Thursday, September 15, 2011

Peace Through Forgiveness

In The Magazine of Yoga™ Weekend Edition: Origami USA is sponsoring a 9/11 Tribute Paper Crane Donation Project for peace

"Forgiveness is an act of creation.  You can choose from many ways to do it.  You can forgive for now, forgive til then, forgive til next time, forgive but give no more chances, it's a whole new game if there is another incident.  You can give one more chance, give several more chances, give many chances, give chances only if.  You can forgive part, all of half of the offense.  You can devise a blanket of forgiveness.  You decide." 
 Clarissa Pinkola Estes

It is time…  Time for what you might ask.  Time to move on with our lives.  We marked the 10th anniversary of 9/11 this past week.  The day was filled with nostalgic longing for the lives we lived in illusion before that fateful day.  Like every generation before us touched with unspeakable evil, our hearts were broken, our spirit wounded, our psyche ever watchful, our bodies burdened with the load of carrying the collective anger and fear we all have held onto since then.  We are not the first to experience times such as these. In my generation, my parents faced the evil of Hitler and Pearl Harbor. My grandparents had World War I with the horrors of mustard gas killing and maiming our sons and fathers and grandfathers.  Times such as these are not new to the human race.  Evil touching our human life stretches back through millennia.  What touches one of our brothers and sisters touches each of us.  We are one great ocean of human existence with each wave directly and indirectly  influencing every other wave in this ocean of humanity.  Like every generation before us, we are now at a point where we must make the important decision of whether we will continue to hold onto the bitterness and fear infesting our lives or do we acknowledge the bravery of many of our brothers and sisters on that fateful day and allow forgiveness to enter into our being.

It is the natural human tendency to hold on to our wounds.  Our collective wound , meaning one of great magnitude touching all our lives such as the one we as Americans suffered that fateful morning of 9/11, continues to be deep and fresh all these years later.  For our safety, we are surrounded with triggers and reminders that we are not safe simply because we live in America.  The illusion that we were safe because we were surrounded by protective oceans from the rest of the world was shattered.  The fundamental freedoms with which we had become somewhat complacent over were used against us that day resulting in the loss of our feeling safe within our own American community.   If you are old enough, you will remember a time when we ran into the airport thirty minutes before take off surrounded by family sending us off at the gate and carrying our extra large bottle of  Coca Cola for the trip.  This morning, I watched as my disabled daughter’s purse was deemed a possible threat and had to be emptied into a grey container while they searched through her used tissues, strawberry lip gloss, and two handfuls of pennies and quarters lying in the bottom of it.  You would have thought they were searching for Bin Laden himself in her purse with  the thoroughness with which it was searched.  So we are left wondering how do we learn to feel safe and hopeful with life post 9/11.

In my yoga class, we begin with the breath each time we gather.  We focus on breathing in and out, which brings us to awareness of the present moment.  We are reminded to forego the past for these few moments.  We are reminded to put the future into a trustful rest that it will take care of itself.   Our awareness of the present moment does not mean that we forget nor condone our past nor leave our future into the hands of other human beings.  It simply means that we are beginning to trust that all is right within our lives at this time.  We are safe.  We are unburdened.  We are free of distractive thoughts that have the potential to fill our minds and hearts with fear and anger and sorrow, leading us on a perilous journey of a life sans hope and joy.  When we are free within this present moment the Divine can come and make its presence known and felt in our hearts.  We can then bask in the holy, meditative quiet that is the Divine.  We can learn to trust that we are where we are meant to be, this moment. 

