Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Getting Past Fight or Flight

Knowing how way leads on to way...

My path seems to be heading one, clear direction--toward letting go of old stories, taking each day for a new day, and the heart of both those things--forgiveness.

I don't think there's a person alive who can honestly say they have forgiven everything of everyone and have, likewise, been completely forgiven, by themselves or others.

I was brought up in a Christian household, and I was tuned in spiritually from a very young age. I can't help but to think of God, the Creator, in the best of Christian terms. I've met good Buddhists, kind-hearted atheists, devout people of all creeds (or non-creeds) but for me, the stories of the Bible, and especially, The New Testament, are personal to my own journey.

On the other hand, I'm a very independent person, and I believe God gave us a brain to use it. I decided some years ago that I was going to wipe my slate clean and start at the bare bones of belief--which is complete and utter disbelief. I got in touch with the nagging, Why don't you answer my prayers when I need you most? Why do you let us suffer? Why don't you show yourself? Why do you make this so hard--part of my thinking and decided to give it full light. I also decided that I would start to build a new foundation and that no rock or brick would be set in that foundation that wasn't something I fervently and truly believed. It had to be personal. It had to be real because everything depended on it.

As you can imagine, with that kind of thinking, I'm a very independent Christian woman. I'm also independent politically. I don't believe in becoming part of any group-think organization. I seek truth wherever I find truth. I don't live in fear of other's ideas. I love other's ideas, and I love for those ideas to challenge my own. I'd be afraid if they didn't. When everyone starts to agree, I get nervous. Working with animals has only solidified my beliefs, and I find that I feel closest to God in the barn--maybe because animals are truthful--100 percent truthful. This may sound strange to some (or not), but I value an honest atheist belief over a dishonest christian belief any day of the week.

My recent journey has brought me to the book, The Healing Code, by Alexander Loyd, PhD, ND, with Ben Johnson, MD, DO, NMD. My mom read it first, and when she was here visiting last week, she told me about it and then ordered it for me. I was surprised at how much of it had to do with what I was reading about horses. In fact, the authors said it has even helped some people work with animals.

The book explores the physical aspect of stress--a certain kind of stress--on the body. Basically, how living in unforgiveness/bitterness, relives traumatic, stressful events for us, both consciously and unconsciously, and that stress keeps our bodies in the fight or flight mode. When your body is in that mode, just like with horses, it conserves energy to keep up the most vital functions, like breathing. One of the things that gets shut down in order to conserve energy is the immune system. They also say, and when I read it to my husband, he agreed, that stress trauma is stored in the cells of our body.

I've written on my blog about how I came down with melanoma at the age of 34 at the most hopeless and stressful time of my life--I've always known it had something to do with the way I handled my issues of the heart.

In fact, I sought a counselor during that period of life because I was in a situation I didn't think I could forgive. She told me that bitterness was like taking poison then waiting for the other person to die. I had to think about that for a few minutes to understand it, then the light bulb went on--So, it's like ME taking poison, then waiting for the other person to die, but the other person is actually living very happily and totally unaware and unaffected by my bitterness...it's my own life I'm destroying.

Even though I got that loud and clear, releasing bitterness was beyond me. I couldn't pray it away, think it away, wish it away--it just did not go away. Instead, a sense of pride seeped in and I thought, You know, I've lived a pretty damn good life, and I don't deserve this. I'm a good person. I've prayed, I've studied, I've done pretty much everything everyone's always told me to do. What kind of God would let me suffer like this? From there, I entered the darkest days of my life.

Okay--back to now--I'm not there anymore--nor do I ever want to be back there again. The melanoma is, thankfully, gone. But, honestly, the forgiveness has not been complete. And, add to that, I found I wasn't so perfect after all, and I have a few things of which I need to forgive myself. I will say, I don't think you can forgive yourself until you've forgiven others. There's a scripture that goes something like, As you judge, so will you be judged. I've always taken that to have two meanings--a larger spiritual one and also a personal one.

There is a section of this book titled: The Heart Knows Only the Present Moment. Is that horse wisdom, or what? But they're talking about the human heart. They're saying, even though something happened in the past, if you haven't forgiven it and LET IT GO, it's just like you're reliving it again--in the present! Your body is reacting to the trauma of the event and will go, either consciously or unconsciously, into the fight or flight mode. You won't be able to ward off cancer or colds or any of the many illnesses that attack your system. You may also have eating disorders and a dysfunction in processing the food that does come into your body.

It's hard to let go of the past. The last time I wrote about forgiving and forgetting with our horses someone wrote back that maybe it's not good to forget--maybe that's nature's way of protecting us. But I have to wonder, is it protection if it causes us to feel bad and our bodies to work incorrectly? Is it protection if it causes us to live in fear? I've heard it so many times, I've forgiven, but I'll never forget. I'm sorry, but to me, that's not forgiveness.

Do you remember about seven years ago when a gunman went into an Amish school and killed the children there? Something happened after that that I'll never forget. First, the Amish group came out and said they completely forgave the shooter and rallied around his widow and children; they even held and comforted the shooter's father as he wept for his son. Second, they razed the schoolhouse to the ground and built another one on another piece of land and called it, The New Hope School. The reason they gave for doing this was that they believed in forgiving AND forgetting. (There were some people who criticized them for this.)

I want to tell you a little story from my Christian tradition--in my own words:

Once, Yeshua (the real name of Jesus) was invited to have dinner with the top religious people of his day and age. It was a great honor. These were "Godly" men. They lived righteous lives. But as he was relaxing after dinner, a woman (it is said she was a sinful woman--the Greek word is hamartolos or one who has committed a specific sin) who lived in that town heard he was there and wanted to see him.

