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Question: "I need to know how to love unconditionally in the face of what seems to be cruelty, mean-spiritedness, and self-serving usury. I know I am not supposed to give energy to it, but the laundry list of events, remarks, and attitudes keeps presenting itself for my perusal. It is only when I feel the pain of the energy in my stomach and the tightness in my chest that I know I have been ruminating on it all again. I need details about how to stop that and turn it around - a step-by-step plan."

(This is an enormous question, and I will do my best to distill the answer down to its essence while still doing it justice. The step-by-step plan you are seeking involves the steps to forgiveness and empowerment, which I have outlined at the end of this column.)

Psychic Advice : Unconditional love is the greatest human and spiritual virtue, and as such, it is also our greatest challenge. Our mind and ego want to convince us of the illusion that we are separate from each other, because it is only through that sense of separation that the ego exists, and it will do whatever it can to preserve its own survival, including judge another. When we judge another, we judge ourselves, because we are all one in essence. Judgment is a form of attack, and when we harm another, we do harm to ourselves.

To love another is to love ourselves also, and unconditional love and acceptance is the highest form of love - it is the love that our Source has for each of us, because our Source knows that to love us is to love Itself, because we are all one with our Source. When we attain the mastery of unconditional love and acceptance, then we can fully experience that Oneness with Source, which brings us home and makes us whole again.

Our ultimate challenge is to be unconditionally loving and accepting toward ourselves, because what we do to ourselves, we will also do to others, and what we do to others, we also do to ourselves. Those who hurt others are in pain, and are trying to relieve their pain by inflicting it on another; they are trying to feel better and more powerful by overpowering another and making another feel bad. We have a tendency in our society to put others down in order to build ourselves up.

A person who hurts others is hurting, and if you show them loving kindness and compassion, you can demonstrate it to them, because they have probably never experienced it and don't know what it is. We learn our behavior by the examples we've been shown - if you want someone to act differently, you must be the example of that desired behavior in order to inspire them and show them another way.

People often come into our lives because of karmic bonds or sacred contracts. Karmic bonds occur when we have unfinished business with a particular soul from another lifetime. Karmic bonds are especially created when there is a lack of forgiveness between our soul and theirs, which serves to bind us together until there is resolution and forgiveness, which sets us both free. If you have ever met someone and felt an instant dislike or aversion toward them for no apparent reason, this is a soul you have unfinished business with from another lifetime - do not seek to find reasons to support your judgment, simply ask within yourself to forgive them and to be forgiven by them for all time, and set both of you free.

If you have experienced negativity, it is because some part of you is resonating on that frequency and attracting it, because like attracts like. You may have had negative thoughts or feelings about yourself and your own worth that attracted the treatment you have been receiving. If you change your thoughts, you will change your experience. We teach others how to treat us: if we will bend over backwards to avoid getting another person angry, then that person knows that he/she can manipulate us with anger and we will do what they want.

You can feel that it is harming you to hold negative thoughts and feelings about another because of the pain you feel in your stomach and the tightness you feel in your chest. These thoughts and feelings affect your health and wellbeing, and draw you into negative states of being that continue to attract negative energies and experiences. The pattern will continue to repeat unless you choose to break it by changing your mind, and by forgiving yourself and others. You must rise above it, and not let it drag you down.

There is a great deal of negativity on this Earth at this time, but if we all get dragged down into it, then all is lost. We must hold a higher vibration than that if we want to release and relieve suffering on this planet, or we will all suffer greatly from the pain of negativity and its ripple effects. Many people are wrestling with demons, such as abuse or addiction, and if we send them negativity and judgment, we feed that negativity and it never heals, because our negative responses support negativity and promote the dis-ease. This is why you cannot feed negativity with negativity, because you give it your power, which only serves to make it more powerful and more prevalent. What you focus your thoughts and energy on is what you empower.

At any moment, you can choose to change and re-write the past, either to serve your empowerment or your detriment. If you hold onto the vision of yourself and those you love as victims, then you give your "victimizer" your power, and that person wins. If you choose to take your power and accept your part of the responsibility (responsibility is about the power of choice, it is not about who is to blame or who is at fault), then you take your power and you win at life from that moment forward. The thoughts you hold in your mind and the feelings you hold in your heart and in your body will determine whether you win or lose this challenge, how it affects your life, and what your ultimate outcome will be. This is decided on a moment to moment basis, with each thought and feeling you choose.

We cannot always see the big picture or see how our negative experiences serve us, but the key to empowering ourselves and setting ourselves free is forgiveness and gratitude. Forgiveness releases us from the past and breaks the karmic bond - as long as we do not forgive, we are bound to that person and will meet them again in another life to replay the same pattern until we release them with forgiveness and thereby free ourselves.

