Armed with a brimming glass of red box wine and a decent night’s sleep, I feel primed to tackle a topic at which I feel as adept at as Frisbee. Those of you who’ve had the “privilege” of watching me launch a Frisbee know there are equal chances — once the fated orb leaves my grip — the Frisbee will go any direction at all, including behind me.
At any rate, it’s time to take up the proverbial Frisbee and marinate upon the art of forgiveness. Why do I refer to forgiveness as an art? Because, at least to me, it isn’t something that comes particularly naturally — it’s something I must consciously return to, cultivate. It’s a practice.
Most successful practices call for discipline. Disci-what? I’ve been about as stellar at establishing routines as Trump is at speaking truth — but never say never!? In the last few months, I’ve unearthed comfort and joy in routine. Apparently, I’m not the only one to reap the benefits of a good ritual… I have a lovely book called “Daily Rituals” which — to borrow an example that speaks to my wordsmithy heart — outlines the daily drills of famous writers and artists.
- American novelist, poet, playwright, and art collector Gertrude Stein (who wrote daily, but never longer than 30 minutes) said, “If you write half an hour a day it makes a lot of writing year by year.
- American Writer Henry Miller committed daily to two to three hours a day in order to maintain a creative rhythm.
- Maya Angelou (one of my personal favorites) found writing at home a bore and instead wrote in a hotel or motel from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day.
- Nathaniel Hawthorne (he of The Scarlett Letter) established habits which rarely varied, especially in fall and winter. He said, “I religiously seclude myself every morning, much against my will, and remain in retirement until dinnertime or thereabouts.”
So — writer that I am, penning my own future — I created a routine to sow these tiny seeds of forgiveness. To the extent that I can at this time I — groggy, uncaffeinated, in the dark of a post-Daylight Saving era — slather this ritual onto my morning routine like cream cheese on a bagel. It involves a little tincture of mysterious herbs which smells magnificent and was made lovingly for me by my long distance healer and friend, Emareya.
I believe there is much about the Universe that begs to be known — and I, frankly, know as much about anything as a many humans know about tipping. I will include the following receipt as proof, for those that didn’t spot it previously on Facebook:
But Emareya is one of those beings who is connected to the General Scheme of Things — the Universe, the Divine, a Higher Consciousness, God, what have you — and carries wisdom like a mantle. She concocted and mailed a tincture — labeled “Essence of Sylva” — to me some time ago. I texted her to let her know her masterpiece arrived and she said, “Your formula seems very powerful to me. It will help you make some good moves.”
On the first whiff, the Wiser Self inside me said: this is a tool to help you forgive. Sure, it might seem a bit kooky or New-Agey but I embrace any beneficial, positive lesson I receive these days. And so each morning, I rub a little of the spicy-sweet oil on my left wrist and say:
I forgive myself for all the pain I’ve caused myself and others.
I scurry around looking for my phone then rub a little on my right wrist and say:
I forgive (insert a name or two) for the pain they have caused me, even to this day.
I fetch a glass, fill it with water, chug it, apply some mascara, rub a little oil on my throat and say:
I let go of (insert name/s), of my past, my expectations and anything that doesn’t serve me anymore.
I slip my jacket on, shovel in a bite of yogurt or a leftover bagel, rub another drop on my heart and say:
I find my own path, follow my open heart and go the way that is right for me.
And then I close my eyes, bow to the smudged mirror and say:
To the best of my ability, I surrender to what is and offer all I’ve let go of to the Universe for the goodness of all things.
And then — most likely almost or actually late for work — I run outside to start the Audi, realize I forgot my phone, run back inside, realize I forgot to scrape off the windshield, shovel in another bite of bagel and then screech into Blue Moon just in time to take off my jacket, shove on work shoes, yank on the open sign and fling open the front door to let in the flood of hungry humans.
The funny thing about forgiveness is when I try to practice it, it often exhumes its opposite: anger, hurt, pain, sadness. But these are the stepping-stones to starting anew. They come, they go and eventually, I will be able to forgive myself and others entirely; someday I’ll even be able to love and understand those who hurt me. Sometimes it seems like forgiveness is harder than giving away all my shoes and traipsing about the snow barefoot. But, I know all things are possible; how else could I have arrived exactly where I am now?
One of the tools I’ve used is an audiobook by Jack Kornfield called “Guided Meditations for Difficult Times.” The real meat and potatoes show up about halfway into chapter five through chapter six, where Kornfield leads his listeners through a forgiveness meditation. In order to release the burdens of and soften the heart, he focuses on three layers of forgiveness:
- Forgiveness from others for the ways we have caused them pain.
- Forgiveness for ourselves and the ways we have hurt or harmed ourselves.
- Forgiveness of those who hurt or harmed us.
Numero tres, of course, is a doozie and probably why it happens to be the last tier on the forgiveness cake. Sure, clearing the hurdle of our self-inflicted wounds is tricky. So too is accepting and releasing the ways we have wounded others; to say I don’t need forgiveness for many things I’ve done would be a huge lie. But the last one — offering up forgiveness to those who have betrayed me or caused me pain, pain that still radiates — is a true feat. Some might say (including Jack Kornfield) it’s even an act of courage.
I do not feel particularly brave these days, however I do recognize the importance of keeping my heart soft. I believe hatred is not only easier to perpetuate — look at our treatment of Muslims and other races under the new Trump-tastic era — but its damages are insidious and long-lasting.
But in the end, forgiveness isn’t about the other; it’s about the self. Forgivness does not condone the things others have done — no! It requires me to stand up and say I will do my very best in the future to guarantee others are not harmed again in the ways that I have harmed them. And to you who have betrayed me and caused me pain even to this moment, I will do all I can not to shut my doors. Rather, my heart shall remain an open window into which all sorts of wondrous things will flutter.
Of course, Thich Nhat Khan says it best:
The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.
And what to do until I can master the art of forgiveness entirely (it might be awhile)? Go skinning of course!!