She wasn't invited, but she came in anyway and knelt at his feet and cried. As she cried, her tears wet his feet, so she wiped them with her hair. She'd also brought a jar of perfume--very expensive--probably worth a year's wages--and she used this to perfume his feet.

Well, the host, Simon, was kind of disgusted, and he wondered at whether Yeshua could really be a prophet if he didn't understand everything--all the sins this woman had committed--and if he did, why he'd let her touch him like that.

Yeshua understood what he was thinking and asked him, Simon, If two people owed money to the same person, but one owed him five hundred dollars, and the other fifty thousand, and he was to forgive both of their debts, which one would love him more?

Simon answered, I guess the one who had the bigger debt.

Jesus said, You're correct. Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, that person loves but a little.

I don't want to try to tie this whole post up because I don't think it can be, and I hope I haven't appeared "preachy" with all this--this is just where my life's path has meandered. This book,The Healing Code, shows how the human body and mind functions best when it lives in the present and lets go of the past. So, maybe forgiveness and living in the present--taking each person and animal for who they are today--is as good for us as it is others. It certainly can't hurt.


  1. Linda, I find it interesting that you blogged about the book you are reading. I am reading a book called Life's Healing Choices. It is very loosly =very- on the 12 Step Program. It is 8 steps = The first one acknowledging that I am not God and can not control all things. Sometimes nothing. That is putting it briefly but its a wonderful healing group. We are part of a small group from church that is going thru it. I don't think you were preachy at all. I kind of thought about that when I blogged that Pepper got well because of prayer. God does care about what we care about and we care for Pepper alot. But if anyone was offended tough I guess. Love your blog. You write so proficiently.

  2. Thanks, Lea. I wrote from my heart. Sometimes I'd like to use the delete key and keep it from getting out there, but that's what I believe, and part of our life with horses is how our journeys come alongside one another and inform and help the other.

  3. I have a very close friend who has suffered through many tragedies, the latest of which is the diagnosis of bladder cancer. These tragedies have caused her to turn away from her faith. She says she cannot believe that a loving God would allow so many bad things to happen to good people. And she is very good people. I am many years younger than her and have led a very blessed life, thus far. When we talk about this I simply listen because I do not know the heartache she does and so I don't feel as though my faith has been tested and I'm afraid of sounding pious. I pray for her every day; for peace and comfort and hope. And, after reading your post, I will pray for her to forgive and forget, both herself and God.

    Thank you so much for this post. I will look for this book.

  4. I don't think though that forgiving and forgetting necessarily means allowing a person or bad situation back into one's life with the forgiveness. Sometimes I think the better term might be forgiving and accepting, accepting that certain people and experiences can no longer be a part of one's life in a healthy way, and that this acceptance is okay, too.

  5. Thee are a lot of things in this post that I could touch on, but I'll just say, God bless you on your journey- both within yourself, and with your horses.

  6. I can only speak for myself, but in those dark times I wrote about, the people who just stood by me and took me where I was at--which I assure you, was not such great a place and probably not easy for them to do--eventually got me to a better place. I think you're doing the right thing, and I hope she finds peace through this.

  7. Joanne, I couldn't agree with you more--thanks for adding that. Sometimes, a bad situation can't be fixed, and you have to accept it and move forward. That was certainly true in my case.

  8. Excellent post. I consider myself a deeply spiritual person but not at all religious. I know, from reading this post, that you understand where I'm coming from. The forgiveness thing is hard. In my experience, I had to first look at myself without all the excuses and explanations and justifications and come to terms with the really awful pain I had caused to others. The recognition and self-loathing weren't fun. But I wasn't able to move on and forgive the part of the story that caused me pain/hurt until I acknowledged my own culpability. Funny how once that happened, the story lost its hold on me. I suppose that is a form of forgetting...

  9. Speaking of trials--we've all been praying for the people of Japan as they go through theirs. My brother and his wife and daughter just moved back here from there last January. My sister-in-law's family are all in Tokyo and would like to leave but can't get gas for their car.

    If you want to, you can donate $10 to the Redcross to support their disaster relief efforts and help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific by texting:

    Directions: Text REDCROSS to 90999 and they'll add it on to your phone bill.

  10. Annette--I've gone through the same thing. It was hard to see myself that way, but my horses helped me. They were honest mirrors. All we can really do is try to be the best we can be today...and take it step by step. I try, and hope I do, extend the same grace to others. I feel very much like the person with the $50,000 debt that was forgiven, and that's actually a pretty great place to be. I'm just so grateful for all the happiness I have now--and the family and friends around me. I'm pretty blessed...and I damn well know it. ;)

  11. I think sometimes when people say they are forgiving but they will never forget, they are still holding a grudge of some kind and that kind of forgiveness never works.

    I do very much believe you can forgive and still remember what it is you have forgiven and I think sometimes it's really important to do that. My example would be the extreme abuse I suffered as a child. To heal from that I had to remember it, understand it and change the perception I had learned in it's process. An important part of my healing has been maintaining my new perspective and sometimes to do that I must remember how bad things were when I lived under that old distorted perception that comes with victimization. Not forgetting the pain and lessons of those times has been a huge help in keeping me free from the opression I learned in that environment.

    I might add in that old perception I might have blamed God for the bad things that have happened in my life. Under my new perception I know God didn't chose for there to be evil in the world, He chose to let us make that decision for ourselves. Then we, humans, wallowing in our pain chose to blame God for the choices we have made.


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.