Forgiveness that Works

Photo: Jeremy Thomas

Engaging and Releasing in the Darkness of the Night

It was one of those moments that rise up now and again in my life. I have been pressing forward on the latest creative ventures, the distribution and marketing of two new novels that are just moving into the process of publication. Things have been going mostly fine, but it is a major push with a seemingly endless list of tasks. Inevitably there are obstacles.

Now it should be noted that obstacles are inevitable in any creative or innovative venture. Resistance is woven into the fabric of the universe, and nothing comes into form without it. Being aware of that fact, I use my not-insubstantial self-will a great deal in order to push forward. Yet in some particular matters each effort seems to multiply into still more impediments. At each juncture, I will take a deep breath and press onward.

Things came to a head early in the morning a few weeks ago. My psyche has a particular trick it plays on me when confronted with difficulties. It awakens me between two and three in the morning with an incessant litany of planning.

Given my familiarity with the routine, I know to draw my attention to the breath rising and falling in me. It’s a meditative technique that often lulls me back to sleep.

Get up and write an e-mail to explain the next steps to the publisher. Breathe. Why can’t he just accept the changes? Breathe. How can I better document them? Breathe. Pull out your journal and deal with your frustration. Jesus, I need to get some sleep. Breathe. Maybe I need to run it by my marketing team.

I’m sure you understand this pattern, what some have labeled the hour of the wolves in recognition that humans have long awoken to fears in the darkness.

On this day, the technique could not quiet the internal dialogue. After forty-five minutes of trying to focus only on breathing, I resorted to the only good option. I got out of bed, headed for the coffee maker, then settled into my favorite chair with my journal. Writing does not actually quiet the psyche, instead it turns the machinations into material for consideration. It’s an engagement strategy that usually exhausts the busyness of the brain, eventually creating an expansive space through which I can be released.

Yet on this occasion the mental stirrings were inexhaustible. On and on I went until finally I tossed my journal to the coffee table in frustration, threw on my walking shoes and headed out into the darkness of a still-not-breaking day.

As I plodded along I stole an engagement technique from Bill W, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, who found that when all else failed, if he walked and counted his steps eventually the turmoil inside him would release. Step followed step followed step until a weary quiet finally emerged. With this internal yielding, I softened my gaze downward and just walked.

A short while later I realized I had driven myself into this difficult space with the publisher through my self-will, and that I had reached my limit in believing I could succeed with enough push. With that simple acknowledgment, the inner battle was clearly done. There was no longer a need to plan. I experienced release, which is actually a demonstration of self-forgiveness.

With a deep breath, I heard myself utter a question, “What’s the lesson?” Even in a state of release we can continue to engage so we can grow still further.

Whether because my psyche had been silenced by weariness or mercy, I will never know. An answer came quickly. I realized that the inner drive to prove myself successful had failed me. Sadness arose as yet another layer of self-forgiveness.

The Russian spiritualist Georges Gurdjieff insisted the only right we really possess is the right to be present in awareness. He said that everything else could be lost, but not consciousness of this moment. No matter the circumstances, I can find my way to experience the experience.

That was a transcendent moment. As a result of engaging myself, and finding release on multiple levels, peace fell upon me. My inner burdens had vanished. In fact, lightness had descended upon me. I felt my mind begin to probe, but this time I had just enough awareness that I turned my attention to the day ahead. In the east, a faint line of light stretched across the horizon.

Seeing True

Typically we do not see forgiveness as releasing that which binds us. Yet we crave that release, especially when the demands of holding on eventually cause us to suffer.

Some would say that in fact true forgiveness is a deep acceptance of ourselves and our circumstances. The relief we feel is only a sign of inner work completed.

Seeing True in Action

Sometimes we can only begin with an inquiry of ourselves.

Am I feeling frustrated? Discouraged? Disturbed?
What am I expecting or pursuing that is not appearing?

We do not need to find a solution. Instead we explore the means by which we are attached to the struggle.