Lack of forgiveness also keeps us trapped in the pain of the past, reliving it over and over again, and keeping it alive in the present. Forgiveness stops the pain of the past, but every time we have experienced trauma, we leave a piece of ourselves in that moment, and lose a fragment of our power. In order to reclaim that power and that piece of our soul, we must receive the gift that the experience gave us, and allow ourselves to feel grateful for that gift, and for the person who gave it to us. This is how we turn victim into victory, and terror into triumph. There is always a gift in every experience, because each experience is meant to help us grow and evolve as a soul, to the point that we reach unconditional love, which brings us home to our Source.

We must learn to see others as teachers and angels for us. When I lived in New York, I was assaulted and almost killed by a man who lifted me off the ground by my throat with one hand! I could feel the life and breath draining out of me, and for the first time in my life, I really wanted to live. I had received a premonition about the assault two or three days beforehand, but it happened nonetheless because it was a sacred contract. This man appeared out of nowhere, and disappeared afterward - I call him my dark angel, because he changed my life and set me on this path to help others. Through this experience, I learned how to forgive and reclaim my power, and I am happy to share that process with you.

The 5 Steps to Forgiveness:

1) ACCEPTANCE - Accept that this experience was part of a sacred contract that your soul agreed to in order for you to learn, grow and evolve. Don't play the "what if" or "if only" game of imagining what could have been different. There was nothing you could have done to change it in the moment, or you would have made that choice. However, you can change how it affects you and your life now by shifting your perspective and changing your mind, which will change the outcome for you.

2) COMPASSION - Compassion is one of the greatest forms of unconditional love: it is the willingness to put yourself in another person's skin, to feel what they are feeling and see things from their perspective. True compassion is often challenging, especially having compassion for one who has hurt you. We are all one, and in the cycle of reincarnation, we have been all things and we will be all things as part of the process of developing compassion under the illusion of separation. To have compassion for another is to have compassion for yourself, which begins the process of healing. This is not about feeling sorry for yourself, or feeling like a victim, it is about honoring your pain and holding yourself as a mother holds a baby, loving and protecting yourself. Once that healing is complete, then hold compassion for the other person - ask yourself, what kind of pain is/was that person in that they felt the need to hurt another? Where has that person come from, and what did/does that person need from me? What they need is unconditional love, and when you allow yourself to give that to them, you set them and yourself free from the past. If you find that you cannot bring yourself to feel unconditional love for them personally, you may call upon Divine Love to heal them, and yourself.

3) FORGIVENESS - Once you have compassion and understanding for another, then you can forgive them and release them. Visualize yourself holding a sword of light - the sword of truth - and with that sword, cut all ties to that person all around your body, because we become bound to others by cords of attachment from pain, trauma, judgment, anger, resentment, hatred, victimization, and non-forgiveness. Now set yourself free from this soul, and feel yourself standing in your autonomy. This completes your pain from the past, and ends the karmic bond between you.

4) RECEIVE THE GIFTS - There is a saying: "What does not kill us makes us stronger" - every experience offers us gifts and lessons, if we are willing to receive them. Most of the time, we are so focused on what we feel we have lost that we forget to look at what we've gained. Look for the gifts that you received from this experience - did it make you wiser? Stronger? Did you become more caring, kind, sensitive and compassionate? Did it make you more loving? What did you learn about yourself, about others and about life? How did it stretch your soul, and how is it stretching your heart and soul now? These are all gifts, and once you receive them and the lessons from that experience, then you break the pattern and no longer have to have experiences like that to learn from. Claim these gifts as yours, and you claim your power back.

5) GRATITUDE - In order to fully reclaim the piece of your soul that was left in the past, you must find gratitude for these gifts and lessons, and for the person who gave them to you. Accept that this person was a teacher and angel for you, giving you gifts that you could not have received another way, or else you would have. Some people will be inclined to feel outrage at this thought, but that is part of the victim mentality. Those who hurt us serve us by giving us opportunities to grow and evolve through our pain. When the heart breaks, it breaks open to have a greater capacity for love, if we choose to keep it open and not shut it down out of fear of more pain. If you hold the energy of gratitude for the gifts you received and the person who gave them to you, then you reclaim the pieces of yourself that have been trapped in the past, and you can become whole once again, more empowered and stronger than ever before.

These are the steps to forgiveness and reclaiming power. They are not easy, but they are effective in freeing you to love and to live life fully and unconditionally. Life is full of challenges, and the more awake and aware you become, the more you realize that these challenges are gifts and opportunities that support you to grow and evolve, to increase your love, compassion and faith, which brings you closer to your Source, and eventually sets you free and brings you home.

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