or neighborhood, are you willing to make some good things happen? And, what might they be?  Planting a small garden? Treating the person standing in line, either in back or front of you, to a free coffee of their choice? Just because you want to do it? Find one small “good act” and do it every day for ten days. When you do this, what do you notice?
  3. Watch Br. David Steindl-Rast on YouTube talking about a “Grateful Day.” It’s five minutes of pure heaven. I have suggested to a number of my coaching clients that they watch him first thing in the morning for thirty days. Rain or shine. No matter what. 
  4. What might you do that you haven’t done in a while because of the pandemic? Sit for ten minutes and write down at least two things you could do that would open your heart. Seeing a loved one? Meditating in a beautiful place for a few minutes? For more than a few minutes? Going for a walk where there are flowers?
    I’ve listed only a few things you could focus upon or activities you could do. The point is to do something!  Renewal is the result of the action that we take. And, as Merton says:

“To be born again is not to become somebody else, but to become ourselves.”

ARE YOU WILLING?

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”
Barack Obama

Wishing you all my best,