This piece was originally published on The Good Men Project as A Lesson in Forgiveness Taught by a Teacup. A reoccurring lesson that I get to learn over and over again is this simplicity of forgiveness, and how long we prevent ourselves from letting go of something. The sort of forgiveness that I speak of in this piece is not the form that we so often think of when we discuss the concept. I speak of a greater form of forgiveness that is really more of a release. We release an action, a situation, a memory from ourselves completely. We no longer hold an attachment to something. It’s as though it never existed in the first place, because in a sense, it kinda didn’t. Enjoy.
My first lesson in true forgiveness came at the cost of my favorite teacup. There on the kitchen floor, shattered and scattered, disparate and dissolved, was my Higher Power’s greatest gift –nothing. No anger, no pain, no frustration, no sense of loss or guilt could be found.
Just this one simple thought remained: I should immediately stop washing the dishes and begin disposing of the jagged bits of pottery below me.
But I just stood there pondering how strange it was that I felt nothing, because I had only my memories to compare this situation to—only the many times I had broken something special to me and been enraged. I had so many questions: where is the deep sense of remorse and loss I should be feeling right now? That mug was special, right? That cup had a purpose, didn’t it? But there were no answers. I had clearly made a choice to react differently in this situation and this choice came surprisingly quickly, and most importantly, it came unconsciously.
Little did I know at the time but this simple act of forgiveness would begin a chain of events that would define the type of spiritual solution that I had been seeking all my life. It was the first step in many that would eventually lead me to A Course in Miracles and a complete redefining of what it meant to live in this world.
For years, I’d been looking for the power to manipulate the darkness in my mind; I desperately wanted a way to cease the deep depression and anxiety that plagued me, but I felt as though I had tried everything. Like so many of us, I just wanted to retain my grip on the light. I knew it had been possible for others, I just always assumed that, for me, this relief would come from an outside power. Believing I was an effect of this world, a victim, I thought my relief could only come from a change of fate or a divine intervention.
Standing above years of false assumptions and shattered pottery, I let it sink in that I was being exposed to a new truth. If I could choose to have an absent reaction to a broken cup, surely I could have a similar reaction to the bigger things too. From that day forward, I would return in my mind to this kitchen contemplation, when I was so precariously poised on the edge of walking on broken glass and becoming a more peaceful human being. Even more miraculous, was that when I genuinely practiced this form of peace and forgiveness, the severity of any one event over another was dampened. Broken china or a broken heart, power to choose between pain and forgiveness remained.
We are taught to believe that seething anger is justified, that revenge is deserved and that our passion and drive is a determinant of our level of success. Perhaps it is to some degree, but only because we have defined it to be so. We think that we can think ourselves out of anything, without stopping to think that we might have nowhere to think ourselves out of in the first place. We are searching for peace and meaning in the “big moments,” the milestones. The marriages, graduations, births and deaths, our only signifier that time is moving forward and that we are apparently moving towards something better. But what if we are wrong? What if underneath all the cognitive pain we are trying to escape from is the peace that many of us are seeking? Is it so malignant to believe that we might already be in heaven?
Each second of this life is a choice between pain and peace. Each moment that we perceive the world around us, we are offered a simple elementary true or false question. Simple perhaps, far too simple for some, but yet it remains: every moment in this seeming reality, we have power over one thing—our perception.
So next time you feel as though you are at the hands of a world that wants to punish you or that you are at the effect of someone else’s actions, ask yourself what it would be like in that moment to choose love instead of fear, anxiety, anger or sadness. Ask yourself, can I access a place of peace and inner guidance instead of being at the whim of the emotions that I think define me? Is it possible for peace to innately belong to me instead of believing it can only exist in an unattainable place outside of myself and far away?
And just keep practicing. Because I assure you, it only gets easier. Life will start to get a little lighter every day, or at the very least… a lot less dark. You just might have to buy yourself a new teacup every once in a while.
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I found myself leafing through an old journal this afternoon. I’ve got scads of them lying around, in drawers and in boxes. I’ve got handwritten volumes, and I have files on computer hard drives, flash drives, and floppy disks. But I rarely ever read the words that I’ve written. No regrets here, I will always write because I am a writer.
As a teenager I thought I was writing to leave behind a trail of my life for those I loved. There were so many secret thoughts and feelings in my head that I wasn’t ready to share with the world that I felt I needed a way record them. Since then, I’ve become aggressively open with everyone in my life, and the journals that I keep are just a record of the thoughts that ebb and flow.
Today, when I was flipping through an old brown volume, I stumbled across something I wrote that struck a chord with me, and I thought deserved repeating. I wrote it December 13, 2011, not long after the Occupy Wall Street movement was set into motion, and my writing was heavily focused on a crazy blur of dreams that seemed focused on the end of the world as we knew it.
As I re-read what I had written, I was not only struck by some of the profundity of the words, but more so by the lack of control that I must have been feeling at the time. I was also struck by the strength that I had gained in my personal well-being over the last 3 years, and how this sense of desperation and powerlessness is now so absent in my life.
Looking into the past can be a dangerous game, it is the plea that we have to return to better times. The past is the place where regrets are formed and we re-tread the paths not taken. But once in a while, I think it is of critical importance to connect with the child inside of us, even if that child was a 29 year old man looking out into a world that seemed to scare him. We acknowledge the fears that we had and the fact that we have conquered them time and time again, and we re-file these memories back into the drawer or the box that they came from… or we burn them. But that’s a lesson for another day.
A Letter to the World to Save the World
December 13, 2011
If I could find the words, all of them. If I could find all the numbers and pictures, graphs, and charts that somehow added up to save ourselves, I wonder what they would all say. I wonder what the reports would look like, sound like, taste like. This collaboration of vowels and pixels and fragments capable of changing the minds and lives of every human on this planet would surely be a universally loving magnum opus the likes that we have never seen.
What would it say? Where are all the secret fragments that we just haven’t found yet, the ones that tell us exactly where we are going and just how we got here. The fragments that make the whole of humanity understand that we are really worth saving.
Because I want to live.
Would it talk about the sea? The rising levels and the thinning swimming things.
Would it talk about the air? Our impending warming globe.
There is a sadness so constrained to my chest and my imagination. And all the movies and books use all the same scare tactics as my mind. Watching my walls burn down, watching me survive the oncoming tides, and the fires, the droughts.
But all this that’s in me, wants to be better than this. It wants t find the right words and change everything all around, but it keeps getting caught up in itself, because the sadness tastes like doubt and fear and a part of the sadness wants to just let go and watch the whole world fall to shit.
Because there aren’t enough words in the world for all 7 billion of us. There’s no way to set it all right without rebellion of epic proportions. And in the end it won’t be about camp-outs, it will be about strength and anger.
We’ve crushed it all, and turned every speck of it into plastic. And even the sound of the ceiling fan’s monotonous rounds remind me of the oil that all of us are swimming in.
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