How do we find our way to forgiveness?

Why does it take a serious disease to make us rethink our lives?

Published December 9, 2009 1:09AM (EST)

Dear Reader,

This is going to have to be quick. When it has to be quick I try to make it just true. One way is to just write once through. I tried that last time I had to take painkillers. It worked OK. So I'll do that again. It's not that I'm on strong painkillers now. I just have more doctors appointments.

There is something to be said for writing a piece straight through. There's no going back. We writers, aided by the ease with which one can move text around using a computer, very well may revise too much. But that's an argument for another day. All I'm saying is that I have very little time so I'm going to write this straight through without revising.

I wanted to say more about forgiveness. I mentioned yesterday that one has to go through an internal process to arrive at a moment of letting go. This process can be quickened by having a scare. My recent cancer diagnosis was just such a scare.

One thought such a scare elicits is that we have been living all wrong. We've been stressed, angry, hurried, not taking good care of ourselves. We think, "Perhaps that led to this disease." We also think, "I've been wasting time worrying when I could have been enjoying life more." And we sometimes think, "I've been holding on to resentments that are doing no one any good."

As we see how our attention has been wasted regretting the past and fearing the future, we pay more attention to the here and now. As a result, we trust our intuition more. This leads to a greater incidence of synchronicity, or apparently positive coincidence.

So it was that the other night I found myself attending a meeting. It was not terribly unusual for me to be there, but I could have skipped it. I followed my instincts. There it turned out was someone with whom I had had a strong friendship followed by a falling out. It had been years. I had been stuck believing that this person owed me something. I had been insisting that I would not budge in my poor opinion of this person until the imagined debt was repaid. I felt  put-upon, ignored, dissed, even disgraced if you want to know the childish truth of it.

I have a side that is not very adult. Call it what you will. We must take care of this side, most of us, because it never grows up. Sometimes when the things we most care about are involved, this side is most present. So it was in this case.

When I saw this person, my first conscious response was dread. I groaned inwardly. But that was a protective response I had learned to project in public. My true response, my inner response, was gratitude and excitement. I was actually happy to see this person. Having been through two weeks of extreme fear, regret and uncertainty, I welcomed the chance to see this person from my past. During the meeting, it is true that I entertained various uncharitable thoughts about this person. But it was as though this childish side of me were fighting its one last battle to maintain its sick ascendancy. I was done with the old feelings. The old resentments lifted.

Afterward, this person sat near me and I was able to say with complete honesty that all that old resentment had lifted. It was gone. And it truly is.

Did I have to get cancer to experience this? Let's hope not. How can we come to cherish life and get our priorities straight? Sometimes it does take a shock of this kind. Perhaps we can get such shocks in other ways. Perhaps we can engineer our lives so that similar shocks of recognition are not so hard to come by.

It is true that I express my emotions through my body, often through illness. This has been true since I was a child. I resist knowing this and saying this but experience shows it to be true.

So the logical thing to do is to seek out peak experiences that can bring us to such brinks. One such recent moment, I must say, was the experience I had at the Sun magazine Into the Fire  conference at Esalen. Did I tell you about that?

Perhaps I will tell you about that tomorrow. Right now I have to go have a conference with a surgeon.

Surgeon rhymes with sturgeon. If I get scared looking at the surgeon, I'm going to think of sturgeon.

We're still selling books out of the house, one at a time as long as they last!

SYA cover

Makes a great gift. Can be personalized for the giftee of your choice. Signed first editions on sale now.

What? You want more advice?

By Cary Tennis

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