Acknowledge, Forgive, Atone.
I see things differently, today. What was once shameful can now be let go. It all has to do with balance.
I have been onto the subject of atonement for about a week. It's one of those words (like shame once was for me) that I could give an intellectual definition for, but without really understanding what it meant.
I see actions of atonement as sacred offerings.
Things can get out of balance in life due to many reasons, some of them we can understand, and others are completely beyond ones comprehension.
My mission in life is to take on what I can and do something about it, even if it's not my fault. This will help put things into balance.
When I eat at a public place, and someone has left a bit of trash on the table, this mission is easy to follow. First I acknowledge the trash. Then I forgive the apparent oversight of whoever was there, or maybe a tired staff that didn't make it to my table. Then I atone by taking action--either cleaning it myself or asking for help. And I offer it up. I am grateful for my experience. Maybe I have left the place a little nicer for the next person.
But for some reason it hasn't been as easy to take the same kind of responsibility for my own mental space. When I have found emotional debris inside, sometimes I exacerbate it by feeding anger or hurt toward myself or someone else. So if I am in line with my mission I am going to acknowledge, forgive, and atone rather than fuel bad feelings.
Bad habits can accumulate problems: debt, clutter, physical toxicity or even illness. What if I were to uncover an awareness about emotional eating: eating fatty high carb, sugar snacks to cover up sadness or frustration? Well what if I also remember that this is how emotions were dealt with by people I grew up with. Like, what if eating seemed like the only pleasurable thing that happened around the house? Clearly, there is an opportunity to place blame on upbringing. But continuing unhealthy behaviors like this doesn't do any good.
So in order to make a positive contribution to my life, it is up to me to take responsibility for what I find in myself, whether it is my fault or not because ultimately it affects me. First I acknowledge the behavior--I recognize that it is a regular fixture in my life. Then I forgive myself for having given energy to this behavior that is harmful in that it keeps me emotionally stunted--I have been eating and stuffing my feelings down my own throat rather than truely acknowledging my reality. And I forgive myself for behaviors that have also been a drag on my physical health.
The next step is atonement: what am I going to do about it. I might want to plan to process my emotions through writing or communicating to trusted support. I am also going to make a better choice in the moment. When I am running towards that brownie and coffee, can I stop that action and atone instead? I could atone by sitting down to write, or taking some deep breaths, or if there is available space I can go meditate, or do a yoga practice. Or maybe I can choose a healthy snack if I am hungry. These might just be first steps, I realize: I might discover other actions I can do to continue to atone and further balance myself. And as difficult, or not-so-difficult things come up I can do something and offer these things up, because in processing these things I am accomplishing my divine work, and clearing myself to be of greater service to this world and my community. The less caught up in myself I am the more I can help.
So atoning for me means doing something to balance a situation. Acknowledging and forgiving might be primarily mental activities, but atoning, the way I am seeing the word, is taking a physical action like going through the paperwork that is past due, or actively doing something helpful instead of doing the unhealthy activity, or cleaning up the clutter. And then offering these actions to a higher power or greater good, and trusting that there is something good on the other side of what was once the overwhelming problem.
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