It is in this quiet moment within our practice, within our lives that we can find hope and forgiveness.  Forgiveness does not mean that we condone what happened to those innocent people in the Towers, the Pentagon, nor the airplanes on 9/11.  It does not mean that we are saying in anyway that what happened was good and from God and we deserved what we got that day.  Forgiveness does not mean we will look away and leave ourselves vulnerable for future attacks.  Forgiveness quite simply means that we will let go of our resentment that had things happened differently, our past would have been different as well the morning of 9/11.  Forgiveness means that we make a conscious choice to focus on today with the lessons we have learned from the past to keep us safe, but also to not dwell in our wound from what happened to our brothers and sisters on 9/11.  It means that we will remember with loving kindness our brothers and sisters who were faced with immeasurable evil on 9/11 and who fought the battle for each of us.  For part of our fear is the knowledge that any of us could have been walking the path that day that led to the horrendous ending of so many innocent lives.  We can forgive ourselves, also, if in our hearts we are harboring any thoughts of “thank God it was not me, my mother, my father, my son, my daughter….”  Through forgiveness of what happened to us, we can come to a place of healing within our bodies, our emotions, our thoughts, and our spirit.

Some of us might think that forgiveness means that we now lie in the bed with the terrorists and become their friends.  No!  Simply put, forgiveness does not mean what they did was alright and we are now friends.  Through forgiveness of 9/11, we are acknowledging our wound and blessing it.  We are moving on in hope and trust for a better tomorrow based in the reality of our connectedness with one another, rather than illusion that we are separate from our global brothers and sisters. 

The Buddha was once visiting a village.  There was a townsman in the village who did not recognize the Buddha and treated Buddha very badly insisting that he move on and not rest in his town.  Later, the townsman realized his mistake and ran out of the village to find Buddha.  When he finally caught up to him it was the next day.   “I am so sorry for how I treated you!” exclaimed the townsman.  “When?” asked the Buddha.  “Why yesterday, of course.”  Exclaimed the townsman.  The Buddha sat for a moment and then quietly responded, “I have no yesterday nor tomorrow.  Only today.”  And so it is for each of us in this crossroads.  We can make the conscious choice to maintain present to what is happening to us in this moment, living our lives fully verses reliving a past we cannot change.

Bono, of U2 fame, sings in Sunday Bloody Sunday,   “How long must we sing this song? How long?  Tonight we can be as one.”  ( So at this anniversary, the tenth, of 9/11 and all that was to come before and after, we are left with this same question.  How long is long enough to sing the song of  anger and fear at 19 misinformed, angry young men who were filled with such evil and violence that they did the unspeakable at the urging of their supporters?  How long will we hold anger and hate and fear in our hearts?  Can we come to that place in this present moment of conscious choice for forgiveness of what happened, not condoning, but allowing our being to be filled with hope for the future rather than grief for a past we cannot change.  “Have you found what you were looking for”  filled with anger, sorrow, shame, fear (U2.  I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”  Are you  ready to forgive and move forward in this moment?  Can you learn to control the reminders and triggers so that you can create a life that is filled with hope and joy in this present moment.  It does not mean that we forget our loved ones that were lost that day.  It means we share a celebration of the lives that they lived, while allowing ourselves to heal and move forward.  In this healing, we begin to live a life not in illusion of our separateness, but in awareness and care for the greatest and least of our global brothers and sisters.  We sing a new song of today, this present moment.  It is time for us to "sing a new song." (U2. War  The heroes of 9/11 would not want us ton continue to be filled with anger, fear, sorrow.  This is not the legacy they would want to leave us.  They were brave and filled with love and longing for those they were leaving behind.  They helped one another in the most difficult of situations to pass over with dignity.  They would tell us to look towards life with an open heart, calm mind, loving spirit, and healed body.  In filling our lives with love and hope and joy and care for the least of our brothers and sisters, we can fulfill the legacy that they left for us.  It is not something we have to do alone, the Divine is with us each step.  Forgiveness is not something that is all or none.  We can forgive however and in whatever way is right for each  through our conscious choosing as to what each of our paths to forgiveness takes.  As each of us begins that path, we bring healing not only to ourselves, but to all in the ocean of humanity.  One wave at a time.

I will step onto this path of healing forgiveness for what happened ten years ago on 9/11. I will honor those who perished by living a life of hope and joy and love, rather than fear and anger and shame.

May you find peace and gratitude and forgiveness in every moment.