Monday, November 4, 2013

Be "On Alert"

I often get asked what my forgiveness practice is like.  The best answer I can give is that it is always "on alert".  And if you really want to make headway on your spiritual path, you'll put your forgiveness "on alert", too.

Throughout the course of our days, we are going to encounter all kinds of "forgiveness opportunities". Sometimes we are simply forgiving the little annoyances of life, like the person who jostles us in the supermarket and doesn't apologize.  Other times, our lessons may be huge, overwhelming and even extremely painful such as when someone we care for deeply dies.  Some forgiveness opportunities take only a few minutes to forgive and some may take a lifetime. 

My policy is to forgive what I can when I can.  This means that I am always up-to-date with my forgiveness work.  I try to forgive the supermarket jostler on the spot if I can.  If the environment is too busy and I can't concentrate for the minute it takes to forgive, or if I just can't take the time at that moment, I'll forgive when I climb into bed for the night.  I find that this is the perfect time to review my day and forgive anything that pushed my buttons.

Some days memories and unresolved issues from my past come into my mind and trigger painful feelings.  Again, with these, I try to be always "on alert" with my thinking, carefully watching for thoughts that are resentful, angry, worried, painful or fearful in any way.  If I'm feeling victimized, I know I have something to forgive. If I'm feeling rejected or unworthy in any way, I know I have something to forgive.  I add these feelings to my nightly forgiveness work.

Sometimes an awareness of a memory of something from the past will cause me to feel physically uncomfortable.  I might feel stress symptoms such as a pounding heart and tight muscles, or I might feel a sharp pain in the area of my heart. These physical feelings also alert me to the fact that there is something here that needs to be forgiven. 

Of course, we all have experienced at least a few big painful events or betrayals in our lives.  I try to pull every aspect I have associated with these feelings into my awareness.  I work at forgiving these often.  Some nights I'll deliberately bring these painful events to mind to see if anything new about them occurs to me.  If so, I'll do some deep thinking and feeling about the issue, intensifying any memories or emotions associated with it.  It is surprising how often new aspects of the same old issues come to the surface.  I've found that it is possible to train myself to be vigilant and always aware of the tiniest threads of an issue.  I know that when I tug at these threads, a bigger piece of that ugly wound-up knot of pain will come free. 

There are days when there is simply nothing to forgive. Sometimes, this can be the way of things for several days in a row.  I go about my business in peace.  Other days there may be a small thing or two to forgive.  Of course, sooner or later the lessons of life will occur.  That's when it's time to buckle down and devote the time it takes to do some serious forgiveness work. 

I'm at peace with this process now, but regardless of what kind of a day I'm having, I remain always "on alert" looking for my forgiveness opportunities.  After all, I know I need them if I want to get back to God.

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