I will share with you the first time I made a conscious choice to forgive someone from my past.
It was a very long time ago, way before I learned about the incredible Power of Forgiveness. Way before I understood how refusing to forgive and to let go had been destroying my life and coloring my every life experience. Way before I first heard the phrase "You create your own reality," a phrase that these days has almost become a cliche because it's been said and repeated so many times.
And yet IT IS THE TRUTH. The truth that has changed my life.
At that time I often suffered from painful headaches and would never leave home without a bottle of Excedrin in my purse. I also had recurring episodes of internal bleeding, which would land me in the hospital. Once, so much blood had been lost I was a step away from dying.
Other than that, I was okay. I smile as I write this, and you probably do too. A poor attempt at a joke. Forgive me.
I had a very busy life, a large business that I ran with my then husband, a son that needed my attention and time, a social life that was also part of the business. I longed to discover spirituality, and I was looking, reading, searching.
Then an interesting thing happened. A flier arrived in my mail box from an actress, Shirley MacLaine. She was going to teach a workshop in Seattle and it had something to do with your Higher Self. I knew nothing about Higher Self at the time, but I had read Shirley MacLaine’s book “Out on a Limb”. In fact, it turned my world upside down and was my introduction to spirituality.
Buying her book was an unusual thing for me to do. Yet, I picked it up from the shelf in and bought it in an instant. I had no idea what I was going to read. I did not put it down till I was finished. Several years later, when I got the flier announcing the workshop, I signed up and flew to Seattle.
I had no idea the workshop would be about Forgiveness.
Forgiveness? I used to be proud that I could never forgive the past.
I don't remember much about the two days I spent in Seattle. But what I do remember is one experience. Because it had changed my life.
We are sitting in the dark room with our eyes closed and Shirley MacLaine is taking us on a guided visualization.
“Bring the person that has hurt you the most” she is saying.
Who shall I bring? Suddenly, unexpectedly, the man I have once loved is in front of me, in my mind’s eye, clear as a day.
Our relationship ended so long ago. But not the pain of the loss.
The pain lived on, it just went inside somewhere deep, where we always tuck away unfinished things. And there it remained, as if forgotten.
“Tell him about your feelings,” Shirley MacLaine says. “Tell him how angry you are, how hurt. Tell it all.”
And it's as if all the time hasn’t passed. As if it all happened yesterday. I am crying now, but I am staying with it. I tell him all that comes to me. I do not hold back. He listens without a word. He doesn’t argue, he does not respond. Only his eyes fill with understanding, with compassion and with light. I can feel his remorse. I also see my own role in the break-up, something I never let myself see before.
I am overwhelmed. I am no longer angry. I want to hug him, hold him in my arms, tell him it is OK. I understand as well. But instead it is now his turn to talk. And just as if he were right there, in front of me, in real life, I begin to hear his voice in my head. His part of the story.
I never saw things this way before. It turns out I wasn’t as innocent as I remembered myself to be. He too carries his share of hurt and pain. He is also angry, and he has the reasons to be so.
I listen. By the time he is done all I can feel is how sorry I am. How much I want his forgiveness. “I am sorry,” I whisper. “Please, forgive me. I didn’t understand.” He smiles and nods.
And suddenly it is OK. All of it is OK. It doesn’t matter anymore. All is forgiven. The only thing that remains is love. The love we once felt, the love we feel again. We do not want to be together. Our time was in the past. But we are free to go our separate ways. “Good bye,” we whispers, as he fades into the night. “Good bye. And thank you.”
Many years have passed. I have had countless experiences of forgiveness since "my first time." Slowly, step by step, I was setting myself free from my past.
Often forgiving myself first, then forgiving another.
Before long my headaches were gone, and the ulcers became a distant memory.
Over time, talking about forgiveness, sharing the stories, helping people forgive themselves and those who have caused them pain became as natural and organic to me as breathing. It became both the mission and the avocation. It always will be.
I will leave you with this thought.
Behind every physical malady lies emotional cause.
Forgiving is the fastest avenue to healing.
To quote Eva Korr, an amazing woman and a holocaust survivor: "Forgiveness is the best medicine. It has no side effects. It is free. And it works."