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Spiritual Inventory Self-Help Advice

Written by Pat Sullivan

This autumn Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) has much to teach people from all traditions all year round.
 
Advice
One meaning of atonement is to repent for the wrongs we've done others and ourselves, then to make amends.
Atonement also means to become "at-one" with others and the parts of ourselves from which we've become estranged.
Our souls crave atonement in all its meanings. Without it, we always feel at least a little off-purpose or off-base.
Atonement begins with spiritual inventory of what's meaningful and satisfying in our work and life, and what is not.
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"Yom Kippur is based on a powerful belief that you can change your life and redirect your relationships," says author and activist Merle Feld of Northampton, Mass. "The process begins with spiritual inventory on many levels."

Merle suggests asking yourself a series of questions that will help you take stock of the past year. How do I hurt those who are most intimately present in my life? How can I turn a new page in the relationship? What's my share of tikkun olam, the ongoing repair of the world? How can I be a better friend to myself?

It's customary in the days before Yom Kippur to seek out people who may need to forgive you. "You don't have to have solutions to whatever troubles the relationship before doing this," says Feld. "You can start simply by opening sincere conversations, such as 'I am disturbed that I always seem to be losing my temper with you.'"

Inevitably, spiritual inventory forces us to confront guilt. "That's a good thing, particularly in our culture of entitlement," says psychologist Ofer Zur of Sonoma, Calif. "But it's important to differentiate the source of the guilt. Feeling bad about who we are signals a neurotic guilt that can lead to personally harmful behaviors," he says.

Appropriate guilt, also called remorse, occurs when we did indeed hurt ourselves or others, including the Earth. The only way we can unburden ourselves from remorse is to face up to it and make amends to the best of our ability."

Amends are due not just to others, but also ourselves. Last Yom Kippur, Feld confronted the reality of her aging body. Since then, she's done more strengthening and cardiovascular exercise. "Being healthier has given me more strength to do the things I need to do in life," she says.

Atonement also requires us to humbly accept the fact that our amends making is imperfect. When we do so, we make room for one of the sweetest balms to hurting souls, which is grace.
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