I met up with a childhood friend yesterday–we are adults now– whatever that means. Both of us have had our share of gut wrenching experiences that took us down–hard. Mine stomped out my faith in life for several years until a few extraordinary practitioners helped me dig inside and find an ember that I struggled to keep lit and finally grow into a flame called life force. She had been deceived, had her heart cracked open. She is a good person–not in a sappy way but in a profound way–honest, intelligent, compassionate, real and someone who understands we all are flawed.
We walked and talked and she described how it felt to forgive. More than any book ever touched me, her story went deep; I felt it viscerally. Like a hug, not a dead fish handshake, it is sincere, real and meaningful; it sinks in. She was ready and a door opened up: a 30-day challenge–a path that required sitting in all the messiness, the range of intense feelings, without being consumed by them. I still find it a challenge to feel emotions without being swallowed up. And yet, sometimes I can find that stillness, that space where I can see me and feel the emotion without becoming the sadness or the hurt–a kind of meta-place.
For 30 days she meditated, guided by one buddhist thought a day—each a small saying with a big impact. She sat with sadness, with anger, with frustration, with every emotion that comes when you find out your husband has been traveling and having sex with someone that is not you. She opened herself up and looked inside. She said to look and be curious, without judgment, was a relief. This stance allowed her to uncover her part. To understand that the times when she bit her tongue and carried the residue inside, were the moments she needed to speak. Needed to show up for herself and for the relationship without squelching and shellacking her gut. She said it was the hardest journey of her life, like battling all the demons inside at once. And then there was a shift. As though she took one book out of the heaviest backpack. It is still unbearably heavy but just that little bit more tolerable and then there was the tipping point where she felt she had crested a hill and was now going down–not fighting, not resisting, just releasing. She told me she felt a lightness. She put that backpack down. It didn’t just drop off her shoulders and crash to the ground. She dug inside and found compassion for herself and for him. This compassion, she said, was not forced but came from a place of recognizing the human condition includes suffering. That people hurt others because of their own demons, their own suffering and this knowing moved from brain (theory) to body (feeling). She moved through, slogged through at times, cried a lot, felt raw, felt rage and then felt the settling within–a kind of coming home after a long journey. You walk in the door and there is a peace. You take off your shoes and maybe unpack and then sit down in your favourite chair and curl up like you have done so many times but also as if it is the first time because there is more space and openness. And there is love for yourself and an inner reconciliation, a knowing that the knots have melted and that guy you once knew so intimately, that guy that slept with someone that was not you, has become part of your compassion for the whole.