In 2014 I finished my first working of the 12 steps of AA, having started them in 2012 (and continuing to work them in my daily life). Since then I have noticed a definite upswing in my serenity. I think the biggest thing I’ve taken on this year is overcoming my resentments. I had listed them out, shared them and tried to amend for them previously, but overcome them? 2013 was a banner year for seething resentment. In some ways I think my very practice of resentment was like a pimple, coming to an angry head before they could be released and healed.
A friend in an AA meeting really helped me when he shared a passage from the Big Book (quoted in a previous post) about wishing for happiness for those you can’t forgive, and paying that wish lip service until you actually felt it – usually a process of just a few weeks. So I started doing that, listing my resentments out and putting them into a prayer box my new friend gave me. Then I read a very similar sentiment in Pema Chodron’s book “The Places That Scare You” (discussed in a previous post, but worth talking about again!) she encourages the practice of loving kindness: visualizing a wish for “happiness and the root of happiness” and being “free from suffering and the root of suffering.” First channeling something I feel unfettered love for, like an adorable dog. Then sending those same feelings to myself, and those closest to me. Then sending those feelings to people I love…then people I like…then people I don’t know…and finally, people who I hate/who trouble me/who I resent/who I struggle with. Finally I can wrap up the whole of existence in that feeling of unconditional love and adoration. I’m not saying I usually feel it – but in trying, I am performing “heart yoga” – stretching my love. It works so well. Doing that practice in the morning brings me much more serenity and joy throughout the day, like clockwork. I find myself letting go of lifetime resentments, and ferreting out brand new resentments before they have time to harden. Those resentments that I can’t let go of, I now remain deeply aware of, and can work on them. Before this year I didn’t even know how much/how many/how deeply I resented such a wide variety of friends, enemies, strangers, and random people throughout my day. Dealing with this has been the single most freeing, calming, anger-and-fear reducing thing I’ve ever done.
Most importantly, I’ve learned this year to be nice to myself. I resent myself so much less. I astonished someone in the meeting last night, as we were discussing a passage from the book “The Spirituality of Imperfection,” by pointing out how I talk to myself is how I talk to others, and vice versa. If I’m nasty and judgmental of myself, if I pick myself apart for imperfections, if I can’t forgive my shortcomings and honest mistakes, that comes out in how I treat others as well. If I am firm but gentle with myself, expect the best but forgive the worst, respect my boundaries, and use loving kindness as the basis of all my self talk, that is how I will treat others as well.
This year I caught myself in this cycle: Think a very catty thought about someone else, then think to myself “Ugh I am a horrible human being.” Would I say that to a friend, out loud? Hardly! Yet that’s how I can talk to myself often. This year that practice was put in check, and replaced with a warm internal hug. Now when I am feeling attacked and judged, or angry and judgmental, I calmly and warmly visualize stroking my own hair in a warm bed, mentally petting myself. It really helps. I seek progress, not perfection.